Archive for August, 2017

Lily’s Driftwood Bay: Season 1 – Wonderfully Engaging and Adventurous Host, Great Messages

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Welcome to Lily’s Driftwood Bay! Lily is six years old and lives with her dad and her best friend, who is a seagull named Gull, in a little hut on the beach. Across the way is Driftwood Bay, a special island that exists in Lily’s imagination. Every day the sea washes up a new treasure which sparks Lily’s imagination about what might be happening on Driftwood Bay. Join Lily and her friends, Salty Dog, Bull, Nonna, Hatsie, Wee Rabbit and Lord Stag as they sail to Driftwood Bay where wonderful adventures await! Along with each adventure is a valuable lesson learned in each story from learning to tell the truth to saying sorry to asking for help. Embark on new adventures with Lily and friends as they travel to Driftwood Bay! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha M. comments, “This creative animated series made me feel like a little kid again. Lily’s imagination is so big, and she is so creative, which is exactly how I felt when I was younger.” Jolleen M. adds, “This hilarious animated series is very educational and cute. Lily has a great heart and sets a good example for children who watch this.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Rachael V. sums it up with, “One the best parts of this series is that Lily resides in a single parent home. Her father is a wonderful character and they have such a great relationship. There aren’t enough programs out there that show this type of relationship and I am very pleased to have found one.” See their full reviews below.

Lily’s Driftwood Bay: Season 1
By Samantha Marcus, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

This creative animated series made me feel like a little kid again. Lily’s imagination is so big, and she is so creative, which is exactly how I felt when I was younger. With 52 unique adventures, there is never a dull moment in each episode.

Lily (Orlagh O’ Keefe) is a 6-year-old girl who lives with her dad and a seagull on the beach. Right across from her is Driftwood Bay, an imaginary island that she has created. With each passing day, Lily finds a new object washed up on the shore. These objects give life to her Driftwood Bay imagination. Lily and her friends sail to Driftwood Bay and Lily learns valuable life lessons that keep her imagination alive.

Peter Mullan, who plays one of Lily’s friends, Salty Dog, is easily one of the funniest actors that I’ve ever seen. Mullan portrays Salty as being vulnerable, especially in the episode, “The Honking Haddock,” where Salty is unaware of his massive stench. Lily continues to tell him that he smells very bad, but Salty is clueless, which makes it hilarious. Salty is a cute Scottish dog who is the Captain of the boat that sails to Driftwood Bay and he always says, “Slippery scallions,” which is sure to make you laugh.

The animation in the series is adorable! The characters look so friendly and look as if they are drawn by little kids! Because of this, the series is more relatable and entertaining. The characters aren’t perfect and that is exactly how every person is. But, that is the beauty of life, and it is evident through Lily’s big imagination.

My favorite part of this DVD collection is when Lily asks about flowers on the beach. She loves them, but her dad has to take them to the market. She is disappointed, but he brings her a flower at the end of the day. He says, “It’s a lily for my Lily.” I love puns and sweet moments, and this scene is fortunate enough to have both.

The messages of the show are to be creative, enjoy your life, learn from your mistakes and be nice to everyone you meet. Aside from these major life lessons, each episode has little ones asking for help and saying they are sorry. There is always something valuable to take away from each episode. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. Check out this series on DVD. You won’t want to miss it.

Lily’s Driftwood Bay: Season One
By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This hilarious animated series is very educational and cute. Lily has a great heart and sets a good example for children who watch this. Lily is helpful, positive and caring to everyone no matter what. These shows teach really important morals about positivity, telling the truth and making sure you stay safe.

The episodes start when Lily finds some sort of weird treasure washed up on the beach. She goes to find out what it really is and what its true purpose is on Driftwood Bay, her imaginary island. She meets up with her friends on the island and some of them ask for her help. She tries to solve their problems and realizes that the tool she needs is one that she got on the shore. She realizes its purpose and learns a characteristic such as, grit, honesty, trust, forgiveness and being fair.

Orlagh O’Keefe voices Lily as a sweet, young and naïve girl. She sounds innocent and ready learn everything she can. Salty Dog (Peter Mullan) really does sound like an old, rusty dog who has been out on the sea for a while, but speaks English. Salty Dog sounds very old, but looks very young, which is a bit confusing.

The animation has a lot more details than most animated TV shows do. For example, they show each of the strands in the hair, their faces look very life like, especially in the way the mouths move. This animation is made with a lot of quality which I appreciate.

There are lots of messages in these shows. Lily models being positive, caring, helpful, staying safe and being truthful. She is a great role model for kids and this DVD about her adventures allow her to teach multiple morals in just one episode. Mainly the show educates kids about having good character and following the golden rule – be kind to others if you want them to be kind to you. Lily is kind to others, so she has a lot of good friends that stick by her side. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for children ages 5 to 8. It is available now so, go check it out.

Lily’s Driftwood Bay
By Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Juror, Adult

I love this series! Lily is a great role model and is so creative. A good chunk of this program follows Lily finding “treasures” that have washed up on the shore and being inspired to go on adventures that are based on those items. One the best parts of this series is that Lily resides in a single parent home. Her father is a wonderful character and they have such a great relationship. There aren’t enough programs out there that show this type of relationship and I am very pleased to have found one. One of the best episodes on this DVD is called “A New Arrival.” In this episode, Lily uses some of her treasures to make a beautiful gift for the new baby lamb. Episodes like this are why I love having my son watching it. There is a lot of heart in this program and the artwork is wonderful. It’s mixed media that feels like a blend of colored pencils and water colors. I recommend this for ages 3 to 6 and give it five out of five stars. It’s available on DVD now so, look for it! You’ll be glad you did.

 

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature – As Good or Better than the Original

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Surly and his friends, Buddy, Andie and Precious discover that the mayor of Oakton City is cracking one big hustle to build a giant yet quite-shabby amusement park, which in turn will bulldoze their home, which is the city park, and it’s up to them and the rest of the park animals to stop the mayor, along with his daughter and a mad animal control officer from getting away with his scheme, and take back the park. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dariana A, comments, “With some movies, the sequel is never as good as the original, but with this movie, they are both awesome films. There is never a boring part or unnecessary scene.” See the rest of her review below.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature

By Dariana A., KIDS FIRST Film Critics, age 11

The Nut Job 2 is wonderful! With some movies, the sequel is never as good as the original, but with this movie, they are both awesome films. There is never a boring part or unnecessary scene. It keeps you wanting more and gets you really attached about the characters’ lives. The background music really helps keep the story going and makes the chase scenes more suspenseful since there are no silent moments.

In the film, an accident happens and all the animals who are eating at the nut shop are forced to move back to the park. Unfortunately, Mayor Muldoon (Bobby Moynihan) has some nefarious plans to destroy the park. So, Surly (Will Arnett) and his friends have to find a way to work together to save the park.

One of the things I care for in both of The Nut Job films is the animation. I love how you can see every single hair on all the animals and how each one is different. Another thing that I love about this film is the music. That, you can thank Heitor Pereira for. The music goes with the lines and scenes so well, that it truly enhances the story. My favorite character is Buddy because, even though he never talks, he is always there for Surly and it’s funny to see Buddy’s expressions that make it seem as if he’s talking. I also really like the backstory showing Surly and Buddy’s friendship. Another thing I really like is Mr. Feng’s (Jackie Chan) tail because it makes him more intimidating, which adds to his character. My favorite scene is when Andie (Katherine Heigl) starts singing about how the park is their home and they make a joke about how “no one can break into a spontaneous song.” Go watch it and you’ll see!

The two messages in this film are to work together, which this movie is all about, and that nothing comes easy. This message comes into place when the animals have to move back to the park and scrounge for food. I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars because of the extraordinary animation, plot and music. I recommend this film for ages 5 to 14 and parents and older siblings will enjoy it too. You can find this film theaters nationwide on August 11, 2017.

The Glass Castle – Excellent Acting, Top Level Cinematography And Spectacular Direction

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

A young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The Glass Castle fascinates me because of its excellent acting. The cinematography is top level and the spectacular direction captures every scene from the memoir.” See his full review below.

The Glass Castle

By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

The Glass Castle fascinated me because of its excellent acting. The cinematography is top level and the spectacular direction captures every scene from the memoir.

The storyline is about a young girl, Jeannette (Brie Larson), who comes of age in a dysfunctional, yet creative family with an alcoholic father, Rex (Woody Harrelson) and a mother, Rose (Naomi Watts), an eccentric artist. The family moves from city to city, due to their nomadic lifestyle, which leads to a split in the family when Jeannette leaves for New York, as the events are told in flashbacks. Jeanette now lives with her fiancé, David (Max Greenfield), only to be reunited with her brother, Brian (Josh Caras) and her sisters, Lori (Sarah Snook) and Maureen (Bridgette Lundy-Paine). Jeanette meets her parents to reveal her engagement and they are not excited about it.

Brie Larson, as Jeannette, excellently presents her love for her father and the braveness of her character. Woody Harrelson, as Rex, is my favorite character due to how he presents his extremely vulnerable behavior of his alcoholism, as he wants to quit it with Jeanette. Naomi Watts, as Rose, brilliantly presents her enthusiasm for painting. Max Greenfield, as David, provides great comic relief with his comedic timing. Josh Caras, as Brian, determinedly pursues his career. Sarah Snook, as Lori, is independent of her brothers and sisters, when Rex and Rose are off on their escapades. Bridgette Lundy Paine, as Maureen, presents her hatred of the family lifestyle and wants to leave.

The direction by Destin Daniel Creton and the cinematography by Brett Pawlak are splendid. Innovative camera techniques are used to present the juxtaposition of the flashbacks and present day. My favorite scene is where Rex promises Jeannette that he can fulfill whatever she wants and she asks him to stop his alcohol abuse. The scene is touching and well acted. My only problem with this film is its pacing which drags at times. Also, there is a bar scene which is useless. Despite that flaw, the acting makes it worthwhile.

The message of the film is about being and listening to yourself. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 because of its mature themes and language. The movie opens theatrically on Aug 11, 2017, so check it out.

 

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night – Triple feature with great storylines and important morals

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Grab your popcorn, because the Equestria Girls are back for a magic-filled triple feature including: Dance Magic – When Rarity finds out about a music video competition, she’s eager to convince her friends at Canterlot High to enter the contest. The girls soon learn that Crystal Prep Academy are also interested in participating in the contest. The students at CPA have many more resources and are better dancers! Will they be able to pull together and make a winning music video? Movie Magic – The Equestria Girls have been specially invited by A.K. Yearling to go on the set of the upcoming Daring Do movie and they are overjoyed. For super-fan Rainbow Dash, watching behind the scenes as her favorite heroine comes to life is a dream come true. But when a rare and important prop from the set goes missing, putting the movie on hold, Rainbow Dash’s dream becomes a nightmare. Mirror Magic – As the pages in her journal run out, there’s only one thing for Sunset Shimmer to do: return to Equestria to get a new journal! There, she meets Starlight Glimmer and agrees to bring her back to experience life at Canterlot High. But while Sunset Shimmer was away, a revenge seeking Juniper Montage finds a beautiful hand mirror enchanted with Equestrian magic. Not only can it provide a window into another land, but if you push the right button, it can also make things disappear into limbo, trapped between the two realms! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “This animated film has a great storyline and important morals that I loved to watch. Plus, all of the characters have their own unique personalities, which is cool to see.” Gerry O. adds, “The episodes all teach kids about friendship, teamwork and many other positive behavior. At times, the stories concentrate more on action or drama but they are never too mature for young children.” See their full reviews below.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This animated film has a great storyline and important morals that I loved to watch. Plus, all of the characters have their own unique personalities, which is cool to see. The animation is spot on with detailed facial expressions and body language of the characters.

The stories, Dance Magic, Movie Magic and Mirror Magic are all about friendship, teamwork, persevering and forgiving. In the stories, the Equestria Girls work together solving obstacles that come up. They befriend, forgive and help their enemies. The Equestria Girls create peace among every one and teach others to create peace as well.

Ali Liebert makes Juniper Montage sound very determined, jealous and greedy, but also shows Juniper’s hurt side, where she is apologetic and depressed. Tabitha St. Germain portrays Rarity as very elegant, creative and calm. But at times, she is easily frustrated and very competitive. The animation for all of the My Little Pony films is really cute and detailed. I love this type of animation. The backgrounds are very detailed and the animation is really pleasing to watch.

My favorite part is when Pinky Pie’s (Andrea Libman) dream comes true when she sees a building made of pudding. Her eyes light up and you can see her pure happiness. I really love this part because it made me really happy to see Pinky Pie so excited. The pudding also looks delicious.

The message of these stories is that you should be kind to everyone, no matter what. Also, it promotes forgiving people and giving them second chances. The Equestrian Girls have their stuff and their ideas stolen, but they still forgive and become great friends even with the thieves. This collection of stories teaches children to have a good heart and enjoy life in the moment.

This is a wonderful DVD with big messages. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 8. This DVD is available August 8, 2017, be sure to check it out.

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Magical Movie Night
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

With three unique stories and beautiful animation, this DVD collection entertains younger audiences while teaching them about friendship. It has a room for improvement and is far from the best of the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic series. Like the previous shows and movies of this series, the three episodes focus heavily on adventure and comedy. The episodes all teach kids about friendship, teamwork and many other positive behavior. At times, the stories concentrate more on action or drama but they are never too mature for young children.

The three episodes start after the latest film, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Legend of Everfree. The stories are all different, but generally focus on seven girls solving problems together. At the end, an answer comes to them and they all learn an important message about friendship.  Watching at least the previous film is helpful to the viewer since there are some references to previous plot elements. It would be very difficult to enjoy this DVD without having any prior experience with the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic series.

Overall, this DVD has an enjoyable series of stories. They are bright, educational and are simple enough for younger kids to understand. Compared to the previous films and shows, the quality has dropped in some places. One of the strongest outliers to me is the comedy. In the past, the main character called Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman) often plays a comedic role. In this collection, the comedy doesn’t come out goofy and funny as it usually does. It feels forced and almost annoying. Something else that I found lacking is the conflict in the stories. The first episode, Dance Magic, really suffers the most. The conflict in this episode focuses on the girls trying to raise money for a spring dance. Sadly, it has no good introduction and is simply explained at the beginning. This makes it not too important to the viewer and the way the characters treat this issue furthers the problem. One thing that has stayed consistent throughout the series is the voice acting and animation. Both have still maintained high quality and are one of the best parts of the show.

Out of the three, my favorite episode is Mirror Magic. The storyline is quite unique. It’s about a girl jealous of the seven friends who puts six of them in a magic mirror. It’s up to the seventh, Sunset Shimmer and her new friend Starlight Glimmer. This plays out interestingly in the show as Starlight, just like Sunset, is a villain turned good. This makes for some interesting chemistry between the two, which is entertaining.

As always, this series is meant for kids. For that reason, I recommend it for ages 7 to 13. I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars for an overall good collection of episodes and high-quality animation, but a lack of good conflicts and a drop in quality.

 

 

 

 

Step: Young women use Step to become empowering role models

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Step documents the senior year of a girls’ high-school step dance team against the background of inner-city Baltimore. As each one tries to become the first in their families to attend college, the girls strive to make their dancing a success against the backdrop of social unrest in the troubled city. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This is a film about life, dreams and passion…This movie is basically Dance Moms but with a heart, a soul and overall positivity.” See her full review below.

Step
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Step can be best described as a rollercoaster. This is a film about life, dreams and passion. You go on a journey with three amazing young woman who have used Step to shape themselves into empowering role models. This movie is basically Dance Moms but with a heart, a soul and overall positivity.

This documentary follows three strong, intelligent, beautiful African American high school seniors. It shows these girls in their home life and in their school life. It also shows what it was like for these girls living in Baltimore, a year after the Freddie Gray Protests in 2015. Many scenes in the film portray the “Black Lives Matter” movement and the importance of it. Blessin, our first protagonist and main focus of STEP is very likeable and relatable. The audience can understand her struggles and her angry outbursts. Blessin struggles more than the others with her grades, but she is the powerhouse and founder of the Step team. She shows her tender side when she cares for her nephew. The other girls, Cori and Tayla take school more seriously and have strong parental figures that help them through the tough times. Even though Tayla’s mom can be a bit overbearing, she has her daughter’s back, and in the end, that’s what’s important. Cori lives with six siblings, her stepfather and a mom who, in Cori’s own words, “is like a magic wand.” Cori’s mom was a teenager when she was pregnant with Cori but her faith helped her get through the rough times.

A big focus of this documentary is feminism and racial equality. The girls discuss this at the memorial for Freddie Gray. Their coach “Coach G” tells them that they are not only black but they are women. So they have to fight harder than others and how it should not be this way.  Not only that, but the two dance numbers shown in the film deal with these issues. The First Routine is about Black Lives Matter, and the other one is about Sisterhood. I was really impressed and found myself cheering these girls on through their journey and desperately hoping for them to succeed. Even though I am not a big fan of dancing, I have to admit these girls were really talented.

I definitely give this documentary 4 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this film for 10 to 18 year olds. Anybody who wants a positive and motivational movie should watch this film. This FOX Searchlight documentary comes out August 4th.

 

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