Archive for August, 2018

Dog Days – One Very Funny Story About 12 People and 4 Dogs

Monday, August 13th, 2018

Elizabeth is a charming anchorwoman who seeks advice from her dog’s therapist. Tara is a spunky barista who dreams of a life beyond the coffee shop. Daisy is a dog walker who’s enamored with a client. Garrett pines for a woman while trying to keep his adopt-a-dog business afloat. The beloved canines in their lives soon start to influence their careers, friendships and romantic relationships in funny and unexpected ways. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Zoe C. comments, “I love this film because it follows a bunch of intertwined relationships that all revolve around dogs. It’s one story about 12 people and four dogs.” See her full review below.

Dog Days
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

This live action film is very entertaining and exciting. I love dogs, so seeing all the dogs on the big screen was very exciting for me. It is really cool. I love this film because it follows a bunch of intertwined relationships that all revolve around dogs. It’s one story about 12 people and four dogs. I also really love the comedy. There are some sad moments, but the jokes are very funny.

This film has several storylines. One is about a girl named Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev), who hosts a show called “Wake Up LA.” She has a new co-host who she doesn’t  get along with and she is heartbroken because recently she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her. Later, we meet Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) who works as barista, thinks she’s looking for love, but instead finds a sweet adorable dog, a Chihuahua, outside the coffee shop that she adopts. Then, there’s Ruth and her husband Greg who are soon to become parents and give their dog to Ruth’s brother. Next are Walter and Tyler (Finn Wolfhard). Walter lost his pug and Tyler is helping him find it. Last are Gracie and Kurt who adopt a daughter who doesn’t  talk much until she finds an adorable pug.

Dog Days’ director, Ken Marino is a writer and actor as well. He combines all the stories so well and they all flow nicely. The performances are quite believable and the jokes are very funny. There is romance, but also other important relationships, friendship and love between brothers and family members. The actors are all quite wonderful. Their casual costumes make them very realistic. Los Angeles is the perfect location for this story, because it fits the storyline and the light and colors are perfect. I especially love all the scenes that the Chihuahua Gertrude appears in.

You don’t need to love dogs to like this film! The message is that we all need love and we can learn from dogs a lot about unconditional love. It does not have strong language, but some scenes may be not the most appropriate for kids under the age of 7, so please be cautious of that.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 as well as adults. It is touching, funny, and  very entertaining. It is a not spectacular, elaborated production, but the story flows nicely and actors’ performances make this movie very enjoyable to watch. It opens in theaters August 8, 2018 so, put it on your radar screen.

Photo by Jacob Yakob / LD Entertainment - © New Tricks LLC

 

Pandas – Wonderful family-friendly documentary about one of Earth’s most lovable creatures!

Monday, August 13th, 2018

In the mountains of Sichuan, China, a researcher forms a bond with Qian Qian, a panda who is about to experience nature for the first time. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Abigail Zoe L. comments, “The fun family IMAX film, Pandas is wonderfully entertaining and educational. It is a documentary about the journey following one particular panda living in captivity, to its release into the wild.” See her full review below as well as Benjamin’s interview with the film’s director.

Pandas
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The fun family IMAX film, Pandas is wonderfully entertaining and educational. It is a documentary about the journey following one particular panda living in captivity, to its release into the wild.

The movie begins when Chen Chen is just a pup, living with other baby pandas in captivity. Based on the black bear research of Ben Kilham, this lucky panda is released and followed in the wild. The American researcher, Jacob Owens and the Chinese researcher, Bi Wen Li work together to help bring Chen Chen into her natural environment. Along the journey, she has some awkward moments and challenging times. I won’t tell you what they are because it would give away a big part of the movie.

My favorite scene is the beginning when we see Chen Chen and the other pandas playing together. In many ways, they seem just like little kids happily playing.  My other favorite scene is when Ben Kilham is playing a peek-a-boo game with a black bear behind a tree (say that 10 times fast). The music, by Mark Mothersbaugh, is really child-like, which adds to the fun playfulness that we see with the pandas. The narration by Kristen Bell is spot on with her happy tone and soothing voice throughout the film. The sweetness in her voice adds to the enjoyment of the movie.

My favorite character has to be the adorable Chen Chen and also the researchers. Chen Chen is always entertaining because she is so cute, loving, has a great personality and is very curious. I especially love the part when the researchers say they will always be there for her whether it is in ten or 20 years.

The message of this film is that, through research, working with others and a lot of patience, pandas and other endangered animals raised in captivity can be successfully released into the wild. The message also is that it is important to save species from extinction because “once they’re gone, they’re gone”

I recommend this film for ages 5 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Look for it when it opens in IMAX Theaters nationwide August 17, 2018.

 

The Meg – An Entertaining Homage to Shark Flicks with Vibrant Special Effects

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Five years ago, expert sea diver and Naval Captain Jonas Taylor encountered an unknown danger in the unexplored recesses of the Mariana Trench that forced him to abort his mission and abandon half his crew. Though the tragic incident earned him a dishonorable discharge, what ultimately cost him his career, his marriage and any semblance of honor was his unsupported and incredulous claims of what caused it – an attack on his vessel by a mammoth, 70-foot sea creature, believed to be extinct for more than a million years. But when a submersible lies sunk and disabled at the bottom of the ocean – carrying his ex-wife among the team onboard – he is the one who gets the call. Whether a shot at redemption or a suicide mission, Jonas must confront his fears and risk his own life and the lives of everyone trapped below on a single question: Could the Carcharodon Megalodon – the largest marine predator that ever existed – still be alive … and on the hunt? KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The Meg is a somewhat entertaining homage to old-era shark flicks. A frightful direction and vibrant special effects provide a serviceable summer-end movie. Fans of shark flicks may want to check it out.” See his full review below.

The Meg
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Meg is a somewhat entertaining homage to old-era shark flicks. A frightful direction and vibrant special effects provide a serviceable summer-end movie. Fans of shark flicks may want to check it out.

The movie follows a Shanghai-based, deep-sea team as they seek to postulate new discoveries among the underwater trenches. However, their discoveries go awry when a previously thought extinct Megalodon attacks their submersibles and threatens to roam the Shanghai seas. With time on the run, team leader Dr. Zhao (Winston Chao) recruits former rescue diver Jonas (Jason Statham). Unbeknownst to everyone, Jonas has previously encountered the same Megalodon and must now confront his fears to save those aboard.

Jason Statham, as Jonas, is always a vibrant presence with his charm and smarm making gold of the cheesy script. He also excels in his underwater stunts, creating some nail-biting thrills. Bingbing Li, as Suyin, proves herself as a smart, yet impatient presence, who wants to prove herself. However, she does fall key to an unnecessary clichéd father-daughter subplot, but makes the best of what she is given. Winston Chao, as Dr. Zhang, greatly presents his fears and desperation for Suyin and the mission, in spite of the weak backing for the emotional stakes of the two. Rainn Wilson, as Jacks, heightens his stereotypical rich guy presence with well-timed remarks alike his in The Office. Shuya Sophia Cai, as Meiyang, is my favorite character in her banter with Statham and brave actions power her from just being a 8-year-old damsel in distress. She truly excels in her first, breakout role. Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, and Cliff Curtis complete the rest of the pack, each giving a unique performance, even if the characters can be viewed as expendable at times.

Jon Turteltaub’s direction allows for brisk thrills taking inspiration from Jaws, but allowing for his own unique takes on the genre. My favorite scene is the final act, as it goes all in with the illogic of the shark conflicts allowing for a fun conclusion. The other flaws are the inconsistency of the tone and writing of the movie, which goes from serious to knowingly funny at times and the placement of the scenes feels off at times. The movie also suffers by detracting from the shark conflict and focusing on poorly written character situations. In fact, it takes a long amount of occasionally grueling time and development for the Megalodon to even show up.

The movie’s message is that being a hero can come with its fair share of compromises. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, because of intense action, gore and some language. The movie releases in theaters on August 10, 2018 so check it out.

Photos by Warner Bros Pictures

Christopher Robin – So Much Love In This Film, With Themes Of Friendship, Love, Family And Tenderness

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “If you’re a fan of Winnie the Pooh, it’s safe to say you are going to love this movie. But even if you aren’t, you might still enjoy it. This film is absolutely adorable and it makes you feel like a kid again.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer Kimbirly O. adds, “I am a life-long Disney fan. While it is not surprising I loved seeing the characters from the Hundred Acre Wood come to life via CGI transformation, I was surprised to see A.A. Milne’s beloved characters in their original book form, not their Disney animation form. See their full reviews below.

Christopher Robin
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

If you’re a fan of Winnie the Pooh, it’s safe to say you are going to love this movie. But even if you aren’t, you might still enjoy it. This film is absolutely adorable and it makes you feel like a kid again.

The story follows a grown up Christopher Robin, with a wife and daughter, as he struggles with his job and runs into Winnie the Pooh. The movie follows him interacting with his old friends, while also remembering what’s important.

This movie is straight up gorgeous. The Hundred Acre Wood is so lovely. It definitely looks like a place I would like to hang out and read a great book under a tree. It is just how I imagine Winnie the Pooh’s home to be. The special effects on the Pooh characters look great as well. There’s something charming about their designs, especially Pooh’s. I just wanted to hug all of them and take them home with me.

Speaking of cute, that’s a good way to describe this movie. Pooh is absolutely precious and is super charming. Every single one of his lines are just so pleasant. He’s very likable and he really made me think about my younger self. I feel like Winnie the Pooh is one of those franchises that you always associate with childlike wonder and this film represents that very well. There’s something kind of innocent in this film’s tone. There’s so many scenes that remind me of what it was like to be a younger child and it made me really happy.

This movie also made me tear up a lot. I had tears in my eyes almost instantly, mainly because of how adorable a lot of the scenes are, but there are also a lot of pretty emotional scenes. We see how innocent Pooh is and how a child doesn’t stay a child but grows up to have different ideas about what is important.

The soundtrack is really pretty and atmospheric. The background music really works well with the setting and the instrumental version of the Winnie the Pooh song made me really nostalgic. The voice acting is also really great. Each of the Pooh character’s voices fit incredibly well with the actual characters. I can’t imagine any other voice than these ones. The Pooh characters are the real stars of this movie. Ewan McGregor is wonderful as the adult Christopher Robins. I felt the acting from Bronte Carmichael, who plays Madeline, Christopher’s daughter, to be average.

Be sure you stay till the end for a charming scene. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 as well as adults. It opens August 3, 2018 so go see it with your family. Pooh is 93 years old, so everyone, no matter their age, can enjoy it.

Christopher Robin
By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

What day is it? Why it is today, my favorite day. I am a life-long Disney fan. While it is not surprising I loved seeing the characters from the Hundred Acre Wood come to life via CGI transformation, I was surprised to see A.A. Milne’s beloved characters in their original book form, not their Disney animation form.

Christopher Robin does not spend a lot of time introducing the viewer to the characters from the idyllic forest where a young British boy spent time creating adventures with his friends – Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo. If one is not a Disney-phile, it may be hard to comprehend why a boy arrives from a tree to have picnics with animals.

That said, the Winnie the Pooh, Disney lover that I am, saw so much love in this film with its themes of friendship, love, family and tenderness. The vintage, live-action look is appealing and kept me intrigued wondering what the “silly old bear” would do next. Winne the Pooh is quite the adventurous wanderer as he goes in search of Christopher Robin who has grown up and works in London. The adventures suspend belief as grown-up Christopher Robin, well played by Ewan McGregor, originally annoyed by Pooh, remembers some of his favorite things, like “doing nothing” and realizing true north is his family and friends, plush or live.

As a grown man who has returned from World War II, married to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and father of a daughter, Christopher Robin is an efficiency manager for a luggage company or “a fish in the sea” as Winnie the Pooh says. He is a work-a-holic and has a taskmaster as a thankless boss. When told he must work rather than go on holiday to the country with his family, Christopher Robin attempts to take Pooh back to the forest where he and his woodsy friends awaken the lost child from within. They also meet his daughter Madeleine (Bronte Carmichael) and another adventure ensues. Madeline assists Pooh in getting to Christopher Robin when he needs all of them most.

For a franchise, which has historically targeted the very young, the film has melancholy themes. Visually, it is beautiful with its artistic production values and cinematography. The score is also very good. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars for the casting, cinematography, life lessons, amazing cult Winnie the Pooh references and music. I recommend it to ages 8 to 18, due to some mature themes.  .

Photos © 2018 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Alisa Knows What to Do: Season 1 – Action Packed Star Wars Like Universe With Thrills Around Every Corner

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

Alisa Knows What to Do! is based on the extremely popular Russian science-fiction novels by famous Russian author Kir Bulychiov about a young girl from the future, Alisa Salazar. This animated series weaves a tale about the adventures of a group of teenagers living at the end of the 21st century. The world has changed yet the burning questions that occupied people at the beginning of the century are still pertinent today. Alisa and her friends not only battle evil and injustice but they are also concerned with global problems like the natural balance, both on the planet and in space.

Alisa Knows What to Do: Season 1
By Sahiba K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

Alisa Knows What to Do: Season 1, directed by Olga Baulina, is an action packed, Star Wars like universe where thrills are around every corner! Each episode seems as if I am watching a movie, with high depths of emotion, mystery, humor, and untold tales. The animation is realistic in some aspects yet surreal in others forming the futuristic universe of a myriad of planets and species.

The story follows a group of five teenagers who can’t seem to escape trouble, in or out of school. When their daily actions lead them to trouble, or Alisa becomes entangled in one of her father’s scientific cases, they work together to solve the case in front of them. Through a series of hysterical events and intense scenes, each teenager’s unique personality plays a role in their exciting victory.

The animation is a combination of a variety of elements because of its realistic yet science fictional story. On Earth, the humans are life-like with their facial features but their hair and outfits are an original, special addition to the teenagers. The city has skyscrapers with soft and circular edges forming distinctive spires. However, these obscure features are contrasted with the familiar bushes and trees decorating the streets. Each episode also consists of a journey to a different planet. On these journeys the clips of space are the most naturalistic, with beautiful hues of all different colors and millions of stars decorating the night like glitter. Once they land on the planet, any familiarity with our world today diminishes and a new surprising and imaginative world is created. These were my favorite parts of the shows because even though there is a world like ours, there are a variety of other ones in this episode which are fascinating and captivating to watch.

Although the story and animation are original and engaging aspects, the dialogue and jokes can be cliche at times which takes away from the story. However, there are an abundance of humorous scenes and dialogue which made me smile and relate to these characters.

The messages of Alisa Knows What to Do: Season 1 are countless but some of the most pertinent are to being different is wonderful, and teamwork can help you in any situation. I give this show 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. Be sure to check out Alisa Knows What to Do: Season 1 on DVD June 13, 2018.

Alisa Knows What to Do: Season 1
By Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Based on the Russian science fiction novels by well-known Russian author Kir Bulychiov, this is the story of a young teen form the future (end of 21st century) and her group of friends. The characters are quite unique with their brightly colored outfits, hairstyles and personalities. Kids will enjoy watching them in their adventures. The group of teens go on adventures, solving mysteries and battling evil. The animated series is fun and futuristic and, even has moments of edge of your seat excitement! I really like that this series is not only fun to watch, but also teaches about global problems of today. The group of friends are very concerned with global problems on the planet and in space. I give this 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 thru 14. This will be a hit with kids this summer and has over 10 hours of fun that will entertain them.

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