Archive for February, 2012

‘Nim’s Island’ a Charmer on HDNet Movies

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

NimsIsland.jpgAn adventure movie for families to enjoy together, Nim’s Island garnered glowing reviews for the charm of its story and appeal of its stars (Abigail Breslin in the title role co-starring with veterans Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler) when it was released in 2008. Breslin even earned a nomination for a Teen Choice Award. And then there’s the setting! In her review, below, 15-year-old KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Gabriella Chu describes it as “exotic and beautiful,” and says, “Watching the movie made me want to live there!”

Nim’s Island, screening March 4, 12 and 16, is one of the many classics brought to your home by HDNet Movies kidScene, a morning and Friday night programming block specifically for kids and families.

Nim’s Island
Reviewed by Gabriella Chu

(See her full review on video.)

Nim’s Island is an adventurous tale about a girl named Nim and her father who live on their own private island in the South Pacific. All goes well until Nim’s father sails away for two days to collect some protozoa for science research. A vicious storm causes him to become stranded in the middle of nowhere, so Nim learns to survive on the island all by herself. Will Nim and her father reunite?

The island where Nim lives is so exotic and beautiful. Watching the movie made me want to live there! In addition to the setting of the movie, there are many messages conveyed. The prime one is to have courage and determination in you. Although the ending of the movie is predictable, the journey the movie takes to get there is quite interesting, especially since the movie concludes with that message. Another thing that I liked about the movie is it contains a blend of genres; it has a bit of comedy, suspense, adventure and drama.GabriellaChu_3_1.jpg

I recommend this family movie to kids 6 and up. The enthusiasm and plot of this movie will most likely appeal to younger kids in this age group. Watch Nim’s Island this month on HDnet movies at kidScene!

Photos: Nim’s Island poster (top), Gabriella Chu (bottom)

Classic ‘The Borrowers’ Slotted for TV

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

TheBorrowers.jpgMary Norton’s novel The Borrowers has made it from book to screen several times since its first publishing in 1952. Nine-year-old KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Anthony Aranda reviewed the recently released version, The Secret of Arrietty, and now shares his views on the earlier (1997) The Borrowers, a classic featuring the voices of John Goodman, Jim Broadbent and Mark Williams that is screening on HDNet Movies‘ family programming block kidScene on March 2, 3 and 8.

The Borrowers
Reviewed by Anthony Aranda

(See his full review on video.)

The Borrowers is awesome because it’s really funny and cool to see the little people living in the house with the big people.

This movie is all about a kid named Pete Lender who is determined to find out why all the stuff in his family’s house keeps disappearing. He eventually finds Arrietty, who is a Borrower, and she explains what Borrowers do. The Lenders have to move out of their house because a mean man named Ocious Potter wants to build an apartment building in its place. The Borrowers try to go with the Lenders but the kids fall out of the truck and have to travel through the city to find the new house that is by the old church.

Some of the main characters in the movie are Pete Lender, Arrietty Clock, Ocious P. Potter and Exterminator Jeff. My favorite character is Pete Lender because he really cares about the Borrowers and is really funny. Exterminator Jeff is on Ocious P. Potter’s team at first but then wants to help Pete and the Borrowers.

My favorite part in the movie is when Peagreen Clock falls out of the truck and lands in dog poop. I like that part because it is really funny and I think that a lot of people would think that is funny, too. Another part I really like is when Ocious P. Potter gets squirted with cheese. The Borrowers push the lever to squirt the cheese because he is after them. It works and the Borrowers get away!AnthonyAranda_190x250.jpg

I would recommend this movie for all ages 3 and up because there are a couple of scary parts but not too many and it is a really good movie. The Borrowers is one of the many classics brought to your home by HDnet Movies kidScene, a morning and Friday night programming block specifically for kids and families.

Photos: The Borrowers poster (top), Anthony Aranda (bottom)

You, Too, Can Be a KIDS FIRST! Juror - Easy, Fun and So Worthwhile

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

KF_FilmCritics_218x225.jpgAre you concerned about what your kids are watching on TV, in the movies, on videogames or even phone or iPad apps? Did you know that the average American child will spend more time watching TV and playing videogames than he or she will spend in school?

At KIDS FIRST!, we work with adults and kids all over the country to increase awareness and help them become more media savvy. One way we do this is through our Juror Training Course and Junior Film Critic Clubs. Adults are trained to evaluate media for KIDS FIRST! and to work with a group of kids to do the same. KDIS FIRST! rates and reviews DVDs, feature films, audio CDs, videogames and apps.

Sound fun? Then we have just the class for you to become a KIDS FIRST! juror - interactive, live, two-session webinars or a recorded version that lets you do the training on your own time. Becoming a juror has always been easy - but it just got even easier! If you are one of the first 20 people to sign up for training, we will waive our standard $10 administrative fee. Plus, everyone who completes a registration form will automatically be enrolled in this month’s KIDS FIRST! sweepstakes to win cool, new DVDs.

In order to get the free training, you must sign up by March 15 and complete the course by May 31.

There’s NO TIME COMMITMENT required of you as a KIDS FIRST! juror and you get to keep all of the products we send you to evaluate! You can build up your personal media library or donate these products to your school, community center or any children’s organization you choose. You will be offered opportunities once or twice a month to evaluate a children’s product, and you pick as many or as few as appeal to you.

As an official KIDS FIRST! juror, you can start your own Junior Film Critics Club and become part of a nationwide nucleus of more than 200 adults and 3,000 kids that make up the KIDS FIRST! volunteer evaluators. Jurors help children learn to view media critically, express their opinions verbally or in written form and assist other families in their media viewing decisions. 

For more information about the KIDS FIRST! jury, or for dates of our upcoming live webinars, visit us online.

Film of the Miniature ‘Secret World of Arietty’ Has a Big Heart

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

SecretWorldOfArrietty.jpg“There is so much action in the movie that people might love,” says KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Anthony Aranda (age 9) in his review (below). But this anime film from Studio Ghibli in Japan (released theatrically in the U.S. by Walt Disney Studios) has even more to recommend it: the quiet and slow-paced moments that lend the film greater persuasion as it captures the honest details of life all around us. Not to mention its impact of juxtaposing the miniature world of Arrietty’s family with the “normal” world of the family whose house they inhabit, all built with recognizable, real items we see (or overlook) in our homes every day. Bridgit Mendler, Will Arnett, David Henrie and Amy Poehler are some of the voices that bring life to this screenplay co-written by Hayao Miyazaki from Mary Norton’s novel, The Borrowers.

The Secret World of Arrietty
Reviewed by Anthony Aranda
(See his full review on video.)

Hello everyone. My name is Anthony Aranda from Kids First!  and I am reviewing a movie called The Secret World of Arrietty. This movie is amazing — there is so much action in the movie that people might love.

This movie is all about a kid visiting his grandma’s house and she says there are living people in the house who are as tiny as a mouse. That’s where Arrietty comes in, along with her mom, dad and a friend of hers named Spiller. Spiller saw Arrietty’s dad was hurt so he brought him back home. But they have to move because the boy who came saw Arrietty — and they can never be seen by the big people, who might look for all of them and capture them.

Some of the main characters in the movie are Arrietty, her dad and mom, the boy and his grandma. My favorite character is Arrietty’s mom because she’s so funny. I like Arrietty, also, because she wants to be a borrower just like her dad but she messes up and the boy sees her so they have to move.AnthonyAranda_190x250.jpg

I would recommend this movie for all ages because it’s really good for everyone. There are not any scary parts and the adults might know the story from when they were a kid (The Borrowers). Go out and see this movie in theaters today.

Photos: The Secret World of Arrietty poster (top), Anthony Aranda (bottom)

Now Is a Good Time for ‘The Lorax’

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

TheLorax_DVDof1972version.JPGThe 1972 movie of Dr. Seuss favorite The Lorax is newly released today on DVD by Warner Home Video. Tune in to KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions as we feature the DVD on today’s program. Raven Devanney, one of the KIDS FIRST! youth film critics in that program’s 2011 inaugural year and now the weekly show’s regular host, will share her review and some clips from the disc. Streaming on the VoiceAmerica Kids Channel, episodes can be enjoyed, shared with friends, and re-enjoyed again.

The Lorax
1972 version (now available on DVD) reviewed by Raven Devanney

The Lorax is a wonderful film based on the beloved Dr. Seuss book. It shows the story of a greedy Once-ler who thinks only of himself - and, in his selfishness, he destroys the Truffula trees. The Lorax, who speaks for the trees, tries his hardest to save the land and its inhabitants, but will his pleas be enough to stop the tyrant Once-ler?

I enjoyed this film very much and I thought the cinematography was wonderful because it is exactly like the illustrations in the Dr. Seuss book. Being able to see the world through the creative eyes of Dr. Seuss is wonderful - and now you can, better than ever, with the deluxe edition of The Lorax, including an ultraviolet copy of the movie. This movie delivers fantastic messages about caring for the environment and respecting the Earth we live on. I like the Lorax character most because he stands up for the land and teaches that being greedy and self-centered leads to destruction. RavenDevanney_180x250_1.jpg

I loved all of the music in The Lorax, and I especially liked the first scene when you see the land in all of its splendid glory. I give The Lorax 4 out of 5 stars for its strong messages and great classic entertainment. I suggest this film for ages 4 to 10. Be sure to watch the new, 2012 animated Lorax film when it hits the big screen on March 2, and get the deluxe edition of the original 1972 Lorax in stores today!

Photos: The Lorax box art (top), Raven Devanney (bottom)

‘Little Angels’ Just Right for Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

LittleAngels_ABCs.jpgLittle Angels is a new DVD series from Twentieth Century Fox. This animated series produced by Roma Downey (star of TV’s “Touched by an Angel”) teaches life lessons to preschoolers through stories from the Bible. With the release of the first three in this series - Little Angels ABCs, Little Angels Animals and Little Angels 1, 2, 3’s - timed for Valentine’s Day, they are a treat moms can feel good about sharing with their little angels.

The main characters are brother and sister Alex and Zoe, two ordinary kids who find that the angel decorations their parents had put on their ceiling come to life to help them through their daily discoveries and adversities.

The project is near and dear to Downey’s heart: “For many years, I had the privilege of playing an angel on television, bringing a message of God’s love to millions of Americans,” she says. “As a mother, I have longed to be part of a project that would help to bring that same message to children by not only teaching them the foundations of education, but also providing strong examples of good behavior. Little Angels does just that. It offers critical learning skills through the lens of timeless and age-appropriate Bible stories.” Little Angels is the first animated project from Lightworkers Media, a production company of which Downey is president that is dedicated to creating inspirational entertainment. She adds, “I only wish this series had been available when my kids were younger!”

KIDS FIRST! reviewed two DVDs in the Little Angels series: ABCs and Animals. In ABCs, Alex and Zoe, are first introduced to the angels, who help them learn to read by showing them how to recognize letters by their shapes and relate them to real-life images. The angels use concepts from the Bible to help them remember, for instance, “J” looks like a fishing hook, like one you might use to catch the Big Fish that ate Jonah — which starts with a “J.” The angels also help Zoe and Alex appreciate each other and treat each other fairly, with honesty and without jealousy.

In Little Angels Animals, the angels make Bible stories come to life, allowing the children to interact with its characters while learning lessons of cooperation and hard work. Throughout, the message that “God Loves You” helps them navigate their feelings and overcome fears and adversity. When Zoe is afraid of lightning and climbing to the top bunk, she learns from Jonah that facing her fears is less scary than not doing what God wants you to do, and as she chants “God loves me,” she is able to reach the top bunk and overcome her anxiety.

Young children from religious families will delight in seeing Alex and Zoe as they are helped by angels and get to talk to characters they’ve only read about - or, since they are preschool-aged, been told about. It is comforting to children of this age to feel as if they are never really alone and they are always loved.

Each vignette is short; three fit nicely into a 30-minute DVD, and you can choose a single episode, or story, at a time. The DVDs also include some special features. Roma Downey explains her underlying idea and gives parents tips for listening to their children. You can watch music videos covering the topics of each of the stories and animated with images from each.

The Little Angels ABCs, Little Angels Animals and Little Angels 1, 2, 3’s DVDs feature a great deal of interactive extras, including charming music videos and downloadable activity sheets, plus a downloadable bonus digital copy of each lesson that will allow for learning on the go.

For more about Little Angels, visit or

Presenting: KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critics for 2012

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

KF_FilmCritics_218x225.jpgReady to start their year of reviewing films, interviewing actors and filmmakers, and blogging their perceptions, the 2012 KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critics are here!

With a “Congratulations” to everyone who prepared the written and videotaped review they needed to enter, KIDS FIRST! is pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search.

Age 6-8
Morgan Bertsch of Northridge, Calif.
Cheyenne Nguyen of Northridge, Calif.
Alternate: Aira Dani of Atlanta, Ga.

Age 9-10
Casey Chandler of Santa Fe, N.M.
Talia Rashba of Oak Park, Calif.
Alternate: Camille Bajema of Santa Fe, N.M.

Age 11-12
Brianna Beaton of Clermont, Fla.
Julianna Noone of Warwick, N.Y.
Alternate: Julia Chestnut of Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Alternate: Hunter Willow Jones of Kutztown, Penn.

Age 13-15
Victoria Burns of Atlanta, Ga.
Blakes Hawes of Kailua, Hi.
Alternate: Jennifer Huntoon of Bloomington, Ind.
Alternate: Ajay Sharma of Bloomington, Ind.

The focus of the KIDS FIRST! film critics program is teaching children healthy media habits as well as strong critical thinking, writing and public speaking skills that will stay with them for a lifetime. The KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Boot Camp, held annually in Los Angeles, teaches kids the skills to become an entertainment reporter. 

Six celebrity judges selected this year’s winners from 24 finalists who were determined by view voting on  This year’s judges were Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures; Ben Lyons, E! film critic and frequent contributor to “Good Morning America”; Thelma Adams, a Yahoo contributing editor and author of the “Thelma Adams on Reel Women” column that runs on AMC and who was the film critic at Us Weekly for 11 years following six years at the New York Post; and  George Pennacchio of the ABC7 Eyewitness News team in Los Angeles KABC-TV.

Industry supporters of the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Campaign are, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video and WonderWorld Entertainment. Campaign support also comes from national nonprofit organizations that include the National Education Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Council of Women’s Organizations, with a cumulative membership of more than 17 million.

‘Journey 2′ Stars Sit Down with KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critic

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Journey2_TheMysteriousIsland.jpgA mythical island with beasts of surprising size (fist-sized elephants and train-sized centipedes) is the setting for a Treasure Island-like adventure that will be released in theaters Feb. 10. Fourteen-year-old Blake Hawes, one of the winners of the 2012 KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search, thoroughly delves into the story and its presentation in his sensitive and observant review (below) of the film. The understanding stood him well, also, as he sat down with stars Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Dwayne Johnson and Luis Guzman on location in Hawaii to get them to share their experiences filming the movie (on video for KIDS FIRST!).

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Reviewed by Blake Hawes
(See his full review on video.)

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a fun and entertaining movie and offers some brilliant eye candy in some of the most impressive action scenes. Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) has a new man in his life, his stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson). This movie is more about the relationship between Sean and Hank than a mindless cliché adventure movie. Sean grew up with a lot of loss of loved ones and people coming in and out of his life. Sean has trust issues with his new stepdad and doesn’t want to get too close to him, for he’s afraid that he’ll leave him due to his unfortunate past. Hank wants to play a bigger role in Sean’s life and hopes to finally make a bond between them.

Then they uncover the mystery of the Mysterious Island and go on an adventure to find Sean’s long-lost grandfather (Michael Caine). The only way to get to the island is by flying by helicopter. The quirky and fun tour guide (Luis Guzmán) is the comic relief in this huge journey. His daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) is Sean’s love interest in the movie. The plot itself is easy to understand for younger audiences and it is fun to see how it plays out in the end. The movie is chockfull of massive set pieces, which all are creatively brought to life by cinematography and editing.

Hudgens doesn’t deliver the most believable performance of her career because of the fact that she acts more like a big-city girl than a hardened islander of their destination. But all in all, she has great chemistry between Hutcherson in the movie, and should be commended for it. Guzmán however, delivers some tongue-in-cheek jokes throughout the film. He’ll offer a couple of chuckles throughout the movie for older viewers, but most of his jokes will appeal to the younger audience. Journey2_BlakeHawes_VanessaHudgens_cropped.JPG

I like this movie because of its frantic action sequences and surprisingly well-suited soundtrack. This movie may be scary for younger viewers at points such as the lizard chase sequences. The intensity and the importance of the given situation during the final act of the movie gives the audience a very good reason to sit on the edge of their seats. Overall, I think the movie is very entertaining and has many great moments. I give it eight out of ten stars.

Photos: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island poster (top), Blake Hawes with Vanessa Hudgens (bottom)

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