Archive for December, 2014

There’s still time to support KIDS FIRST!

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

2015_is_coming_at_the_beach.jpgAs 2014 winds down, we wish to thank all of our generous supporters for their kindness. And, for those of you who haven’t yet made a donation, might we remind you that this is the perfect time to make a contribution to KIDS FIRST! Your donation is tax deductible so, in essence it doesn’t really cost you anything.

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With the end of 2014 quickly approaching, you can still make a donation by December 31st for 2014 tax credits.

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Into the Woods – The Must-See Film For This Holiday Season

Monday, December 29th, 2014

IntotheWoods.jpgInto the Woods puts a modern twist to the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales – Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstack and Rapunzel – in a musical format tied together by an original story about a baker and his wife who are under the influence of a witch’s curse that prevents them from having a child. Based on the 1987 Broadway play by the same named, Into the Woods earned Tony Awards for Best Original Score (Stephen Sondheim) and Best Book of a Musical (James Lapine). KIDS FIRST! Critics Willie J. comments, “Rob Marshall and company have made the best American movie musical in over ten years. Ironically enough, Rob Marshall’s  Into the Woods is the best musical since Rob Marshall’s Chicago.” Raven D. adds, “The execution of this film is flawless. It captures the feel of seeing a musical live, with the over-the-top theatrics and set design.” Shelby R. wraps it up with, “The message of the film is that you should be careful of what you wish for. ” See their full reviews below.

Into the Woods
by Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Critics, age 15

I confess that I binge listened to the soundtrack before seeing this film and was thoroughly impressed with the vocals. It got me excited going to the screening. I also admit that I am a fan of the Broadway musical. I’ve seen the play this film is based on starring Bernadette Peters, Vanessa Williams and Phylicia Rashad. All three have played The Witch. I have watched Johanna Gleeson light up the stage with energy, charm and humor. I noticed every change, subtraction and addition in the cinematic adaptation and I must say, this film is a triumph. It has wit, humor, emotion, magic and music – all the makings of a great musical.

The first fifteen minutes, the prologue, is edited with such vivacity and rhythm that you are immediately engulfed into the stories and the action. Then, Director Rob Marshall slowly starts to focus on the rhythms and details of each individual story. From the Baker and his wife, to Little Red Riding Hood, to Jack, to the Witch and Cinderella. All their stories are told with the same passion and intent as the others, each with their individual flair. Yet somehow Marshall is able to have each story fit perfectly into the grand puzzle that is Into the Woods.

I could rave on and on about Sondheim’s score. His scores always have a sort of, inside joke sound to them. It’s as if Sondheim knows something we don’t know when he composes. There is an obvious humor and wit in Sondheim’s score of Into the Woods, but it is the lyrics that tell the story. James Lapine, who wrote the screenplay and the libretto for the Broadway musical, makes some interesting changes for the film version. Fans of the musical will recognize the changes immediately and they may or may not like them. I personally liked them. For those who’ve never seen or even heard the Broadway version, this film will entertain and even touch them.

Meryl Streep, is the best Witch I’ve seen. The finest actress of all-time gives The Witch a portrayal big enough to fit Rob Marshall’s theatrical style, but is subtle enough for us to understand her. Her solo Stay With Me is one of the best scenes in the whole movie and one of the best acted scenes this year. But, it is the show-stopping number of Last Midnight that will leave a lasting impression on you. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since I saw it. I was in jaw-dropping awe in the theater watching that number. It’s because Meryl Streep doesn’t just sing a song (she has a beautiful voice and can surprisingly belt very well), she acts it. She feels each word and doesn’t waste them. She’s able to find the subtext in every song, every line of dialogue, every lyric. She will definitely be a presence this awards season and rightfully so.

Speaking of showstoppers, I must mention the funniest duet in any musical from any time, Agony. Sung by Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen, who play Cinderella and Rapunzel’s princes respectively, the number is beautifully staged and timed hilariously. Everyone in my theater roared with laughter and I was apart of it. That may actually be the best musical number in the whole movie. 

I’d also like to point out James Corden, who really surprised me. I knew he’d do the comedic portrayal of The Baker well, but it is the dramatic parts that had me apprehensive. He killed them. His chemistry with Emily Blunt is very believable. They work well together and they both have fantastic voices as well.

I think Blunt is one of the most underrated actresses today and I’m confident this film will put her on the map. She is a grand talent. The million dollar question fans of the musical may have, “Does she live up to Johanna Gleeson?” My answer is, I don’t know. They approach The Baker’s Wife differently. Their choices completely differ and therefore they cannot be compared. 

The last standout I want to mention is young Lilla Crawford, who some may know as Annie in the 2012 Broadway revival. She has impeccable timing and a great voice. It is a great feature film debut for the young star.

The ensemble overall is fantastic and work extremely well together. Of course the costume and production design are top notch, but I don’t think anyone expected anything less. Rob Marshall and company have made the best American movie musical in over ten years. Ironically enough, Rob Marshall’s  Into the Woods is the best musical since Rob Marshall’s Chicago I give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18.

Into The Woods
Reviewed by Raven Devanney

Into The Woods is a brilliant new film adapted from the award-winning Broadway musical. This lively tale tells the story of some of the most well-known Grimm’s Brother fairy tales, but with an unexpected twist. In the film we see the stories The Baker and his Wife, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. All of their lives intertwine and it makes for a wild journey full of song, humor, heartbreak and wonderful lessons.

Into The Woods is a must-see this season and I am so pleased with how it turned out. Being a theater junky, I heard news that this musical was going to be made into a film and the anticipation began to grow. The execution of this film is flawless. It captures the feel of seeing a musical live, with the over-the-top theatrics and set design. It translates so well to the screen and allows the audience to fully immerse themselves into this incredible story. The costumes and locations for this film are beautiful and the music is excellent. I caught myself singing along with the movie more than once.

Something that I love about this film is that it isn’t the “classic” Disney version of these fairytales that most of us grew up with. It goes back to the authentic stories from the Grimm Brothers themselves, with the obvious twist here and there. In this film, the bad stuff that tends to be cut out of modern fairytales actually happens. For example, Cinderella’s step-sisters cut off bits of their feet to fit into the golden slipper, Rapunzel’s prince is blinded by blackberry thorns and there are no fairy godmothers. Rest assured, all of these misfortunes are done in very humorous ways. I also love that it takes all of these different fables and weaves them together so that everyone has a part in each others’ story. The final thing that really makes Into The Woods stand apart from other fairy tales is that not everyone gets a happy ending. You have to work with what you’re given and make the best of the situation.

The entire cast is wonderful and so talented. Meryl Streep plays The Witch, Anna Kendrick plays Cinderella, Emily Blunt – The Baker’s Wife, Johnny Depp – The Wolf, Chris Pine – Cinderella’s Prince. Every character has a solo and I’m so impressed with all of these actors’ amazing voices. I had no idea they could sing. This film brings in names and faces that are very recognizable and also incorporates actors that most of us have probably never seen. So, it’s a really nice mix of people that make up this cast.

My favorite scene is when the two Princes sing Agony. It is the most hilarious scene in the film and I laughed so hard I cried. Prince Charming and his brother are lamenting over their princesses, Cinderella and Rapunzel, and it is the cheesiest, funniest thing I have seen in a long time. The Princes are the most melodramatic people, making everything a big deal and this song highlights just how over-the-top they are. The entire audience was cracking up and after the film was over I could not stop singing Agony and laughing about how ridiculous the music number is.

Into The Woods is a film that all ages will enjoy. I cannot wait to see it again. Every aspect of it is so well done – the cast, the visuals, the music and even though a few moments could maybe be a bit scary for younger children, it is something for the whole family. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18 and give this film 5 out of 5 stars. Be sure not to miss Into The Woods. It opens in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day!

Into the Woods
By Shelby Ronea, KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 14

Into the Woods is a musical comedy about a journey The Baker and his wife must take in order to reverse the curse The Witch put on their house and have the child they always wanted. They must go into the woods and get four things – a slipper as pure as gold, hair as yellow as corn, cape as red as blood and a cow as white as snow – all before the blue moon rises. The most interesting thing about this film is how the screenwriter, James Lapine merges the stories of Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Little Red Riding Hood into this brand new fairytale.

Cinematographer Dion Beebe has created incredible fairytale-like scenes that are just outstanding. I loved the scene when Cinderella goes to her mother’s grave and tells her that she wishes to go to the ball. All of the sudden, the tree and the leaves twirl her around to dress her in a beautiful golden dress and slippers. It’s fascinating how the camera moves around her to make the scene magical.

Of course, music plays a huge role in the film thanks to the brilliant work of Stephen Sondheim who has written perfect lyrics that capture the emotions of every scene. Meryl Streep’s character, The Witch, is the most memorable character. Her voice is powerful and beautiful. When she discovers that Rapunzel has fallen in love with a prince, she begs Rapunzel to stay with her. When The Witch sings “Stay with Me,” you realize that she isn’t as cold- hearted as everyone thinks. She locks Rapunzel in a tower because she is protecting her from the world.

The message of the film is that you should be careful of what you wish for. Sometimes what you wish for isn’t exactly what you really want. A secondary message is when you love something you should set it free. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 and give it four out five stars. Into the Woods comes out on Christmas Day to a theater near you!

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb – An Adventurous Journey That Is Bigger and Better Than Before

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

NATM.jpgThis latest installment to the Night at the Museum series finds Ben Stiller returning as Larry who spans the globe, uniting favorite and new characters while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. Rebel Wilson joins the cast as a security guard, Robin Williams makes his final portrayal as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wilson plays Jedediah. KIDS FIRST! Critics Brianna B. comments, “This is a wild, adventurous and funny film. This last installment of the Night at the Museum trilogy is takes you on an adventurous journey and is defiantly a must see.” Simone S. adds, “The message of this film is that parents cannot hold onto their children forever.” See their full reviews below.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Reviewed by Brianna Hope B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This is a wild, adventurous and funny film. This last installment of the Night at the Museum trilogy is takes you on an adventurous journey and is defiantly a must see. Robin Williams’ final on-screen portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt is amazing. He has a great sense of humor and is in tune with his character completely.

The magic that brought the characters to life in Night at the Museum 1 and 2 is in danger.  Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) must go on an adventure to unite and save them all. Will he be able to do it?

I really enjoy seeing this film. It has excitement and is bigger and better than before. Everyone is back, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Steve Coogan. They are joined by some electrifying new characters. A lot of attention to detail is paid to the wardrobe, set locations and the historical time pieces. The special effects are big and bold and definitely compliment the film in every way. It looks so real. My favorite character is newcomer Tilly (Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect). She is funny, talks a lot and says whatever is on her mind. She goes on funny tangents and her appearance is simply amusing. The cast also includes Dick Van Dyke and Rick Gervais.

Shawn Levy, directs this film and brings his skill to making it artistic and funny from pulling together a great cast, production designers and all the creative people involved in this film. Although the film has a number of characters, jokes and situations, it also has a simple message of teamwork. Sometimes, you need a good team of people working together to get the job done.

I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18. However, adults will enjoy it as well, especially if they have seen the previous two films. It’s rated PG for mild action and some rude humor. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good adventure that will keep you entertained.

Join the wildest night yet and see Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, it’s in theaters on December 19th. So please check it out.

Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb

Reviewed by Simone S., KIDS FIRST! Critics, age 14

Hilarious, exciting and imaginative is how I would describe Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. I enjoy the Night at the Museum movies because I love anything to do with history. This movie brings some of history’s greatest characters to life in a fun and entertaining way.

Director Shawn Levy brings back the incredibly talented cast and adds a few new faces. Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) returns as head of the museum’s “special effects.” Larry begins noticing some strange behavior by the museum’s residents. He suspects the ancient Tablet of Akmenrah, the source that causes the museum’s exhibits to come to life, is somehow losing its powers. Larry decides that he must travel to the British Museum in London to find Akmenrah’s parents. He hopes the parents can help him solve the mystery of why the tablet is losing its magical powers. Larry’s plan does not turn out as smoothly as he hoped. Some of the residents of the New York museum secretly follow Larry to Britain. That’s when things go hysterically wrong.

Ben Kingsley( Akmenrah’s Dad) and Dan Stevens (Sir Lancelot) are wonderful newcomers to the cast but, Rebel Wilson shines as the weird and wonderful security guard Tilly. Her one-liners are a little puzzling at times, but I loved them. The original cast is just as great as they were in the last two movies. I laughed out loud at Owen Wilson’s Jedediah and Steve Coogan’s  Octavious as they go through their adventure.

My favorite part of the movie is when the exhibits in the British Museum come to life for the first time. The visual effects’ team does an excellent job in creating images that are realistic. The story has many sub plots so it may be difficult for a younger audience to keep up with how each part connects to the big picture.

The message of this film is that parents cannot hold onto their children forever. I recommend Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb for ages 8 to 15 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Please be sure to check out Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb when it comes to theaters on December 19.

Annie – A Delightful Spin on the Classic Story About a Foster Girl Who Wins Our Heart

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

Annie2014Poster.jpgThis film offers an updated version of the classic tale about Annie, a foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, who sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. With a stellar cast and fabulous music, this is a lovely film to share with your children and grandchildren this holiday season. KIDS FIRST! Critic Kendyl P. comments, “Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) is my favorite character because she is a young girl with great character and an infectious personality. She believes a “No, is just a yes that people don’t know yet.” Kayla P. adds, “The movie Annie is a fantastic movie. It is one of my favorite movies of all time.” See their full reviews below.

Annie
by Kendyl P., Age 12, KIDS FIRST! Critic

The movie Annie is a phenomenal one! This is a modern day version of the original classic about a young foster girl who is very hopeful that her parents are coming back for her one day. Annie almost gets run over by a van as she is running through the streets of New York, trying to stop a group of boys from harming a dog. Then Mr. Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) saves her life. Someone records the rescue and it is immediately posted all over the news and social media. Mr. Stacks is a businessman running for Mayor of New York, sees this positive publicity as a way to increase his chances of becoming mayor. He and his team decide to bring Annie over for lunch to take pictures of the two of them together. It turns out Annie ends up staying a little longer then they originally anticipate.

Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) is my favorite character because she is a young girl with great character and an infectious personality. She believes a “No, is just a yes that people don’t know yet.” She has a big heart. When she is given the opportunity of a lifetime, she shares her experiences with her friends.

I really enjoy watching Annie and her friends clean and sing, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life.” Even though they are cleaning a very dirty foster home where the caregiver is not very nice to them, they continue to joyfully sing and dance while they clean.  This is a perfect example of making the best of a not so good situation.

Everyone needs somebody. Will Stacks thinks money, wealth and his successful business is all he needs. He realizes that there is more to life than money and a successful business. Annie really teaches Mr. Stacks how to – live and be happy.

Annie is an amazing movie for the entire family. I recommend this movie for boys and girls ages 5 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It is in theaters now, so go check it out!

Annie
by Kayla P., KIDS FIRST! Critic, Age 12

The movie Annie is a fantastic movie. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. This modern day remake the old classic is about a young foster girl who is trying to find her parents. One day she is chasing after a group of kids who are trying to harm a dog. She trips and falls in the middle of the street. Williams Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who is running for Mayor, grabs her before a truck hits her. The rescue goes viral and Mr. Stacks begins to show favorable ratings in the polls. As a result, Mr. Stacks’ campaign manager thinks Mr. Stacks should spend more time with Annie to continue to increase his poll ratings. Mr. Stacks’ team believes this would surely be his ticket to becoming Mayor. During their time together, both Mr. Stacks and Annie, learn a lot about each other and themselves.

The message of this film is you can be and do anything you can dream of. During the movie, Mr. Stacks encourages Annie to work hard, because “the world is yours, if you dare to work at it.” Annie finds herself in a tough situation and she remembers what Mr. Stacks shared with her about working hard.

My favorite character is Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) because she is very outgoing, not afraid to face challenges and she is a very optimistic young girl. Quevenzhane also sings very well.

The actors are perfect. They sing, dance and do a marvelous job bringing a modern day twist to this old classic.

This film is perfect for the entire family. I recommend it for boys and girls ages 5 to adults and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Annie is a must see this holiday season. It is playing in theaters now so don’t miss it.

Exodus: Gods And Kings – Grand! Truly The Most Epic Version Of The Story Of Moses

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Exodus_2.jpgRidley Scott has created quite an extraordinary adventure based on the Biblical story of Moses rising up against the Egyptian Pharoah Ramses and setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues. Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Ben Kingsley, this film tells how one man’s daring courage took on a mighty empire. Using state of the art visual effects and 3D imagery, Scott brings new life to this classic story. KIDS FIRST! Critics Gerry O. comments, “Exodus: Gods and Kings is a masterpiece that everybody should watch. This film combines a story about religion with a sense of history, while still having a touch of action, suspense and even a perfect sprinkle of romance.”  Keefer B. adds, “The landscape of this film is colossal! If you get a chance, watch this on the big screen. Some of you will wait and watch it on you phone or laptop but that does the film a huge disservice. Whether its 3D or not, it’s amazing when watching Eygpt being built with swarms of people.” See their full reviews below.

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 12

Not only does this film teach you about one of the most important things in Jewish history, it tells one of the greatest stories history has to offer. Exodus: Gods and Kings is a masterpiece that everybody should watch.
This film combines a story about religion with a sense of history, while still having a touch of action, suspense and even a perfect sprinkle of romance.

This movie is about an Egyptian prince named Moses that gets exiled from Egypt when it is discovered that Moses is Hebrew (Jewish). After surviving through a long travel, he starts a new life, gets married and has a child. One day, he climbs a mountain that is known as God’s mountain, where he gets knocked out and has an encounter with God who tells him to go to Egypt and free his people – the Jewish slaves, and take them back to the promise land.

This movie is stupendous! Of course it will appeal to Jewish people for this is a very big part of Jewish history, but I recommend this film for everybody. This tells a truly remarkable story about one man freeing four hundred thousand slaves from the Egyptian Empire with the help of what he believes to be God. While this is a whopping two hour long film, I didn’t want it to end. This story is one that requires time to tell it and is truly inspiring. On a personal note, as a Jew, this film helped me understand my culture better and, in a way, to live through this journey with the characters. This film makes me want to do more and find out more about this part of history.

My favorite scene is when Moses climbs this mountain that is known to be God’s and, after getting knocked out when rocks fall on him, he wakes up to a bush on fire. A boy that turns out to be God is standing in front of him, building a small pyramid out of little stone cubes and telling Moses to free his people, implying free the Jewish people from Egypt.

This movie is very mature. It takes a look at a very violent time in history. So, I would recommend it to ages 13 to 18. I also give it 5 out 5 stars for fantastic acting, directing, producing and breath-taking backgrounds and sets. If you have a chance to see this film in 3D, I strongly recommend it because the quality of the film is absolutely breathtaking. I hope that creators will continue with the rest of the books that are offered by Torah.

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Reviewed by Keefer C.B.

Grand! Truly the most epic version of this story. Moses( Christian Bale) goes through a journey of faith to set the slaves of Eygpt free from Pharaoh Rhamses (Joel Edgerton).

The actors in this film are superb. From Edgerton’s portrayal of arrogant Rhamese to Ben Kingsley’s portrayal as the wise and spiritual Nun. Every character has a distinct identity, especially my favorite character, Moses who goes through dynamic changes in this film thanks to an outstanding performance by Bale.

The landscape of this film is colossal! If you get a chance, watch this on the big screen. Some of you will wait and watch it on you phone or laptop but that does the film a huge disservice. Whether its 3D or not, it’s amazing when watching Eygpt being built with swarms of people. The desert locations they chose set the tone of the film. The most monumental scene is when the slaves walk through the Red Sea. It’s a race against time and tide that keeps you on the edge of you seat.

The story focus is on Moses’ relationship with a higher power. Some of the best scene are him talking or arguing with God, who is portrayed as a little boy (Isaac Andrews). However, in the film this character is identified as Malak which is the Hebrew term for Angel. This raises questions, “Is he talking to God? Is Moses imagining these conversations? Could it be that the boy he is talking to represents himself?” Not only does this show how extraordinary the storytelling is, it also results in the audience coming to their own conclusions. That shows that you don’t have to believe in a specific religion to enjoy this film. Which is an ambitious move on the director’s part, but I’m glad they did it.

My favorite scene is the last conversation Moses has with Malak. This is when Moses write down the Ten Commandments. I adore this scene because it’s a reflection of the journey that Moses went on. And, this is another great scene between Bale and Andrews.

The message of this story is, “how far will you go for your faith.” God has had enough of seeing his people suffer so he sends nine plagues to make Rhamese let his people go. Rhamese retaliates by killing more Hebrews. There is so much death. It leads to one to side with doing something even worse. By the end, one side wins but, when you really think about it, how many people died to get there?

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this to 14 through 18-year-olds. This film contains extremely brutal images that most young kids won’t be able to handle. It’s necessary because the story focuses on showing the inhumanity of slavery. Other than that, check out this epic film in theaters December 12.

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