Archive for May, 2014

Maleficent – Unpredictable and Amazing

Friday, May 30th, 2014

The much-awaited Disney release, Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning, opens this weekend. The story twists one of our favorite fairy tales in a new and unexpected direction. As KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha A., age 11, reveals, “I assumed that I knew what it was going to be about but it turned out to be a totally unpredictable and amazing movie.” Shelby R., age 13, adds, “I love this movie because the costumes, special effects and cinematography are absolutely phenomenal.”  See their full reviews below.

Maleficent
Reviewed by Samantha A., age 11, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Maleficent is a remake of the Disney classic “Sleeping Beauty.” I assumed that I knew what it was going to be about but, it turned out to be a totally unpredictable and amazing movie. Maleficent is about a betrayed fairy (Angelina Jolie) that curses the king’s infant daughter Aurora as revenge. She soon discovers that when Aurora grows up, she is the only one who can restore the peace and happiness that everyone needs to get them out of the depression caused by revenge and war. This movie takes “Sleeping Beauty” and turns it into a completely different movie.

By far, this is the best Disney movie I’ve seen and one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Everything is just right. For example, the music sets the right mood in every scene. It is strong and loud when it needs to be and quite and shy at other times and, at certain points, it is playful and happy. It really pulls the whole movie together. Along with the jaw-dropping music, this movie has amazing actors starting with Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning (Auora). They fit each role perfectly almost as if they were born for these roles.

This movie is very interesting to watch because it isn’t entirely based on “Sleeping Beauty” so you get to see a completely different side of Maleficent before she becomes the villain that she is known as. Throughout the movie I found myself wanting the movie to go quicker to see what would happen next but not wanting it to end anytime soon. I think that the director Robert Stromberg and the writers Linda Woolverton and Charles Perrault really outdo themselves with this movie because I cannot stop obsessing about how great it is.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 perfect stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 18. To be honest, this movie is a movie that you should be sure not to miss because IT IS THAT GOOD!



Maleficent

by Shelby R., age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

I love this movie because the costumes, special effects and cinematography are absolutely phenomenal.  The costumes send a message to the audience starting with lighter colors when things are happy to dark colors when evil appears.  Maleficent’s costume is the best.  I like her black flowing cape in the middle of her wings and her pointed horns on her head.  She looks so evil in all black yet stunning at the same time.

The cinematography is breath-taking, especially in the scene where the younger version of Maleficent flies throughout the forest kingdom. You can see all the beautiful waterfalls, the “fat people”-as Aurora calls them, field animals and trees. It is in 3D which allows you to feel as if you are flying though the sky with big majestic wings and looking down at all the little creatures smiling below.

This 3D action-packed film shows Maleficent’s transformation from a good fairy into an evil, cold-hearted fairy with no wings. Her lover, Stephen cuts her wings so that he can become King and so she plans her revenge by cursing his daughter, Princess Aurora. Later, Maleficent realizes that she made a mistake and tries to reverse the curse before it is too late.

My favorite scene is when Maleficent comes into King Stephen’s kingdom and curses Aurora. There are lots of special effects in this scene and I love how powerful and dramatic they are. Angeline Jolie’s portrayal of the evil side of Maleficent is particularly outstanding in this scene. My jaw dropped when I saw the lightening striking, the evil smoke surrounding her and the room darkens as she walks up to Stephen. I liked how everything about her is evil her evil – her laugh, makeup, costume and voice.

The message of the movie is that in life we all go through things that can make us hurt and desire revenge.  King Stephen became paranoid, evil and miserable trying to seek revenge on Maleficent.  As humans we have to make a decision to either allow our pain to be a strength or weakness. This movie also talks about how not all people are all bad but there are not all good too. I recommend this for ages 10 to 18 and give this movie 5 out of 5 stars.

Maleficent is in THEATERS NOW!! Remember being evil is complicated!

X-Men Days of Future Past
Reviewed by Keefer B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

X-traordinarily perfect! I’ve been waiting for this movie for a while and what a payoff.
The future, as we know it, is a wasteland for mutants: hunted and eliminated by the Sentinels. To stop this from ever happening, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent into the past to prevent this dark outcome.

I adore the X-Men series and to see it again is beyond fantastic. Bringing back the original iconic actors such as Sir Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Sir Ian McKellen (Magneto) makes me overjoyed! Even the younger versions of them – Micheal Fassbender and James McAvory are their own 3-dimensional characters because they’re not trying to be replicas of their older selves. Their interaction and relationships are strong and, just as in “X-Men First Class,” I love seeing Eric and Xavier just talking. These two started as friends and the film shows that perfectly. They have different pathways and ways to fix events but they never give up on each other.

The action and special effects in this film are grand. Showing different mutant powers is what made X-Men unique to begin with. It’s not entirely combat action, like “Avengers,” it’s more letting their powers do the work. Magneto slowly lifts an entire baseball stadium, which allows us to marvel at how powerful mutants can be.

The story is astounding! This film has to pick-up from the previous films and tie-up loose ends. Not only do they succeed but, they also remember little details. Example: the young Wolverine doesn’t have metal claws. They’re bone because he doesn’t get the metal ones until sometime in the future. Specifics like that add to how incredible this film is.
It can also confuse people who haven’t seen the other films. There are inside jokes and character connections that could be lost.

My favorite character is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), a mutant who has incredible speed.
This is by far the best representation of a comic-book character. Evan shows the mischievous and cocky side of Silver that is always a kick to watch.

My favorite scene is Quicksilver’s super speed sequence. This is when the team breaks Eric/Magneto out of a Pentagon prison and the group is cornered by security. Quicksilver, without a care in the world, pranks the guards by poking the bullets in mid-air, pulling their guns out of their hands and more. This is such an incredible ride that it just needs to be experienced.

The message of this film is, “Choices you make in the present, affect your future.” The whole reason for this story is that one careless act has changed the world forever. We need to think through the choices we make to have a bright future.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 13- to 18 year-olds. This film shows dark images and language that is not intended for younger audiences.

Even though this is a comedy, there are a lot of jokes that are somewhat mature so I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. I also give it 5 out 5 stars for good chemistry, comedy and great acting. I hope this is the beginning of many films with this amazing duo because their partnership clearly works. It gives the film that little something extra that makes for an instant blockbuster.

Blended
Reviewed by Shelby R., age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

This movie is really funny and also heartfelt. Blended is about Jim and Lauren’s journey together. After going on a blind date, swearing never to see each other again, only to find themselves and their kids in the same hotel in Africa for whole week. Jim and Lauren are forced to learn how to blend themselves and their families together through various activities.

My favorite moment is when Lauren (Drew Barrymore) sings “Over the Rainbow” to Jim’s daughter, Lou. It made me almost cry because Jim’s wife used to sing that song to Lou every night before she passed away. It helped Espn (Jim’s daughter) get over the death of her mother. I liked how the director, Frank Coraci developed Lauren into this compassionate mother who cares about not only her kids but the well beings of others. Because of that, she is my favorite character.

The funniest moment is when Hilary (Bella Thorne) starts to dance in the middle of a basketball game to catch Jake’s attention and Jim (Adam Sandler) embarrasses her by asking her what she is doing. This scene connects the audience to the characters because everyone has gone through an embarrassing moment in his life when trying to impress someone.

Another funny moment is when Brendan (Lauren’s son) gets mad at Jim for not wanting his mother.  When Jim says how she uptight she is, he comes to her defense and calls her “hot.”

One of the filming locations is South Africa. Julio Macat, the cinematographer, captures the true essence of Africa and allows the audience to see its splendor including all the animals that live there. I love the scene when Jim and Lauren decide to explore the great outdoors and all you see is a long river with elephants, giraffes and a sandy desert.

One of lessons that I learned from this film is that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover because you never know how it might surprise you. I give this movie four out of five stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Check out Blended it comes out May 23th!!! Let the BLENDING BEGIN!!

Belle- A Timeless Message About Racial Equality

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. Belle’s lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar’s son bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield’s role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brianna B. comments, “There is so much that I love about this film. I love the story, the costumes, the intensity and the scenery.” Her full review follows.

Belle
Reviewed by Brianna B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14.
Video review available here:

Belle is remarkably interesting, informational and captivating.  It’s a wonderful film that I enjoy watching. I would really like to see it again soon.

Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is of mixed race and an illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral. She is being raised, reluctantly, by her noble great-uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife. They find out that, surprisingly, Belle is part of their blood lineage and is entitled to certain things such as money, land and education. However, due of the color of her skin, she cannot attend some of the traditions that the family has, such as dinner with the family when guests are present.

There is so much that I love about this film. I love the story, the costumes, the intensity and the scenery. The acting is so genuinely real and all the actors make this story come to life on the big screen. The wardrobe is breathtakingly beautiful, especially the dresses that Belle wears, and has tremendous historical details that are very accurate. This story touches base on slavery and equal rights. It is by no means over-bearing or too much to handle and definitely needs to be told to everyone who will listen. My favorite character is, of course, Belle. She transitions from being a confused little girl, who is scared and alone, to a strong-minded supporter of human rights. I like her witty comebacks and how she does not settle for anything she does not want. One of my favorite scenes is when Belle is playing outside with her cousin when they are children. They go behind a tree, laughing and playing together, and when they come from behind it, they are two beautiful young women who obviously still love to play and fool around. The resemblance from the young Belle to the older one is almost exact except for the eye color.

Belle is based on a true story and sends a great message that everyone is created equal. It doesn’t matter what color their skin is or how they look or even, how they are brought up – everyone should be treated equal.

I recommend Belle for ages 10 to 18 and to anyone who likes the Eighteenth Century. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Belle comes out in theaters on May 23rd, so please check it out.

Million Dollar Arm – A Game Changer in More Ways Than One

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm follows JB Bernstein, a once-successful sports agent who finds his career teetering on the edge. Sports films generally carry an important social message in them and this film does that and more. “Once JB finds the boys he is looking for, it becomes less about business, and more about friendship,” comments KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D, age 16. Brianna B, age 14 adds, “I absolutely love this film. A big part of why I like it so much is because it’s based on a true story that is so inspirational.” Their full reviews are below.

Million Dollar Arm
Reviewed by Raven D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16
Video review here:

Million Dollar Arm tells the true story of a sports agent and three young men from small villages in India as they make baseball history. Jon Hamm plays a sports agent named JB whose business is teetering on either making it big or failing completely. When his big plan of managing a major league NFL player falls through, all seems lost. That is until one night when he finds himself watching Indian cricket with his friend and gets a brilliant idea. Cricket is such a huge sport in India. He wondered what would happen if he found two cricket players, brought them to America and trained them for major league baseball. His idea seemed foolproof, he would make baseball history by recruiting the first Indian players plus, he would get an entirely new following of Indian fans. Once JB finds the boys he is looking for, it becomes less about business, and more about friendship.

I found this film very pleasing. I didn’t know much about it and wasn’t quite sure what to expect but, once I got into it, I was very touched. The cinematography is very well executed and, during the portion of the film that is shot in India, the landscape and culture are captured beautifully. Even the slums and run down villages are filmed in a way that makes you feel as if you are under the sweltering heat of the sun or in the chaotic mix of vendors and civilians on the crowded streets. The music in this film is fantastic. It features the essence of Indian music with a twist of modern American pop, making it perfect for this multicultural film.

My favorite character is Amit played by Pitobash. He is recruited early on in the film, almost by accident, to be an assistant and translator for JB. He is one of the funniest characters because he is so polite and hospitable to JB and his recruiting team but he often gets himself into funny situations while trying to accommodate everyone. In one scene, Alan Arkin’s character Ray says something along the lines of “…this guy has juice” as a way to express the potential he saw in a player. However, Amit overhears this and immediately goes sprinting away to find his boss some juice to drink. It is quite hilarious. My favorite scene is when Amit, Rinku and Dinesh come to America for the first time. They have spent their entire lives in small villages in India so you can imagine their adjustment to the extravagant LA lifestyle JB is living. There is such a funny scene when they all get into an elevator for the first time and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) is so impressed by its motion sensors that he repeatedly sticks his hand in between the doors right as they close just to see the “magic” of them automatically opening again.

I was very touched by this film. Not only does it show the historical achievement of the first Indian major league baseball players but, it also made me laugh out loud and tugged on my heart strings. JB starts out viewing the boys as his project, a way to make a lot of money and propel himself forward in the sports industry, but soon he realizes that they are so much more than just a paycheck. As he lets his defensiveness down, he sees how kind, funny and talented they each are and an unforgettable bond is formed between them. Because of this, I give the film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. Million Dollar Arm hits a homerun into theaters on May 16th so be sure to check it out at a theater near you!

Million Dollar Arm
Reviewed by Brianna Hope Beaton, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14.
Video review available here.

Disney’s Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story that is very inspirational, funny and great to see.

Sports Agent, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm), needs to find other clients that will bring in the money. He is on the verge of a big break and without this deal he is broke. JB comes up with a strategy of getting Asian cricket players to play for a Major League Baseball team in the United States. He travels to India and holds auditions to see who will win the prize money and make the Baseball try outs. Rinku (Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi)) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire)) is able to beat out thousands of other kids for the chance to play on a major league team. Will they make it?

I absolutely love this film. A big part of why I like it so much is because it’s based on a true story that is so inspirational. It shows that you can dream, work hard and with dedication you can fulfill those dreams. I love the little bits of comedy, they are unexpected and funny. My favorite character is Amit Rohan (Pitobash), because he is very funny, excited about everything and always lightens the scene. One of the filming locations is set in India. It gives us an up close view of how the people live there, how the children play and their culture. I like the music; it really represents the emotions that are displaying on the screen. In a scene when the mood is happy, the music is upbeat and exciting. My favorite scene is when Rinku is auditioning for the baseball tryouts; he stands like a flamingo prior to pitching the ball which I have never seen anyone do this before and it’s really funny to see.

One message I found is when you support people, they need to see that you care about what they do. That means going to their practices, motivating them and letting them know you are there for them.

I recommend this film for ages 7 to 18 and anyone who loves the game of baseball. It is a great family film. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

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