Archive for April, 2017

Born in China: Beautifully Shot, Fun Narration, Excellent Cinematography, Inspiring Story

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

Narrated by John Krasinski, Disneynature’s new true Life Adventure film Born In China takes an epic journey into the wilds of China where few people have ever ventured. Following the stories of three animal families, the film transports audiences to some of the most extreme environments on Earth to witness some of the most intimate moments ever captured in a nature film. A doting panda bear mother guides her growing baby as she begins to explore and seek independence. A two-year-old golden snub-nosed monkey who feels displaced by his new baby sister joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts. And a mother snow leopard-an elusive animal rarely caught on camera-faces the very real drama of raising her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet. Featuring stunning, never-before-seen imagery, the film navigates China’s vast terrain-from the frigid mountains. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “I love the visual splendor of this film and I am still in awe from some of the shots of the vast Chinese landscape.” Morgan B. adds, “Adorable, cuddly, fierce, cunning and hilarious animals all have one thing in common – they all put a tingle in my heart!” See their full reviews below.

Born in China
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Born in China is a beautifully shot documentary with fun narration, excellent cinematography and an inspiring story. I love the visual splendor of this film and I am still in awe from some of the shots of the vast Chinese landscape.

Narrated by John Krasinski (NBC’s The Office, Amazon’s Jack Ryan), Born in China chronicles the lives of three animals: Ya Ya, a giant panda who lives surrounded by bamboo and peace with her growing cub, the mischievous monkey Tao Tao who yearns for attention after the birth of his baby sister and later joins a group of outcasts, and the snow leopard Dawa struggling to protect her cubs from predators in harsh conditions. The film also follows the journey of a herd of chiru as they migrate to give birth to their young.

Born in China is one of the rare films that perfectly captures the magic and excitement of nature on screen. Not only does it have footage of some of the cutest animals on earth, but you really get to know some of the animals and their personalities. Also it has great shots of the stunning landscape of China that you’re not going to find in any other movie.

John Krasinski is very versatile in his role as narrator. He knows his young audience well and adds some fun dialogue to make it more appealing to them. His narration also goes very well with what is going on onscreen and is key in helping you understand the animals. One flaw is that the subplot with the chiru feels unneeded. Unlike other storylines, there is no main character to gravitate toward or follow. It feels like extra baggage that overcrowds the movie.

One of the best parts is that it demonstrates the animals showcasing basic values we see in society today. The lesson I took away is that the importance of family outweighs everything else, no matter what situation you’re in. Tao Tao goes to roam with The Lost Boys because he can’t find attention at home but later he learns that those who care for you will be there when you need them.

I recommend this film for ages 4 to 18. It’s pretty much suited for all ages, but some animal violence makes it a unsuitable for very young children. It also will be very much enjoyed by adults. I give Born in China 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It arrives in theaters just in time for Earth Day, April 22, 2017. Don’t forget to stay for the credits for a series of bloopers and outtakes.

Born In China
By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Adorable, cuddly, fierce, cunning and hilarious animals all have one thing in common – they all put a tingle in my heart! Director Lu Chuan put so much care into making this superb film. It is apparent how much he loves what he is doing and that adds to the charm of this film. I love how the movie made me feel when I watched it.

The red-winged crane carries us on a journey to different parts of China. Inspired by nature and adorable fun creatures that live there, we learn the Snow Leopard’s story told through Dwoa. Dwoa is a courageous and cunning Snow Leopard with two adorable baby cubs she is trying to protect. Finding food on the highest plateau on earth proves to be difficult. As much as I wanted to cuddle and pet her, I do not think she is the hugging type.

The adorable Giant Pandas’ story is told through Mei Mei and her mother Ya Ya, the stars of the show when it comes to humor. Mei Mei wants her independence and has big dreams and even bigger hopes of learning to climb trees. Her mom Ya Ya wants to do everything she can to keep her safe and keep her close forever. This is a thing that every child struggles with, including me. Fun fact: Giant Pandas eat more than 40 pounds of bamboo a day. That’s a lot of bamboo so, note to self, if you want a pet Panda you need to have a lot of money to buy bamboo plants.

The golden snub-nose monkeys’ story is told by my favorite character, Tao Tao who is only two years old. He is mischievous and feels like an outcast so, like Peter Pan, he joins a group of lost boys. Winter along the Yangtze River is harsh and we watch him shiver, covered with snow and ice. It made me want to grab a warm blanket to cover him.

There are many more animals that are incorporated in this 80 minute documentary that follows them for a year of their life, from spring to spring. I especially enjoyed the chiru which are a type of antelope. The red pandas are excellent tree climbers and perfect role models for all baby pandas who try to climb trees after watching them. John Krasinski (The Office) narrates this adorable documentary. His voice style and humor perfectly fit the film.

The circle of life is once again Disney’s of this nature documentary. I do not like movies that make me cry but Disney did it once again. I love this movie, especially the eye candy scenes of Mother Nature and her animals. The cinematography is stupendous as it captures close-ups of animals who are rarely seen in their natural habitats. You see every single hair and get to watch them forage for food, play, give birth and protect each other. The aerial views are stupendous and unique. I wondered what it would be like to be one of these animals. Is it fascinating seeing the things that they have to face every day of their lives.

I recommend this for ages 5 to 18. It is marvelous, but there are some moments that made me cry.  Animals need to eat and, when watching them hunt to eat, there are scenes that might freak out some kids. It is very informational, humorous and heartwarming. It reminded me that there is a big wide world out there ready to be explored. I give this film 5 out of 5 Mother Nature stars.  This film opens nationwide in theaters on April 21, 2017 just in time to celebrate Earth Day. Brought to you by Disneynature, when part of the box office proceeds will be donated to the World Wildlife Foundation to help giant pandas, snow leopards and many more animals.

The Promise – Our Revenge Will Be To Survive

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “It is so exotic because it is based on the Ottoman Empire, which not every kid is entirely aware of. The school subject I dislike most is history, but after seeing this film, my mind is forever changed because I am fascinated about how much goes on in the world.” See her full review below.

The Promise
By Samantha M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

I am definitely going to watch this film again. It is so exotic because it is based on the Ottoman Empire, which not every kid is entirely aware of. The school subject I dislike most is history, but after seeing this film, my mind is forever changed because I am fascinated about how much goes on in the world.

The Promise is set in the Ottoman Empire, in Armenia, the eastern part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Mikael Pogosian (Oscar Isaac) is a young, Armenian medical student who recently married in order to receive an endowment to pay for medical school. He leaves for Istanbul to further his studies. In the midst of his medical endeavors World War 1 breaks out and Armenia is deeply involved in it. When he travels to Istanbul, a mass Armenian genocide is initiated and he has to overcome these obstacles with Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), a woman he begins to fall in love with. Since her husband, Chris Myers (Christian Bale) is not too happy, a love triangle begins to form. Pogosian and Le Bon work together to keep everyone safe and try to leave Turkey and go to the United States.

Oscar Isaac (Mikael Pogosian), the protagonist, puts others first and acts solely on instinct, which is a great quality to possess. Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) has a kind heart and desires to save all of the Armenian children. Chris Myers (Christian Bale) is a reporter for the Armenian genocide and takes great pride in his work. The budget for this film must have been very large because there are hundreds of weapons utilized, many explosions and gunshots and many buildings destroyed. I love that the men ride on horses because horses are one of my favorite animals. It reminds me of history class because, in the past, soldiers rode on horseback.

My favorite part of the film when Ana is teaching Pogosian how to dance with her cousins and Pogosian’s cousin walks in. There is complete silence. Not many men dance, so it is entertaining to watch. The message of this film is to be informed about the past and to appreciate all that you have. Living in America, I feel fortunate to be safe and could not imagine what people in countries such as Armenia and Turkey have gone through.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars. Since there are many casualties and gory scenes, I recommend this film to children ages 16 to 18 and think adults will enjoy it too. This movie changes how I think. I learned so much from it. If you can watch intense scenes, then you should see it because it will change your life. This film opens in theaters on April 21, 2017. It is a movie that you truly do not want to miss.

The Fate of the Furious – Fan Pleaser with Ridiculous Action Scenes, Fun Characters, Slick New Cars

Friday, April 14th, 2017

Now that Dom and Letty are on their honeymoon and Brian and Mia have retired from the game-and the rest of the crew has been exonerated-the globetrotting team has found a semblance of a normal life. But when a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of crime he can’t seem to escape and a betrayal of those closest to him, they will face trials that will test them as never before. From the shores of Cuba and the streets of New York City to the icy plains off the arctic Barents Sea, the elite force will crisscross the globe to stop an anarchist from unleashing chaos on the world’s stage… and to bring home the man who made them a family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “The Fate of the Furious is an enjoyable entry into the Fast and Furious franchise that brings exactly what fans want to see: ridiculous action sequences, fun characters and slick new cars.” Na’im S. adds, “I find the direction and acting to be quite good. Car and action movie fans will rejoice at the movie.” For their full reviews, see below.

The Fate of the Furious
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

The Fate of the Furious is an enjoyable entry into the Fast and Furious franchise that brings exactly what fans want to see: ridiculous action sequences, fun characters and slick new cars.

Directed by F. Gary Gray, The Fate of the Furious opens with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) on their honeymoon in Cuba when his team is called to assist Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) with a mission in Berlin. Dom ruins the mission by going rogue and leaving Hobbs injured on the side of the road. The team soon figures out that Dom is working with a cyber terrorist by the name of Cipher (Charlize Theron). To take down Dom and figure out why he has changed sides, they must enlist the help of old friends as well as new ones.

My favorite part of this film is the jailbreak scene where Hobbs has to stop an old enemy named Deckard (Jason Statham) from escaping prison and wreaking havoc. Seeing two action heroes fighting their way out of prison and preparing to duke it out is exhilarating and had me pumping my fists in the air with excitement. This scene is over-the-top and outrageous but I was having too much fun to care.

I am an outsider to this franchise, having never before seen a Fast and Furious film. I really enjoyed this movie. As this franchise has evolved, it has learned what the fans want to see. By not taking itself too seriously, the cheesy dialogue and slow-mo feel a little more fitting with its lighter tone. The way this film works is that it knows it’s absurd and has fun with it.

I don’t love the story because it tries to do too much, a common thing in blockbuster movies today. The opening sequence in Cuba is unnecessary. It barely has anything to do with the plot but it does establish the mood and tone. By upping the ante with ridiculous action from the very start, it prepares the audience for what’s to come. There are also a lot of characters to follow and sometimes the plot gets a little too ridiculous for comfort. But if you’re going to see this film, it’s not for a strong story.

Some performances in this film are very funny. Tyrese Gibson is hilarious as Roman. He has a lot of fun with this role and is very energetic. Dwayne Johnson is another standout who delivers an amusing performance. He maintains his action hero persona while also exercising his comedic chops.

The lesson of this film is that you should never turn your back on family. Even when Dom goes rogue, his team never gives up on him. I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18 for its mild language and violence.

I give The Fate of the Furious 4 out of 5 stars. Overall, The Fate of the Furious is a film that should be appealing for outsiders to this franchise as well as those who have been on this ride since the very beginning. This film opens in theaters on April 14th, so be sure to check it out.

The Fate of the Furious
Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

The Fate of the Furious is the eighth movie in the long running franchise, and it doesn’t disappoint. I find the direction and acting to be quite good. Car and action movie fans will rejoice at the movie.

The story is about Dom (Vin Diesel), who is enjoying himself with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in Cuba. However, Dom encounters Cipher (Charlize Theron), an infamous hacker. Cipher presents Dom with an offer to betray his team and Dom agrees. The reason for his betrayal is unknown and he frames one of the members of his team, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), for the theft of an EMP. Hobbs is broken out of prison to catch Dom under the condition that he works with an enemy, Deckard (Jason Statham). The team, under the lead of Hobbs works together to stop Dom and Cipher.

Vin Diesel, as Dom, is believable in his betrayal and his eagerness to follow Cipher. Michelle Rodriguez, as Letty, presents her love for Dom and her concern for why he is down his dark path in a very convincing way. Charlize Theron, as Cipher, brings thrills and espionage to the film with her coerciveness. Dwayne Johnson, as Hobbs, performs his role well with his macho man physique, despite his corny one-liners. Jason Statham, as Deckard, stands out as my favorite character because of how he banters with Hobbs and how well he fits his action hero role.

From Cuba, to New York, to Russia, the direction of F. Gary Gray is fast paced and packed with action scenes. He handles the character moments well, too. The twist on why Dom betrays his team is an example. My favorite scene is the prison fight with Hobbs and Deckard because the actors are fun to watch and the music choice fits the scene well. My only problem with the movie is that the comedy doesn’t land many times and for me is cringe worthy and cheesy.

The movie’s message is to always trust in your family. The team could easily turn on Dom, but they always try to help him out. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 due to its intense action and language. This film opens in theaters on April 14th, so check it out if you want a fast ride.

Tommy’s Honour – An Intimate and Moving Tale of Golf’s Founding Players

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

Set against the early days of the sport and stunning landscape of Scotland, Tommy’s Honour is based on the intimate and powerfully moving true story of the challenging relationship between “Old” Tom Morris (Peter Mullan) and “Young” Tommy Morris (Jack Lowden), the dynamic father-son team who ushered in the modern game of golf. As their fame grew exponentially, Tom and Tommy, Scotland’s Golf Royalty, were touched by drama and personal tragedy. At first matching his father’s success, Tommy’s talent and fame grew to outshine his father’s accomplishments as founder of the Open Championship in 1860, his stellar playing record, and his reputation as the local caddie master, greenskeeper and club & ball maker. In contrast to his public persona, Tommy’s inner turmoil ultimately led him to rebel against the aristocracy who gave him opportunity, led by The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews chief Alexander Boothby (Sam Neill), and the parents who shunned his passionate relationship with his girlfriend-then-wife Meg Drinnen (Ophelia Lovibond). KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ella L. comments, “I really enjoyed this film. It reminds me that golf isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, the sport is rigorous and difficult and, at times, unpleasant and uncomfortable.” See her full review below.

Tommy’s Honour
By Ella L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, age 13

I really enjoyed this film. It reminds me that golf isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, the sport is rigorous and difficult and, at times, unpleasant and uncomfortable. In the film, players are forced to play through all kinds of weather, including heavy rain and harsh snow. Going into this movie, I wasn’t a great fan of golf. However, you don’t need to be in order to enjoy the film. The movie combines elements of romance and allure along with a superb storyline which kept my mind stimulated and thinking as I watched the film.

Tommy’s Honour tells a story about a father and son who both love the game of golf. Tommy Morris Sr. is considered the game’s founding father and Tommy Jr. was the best golfer in the nineteenth century.

One thing that surprised me is how interesting Tommy Jr.’s character is. He is loyal, chivalrous, intelligent and determined. He always perseveres, no matter what obstacles stand in his way. I especially like the scene in which young Tommy chops down the tree. Although heartbreaking to watch, it really showcases his vulnerability.

Also jaw-dropping are the scenery and the locations. Tommy’s Honour was filmed in Scotland where the actual story took place. The wide, open oceans and the vast greenery along with the architecture and culture absolutely blew me away. I’ve always wanted to travel to Scotland, but now, I am driven to go and experience the culture for myself. Scotland seems like an incredible country, with both natural and manmade artifacts and geography that are gorgeous.

The background music also keeps it stimulating and interesting. The music suits the tone of each scene and also puts a very Scottish spin on the movie. Another thing I like is the subtle humor. Although this film is not a comedy, the writers manage to sneak in a few laughs.

I would rate this film 5 out of 5 stars for its incredible storyline and enchanting cinematography and recommend it for kids ages 8 to 18. Adults will enjoy it as well. You should know there are some intense scenes. This film comes out in theaters on April 14 so, go check it out.

 

Gifted – Powerful Statement, Outstanding Acting, Stunning Cinematography

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a child prodigy – his spirited young niece Mary (Mckenna Grace) in a coastal town in Florida. Frank’s plans for a normal school life for Mary are foiled when the seven-year-old’s mathematical abilities come to the attention of Frank’s formidable mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) whose plans for her granddaughter threaten to separate Frank and Mary. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Gifted is a story with not a lot of surprise elements, but it wins the audience over with its powerful statement, outstanding acting and stunning cinematography.” Imani B.G. adds, “This film is filled with life stories that I found myself relating to in certain aspects. The film is shot very well and has an amazing cast. I found myself very emotional during certain scenes.” See their full reviews below.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

Gifted is a story with not a lot of surprise elements, but it wins the audience over with its powerful statement, outstanding acting and stunning cinematography. Mainly, Gifted has a very dramatic storyline. However, Gifted offers much more then that. Viewers also get a subplot of romance, friendship and strong family values as well as some comedy here and there to keep a dramatic movie light.

The plot begins when Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) starts first grade. She isn’t like the other kids in her class. Her teacher, Bonnie (Jenny Slate) soon learns that Mary turns out to be a genius in mathematics. She can easily do equations higher than high school level. Despite her clear giftedness, Mary’s uncle, Frank (Chris Evans) refuses to put Mary in a school for gifted children, trying to keep the girl’s life normal. Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), Mary’s grandmother insists on making her do mathematics around the clock and training her to be a math prodigy. What follows is a custody battle between the two for Mary.

My favorite scene really stands out due to remarkable lighting and camera work. The scene really doesn’t contribute to the plot, but the cinematography makes it one of the most excellent in the film. The scene shows Mary riding on Frank’s shoulders. Behind them, a giant sunset completely fills the sky. The lighting from the setting sun comes out stunningly dazzling. Even though it doesn’t add to the complexity of the story, the scene is very impressive and demonstrates the closeness of the uncle and his niece.

One of Gifted’s weak points waters down to the story. Even though the film is unique from other stories about genius kids, by focusing on the family values and relationships instead of Mary’s exceptional mathematical skills, it still comes out very predictable and rather simple. The main conflict never really feels like a major issue but rather, just a side story. Despite those issues, Gifted still entertains through the acting. All the actors deliver outstanding performances. Mckenna Grace, despite being only 10-years-old, completely steals the show. Never does the acting feel forced and the actors seem to authentically connect with their characters and have a true bond on-screen.

There are a few adult references in the film, but nothing too worry about. I recommend this for ages 8 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars because, although the story needs work, the acting and cinematography make Gifted a very entertaining and memorable film. This opens in theaters April 14 so, be sure to check it out.

Gifted
Imani Baptiste-Green, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age: 15

My overall thoughts about Gifted are very positive. This film is filled with life stories that I found myself relating to in certain aspects. The film is shot very well and has an amazing cast. I found myself very emotional during certain scenes. I really enjoyed watching this film with my family, and I believe that other families will enjoy it as well.

Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is a single man raising a young child prodigy who is also his niece, Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace). The two live in a coastal town in Florida with their next door neighbor and friend Roberta Taylor (Octavia Spencer). Frank plans for Mary to have a normal school life that conflicts with her mathematical ability. His mother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), disagrees with Frank’s plans and wants to make sure Mary is known throughout history for her mathematical skills.

The relationship between Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace is one of my favorite aspects of this film. The two connect very well on and off screen, which makes the movie come to life. They both represent what a family relationship is like. For instance, Mary is inseparable from Frank at all times and just wants to be around him. I believe that families watching this movie will feel a sense of happiness when learning about their relationship. I also really enjoyed the background music playing throughout the film. It adds a special mood and vibe to the film and made it pleasant to listen to.

The message of Gifted is that family is important and families need to pay attention to the young child’s needs. Often, parents push their kids and that can have a negative effect on their relationship and add stress to their child’s life. Evelyn pushed her daughter, Diane, over the top, which may have been the cause of her tragic suicide. Frank, of course, does not want that to happen to his niece and believes that Diane does not want that for the child either. Thus, a fight for custody between his mother and Frank ensues. To expand on my point, the film makes the point that children should have a voice and must be heard when dealing with their future because it can affect them in either a positive or negative way in the end.

Gifted is rated PG-13 and I recommend it for the ages 13 and up. I definitely encourage parents to see this with their young adolescents because they may be able to learn from this and it may strengthen their relationships as well. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars because of its emotional and memorable storyline, the outstanding cast and the wonderful scenes. You can see this film in theaters on April 14, 2017 so, go check it out.

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