Archive for November, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – A Sure Hit With Teens and Tweens

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

HungerGames.Mockingjay.1.jpgThe latest installment of The Hunger Games trilogy, based on the best-selling books by Suzanne Collins was released this weekend to an eager youth adult crowd. With the Games now destroyed and in pieces, Katniss Everdeen, along with Gale, Finnick and Beetee, now end up in the so-thought “destroyed” District 13. Under the leadership of President Coin and the advice of her friends, Katniss becomes the “Mockingjay” and the symbol of rebellion for the people. KIDS FIRST! Critics Brianna Hope Beaton comments, “I completely love this film and the overall production. It’s intense and has such a grand feel to it. With scene after scene, it gets bigger and bigger and you see just how powerful one voice can be.” See her full review below.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
by  Brianna Hope Beaton, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This much anticipated film is absolutely fantastic with some action and a stellar cast that will blow your mind!

This epic story continues with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peetar Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) who both play a big part in the lives of District 13’ers, each in their own way. They want to unite and save an entire nation. In order to do this, they need the help of their friends and new alliances.

I completely love this film and the overall production. It’s intense and has such a grand feel to it. With scene after scene, it gets bigger and bigger and you see just how powerful one voice can be. The aerial shots, emotions, excitement and the anticipation of what’s happening next basically keeps your eyes glued to the screen. I’ve read all the books and this adaption is very true to the original stories. Jennifer Lawrence’s performance is incredible.  She becomes her character completely with a range of emotions –  anger, doubt, disbelief and feeling sorry. She is so convincing. My favorite character is Peetar. Although he is not on-screen time as much as the other characters, he plays a big part in the film. Peeta is what drives Katniss throughout the film as she struggles to get to him. Almost everything she does is a result of her wanting to save Peeta. I also like Peeta because, every time he is on screen, he seems to change and intensify the situation. My favorite scene is when Katniss sees Peeta for the very first time. She is shocked and, at the same time, grateful that he is alive. It is nice to see all of the questions that go though her mind through her own eyes. Katniss’ eyes reveal how she feels about Peeta.

I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 and I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It is a little slow in the beginning, but I understand why. They have to bring you up to speed with what happened in the previous film. I cannot wait to see Part 2!

Satisfy your excitement and see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, It opens in theaters on November 21st, so please check it out.

Calling all Indie Filmmakers! Submit Your Films Now for a KIDS FIRST! Endorsement.

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Submit.Nov.2014.Horiz.jpgFor all indie filmmakers, you have until November 30 to submit your films for a KIDS FIRST! Endorsement. To get your endorsement before the end of 2014, send it in today.

The sooner you get it to us, the quicker you get your endorsement.KIDS FIRST! has been supporting quality children’s media for 23 years and is the most highly respected media endorsement program in the country. Unlike an awards program which limits the number of winners, every title that meets our criteria and is approved by our kids’ juries receives an endorsement. Our base-line criteria includes:

NO gratuitous violence or abuse
NO inappropriate sexual behavior
NO bias in terms of race, gender, culture or religion
NO condescension toward children
NO replicable unsafe behavior

KIDS FIRST! Endorsed Titles Receive

  • The right to use the KIDS FIRST! endorsement seal and rating on all promotional and packaging materials..
  • A unique title landing page on the KIDS FIRST! website featuring reviews by our jurors, your trailer or sample clip, cover art and link to your website to purchase.
  • Consideration for a KIDS FIRST! Best Award
  • Coverage on the KIDS FIRST! Radio Show, KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions (100,000 listeners)
  • Promoted in KIDS FIRST! News (45,000 readers/mo)
  • Promoted on KIDS FIRST! Social media (450,000 reach)

For more information, go to http://www.kidsfirst.org/submit-a-title/ KF_logo.JPG

This the Season to Enjoy Music!

Friday, November 14th, 2014

As the holiday season approaches, we have something special to share with you – some of the fabulous music CDs that we’ve recently endorsed. This music will surely be enjoyed by your children but, like most wonderful music, adults will find it equally pleasing. In 2014, the knowledgeable music critic John Wood joined our ranks as a music judge and, of course, our KIDS FIRST! Critics added their two cents in addition. Take a look below. I’m sure you will find some fabulous choices to share with the youth in your universe this holiday season.

APPETITE FOR CONSTRUCTION  (AGES 2-5).  These songs provide an active participation point for whole-family engagement, celebrating imaginative play, building, dance, puppet making and more.  “We wanted to make something that wasn’t only about listening, but could actually be recreated and re-imagined at home,” explains Stein. “The Pop Ups are all about making things,” adds Rabinowitz.  “We want our fans to be able to engage in that experience for themselves and really take part in the record, and to experience The Pop Ups world.”  THE POP UPS.

  • Adult Juror Comments: Stop the presses! Late breaking news: The Pop Ups have done it again! Their latest album ‘Appetite For Construction’ is a fanciful, danceable explosion of ideas and get-down rhymes and rhythms. The group is in touch with its musical lineage and producer/arranger Jason Rabinowitz does a masterful job of paying/playing homage to a myriad of pop culture voicing and styles. The group has a special spark and presents a moving target of attention grabbing hip nouveau vaudeville. Oh, and by the way, I liked the album. This is a finely constructed and produced album from the first downbeat. Nothing unappealing unlike a banana.  Each song segues into the next seamlessly with a myriad of pop culture styles.  Their liner notes hit it on the head, “This album is dedicated to the simple joy of making things with family & friends!” The group knows how to integrate terrific music with creative voice work that they perform live with the puppet portion of their shows. They always present a moving target of attention-grabbing modern vaudeville. Top rate sound quality has layers of harmonies, excellent musicianship and masterful recording technique. Reviewed by John Wood.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids absolutely loved this CD, especially the upbeat music that made them dance. They liked the vocalist, the instruments and the fun music. The kids that reviewed the CD were ages 2-7. The slower songs were not as enthusiastically enjoyed as much as the faster paced ones but. overall they really enjoyed this. One 2-year-old came running in from another room dancing along to it. Their favorite song is “Getting the Job Done” and they repeatedly said, “give it a 5” (rating). Audio. 40 min.; $12; Age: 2-5.

AS THE CROW FLIES  (AGES 2-5).  Family recording artist Dan Crow offers a brand new collection of original songs that celebrate his fun with travels around the world.  ALLS HOUSE FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT.

Adult Juror Comments: Dan Crow’s “As the Crow Flies” boasts the talents of a seasoned, much-traveled performer who knows his audience. The album is packed with outright fun and danceable hits that will have its audience on their feet and moving right along. Some of the highlights, supported by a band of all-stars, are the surf-inspired “Stevie’s Got a Maui Owie,” the multitude of fun available on the “Playground” and the timeless log of a little dog in “Greyfriar’s Bobby” complete with authentic Scottish instrumentation. A fun, inspired album the whole family will enjoy. There are lots of opportunities for participation, out and out fun, and movement. The children’s chorus is particularly appealing. The artist recalls growing up in his first house, the love of eating mac n’ cheese, the fun of traveling, anti-bullying and something we can all remember – waiting for the Tooth Fairy. The recording quality is terrific and the guest musicians and youth singers are all top notch. We love this one! `

Kid Juror Comments: This CD has a lot of fun and catchy songs. The lyrics don’t always make sense and are sometimes just silly but they will make kids want to laugh out loud and dance around the room. The instrumental part is a very strong part of the CD. It is what will make you want to get up and dance around. Even when the words are a bit too silly the instrumental section holds your attention. Although, young kids may not learn a lot from listening to the CD, they will enjoy the music and sometimes that is just as important as learning something new. I did learn something from the song “Bully Girl and Bully Boy.” The music styles are pretty similar throughout the CD. There is some rhyming and the songs touch on topics such as the tooth fairy and the playground, things kids can relate to.  I recommend this for kids ages 4 to 8. Audio. 40 min.; $12.99; Age: 5-8.

COOL KIND KID  (AGES 3-8).  Winner of more than 15 national awards, including Parents’ Choice and Teachers’ Choice. 17 original songs, each teaching a different social skill. The fun way for kids 2 to 9 to learn social skills to reject bullying. Kids are engaged as they learn “the kind kid is a COOL kid, not the bully.”  COOL KIND KID

Adult Juror Comments: This CD is a 17 set of character-affirming songs that present children with options to make positive choices in their daily existence of life, school and home with special attention paid t peer pressure. The songs are well produced and performed with a mix of adult and child performers. An array of musical styles from rock to pop to folk infuse the messages of manners, respect and making a stand with an accessible immediacy. The collection is a valuable teaching tool for parents and educators to integrate into their bag of tricks. The structure is sound. Every song has a behavior that ideally should be modeled – manners, standing up for what is right, following rules, kindness and similar. The content is age appropriate and, of course, emphasizes that it is “cool to be kind.”

Kid Juror Comments: This is a very cool music CD which includes 17 songs that demonstrate how to be polite and Well mannered, with a catchy beat! I honestly thought it may be a little cheesy but the CD pleasantly surprised me. The irst song of the album, “Cool Kind Kid,” is simply perfect for teaching younger kids about proper behavior.

All songs in the album not only send positive message but lead kids with an example. Music ranges from rock and roll to slow and soothing, to upbeat and modern. Each song is completely different from the last and concentrates on one
specific item. For example, one of my favorites, “When the Telephone Rings” talks about how to pick up and answer telephone correctly.

There are 17 songs in total. Each of the songs is about two to three minutes long. All somewhat tell a story and even though you may not realize, all teach you a lesson as well. Most of the songs are catchy. However, there are a couple that feel a bit forced and probably would have benefited from a better singer. But those are an exception and I do like the fact that the majority of the songs are sung by kids. Since I’m 12, the songs were a bit childish for me but I could see a class of preschoolers enjoying it and singing along. I also found it very smart to make this for such little kids, so when they grow up, they have good manners and a clear understanding between right and wrong.

My favorite song is “When the Telephone Rings.” The song is about being polite during a call, and I like it the most because the voice is very impressive and the lyrics are catchy. It all wraps up nicely as the song explores three different situations with a good sense of humor. These songs are for little kids, so I think the best age rating is 2 to 6. I don’t believe older kids would enjoy it or benefit from the message as much. Younger kids would not understand the purpose of it. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Reviewed By Gerry Orz, age 12, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

LOVE BUG BY RAFFI  (AGES 2-5).  This 16 song collection embodies all of the qualities that have already established Raffi as a beloved and trusted icon for young listeners. These are songs about love (“Love Bug,” “Seeing the Heart”), nature (“In the Real World,” “Blue White Planet”), play (“Free to Play,” “To the Park”), chores (“Mama Loves It”), teamwork (“On Hockey Days”), imagination (“Magic Wand”) and the need to slow down and catch one’s breath amidst the accelerated pace of modern life (“Cool Down Reggae”).  ROUNDER RECORDS/CONCORD MUSIC GROUP

Adult Juror Comments: Let’s start with the obvious, ‘Love Bug’ is a terrific album filled with lovely and entrancing songs. I could say, ridiculously, where have you been for twelve years? And the answer might be, doing lots of fun and satisfying stuff. It’s like we never missed you, Raffi. The soothing voice and positive artistic sensibilities are sharper than ever. The love for the individual child and family, care for our world and the simple joys of playing ice hockey, and enjoying the park are just a sampling of this splendidly produced and performed 16-song set. And a nod to the updated lyrics to ‘This Land is Your Land.’ Beautiful guitar work. engaging production and that voice that makes a stadium performance sound like a personal concert in your living room. Pick this up, you won’t put it down.

I really like the choice of mainly acoustic instruments (guitars, banjo, fiddle, drums, bass piano and dulcimer). This music breathes. Raffi is one of the foundations of children’s music – a national treasure that generations have grown up with. There are terrific songs, exceptionally performed and spot-on for the target audience. The structure and continuity are near-perfect.

The title says it all: Love Bug! Raffi is all about love, respect, our planet and the power children have to change their surroundings for the better. Like Fred Rogers, he is true to himself, respectful of his audience and always in a gentle, loving way. He is a seeker of good intentions for the World we live in. Raffi’s voice is an instrument that soothes and draws the audience to scoot just a little bit closer. The kid choruses are lovely. The production fabulous. The musicians add so much energy and propulsion. I hope that children will see a bigger picture of their involvement and heir apparent to a smaller, brighter and more loving world.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids really enjoyed this CD. This is the first time I’ve heard a Raffi CD and, although the lyrics are very intelligent and often mature, the kids still were completely drawn in to the songs. They sang along almost immediately and they wanted to hear more. After the original review, I started playing it in the car when they were out of control and they would immediately calm down and start singing along. They especially love the first two songs. Based on the kids’ reactions, I recommend this CD to anyone. They particularly loved the Dogwood Song and Love Bug was their second favorite. Audio. 40 min.; $15; Age: 2-7.

Big Hero 6 – Suspenseful, Funny and Creative. Will This Be 2014’s “Frozen”?

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

BigHero6.jpgFrom Walt Disney Animation Studios’ team that brought us Frozen, comes Big Hero 6, an action-packed comedy-adventure featuring Baymax, a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his friends. Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called Big Hero 6. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O comments, “This film is wonderful! The humor is unique and not boring, making the audience always roar with laughter.” Harmony M adds, “The unpredictable plot makes the movie very exciting and hilarious. The movie is funny within the first few minutes which is really delightful…” Jeremy, age 7, adds, “Another thing I like about this film is that it kept me guessing what would happen next throughout the whole movie.”

Big Hero 6
Reviewed by Jeremy B., age 7, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Big Hero 6 is a really fun movie! It is suspenseful, funny and creative. The writers, Don Hall and Jordan Roberts, wrote an awesome script.  Each character has a different ability and a distinct personality. Yet, they all work very well together.  I really enjoyed learning about each character!

Big Hero 6 is an animated film about a boy genius named Hiro (Ryan Potter) whose parents have died and he spends all his time “bot” fighting with robots he creates. When Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, (Daniel Henney) dies, he discovers a robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) that his brother designed as a personal health care assistant. When a villain steals one of Hiro’s inventions, Hiro must use his brain and technology to change Baymax into a robot superhero and, along with some friends, must stop the villain.

Big Hero 6 is a really incredible movie. It has a great mix of comedy, suspense and even a little bit of sadness. There is a lot of comedy from beginning to end.  All of the characters are funny and face some tough challenges. Another thing I like about this film is that it kept me guessing what would happen next throughout the whole movie. I was completely surprised by some of the things that happened because I had a different idea in my head of what to expect. The 3D effect is also great! The animation makes it seem as if I could reach out and touch objects and jump right in with them. My favorite part is when Baymax learns karate. It is so funny because he looks like a giant marshmallow and looks so cuddly you want to hug him instead of fight him.

Big Hero 6 has a really great message. It teaches us to make great friends and to always put your friends first! The characters have to trust in their friendship and stop arguing to defeat the villain.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars because it is funny, adventurous and really creative. Kids and adults will love it, especially those who like comedy and science experiments.  I recommend this film for children ages 4 to 18. This is a movie that the whole family will enjoy.

Big Hero 6
Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

This film is a fun and hilarious adventure with a very unique story that the whole family will love.

The story starts when a technology genius, Hiro, is accepted into a technology university but, at the same time, something bad happens to his older brother. While he grieves, he finds his brother’s medical robot, Baymax. Together they discover a deep and dark secret and they team up with four friends to get to the bottom of it.

This film is wonderful! The humor is unique and not boring, making the audience always roar with laughter. They don’t concentrate on one theme. Instead, they surprise us with many different things to spice up the story. However, in many ways, I feel the story is a bit too complicated. It takes the film about 30 minutes just to finish the back story which makes the climax and conflict a bit rushed. Otherwise, its a great film!

My favorite scene is when Hiro first discovers Baymax. Hiro stubs his toe which activates Baymax. First, Baymax squeezes around a bed and the way he does it makes the audience laugh to tears. Then Hiro trips, gets stuck and things fall on him. The entire scene is just pure comedy which makes it a very memorable scene and sets the tone for their relationship as the story unfolds.

I recommend this for ages 9 to 18 and give it 4.5 out 5 stars its amazing, unique animation, humor and interesting storyline.

Big Hero 6
By Harmony M. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The movie Big Hero 6 is adorable, funny, and downright enjoyable. The movie is about a young, intelligent, robotics fanatic named Hiro Hamada, voiced by Ryan Potter, who spends his days hustling adults in “bot fights” until his brother, Tadashi, voiced by Daniel Henney, introduces him to his college and friends. Hiro then spends his days trying to get accepted into his brother’s school to apply his knowledge of robotics to a greater cause. Hiro later develops a loveable bond between himself and an inflatable robot named Baymax, voiced by Scott Adsit. After Hiro encounters a dangerous force that threatens his future and safety of the city, he turns to Baymax and his friends to make a heroic group called “Big Hero 6” to fight evil. The movie takes us through an action-packed adventure that provides laughter, tears, tension and relief.

The unpredictable plot makes the movie very exciting and hilarious. The movie is funny within the first few minutes which is really delightful because it avoids a slow beginning. Even though this movie is about superheroes fighting evil with intense superhero gear, it does not follow the typical superhero expectations because the heroes handle situations differently than expected. The movie provides realism and surprisingly does not sugar coat certain scenarios. There a certain times where one would think “wow, I’m surprised Disney did that” but that surprise is good because it makes the movie stand out from the rest in a new and different way.

The characters are so lovable, especially Baymax, an adorable robot whose only purpose is to make others feel better. Because of this, it is easy for the audience to get attached to the characters and engage with the movie emotionally. The movie is phenomenal and appeals to adults as much as children which is a very special aspect.
Not only does Big Hero 6 have clever dialogue, great special effects, lovable characters and nice music, but it also pays attention to little details and messages about education and friendship that contribute to an amazing movie as a whole. I will definitely watch this movie multiple times and recommend it ages 5 to 18. Be sure to check it out in theaters on November 7th.

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