Archive for the 'Feature Film Reviews' Category

The Commuter – Fun Thriller With Excellent Acting And Camerawork

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The acting and camerawork provide a tense feel to this movie, like many Hitchcock films. This is sure to please Liam Neeson fans.” See his full review below.

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

The Commuter is a fun thriller, even if it does get a little too over-the-top for its own good. The acting and camerawork provide a tense feel to this movie, like many Hitchcock films. This is sure to please Liam Neeson fans.

The story follows insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson), who is caught in a criminal conspiracy on his daily commute. Michael meets the enigmatic Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who will give him a large sum of money if he finds a passenger with evidence against her. This must be done before a certain train stop. This leads to a frenetic chase to find the passenger, as elements of the conspiracy are revealed. Michael happens to be an ex-cop and will do anything to protect this passenger, but this comes with consequences.

Liam Neeson, as Michael, excellently presents his frantic need to find the passenger because every wrong move can result in an innocent passenger getting caught in the crossfire. He is spectacular in the fast-paced action and stunts. Vera Farmiga as Joanna, is my favorite character because of the intense threat and urgency she provides with her performance. It is also interesting to find out more about her conspiracy. Patrick Wilson, as Alex, is an incredible helper to Michael, but you can tell he has some secrets he’s not sharing. Jonathan Banks, as Walt, presents a friend to Michael who commutes with him every day, while also helping him out.

Jaume Collet-Sera wonderfully directs this film with a rapid pace and you feel you are a part of the train. My favorite scene is a one-shot fight scene on board the train, because of its impressive camera work. I also like how intense it is, due to the crowded environment. My only problem with this film is that, while the main story is extremely interesting, there are many over-the-top scenarios, which turn the movie into unintentional comedy. Also, some of the filming and editing feels rushed in places.

The message of the movie is that doing the right thing will never be easy, but could result in the lives of many being saved. Despite his good intentions, Michael is put into one risky situation after another and he always must risk his life. However, he saves many through his selfless acts. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, because of its intense action and language. The movie releases in theaters on January 12, 2018, so check it out.

 

Insidious: The Last Key – Amazing Plot, Brilliant Performances, Very Scary Movie

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Brilliant parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing phone call from a man who claims that his house is haunted. Even more disturbing is the address – 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys, NM – the home where Elise grew up as a child. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, Rainier travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear – the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kamryn B. comments, “Insidious: The Last Key has an amazing plot, making you question what is really going on. The film made me jump a lot, but it does have some humor that made me smile, which doesn’t normally happen during a horror film.” See her full review below.

Insidious: The Last Key
By Kamryn B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

This is the scariest movie I have ever seen! It had me jumping out of my seat the whole time.

Insidious: The Last Key has an amazing plot, making you question what is really going on. The film made me jump a lot, but it does have some humor that made me smile, which doesn’t normally happen during a horror film. I like how the story behind the main character is melancholy, making the audience have to pay more attention to the relevance of her childhood and her current problem.

The story follows Elise Rainier, a real-life ghost buster and her haunted childhood house. The film travels back to her childhood when she realized she has a gift of seeing spirits and demons. Her mother tries to love Elise and her gift, while her father doesn’t want anything to do with her. With her gifts she opens a door, allowing an evil spirit into the world. She comes across this spirit again 57 years later, when a man is having supernatural experiences in the same house that she grew up in. When she arrives, things are worse than when she was a child.

Elise Rainer is played by Lin Shaye who makes her characters’ experiences seem very real. Elise’s gang includes  Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Elise’s brother, who suffered equally as a child, is Christan Rainer (Bruce Davison).

My favorite part is when Elise finds out that her nieces survived and that her brother Christian accepts her for the person she is, including her talents. I like this part because it applies to the real world and reminds us to accept others for who they are and not to be afraid of their differences. Another message is that people’s unique features have a purpose.

I give this 4 out of 5 stars. The special effects with the demons walking or crawling is so terrifyingly real, especially the Key Face’s hand. I recommend it for ages 14 to 18 as well as adults, especially if they enjoy horror films. This film opens in theaters January 5, 2018 so, check it out.

Insidious: The Last Key
By Alejandra Garcia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This mystery/thriller film had me at the edge of my seat with all of its spooky scenes and the horror vibe it gives off by just looking at the title. Scary movies aren’t my cup of tea, but this one is the exception. Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth movie in the Insidious horror franchise, which focuses on both paranormal investigator and psychic Elise Rainier as well as her sidekicks. Looking back at the first film released in 2018, it appears that Insidious: The Last Key is a combination of the old and new films that have been seen in the series. I like when the creators behind a movie series do this, because it makes all of the films have similar traits and  maintains a unique essence to the series with the same message. It incorporates traits that make it stand out. Although the next film in the paranormal series brings back some of the crew that worked in the first films, this film has included a newcomer behind the camera.

The storyline is about both paranormal investigator and psychic parapsychologist named Elise Rainier who receives a disturbing phone call from a man claiming his house is haunted. She becomes more disturbed when she sees the address, which is the same home where Elise grew up and first experienced paranormal and haunted activity. She heads over to fix this situation along with her two investigative partners. She travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear, the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.

My favorite scene is when Elise frees the demon that was trapped in the basement when she was younger. In the scene, she gets called down to the basement by this spirit and follows, because she is curious about what she might find. In the scene, she is very frustrated, because she notices that she is the only one that heard the spirit and wants to know why. She gets to the basement and finds a hidden red door and unlocks the spirit that is trapped behind it. Now, the whole process of her following the spirit’s steps to find it is very creepy, but it gets even creepier when the spirit escapes and starts haunting the whole family. That’s when all the breathtaking special effects combine to make sure the audience gets scared to death. I like this scene because it is the one that shocked me the most and set the standard for the rest of the movie. From that point on, I knew that I was going to leave the theater frightened, because if the movie started with that scene, I could just imagine how spooky and scary the rest of the scenes were going to be.

The important message for the audience is one of the most essential concepts in life: to have courage and forgiveness towards others. In this film, Elise notices that the demons feed on hate and revenge and she, along with her companions, realize that they could beat the bad forces by not feeding into those things, by being forgiving and showing compassion and understanding with the people around them. By changing their lifestyle and the way they treat others, they could turn the haunted vibes down and into something positive.

I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. This film is playing in theaters now so be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

 

Paddington 2 – Lives Up To and Surpasses Its Predecessor

Saturday, January 13th, 2018

Paddington is happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, where he has become a popular member of the community, spreading joy and marmalade wherever he goes. While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, Paddington spots a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This sequel to the hit family film, Paddington delivers in all the right places and truly lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses the 2014 film in many ways.” Benjamin P. adds, “Paddington 2 is a warm fuzzy blanket of a film. Its title character is a symbol of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He never gives up and always believes in the best in those around him.” Jolleen M. wraps it up with, “This film is hilarious and made me cry a cry of joy and also of sadness, multiple times. It is amazing to watch live characters bond with an imaginary, animated bear. Even though there’s not actually a bear there, you can feel the love within the family.” See their full reviews below.

Paddington 2
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Paddington 2 seamlessly blends heart and comedy for a truly charming family film. This sequel revisits the title character, a precocious young bear living in London as part of the Brown family. As the movie opens, Aunt Lucy is celebrating her birthday in darkest Peru and Paddington is struggling to find a suitable gift to send to her. He settles on a pop-up book of London at a local antique shop and takes on a series of sometimes hilarious odd jobs to pay for it. One night, the book is stolen. Paddington is accused of the theft and sent to prison, but the real culprit is Phoenix Buchanan, a narcissistic actor who craves the spotlight and wants to use the book’s value to fund his one-man-show. Paddington sets out to clear his name, while the Browns try to prove that Phoenix is the real criminal.

Paddington 2 is a warm fuzzy blanket of a film. Its title character is a symbol of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He never gives up and always believes in the best in those around him. I love coming back to Paddington’s London and being reacquainted with the Brown family and their quirks. The cheerful tone of this film radiates throughout. The lesson of Paddington 2 is be kind to others, always, and its timing could not be better.

Paddington 2 surpasses the first Paddington film in many ways. It brings back endearing characters and everything you love about them, while introducing memorable new ones as well. I love how, once again the modern take on the widely loved story of Paddington Bear stays true to the character while still telling an original story.

Hugh Grant is very good as Phoenix Buchanan. Grant embodies Phoenix’s charisma and sly humor. It is nice to see an actor typically known for romantic comedies go to a more villainous place to play this sinister has-been actor who will do anything to be famous again. Grant’s top moments are his most bizarre. Be sure to stay for the credits for one of his best.

My favorite character in this film is Knuckles McGinty, the prison chef played by Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson subtly and comically shows us the intensity and warmth of his character. Knuckles’s anger and pessimism is a nice foil to Paddington’s constant glowing positivity. Gleeson also illustrates how Paddington brings out the softer sides of those around him.

I recommend this film to ages 4 to 15 and adults will love its positive attitude. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for putting a smile on my face and recreating the magic of the original and then some. It opens nationwide in theaters on January 12, 2018 so be sure to check it out.

Paddington 2
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This sequel to the hit family film, Paddington delivers in all the right places and truly lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses the 2014 film in many ways. Paddington 2, like the first one, is definitely a family film filled with many morals and messages, generally surrounded by unique jokes and fun adventures. To add conflict to the story, there are some dramatic scenes, but the film manages to always stay kid-friendly.

The movie picks up sometime after the first film. Paddington the bear still lives happily with the Brown family in London. By now, he has a daily routine and has become friendly with the whole neighborhood. In a few days, his aunt will have her 100th birthday. Paddington decides to get her a perfect present. Little does Paddington know that the present he has chosen actually contains a big secret and gets stolen. Paddington is blamed for the theft and sent to jail. Now two conflicts emerge, Paddington must fit in prison and the Brown family must figure out how to get him out of jail.

Paddington’s realism really stands out. He clearly still contains character-like features with big brown eyes and heavenly fluffy fur, but he essentially fits-in properly with his surroundings. Not only does the special effects’ team deserve credit for this, but the actors deserve double kudos for performing so realistically with a character that doesn’t really exist. Adding a superstar as Hugh Grant also brings the film to a completely new level of goodness.

Rare for a sequel, the story stays original and separate from the last film while still maintaining the good parts of the previous story. The humor becomes almost slapstick at times, and other times it’s purely situational and always results in a laugh. Paddington as a character really pulls at the heartstrings of the audience, both because of a well-written script and a bear who’s designed to be adorable in every way.

My favorite scene starts when Paddington gets into jail. He, of course, does not fit in as a well-mannered, kind bear. After proving his skill at making marmalade sandwiches for everyone, the prison stops looking like the one in Shawshank Redemption and begins to look like a cute bed and breakfast you’d pay to stay at. This really shows a large amount of irony due to the fact that many gruff convicts become well-mannered and kind. This scene not only demonstrates the power of the humor in Paddington 2, but truly brings up all of the main characteristics of Paddington as a character.

I recommend this film for ages 7 to 18. Surprisingly, in the audience, there were more adults laughing than kids, while the kids were simply fixed on the realism and adventures of Paddington. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for being an outstanding family film that truly outdoes its predecessor and leaves you wanting more. It opens nationwide in theaters on January 12, 2018 so, be sure to check it out.

Paddington 2
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

 

This film is hilarious and made me cry a cry of joy and also of sadness, multiple times. It is amazing to watch live characters bond with an imaginary, animated bear. Even though there’s not actually a bear there, you can feel the love within the family.

The film starts off with a little flash back showing how Paddington was saved from falling off the waterfall when he was a cub, by Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy. They adopted him and raised him as if he was their own son. Then it returns to present time. Paddington wants to get the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy on her 100th Birthday and decides on a present, but it is expensive. He works hard to earn enough money to buy the gift. One night while he is walking past the store where the gift is, a thief breaks into the store and steals it. Paddington chases after the burglar, but when the police arrive they assume that he is the thief. Paddington is sentenced to 10 years in prison even though he didn’t commit the crime. His family tries to prove his innocence, but they don’t have much evidence.

Paddington  (Ben Whishaw) is supposed to be a young bear. Ben Wishaw, who does his voice, doesn’t sound like a young bear to me. He sounds more like a polite and proper man.  Even though he doesn’t sound young, his voice matches Paddington’s personality, particularly because Paddington is very polite, kind and sweet.

The animation for this film is very realistic. Paddington interacts with objects that aren’t animated, which makes him seem like he is actually there. Paddington looks very realistic with very detailed fur, eyes and feet.  My favorite part of this film are all of the jokes throughout it. They are so funny and sarcastic. The whole audience was laughing together. Everyone understood the jokes, adults and children both, which is always great.

The moral of this story is to be kind and positive, so that life will be kind and positive to you. Throughout all the hardships that Paddington goes through, he stays positive, remains kind and eventually everything becomes right in the end. Paddington 2 is such an amazing film to watch with your whole family. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18, as well as adults. It opens in theaters nationwide on January 12, 2018 so, go check it out.

 

 

The Greatest Showman – Delightfully Fantastic Story, Acting, Music, Songs, Dancing & Costumes

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Inspired by the imagination of P. T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail Zoe L. comments, “The movie musical The Greatest Showman is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Everything is delightfully fantastic, including the story, acting, music, songs, dancing and costumes. It also has many thoughtful messages.”  Abraham F. adds, “This movie is super vibrant and colorful, making it all the more interesting. It also proves that you don’t have to look like everyone else to be normal, which I like.” See their full reviews below.

The Greatest Showman
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The movie musical The Greatest Showman is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Everything is delightfully fantastic, including the story, acting, music, songs, dancing and costumes. It also has many thoughtful messages.

The film tells the story of the imagination and creations of P.T. Barnum, the successful businessman who brought us the circus.  It begins when Barnum is just a boy and has both big dreams and a big crush on an upper class girl. Barnum rises from a homeless boy to a very wealthy and successful man. He creates the first museum of oddities and a very entertaining show (known as the circus), full of unique persons such as the Bearded Lady, trapeze artists, the shortest and tallest men in the world and more. Along the journey, he has a lot of ups and downs, but he always seems to triumph over them.

The opening scene with song and dance is my favorite and got me moving in my seat. My other favorite scene is when cups are used to create rhythm in song when Barnum convinces a wealthy young man to partner with him. The costumes are amazing and my two favorites are Barnum’s colorful ring master suit and Jenny’s dress with beautiful shinny rhinestones.

Two of my most favorite characters are P.T. Barnum, played by the multi-talented Hugh Jackman and Anne Wheeler played by Zendaya. Hugh Jackman is believably brilliant playing someone who can win, lose and win again. Zendaya has a wonderful singing voice and does her own amazing acrobat stunts.

Additionally, the perfectly written and woven songs in the movie by composers Justin Paul and Benj Pasek stand out in my mind. In fact, these songs tell the story, on their own, of this wonderful movie musical.

Finally, the message of this film is best summed up in the ending credit quote and by P.T. Barnum himself which is, “The noblest art is that of making others happy.” I personally believe this to be true, do you?

As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic I have been extremely fortunate to review many wonderful films and I can say without a doubt that The Greatest Showman is one you absolutely do not want to miss. I think it may also be one of the best films of 2017. I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18 as well as adults and give it the highest KIDS FIRST! rating: 5 out of 5 stars! It opens in theaters December 20, 2017 so, be sure to check it out!

The Greatest Showman
By Abraham F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 12

The Greatest Showman is a musical based on the true story of P.T. Barnum. This movie is super vibrant and colorful, making it all the more interesting. It also proves that you don’t have to look like everyone else to be normal, which I like.

The storyline explores the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, a boy dreaming of becoming a performer. Once he becomes an adult, he marries his childhood love, Charity Hallet. They live in an apartment with their two children in New York, until Phineas is laid off from his job. Phineas goes back to his dream of becoming a “Showman” and starts to look for cast members for his show.

P.T Barnum (Hugh Jackman) portrays “The Greatest Showman” in a very animated and lively way, making him stand out among others. P.T. Barnum’s partner, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron) is a well introduced supporting character. There are many interesting things about this movie. For example, the music was composed by the same people that composed the music for La La Land. Next, Zendaya did all her own trapeze stunts. Third and last, this movie has been a dream for Hugh Jackman’s since 2009.

My favorite part is the bar scene when P.T. Barnum is trying to convince Phillip Carlyle to be his assistant and they start to sing and dance. It leads to Phillip Carlyle joining the circus. The message of this movie is that you don’t have to look like everyone else to be normal, which I like a lot. This movie has a few things you should be aware of, such as a scene when two characters are taking shots at a bar. There might be a few risky things kids might try after watching it such as doing trapeze tricks. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 18 as well as adults. This movie opens in theaters December 20, 2017 so be sure to check it out.

 

 

Pitch Perfect 3 – Stomach-Grabbing Funny With a Touching Side

Friday, December 29th, 2017

After the highs of winning the World Championships, the Bellas find themselves split apart and discovering there aren’t job prospects for making music with your mouth. But when they get the chance to reunite for an overseas USO tour, this group of awesome nerds will come together to make some music, and some questionable decisions, one last time. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Talia J. comments, “Pitch Perfect 3 is a hilarious film that hits the other two Pitch Perfect films out of the ballpark. Not only is this film stomach-grabbing funny, but it has a touching and emotional side to it as well.” Kimbirly Orr follows with, “This girl-group franchise does not disappoint and has a powerful soundtrack, which moved me to chair dancing, and I was not alone.” See their full reviews below.

Pitch Perfect 3
By Talia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Pitch Perfect 3 is a hilarious film that hits the other two Pitch Perfect films out of the ballpark. Not only is this film stomach-grabbing funny, but it has a touching and emotional side to it as well.

Pitch Perfect 3 follows the fantastic acapella college singing girls, The Bellas. The girls are now in the real world, but decide to reunite and sing overseas together for a USO (United Service Organization) tour. The girls embark on a fun and crazy journey that allows them to go out with a bang.

Aca-scuse me! There is another Pitch Perfect? I am a huge fan of the Pitch Perfect franchise because of how hilarious and unique the films are. The most unique aspect of these films is the singing. The singing in this film is simply beautiful. Anna Kendrick, who plays Beca, has such a fantastic voice. When she is on screen, people hold their breath in anticipation to hear her sing. Everytime I go to a Pitch Perfect movie I always come out humming a tune. The one disappointing thing about this film is that there is not as much singing as I would have liked. This is the third in the franchise and I expected a lot more singing. Singing is crucial to these films because it is what connects to every demographic. Pitch Perfect films tend be geared towards older audiences, due to inappropriate jokes, however the singing is for a much wider audience. More songs would connect a much larger audience to this film.

This movie is still one of the most hilarious films of the year. I expected a couple of puns and jokes, but my expectations were far exceeded. There are many comedic moments that will make theater goers grab their stomach in laughter. Most of the jokes are inappropriate for younger kids since they are “dirty jokes.” Still, they are very crucial to the movie as they make it feel more upbeat.

There is no Pitch Perfect without Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson). She is, and will always be, the comedic relief the film needs. She is a blunt and lovable character. What makes Fat Amy such an interesting character is the fact that no one ever knows what she is going to do next. My favorite scene is when Fat Amy hijacks a boat and manages to fight her way through it. Who knew she is such a good fighter? Fat Amy will always be the most hilarious character in this franchise.

There are always cameos from famous actors in the Pitch Perfect films such as Snoop Dogg in the last one. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard D.J. Kaelen was going to be in this third film. His cameo is absolutely perfect! At one point, he plays the piano beautifully. I had no idea how good he was. He also brings subtle humor to the film, which gets a thumbs up by me.

The theme is that family doesn’t have to be blood related. I have seen these girls evolve into a family over the years. In this film, they come to realize that they will always have each others’ backs, no matter what the situation.

I give this film a 5 out of 5 soprano stars. The jokes are amazing, characters are unique and the singing is wonderful. I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18 and older audiences will fall in love with this movie as well. This film comes out on December 22, 2017 so go check it out!

Pitch Perfect 3
By Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Before Pitch Perfect hit the scene in 2012, not many knew the power of a cappella. This girl-group franchise does not disappoint and has a powerful soundtrack, which moved me to chair dancing, and I was not alone.

When we last saw the Barden Bellas, they won the world championship, graduated from college and went on a journey to create careers, which did not involve crafting sounds with their mouths. So how did this work out?

In the third franchise film, the Bellas reunite for one last singing event at an overseas USO tour. Much to their chagrin, their competition is a group who uses both instruments and voices. What!?!

While loyal fans of this franchise will love the film, others may see a plot gone array, as the beautiful Bellas go on an adventure in search of a song. Our Bella songstress leader, Beca (Anna Kendrick), longs to be in the music industry, In Pitch Perfect 2, we witnessed her challenge to be noticed as a music producer. In the “be careful what you wish for” files, we see her journey to a not fantastic, perhaps demeaning record label job. Her lack of enthusiasm is palpable, and we feel her joy as she leaves a position where she is not respected.

In other parts of the world, the songstress sisters have similar experiences. Chloe (Brittany Snow) endures attempts to succeed in veterinary school, while Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) struggles for an audience as ‘Fat Amy Winehouse’, an impersonation.

If you don’t succeed, try, try again. Right? The Bellas learn of a U.S.O. Tour and set forth to compete for the prize to perform as the opening act for record producer D.J. Khaled (appearing as himself).

There are new themes in the latest film from the Pitch Perfect franchise. We see new performers, competition twists and Dads. What?! Yes, there is a recurring Dad theme, and I won’t spoil this for you, dear reader.

My favorite part of this film is the camaraderie. It never disappoints. Most true bands of friends never do. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 plus adults. While there are a few language issues, and themes of fathers who are MIA, this is a laugh-out-loud fun film with a soundtrack many will love no matter what decade they hail from. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars! It entertains!

 

 

 

 

 

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