Archive for February, 2014

The Lunchbox – Thoughtful and Touching Story from India

Monday, February 24th, 2014

214LUnchBox_1.jpgThis beautiful new film from India explores the relationship between a young housewife and a newly widowed man. They are connected quite by mistake when Mumbai’s famously efficient lunchbox delivery system delivers the lunchbox to the wrong person. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B comments, “For anyone who has lost a loved one, you can really identify with his (Mr. Saajan’s) emptiness.” See Keefer’s full review below.

The Lunchbox
Reviewed by Keefer C. Blakeslee
Full video review available here.

This movie creates a touching new twist on a story that might have come across as corny, but doesn’t. Mr. Saajan (Irrfan Khan), a retiring accountant, is grieving over the death of his wife and Lla (Nimrat Kaur), a young mother, desires more attention from her husband. Lla sends her husband a special lunchbox and, by accident, the lunchbox is delivered to Mr. Saajan instead. Realizing the meal was misdirected, Lla writes a letter, places it inside the next day’s lunchbox and what unfolds are sincere and beautiful messages that changes their lives.

The plot’s not unique, but the writers produce an atmosphere in this script that sets it apart. Shot in Mumbai City, India, we roam through the streets and are allowed to observe the people, their traditions, their homes and their work establishments. The dialog is in English much of the time but at times in Hindu with English subtitles, which immerses you further into the culture. Irrfan and Nimrat’s characters have their own stories that are spectacular to watch and, once these characters start writing to each other, we see a whole new side to both.

My favorite character is Mr. Saajan. Khan creates this man who reaches out to someone who he does not even know. His role is heartbreaking to see and you feel the emotions he is experiencing. For anyone who has lost a loved one, you can really identify with his emptiness.

My favorite scene is when Mr. Saajan is watching a show that his wife had taped. He remembers watching her and watching the show that made her laugh. You see his face change as he understands the joy she got from the comedy. We see how, a moment that brought joy in the past can still bring joy now, only in a different way.

The message in this story is, “Sometimes the wrong train can bring you to the right station.” Lla is unsure what to do when she realizes the lunchbox is going to a perfect stranger. Mr. Saajan is not sure what to do when the notes start to touch his heart. So they both feel they are on the wrong train.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this to age 11 to 18. There is use of cigarettes and subject matter that is not appropriate for younger audiences. Check it out to see what I’m talking about.

Justice League: War – An Animated Extravaganza For DC Comic Fans

Monday, February 24th, 2014

214.JLW.jpgIf you’re a DC Comic fan, then you’ll enjoy their latest DVD release, Justice League: War where the world’s finest heroes collaborate in order to stop an alien invasion of Earth.

I expected this movie to be about heroes hating each other and becoming a team in a heartwarming story! Right? Wrong! “Justice League War” is a great and action pack animated film many people will adore. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O says, “The film is extremely intense for a DC Comic animation.” And Keefer B adds, “This film provides great animation through its characters and sets.” Their full reviews are below.

Justice League: War
Reviewed by Gerry O, age 11, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Video review available here:
This adventure has much to love! It has action, adventure, comedy, romance (with Wonder Woman), suspense, and so much more including, of course, the heroes!

Now, everything is fine on Earth. Heroes are chilling, doing their thing. But, it’s all interrupted when each of them is stopped and has to find the others to destroy a horrible alien race that will harvest humans to destroy the planet! Will the group of super heroes be enough force to stop the ‘the Dark Side’? You have to watch the film to find out the ending!

The movie is surprising in a couple of ways. For one, I did not expect the adult language!  And second, there are a couple of new heroes such as Shazam who replaces Aqua Man. The film is extremely intense for a DC Comic animation. I think that this film has wonderful voices though. The only small flaw is the voice of Wonder woman – for such a wonderful character, her voice sounds a bit fake. The script and animation are also done nicely.

My favorite scene is when they introduce this kid that gets into a football game for free, gets front row seats and also steals one of the player’s jerseys. It takes you time to realize it but, that scene shows two people that look ordinary, but are not.

I recommend this film to ages 12-18. The movie does have a lot of adult language and intense scenes. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars.

Justice League: War
Reviewed by Keefer B., age 13, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Video review available here  

Justice League: War has good animation and action scenes that comic-book fans can devour but for me, it’s mediocre. The story is about the origin of the most powerful team in the D.C universe, The Justice League. Aliens place unknown technology around the Earth and heroes such as Batman (Jason O’Mara), Cyborg (Shemar Moore) have to save the Earth from the invasion of Darkseid (Steven Blum).

This film provides great animation through its characters and sets. The animators give these super-heroes, that we’ve seen time and time again, enough of their own voice to make their personas different. The action scenes are fun to watch. We see all of these individual powers fight together to create impressive fight sequences. When you watch Green Lantern (Justin Kirk) use his ring to manifest weapons and Batman using his gadgets, it gets your blood pumping. The characters’ dialog can be corny but that’s what the general audience is looking for – comic-book lines and humor. One aspect of the film that bothered me is the unnecessary fowl language. Yes, this film is PG-13 and you would expect some language, however I wouldn’t mind it so much if it wasn’t in every scene. It’s just not needed.

My favorite character is Cyborg (Shemar Moore). Victor Stone’s an all-star football player who is injured in an explosion. To save his life, his father makes him half-human, half-computer. thus creating Cyborg. All Victor wants is his father’s acceptance but once he’s turned into this machine he feels he has no place in this world. However, when he fights he kicks alien butt.

My favorite scene is the big ending battle with Darkseid. I can’t help myself, when I see a superhero movie I’m a sucker for the big battle. This one is no exception with the most monumental visuals being all the heroes giving everything they have to defeat this unstoppable force.

The moral of the story is, “When we fight together, we can do anything.” These heroes are used to fighting crime by themselves, so at first there’s no teamwork. Solo failure forces them to quit bickering and work together.

I give this film 3 our of 5 stars and recommend it to 13 to18 year olds, because this is not a kid’s movie. It has fowl language, brief graphic blood and violence. It’s well worth checking out on DVD now.

The Wind Rises – A Must See For Animation Fans! Stunningly Beautiful.

Friday, February 21st, 2014

214015.jpgFrom master animator Hayao Miyazaki comes this wonderful film that examines the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II. Jiro is inspired by the famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni, Jiro became one of the world’s most innovative and accomplished airplane designers. The film chronicles much of his life including his love story with Nahoko. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B. comments, “This is a breathtaking masterpiece of art that allows your mind and heart to soar like the wind.” Gerry O adds, “This film has something for everyone to enjoy – action, drama, suspense, romance, history, Japanese culture, adventure and, of course, planes.” Their full reviews are below.

The Wind Rises
Reviewed by Keefer C. B.
Video review available here.

This is a breathtaking masterpiece of art that allows your mind and heart to soar like the wind. The story is loosely based on the real life story of Jiro Horikoshi (Joseph Gordon- Levitt). He dreams of flying but, because he’s nearsighted, decides to be a Japanese airplane designer. We observe his life from child to adulthood as he makes his dream plane and, in the process, falls in love with Naoko (Emily Blunt). Will Jiro create the beautiful plane or realize that the beauty he’s seeking is right in front of him all along?

The film is a work of art. Hayao Miyazaki (Director and Writer) creates unique color palettes and designs. Since the movie takes place in the sky, the animators go above and beyond to hand draw backgrounds and movements for the planes. We witness them majestically soaring through the skies and you feel as if you’re with them. The voice acting is well done. I think they portrayed the characters and their relationships exceptionally well. Much of the film focuses on the romance between Naoko and Jiro. Their connection is both loving and tragic. The film was first released in Japan, so American voice-overs are dubbed over the animation and yes, it can be distracting. They confront actual events that happened in Japan, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and Japan entering the war. I love the truth in this film. It doesn’t shy away from talking about the real issues that happened during this time.

My favorite character is Mr. Caproni (Stanley Tucci) a historical Italian aircraft designer who is Jiro’s mentor in his dreams. I enjoy Stanley’s voice acting skills. He’s one of those character actors who is fantastic at everything he does. The character himself is fascinating. He looks at aircraft not as a bringer of war, but a creator of dreams.

My favorite scene is the last dream sequence, after Jiro goes through a life changing experience. This is one of those bitter sweet endings, where you don’t know what to think at first. You just need to take it all in.

The message in this film is, “Sometimes the outcome to your dream is not always what you expect.” Jiro spends his whole life wanting to make his aircraft, determined to do anything to fulfill his goal. After a few sacrifices, he realizes his potential but it’s not what he expects. Mr. Caproni then asks him, “Did you have a good ten years?”

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 11 to18-year-olds. This film shows people smoking and deals with serious issues of the time. This is a must see film!

The Wind Rises
Reviewed by Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Video review available here
I didn’t know what to expect from this movie. When I saw it, however, I was pleasantly surprised! “The Wind Rises” is a heartwarming movie that many people will love. Especially, since it is based on true events.

This film has something for everyone to enjoy – action, drama, suspense, romance, history, Japanese culture, adventure and, of course, planes.

The story is about a life of a young boy, who dreams of flying and designing planes. However, he can’t see very well and has to wear glasses. Luckily, he grows up during pre-World War II in Japan to become a super successful engineer. Then, though, he needs to build a plane for the military – a powerful one.

I love this movie. The animation is breathtaking and pretty. The plot is interesting and it is also based on a true story as well. However, there are many time transitions and some can be a bit confusing. Everything else though is fantastic. This is the last film of a famous director Hayao Miyazaki and it sparked a lot of controversy in the U.S. and Japan.

My favorite scene is when the boy is a bit older. He is on a train and everything is fine until – BAM, the infamous earthquake of Japan that shook the world. The boy gets off the train very calmly. He sees a girl crouching next to a lady and goes to them. He rescues the lady who was injured and becomes a hero.

I recommend this movie for ages 13 -18. It is very mature and contains a lot of adult concepts that younger kids may not understand or appreciate. I also give it 4.5 out 5 stars.

Feb. 28 Last Date to Enter New York Film Critics Search

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Amazon_film_critic_banner.jpgFilm Critics Local Search continues in the greater NYC area through Feb. 28. This local competition is open to all children, ages 7 to 16 living in the greater New York area. You may enter online by submitting your child’s written and videotaped review of one of our official films.

For more info go to http://2013critic.kidsfirst.org
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for your child to audition for the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics who review all the newest films rated for kids, interview celebrities both on and off the Red Carpet and produce the #1 rated weekly radio show, KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions on Voice America Kids Network.

The KIDS FIRST! Film Critics program takes media literacy to the next level, teaching kids to be critical viewers and users of media. Reviews by the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics reach an audience of more than 6 million every month through broadcast and online media companies such as HDNet Movies kidScene, Kidsville News, Kidzworld.com, WorkingMother.com and GrandMagazine.com.

The KIDS FIRST! Film Critics have made a name for themselves in Hollywood, interviewing talent on the red carpet and off. They have posted more than 800 videotaped reviews on the KIDS FIRST! YouTube channel. Their latest film reviews include:  Wadjda, The Nut Job, Journey South Pacific, Planes, The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, Saving Mr. Banks, Walking with Dinosaurs, Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United, The Book Thief, Turbo FAST, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and Frozen. They have interviewed Amir Talai, Logan Lerman, Ang Lee, Pixar’s John Lassetter, Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson, Vanessa Hudgens, Zachary Gordon, Selena Gomez, Willow Shields, Adam Sandler, Nick Cannon, Josh Hutcherson, Cloris Leachman, Kevin Durant, James Belushi and more.

Research shows that, during their school age years, most U.S. children spend more hours watching media than the hours they spend in school. Not all children’s media is bad. In fact, many programs can help increase a child’s cognitive, social and behavioral skills. Fundamental to KIDS FIRST! mission is teaching children to make critical media choices so that they seek out and use media in a beneficial way.  The KIDS FIRST! Film Critics program a national outreach effort promoting the critical media viewing to millions of children and families nationwide by sharing the skills they have developed and reviewing media on a weekly basis.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critics is a project of the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media, a national, nonprofit organization founded in 1991 whose mission is to teach children critical viewing skills and to increase the visibility and availability of quality children’s media.

Industry supporters of The KIDS FIRST! Film Critics program include Amazon.com, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video, Walt Disney Home Entertainment. Campaign support also comes from national nonprofit organizations that include the National Education Association and the National Council of Women’s Organizations, with a cumulative membership of over 17 million.

For information about the KIDS FIRST! and KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, visit:  http://www.kidsfirst.org
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Heroes Come in Odd Packages, Like LEGOS

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

TheLegoMovie.jpg“The Lego Movie” comes out this weekend and we can’t say enough good things about it. The story is a simple one about how an ordinary guy behaves extraordinarily. What’s cool about this film is that everything in the movie is designed to look as if it was built out of Lego pieces – water, fire, laser bolts, explosions and smoke amongst them. The animation is a combination of stop-motion and CGI that looks like Lego-mation. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B says, “I love this movie! Just watching it makes me wonder what you can’t make out of Legos.” Gerry O adds, “This great film has comedy, adventure, suspense, music, romance, Legos and a great story line.” See their full reviews below.

The Lego Movie
Reviewed by Keefer B, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 13.
Full video review here.

This is a fast pace action, comedy, that shows that Lego’s are more than just plastic bricks. The story is about Emmet (Chris Pratt) who is just an ordinary guy that always follows the instructions. However, once he finds a magical relic, he is now known as the special person who is supposed to defeat Lord Business (Will Ferrell) from launching an evil plan. So with the help of Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks), Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), and more hilarious characters, he sets out to save the world.

I love this movie! It has a “Toy Story” atmosphere to it that makes it entertaining. The writers don’t try to hide the fact that the Lego people are plastic figures, they just write it in the way that Lego figures would move and act. Even the characters sort of know what they are, although they don’t know everything. The jokes are always thrown at you and all of them get a laugh. It has a parody element to it that is surprisingly funny for kids and adults. When a company that has been around for generations and has so much merchandise, you can’t help but admire the creators for making fun of their toy. It does is heart-warming how creativity is important. The animation is marvelous – the way the characters build structures, vehicles and double-decker couches is an experience to see. Just watching this imaginative universe makes me wonder, “What can’t you make out of Legos”?!

My favorite character is hard to pick out of dozens of lovable characters. I would have to choose Good Cop / Bad Cop (Liam Neeson). I love this character’s double personality and he cracks me up every time I see him.

My favorite scene is when Emmet talks to Lord Business about how you don’t how to follow the instructions all the time. This scene shows and proves how Legos are important to people. How the simplicity of building a spaceship or anything, can spark inspiration for kids and adults to build.

The moral of the story is that everyone is special. Emmet does not think he has the mind or experience to fulfill his prophecy. He soon learns that if you believe in yourself you can do extraordinarily things.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this to 5 to18-year-olds. This film reminds us on how Legos can change our lives. We all had Legos once in our lives, whether you follow the instructions, build or just played with them, it does not matter. Legos have been around for generations and these bricks have shown us new worlds to explore and enjoy. This film is timeless and I hope it will be know for a long time.

The Lego Movie
Reviewed by Gerry O, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

This movie is something special. This movie will make kids’ dreams come true everywhere. What movie I’m talking about?  Well it’s “The Lego Movie” of course.

This great film has comedy, adventure, suspense, music, romance, LEGOS and a great story line.

The story is about an unlikely hero, who turns out to be part of a big prophesy and a lot of exciting battles and adventures. But, is this just all a part of a kid’s imagination or do Legos truly come to life when we are not looking?

I love so many things about this movie! A very unique part is the animation. It’s plastic, smooth and looks a lot like real Lego pieces. At parts it feels like its stop motion but it’s not. Most of the sets where were made out of hundreds of Legos. Imagine it, five adults playing with a whole bunch of Legos for work. I am sure most kids would wish to be a part of such production. If you add to the mix the voice-overs by amazing actors such as Morgan Freeman, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett and Will Ferrell – you get an animated film that will captivate your heart for sure.

I have a couple of favorite scenes. First, when Batman, Emmet, Wyldstyle, the Wizard and Benny are all stuck in the ocean on a ‘double decker couch.’ Batman says “It’s not like a gigantic ship will show up” and right when he says that, a ship comes out of nowhere. Then later, when they need a part and he says “It’s not like there’s a spaceship or anything” and what do you know, the Millennium Falcon drops by!

I recommend this movie to ages 2 to 17. Older people may not enjoy the humor as much as younger kids. I also give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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