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KIDS FIRST! 2015 Holiday Gift Guide – DVDs, Audio Recordings, Theatrical Releases, E-Books

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

As the holidays approach, you are looking for the perfect gift for that niece, nephew, sister-in-law and of course, your own kids and family members. You know what the people closest to you want and need, but those relatives who you don’t see as often are a bit of a challenge. Check out our compilation of DVDs, Feature Films, Audio Recordings and E-Books to help you find the perfect gift for your loved ones. Many have been reviewed by KIDS FIRST! Film Critics and we’ve provided a link to their video reviews which gives you the kids’ point of view. More film reviews are available on our homepage. Happy Holidays from KIDS FIRST!

FOR ACTION FANS

antman.jpgAnt-Man

Armed with the amazing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, master thief Scott Lang joins forces with his new mentor Dr. Hank Pym to protect the secret behind his spectacular Ant-Man suit from ruthless villains! With humanity’s fate in the balance, Pym and Lang must plan and pull off a daring heist against insurmountable odds. Filled with humor, awesome special effects and exclusive bonus features, this action-packed adventure takes you to new levels of pulse-pounding excitement! MSRP: $39.99 Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpVPsHMDLTw

214189.Avengers.jpgAvengers: Age of Ultron 

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, are put to the ultimate test as the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. As the villainous Ultron emerges, it is up to The Avengers to stop him from enacting his terrible plans, and soon uneasy alliances and unexpected action pave the way for an epic and unique global adventure. MSRP: $39.99. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbFqfu6U0ko

FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Aladdin.jpgAladdin

For the first time ever, a whole new world of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Aladdin will be revealed in aA whole new way on Blu-ray with never-before-seen bonus. Rediscover how three wishes can change everything in Disney’s timeless adventure for the whole family. MSRP: $29.99. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wRjElA2Vl1Y

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Alexander’s day begins with gum stuck in his hair, followed by more calamities. Though he finds little sympathy from his family and begins to wonder if bad things only happen to him, his mom, dad, brother, and sister all find themselves living through their own terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Starring Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner and Ed Oxenbould as Alexander. MSRP: $36.99. Video review: http://youtu.be/ogtd8QhXY0A

Cinderella.DVD.BR.jpgCinderella

Walt Disney Animation Studios is releasing the live action version of Cinderella on Blu-ray Combo Pack, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere. The movie stars Cate Blanchett as Stepmother (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Lily James as Cinderella (TV’s “Downton Abbey”), Richard Madden (TV’s “Game of Thrones”) as Prince, Stellan Skarsgård (Marvel’s: “The Avengers,” “Thor”) as Grand Duke, Holliday Grainger (“Jane Eyre”) as Anastasia, Derek Jacobi (“The King’s Speech” ) as King, and Helena Bonham Carter as Fairy Godmother (“Alice in Wonderland”). MSRP: $36.89. Video review:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7Bhyy-J8U8

Home

When Oh, a lovable misfit from another planet, lands on Earth and finds himself on the run from his own people, he forms an unlikely friendship with an adventurous girl named Tip who is on a quest of her own. Through a series of comic adventures with Tip, Oh comes to understand that being different and making mistakes is all part of being human, and together they discover the true meaning of the word HOME. MRSP: $19.04. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8LHlp4UhlY

INsideout.jpgInside Out

After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Jay, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school. Directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen. Starring Diane Lane, Rashida Jones and Amy Poehler. MSRP: $39.99. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dg7QOumdKWc

The Legend of Longwood

Crumbling castles, frightening spirits, beautiful horses and a plucky, fearless heroine all come together in this magical quest film, set in the starkly beautiful landscapes of rural Ireland. When 12-year-old Mickey Miller moves from New York to Ireland, she soon discovers a link between herself and the 300-year-old legend of the mysterious Black Knight, who regularly haunts the sleepy Irish village. MSRP: $16.97. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB___oeu1rs

Little House on the Prairie – The Complete Collection

Fall in love again with the classic TV series that celebrates family, faith and the human spirit, and enjoy the nine-season saga with vividly restored picture and sound. Completely uncut and remastered, this 48-disc set features all nine seasons and is packed with eight hours of bonus material, including the 96-minute original pilot movie, a cast screen test with Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, the six-part  “The ‘Little House’ Phenomenon” documentary that takes a historical look back at the acclaimed series and three movie specials. MSRP:$149.98

MLP.EquestiaGirls.Friendship.jpgMy Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Friendship Games

Every four years, Canterlot High has ‘The Friendship Games’ where they must rival with different schools with a series of different sporting events and every year, the cup has gone to Crystal Prep. So Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Applejack, and Sunset Shimmer must work together to win the cup. But they find out that the other Twilight Sparkle is on the opposing team. MSRP: $17.98. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=801twsvfwyI

Once Upon a Sign: The Magic Mirror

In this DVD, young Alice Cogswell wants to enter the talent show but she’s unsure of herself. After an audition that doesn’t go her way, she gets some magic help. But will this magic help get her to the talent show and help her ASL poetry sparkle? MSRP: $15.95. http://www.dawnsign.com. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df9XUcTXw_U

SOUP_wrap_dimensional_1.jpgOnce Upon a Sign: The New Stone Soup

This new DVD tells the story of three traveling magicians who hope to enjoy a delicious meal after entertaining the folks in a local village. The people are happy to revel in the show but are not willing to share their food with the performers, so the trio comes up with a plan to get the community to contribute food and learn that sharing can be a joyous and happy thing. MSRP: $15.95. http://www.dawnsign.com

Once Upon a Sign: The New Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and his family are struggling to make ends meet. After Jack returns from a chance encounter, it seems his family will continue to struggle. But overnight, a dramatic change happens in their front yard. How will this change impact the family? And how will it impact Los Angeles? MSRP: $15.95. http://www.dawnsign.com

THeSeventhDwarf.jpgThe Seventh Dwarf

Venture into the wondrous world of Fantabularasa Castle and be spellbound by the exciting adventures of your favorite storybook characters in The Seventh Dwarf. With an exceptional voice cast of Peyton List,, Norm Macdonald, Nina Hagen and Joshua Graham, this new CG-animated motion picture is a hilarious mash-up of the best classic fairytales, packed with beloved storybook characters,  non-stop laughs and toe-tapping songs!  MSRP $14.99. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUlYzcBiCnA

Tomorrowland.DVD.jpgTomorrowland 

Bound by a shared destiny, a teen (Britt Robertson) bursting with scientific curiosity and a former boy-genius inventor (George Clooney) embark on a mission to unearth the secrets of a place somewhere in time and space that exists in their collective memory. MSRP: $39.99. Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAFm10Ox7U8

The Wild Thornberrys: The Complete Series   

This 15 disc set contains all 91 episodes of the popular Nickelodeon series. The hit series follows the Thornberry family as they travel the world in their Communications Vehicle (or CommVee) looking for rare animals to film. After an encounter with a mysterious shaman, their youngest child Eliza was given the power to speak to animals! Traveling to every corner of the world with her family of daffy documentarians, Eliza uses her fantastic skill to learn about the lifestyles and habitats of the world’s most exotic creatures. MSRP $29.99.

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki (Amazon Exclusive)

Includes a 1972 TV Pilot directed by Miyazaki, three episodes from the hit anime series “Little Samurai” and a commemorative booklet. For the first time, all 11 of Miyazaki’s feature-length masterpieces are packaged in collection, complete with bonus features. Included films are: Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979); Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984); Castle in the Sky (1986); My Neighbor Totoro (1988); Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989); Porco Rosso (1992); Princess Mononoke (1997); Spirited Away (2001) ; Howl’s Moving Castle (2004); Ponyo (2008/2009); The Wind Rises (2013) MSRP: $224.99

Gumby.jpgGumby: The Gumby Show, The Complete 50s Series

For the first time ever, the complete Gumby Show has been re-mastered from its original camera rolls and soundtracks with the brilliant colors and full-length formats as first aired in the 1950s. These imaginative, surrealistic, stop motion animated masterpieces will mesmerize children and adults of all ages. MSRP: $24.99. http://www.ncircleentertainment.com Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-sR2ziIR_A

Shaun the Sheep

From Aardman, the producers of Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit comes Shaun the Sheep Movie, a farm-tastic adventure for the whole family. MEET SHAUN! He’s a little sheep with big dreams, and lately, life on Mossy Bottom Farm has become a bit dull. When Shaun takes the day off for some fun in the Big City, he gets a lot more action than he bargained for. Now Shaun and his flock must use their wits to hatch a baaaa-rilliant plan to get back home in an adventure the whole family will love. MSRP: $34.99 (BR)/$29.95 (DVD) Video. Review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8x_aUsOies

FOR YOUNGER KIDS

ABCMeetMonsters.2D.jpgABC Monsters: Starring ABCD

The ABC Monsters are on the loose and only Alice, Brian and Cherry Berry can catch them. 26 cuddly ABC Monsters live within the walls of Capital Castle. Each monster represents a letter of the alphabet, but should any of the monsters go missing for longer than a day, all the letters will be wiped clean from every book in Capital Town, so it’s very important to make sure that all the ABC Monsters are safely back in Alphabet Gardens before the sun goes down. MSRP: $9.99. http://www.ncircleentertainment.com  Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lH4ohgUGV4

Chuggington: The Big Freeze

The chuggers perform one heroic rescue after another in this cool new seasonal collection of “Chuggington” adventures! When icy temperatures cause the town to run out of fuel and all diesel engines are grounded, it’s wheels-to-the-rails as Chief Jackman and his team of brave Chug Patrollers work together to find a way to the frozen docks to retrieve fuel and get the town of Chuggington moving once again. MSRP: $14.98.

Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House

The Pod Squad want to build a Doozer-sized Gingerbread House. However, in order to achieve such a large size Gingerbread House it’s going to take some clever construction to create. Can the Pod Squad do it? Then, Daisy Wheel wants to ice skate with the others, but she doesn’t know how. Together, the Pod Squad build her a custom Doo-Step Skating Dress that lets her glide across the ice in no time. Weee! Enjoy these adventures and six more focusing on science, technology, engineering and math! MSRP: $9.99. http://www.ncircleentertainment.com

Maya.jpgMaya The Bee Movie

Based on the well-known children’s novel and popular animated series, this animated feature brings to life an enchanting story of a little bee named Maya and her exciting adventure of self-discovery and fantastical fun. This is an instant classic that delivers wholesome family entertainment— emphasizing the importance of friendship, freedom and courage. Originally a German children’s novel by Waldemar Bonsels, The Adventures of Maya the Bee was published over a hundred years ago in 1912. MSRP $15.80. Video review: https://youtu.be/F5D58b_NPEk

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls (3 Movie Gift Set)

Join Twilight Sparkle and her Canterlot High friends in three animated adventures! With a special lenticular cover featuring a transforming Twilight Sparkle, the box set houses all three films released from the My Little Pony: Equestria Girls canon, Equestria Girls, Rainbow Rocks and Friendship Games. Bonus features include audio commentaries, animated shorts and deleted scenes. MSRP $29.93. Video review:http://youtu.be/iUaO_LE2-NM

Strawberry Shortcake Berry Tales
Join Plum in “Snowberry and the Seven Berrykins” as she learns to believe in herself when putting on a small and simple play.  In “Berryella and Prince Berry Charming,” Huck agrees to be in a production, but then quickly realizes that he’d be happier behind the scenes.  Strawberry, Lemon and Raspberry star as three princesses on a quest to rule a kingdom in “The Littlest Berrykin,” and realize that they can never succeed without kindness and generosity. MSRP: $14.98.

Tinkerbell.Never.jpgTinker Bell and the Legend of the Neverbeast

An ancient myth of a massive creature sparks the curiosity of Tinker Bell and her good friend Fawn, an animal fairy who’s not afraid to break the rules to help an animal in need. But this creature is not welcome in Pixie Hollow — and the scout fairies are determined to capture the mysterious beast, who they fear will destroy their home. Fawn must convince her fairy friends to risk everything to rescue the NeverBeast. This thrilling action-adventure roars to life with never-before-seen bonus extras on Blu-ray and DVD. MSRP: $36.99. Video review: http://youtu.be/IRR0NJzRwOg

HOLIDAY THEMED DVDS

SM.CHRISTMAS.D.JPGA Christmas Detour

Two NYC bound travelers find themselves inextricably linked when a freak snowstorm waylays their Christmas plans to an overcrowded airport hotel in Buffalo. Eternal optimist and hopeless romantic, Paige Summers, desperately needs to find a way to the city so that she can meet her fiancé’s parents before her storybook wedding — and it’s up to a guy she can’t stand, fellow passenger and total stranger Dylan Mackenzie, a guy permanently soured on romance after his girlfriend broke his heart to rise to the occasion and become Paige’s off-white Knight in shining armor. Exclusive to Walmart and Sam’s Club. MSRP: $14.93.

A Crown for Christmas

Allie has taken care of her brothers and sisters ever since their parents died when they were just kids, and now, she and her sister Lisa work as maids in a first-class Manhattan hotel. By a twist of fate, Allie meets Ryland, a King in disguise staying at the hotel, and on the very same day loses her job due to unruly hotel guests. In an effort to apologize for Allie losing her job, one of Ryland’s closest servants offers her the role of Governess (a glorified Nanny) for Ryland’s 10-year-old daughter Teddy. Walmart/Sam’s Club Exclusive. MSRP: $14.93

Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas

The story of Buddy the elf, and his quest to reunite with the human father he never knew existed. While Buddy’s sincerity and idealism are commonplace at the North Pole, these attributes are rejected in cynical New York City. But through song, dance, and relentless good cheer, Buddy rekindles the spirit of Christmas for the entire city. Voice talent of Jim Parsons, Mark Hamill, Kate Micucci and Ed Asner. MSRP: $14.98 (DVD)/$19.98 (BR)

HomeAloneCollection.jpgHome Alone 25th Anniversary Edition

This gift set features all five films packaged together for the first time in a collectible paint can. Includes all 5 films together for first time! Includes: Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Home Alone 3, Home Alone: Taking Back the House, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist. MSRP: $39.99.

Ice Sculpture Christmas

As a little girl, Callie Shaw always knew she wanted to be an amazing chef.  Now, after spending years trying to get her foot in the door, she’s losing faith that she has what it takes to succeed.  Is it time to give up?  Working as the entry-level new hire in her hometown’s country club kitchen, Callie finally gets the opportunity to make a name for herself through a culinary Christmas ice-sculpture contest!  Walmart/Sam’s Club Exclusive. MSRP: $14.93.

The Nutcracker Sweet

Features the voices of an all-star cast including Alicia Silverstone, Ed Asner and Drake Bell. It  is Christmas Eve and the Silberhaus children are excited for the festivities to begin. Marie and Fritz are playing in the children’s room when their godfather Drosselmayer arrives and presents them with an early Christmas gift, a Nutcracker. Marie witnesses a great battle between a vast army of toy soldiers led by the Nutcracker against a terrible platoon of mice commanded by the Mouse King.  MSRP: $14.93.

Tis_The_Season_For_Love_DVD_f.jpgPee-wee’s Playhouse: Christmas Special

As you’ve never seen it before, beautifully restored, re-mastered and in HD. Join the whole Playhouse gang for one of the wackiest specials ever! With laughs for the whole family, this unique, triple Emmy®-nominated special offers all the imagination and charm of Saturday morning’s most outrageous TV series, which became a cultural milestone when it aired from 1986-1991. MSRP $6.95 (DVD) / $19.97 (BR)

‘Tis The Season For Love

Hanna Baker, left her small town of Kern to seek the stardom that everyone knew was her destiny.  Now, ten years later, with none of her dreams coming to fruition and feeling like a failure, Hanna heads back to Kern for a real hometown, family Christmas, to cheer her up. Once back, Hanna sees that life in Kern has moved on quite nicely without her and she soon finds herself longing for her past.  MSRP: $14.93.

musicnotes.jpgAUDIO

AndyZ.ClassicSongs.jpgAndy Z: Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes

Beloved American folk songs blended with classic children’s songs that the younger set just can’t get enough of. Andy brings together two genres that complement one another beautifully and captures the heart and intention of the songs as they were originally written.  For this 15-song album, he used true-to-genre instrumentation, thoughtful arrangements and restored lyrics. MSRP: $14.98. http://www.andyz.com

Big Block Singsong Volume 1

Who knew that being so square could be so cool! Big Block Singsong is a terrific musical, visual DVD romp. Creators Warren Brown and Adam Goddard have hit the creative mother load here – what seems so simple is so deceiving in its well-designed construction – the ‘simple’ individual block characters sing a two-minute nicely produced song that covers subjects from noses and hair to emotions of sadness and happiness, so you see the sky’s the limit, or not. http://www.bigblocksingsong.com

Calling All the Elephants

CallingAllTheElephantsCover5x5_72dpi.jpgRandy & Dave, two hit songwriters from different genres, started writing some silly songs for kids. “Silly” soon morphed into over-the-top, laugh-out-loud funny. Randy’s country roots and Dave’s children’s pop roots come together to create a wacky, seesaw feel, moving from a country stroll where the wit of the lyrics sneaks up on you to a rock ‘n’ roll sprint where an outrageous lyric slams into you. MSRP: $14.98http://songwizard.com

Dancin in the Kitchen: Songs for ALL Families by Cathy and Marcy

This CD knocked my socks off so I immediately decided to dance barefoot in the kitchen – great decision. This album is a breath of fresh air that climbs the mountain of rarefied musical integrity and promotes acceptance and tolerance on so many levels. You will not be disappointed or dismayed, this album is special and grabs you from the first downbeat to the last fade-away. MSRP: $15; http://www.cathymarcy.com

DOYOUBELIEVE_1.JPGDo You Believe in Magic

Original fantasy musical/rock opera for tweens, teens, combining colorful characters, compelling story, infectious songs, danceable duets, narration, full musical score. Percy Jackson meets Into The Woods. Enchanted books, witches break into song! MSRP: $15. http://aoedemuse.com/muse/

Happy Kids Songs

These full-production songs are both highly entertaining and age appropriate–adult quality music with words and themes that tap into the most common issues confronting 4- to 8-year-olds. The variety of adult and child soloists, children’s chorus and wide range of instruments and musical styles easily hold children’s attention and parents’ too. These songs were written and produced by award-winning child psychologist, Dr. Mac, who has also been the music director and songwriter for the PBS hit, Jay Jay the Jet Plane. MSRP: $19.80; http://www.happykidssongs.comHappyKidsSongs_1.jpg

Hot Air by Recess Monkey

‘Hot Air’ rises to the occasion and delivers a potent punch of fun, danceable and delightfully listenable tunes that will lift your spirits and take you on flights of fancy that are frown resistant. Recess Monkey is a tried and true band of experienced and educated musicians who have inhaled the wonderful songwriting and production values of top groups from the late 60’s and 70’s and have exhaled a new, original and pleasing paradigm of songs that are kid-friendly but more importantly, kid-conscious. MSRP: $13. http://www.recessmonkey.com

Let__sboogie.jpg
Let’s Boogie

The debut album from Toronto children’s’ rock band, Rock’n’Rainbow, this CD is a family dance party of high energy tunes with catchy hooks & funk-rock rhythms, exploring favorite forms of exercise: biking, heading out on scooters & boogying-on-down. Rainbow Songs Inc. MSRP: $14.97. http://www.rainbowsongs.com

Nursery Rhyme Parade!

This new album presents 35 familiar nursery rhymes and songs. These fresh and sparely produced tracks provide the perfect opportunity for parents to remember their own childhoods, and to connect with their kids through melody, rhythm and rhyme.  Acclaimed children’s book and magazine illustrator Ekaterina Truhan created the sprightly animal parade art for the album and noted singer Renee Stahl guests. Exclusive to Amazon, MSRP: $9.99 CD; $8.99 Digital

The Pop Ups – Bird and Rhino 

Stomp those fires out with The Pop Ups. This is an animated music video, featuring a song from their brand new album, Great Pretenders Club, exclusively at Amazon. Animator: Garrett Davis, Artists: Jacob Rabinowitz and Jacob Stein. MSRP: $7.99 http://amzn.to/1Vn3Pi2; http://www.thepopups.com

VIDEOGAMES

Lego_Dimensions.jpg
LEGO Dimensions
The all-new collection merges physical LEGO brick building and interactive console gameplay. Includes the videogame, bricks to build the LEGO Gateway, three LEGO Minifigures, Batman, Gandalf and Wyldstyle, plus the LEGO Batmobile, and the LEGO Toy Pad, which allows players to transport special LEGO minifigures and models into the game, as well as direct in-game action all with the movement of the physical toys.  MSRP: $99.99

NEEDFORSPEED.JPGNeed for Speed

Brings together 20 years of history and inspiration from some of the most beloved games in the venerable franchise, to create the definitive racing game experience. Introduces compelling and innovative gameplay through Five Ways to Play – Speed, Style, Build, Crew, and Outlaw. Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC. ESRB: T. MSRP: $69.99

NHL 16

Built with more fan feedback and insights than ever before, NHL 16 delivers your most requested features and modes along with new experiences that make NHL bigger and better. ESRB: E, MSRP: $59.99

STARWARSBATTLE.JPG
Star Wars Battlefront

Feeling the ominous thud of an AT-AT stomping down on the frozen tundra of Hoth. Rebel forces firing blasters as Imperial speeder bikes zip through the lush forests of Endor. Intense dogfights between squadrons of X-wings and TIE fighters filling the skies. Immerse yourself in the epic Star Wars battles you’ve always dreamed of and create new heroic moments of your own in Star Wars Battlefront. ESRB: T, MSRP: $69.99

Project CARS

Represents the next-generation of racing simulation as the ultimate combination of fan desire and developer expertise. With a Franchise Mode that allows you to carve out a personalized career starting in the Karting world and then progressing on to whichever motorsport specialization you prefer. ESRB: E, MSRP: $39.99

THEATRICAL RELEASES

Alvin.jpgAlvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip, PG, Comedy. In theaters: December 18, 2015
Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore come to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in Miami…and dump them.  They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal, saving themselves not only from losing Dave but possibly from gaining a terrible stepbrother. Starring Bella Thorne, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting and Anna Faris.

Bridge of Spies, PG-13, Biography, Drama, History. In Theaters Now
An American lawyer is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot detained in the Soviet Union. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda and Amy Ryan.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27BmVO6QcCY

Brooklyn, PG-13, Drama, Romance. In theaters: November 6, 2015
In 1950s Ireland and New York, young Eilis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries. Starring Saoirse Ronan, Brid Brennan, Maeve McGrath and Emma Lowe.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qk4kN22rPFc

Everest.jpgEverest, Biography. In Theaters Now
A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm. Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWKSys0TSM0

Goosebumps, PG, Comedy, Adventure. In Theaters Now teenager teams up with the daughter of young adult horror author R. L. Stine after the writer’s imaginary demons are set free on the town of Madison, Delaware.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDRNZpFrKPE

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Jem and the Holograms, PG, Adventure. In Theaters Now
As a small-town girl catapults from underground video sensation to global superstar, she and her three sisters begin a journey of discovering that some talents are too special to keep hidden. Starring Aubrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott and Aurora Perrineau

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT_Aep6FOw8

Joy, NR, Comedy-drama. In theaters: December 25, 2015
Joy is the story of a family across four generations and the woman who rises to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper.

spectre.jpgSpectre, Action, PG-13, Adventure. In theaters November 6, 2015
A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE. Starring Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTlzMvxzYfE

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Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, PG, Action, Adventure. In theaters December 28, 2015
A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas and set thirty years after Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983). Directed by J.J. Abrams, Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Adam Driver.

The 33, PG-13, Drama. In theaters November 6, 2015
Based on the real-life event, when a gold and copper mine collapses, it traps 33 miners underground for 69 days. Starring Naomi Scott, Cote de Pablo, Kate del Castillo, James Brolin.
Video review:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXHDEXC7vZA

The Good Dinosaur, PG, Adventure, Comedy. In theaters: November 27, 2015
An epic journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo makes an unlikely human friend. Starring Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Steve Zahn and A.J. Buckley.

Interview with Michael O’Brien: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4giz2mEq4Gk

HungerGames.MJ.2_1.jpgThe Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, PG-13, Adventure, Sci-Fi. November 20, 2015
After being symbolized as the “Mockingjay”, Katniss Everdeen and District 13 engage in an all-out revolution against the autocratic Capitol. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P2s75F9Aa0

The Intern. PG-13,  Comedy. In Theaters now
70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Seizing an opportunity to get back in the game, he becomes a senior intern at an online fashion site, founded and run by Jules Ostin. Starring Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo and Anders Holm.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYTLqwheH8Q

The Martian, Adventure, PG-13, Drama. In Theaters now

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

Video review: href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lJ8yNpc2A4

ThePeanuts.jpgThe Peanuts Movie, G, 3D Animation, In theaters: November 6, 2015
Snoopy embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home. Starring Trombone Shorty, Rebecca Bloom amd Anastasia Bredikhina.

Video review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gP2hfqhLJgo

E-BOOKS

blanket.jpg
A Blanket Quite Rare

There once was a boy with a blanket quite rare that his mother had told him was made with great care.  It came on his birthday with colors so bright It made him feel happy all day and all night. Neptune Press. MSRP: $12

The Loneliest Treehttp://www.kidsfirst.org/detail/214181.html

Not very far from the big city is a very special farm. It’s special because it grows special trees…Christmas trees! The trees are able to stretch their graceful branches covered with needles and pine cones toward the sun as they grow taller and taller–all but one. Neptune Press. MSRP: $9.95

ShipShape.jpgShip Shape (Upton Charles – Dog Detective) http://www.kidsfirst.org/detail/214154.html

When the Chief of Police calls the Charles family to report that a brand new boat and trailer are missing  from the boat show, Upton is immediately recruited to apply his detective skills to the disappearance. Our super sleuth is a Bichon Frise (that’s “BEE-shon free-ZEY”), a little white dog, who  wastes no time in sniffing out clues that lead to a surprising discovery.  During the course of the investigation, Upton is joined by a new assistant. Neptune Press. MSRP: $7.99

ZTE Maven and ZTE Sonata 2 Cell Phones

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

ZTE_Sonata_2_VS_ZTE_Mavenl.jpgRecently two of our KIDS FIRST! jurors reviewed the AT&T ZTE Maven and the Cricket ZTE Sonata 2 cell phones. Here are their findings:

At&T ZTE Maven
Reviewed by Candace Carteen

Recently, I received the AT&T ZTE Maven GoPhone for review. I’ve moved into a new century! This is a solid, light weight phone with fast connections and, at only $59.99, I was amazed by its abilities. I love the feature that allows you to touch and hold the screen to unlock your phone. I also love that the clock is large and easy to read. This phone is just what you need if you’re a light user. It comes with forward and backward facing cameras that take spectacular pictures and easy selfies. I produced a short movie of my son with the video feature and was happily surprised with the quality and ease of shooting. Sound for both the video and the radio are note worthy. Sometimes I had difficulty with the sound on my old phone, but had no concerns with the Maven. The touch screen makes texting flawless even for the older crowd, like me. Add the fact it’s an Android with a 5.1 Lollipop operating system that will keep the grandkids happy and that the Maven is a pay as you go phone and you’ll have everyone smiling. It is now available!

The Cricket ZTE Sonata 2Keefer.2015.LR.jpg
By Keefer C. Blakeslee

This is an easy and fast smart phone that is a fun portable tool to stay in contact with friends and family, acquire quick internet access and more great things. The Sonata 2, in many respects, is your average smart phone but the quality is enhanced a lot. You are able to take clear pictures and video with the 5 MP camera with flash. The built in speakers produce clear and booming sound. A nice touch is when you put on headphones. It gives you a disclaimer about hearing damage if you have the volume up to high. Cricket Wi-Fi allows you to automatically connect to free Wi-Fi Hot spots. This is really useful for internet access on the go.

As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, I have a busy schedule and sometimes need a planner to keep track of everything. With the Sonata 2 calendar, I can plan events, set up reminders and be able to stay organized with my busy agenda.

It gives you access to many of your favorite apps from the play store. So, when you are feeling bored, Fruit Ninja is at your finger tips.

The best is it’s paid month to month. No long term contracts! If you’re looking for a new phone that is both useful, inexpensive and amusing, I recommend the Cricket ZTE Sonata 2 as a smart phone that will work for you.
More about both phones:  ZTE USA, the fourth largest phone manufacturer in the U.S. and second largest in the no-contract market*, released the ZTE Maven with AT&T and ZTE Sonata 2 with Cricket Wireless earlier this summer.  The ZTE Maven is available at www.att.com and in select AT&T retail stores nationwide for $59.99**. The device can be activated on both AT&T postpaid and GoPhone prepaid service.  Compact in size, with voice-directed navigation and a pre-installed navigation app, the ZTE Maven is the perfect phone for anyone or any family on-the-go. With 4G LTE***, a powerful 1.2 GHz Qualcomm quad-core processor, you get fast speeds streaming, downloading, and surfing

The ZTE Sonata 2 is available with Cricket Wireless online at www.cricketwireless.com and in select Cricket Wireless retail stores nationwide for $29.99 with new line activation or with an eligible upgrade.  Following the success of the original Sonata, the Sonata 2 has been upgraded with more talk time and new looks. Fun meets function with a selfie shortcut button, a 5 MP rear camera with LED flash and 4x zoom, and a 2 MP front-facing camera. With 32GB of expandable storage (MicroSD card sold separately), 1.2GHz Qualcomm dual-core processor, 4G speeds, and plenty of battery, this phone will not slow you down or hold you back.

KIDS FIRST! 2014 Holiday Gift Guide -The Best DVDs for Kids and Families for 2014

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

HolidayGiftGuide.jpgAs you head out for your holiday shopping this weekend, you are looking for the perfect gift for that niece, nephew, sister-in-law and of course, your own kids and family members. You know what the people closest to you want and need but those relatives who you don’t see that often are a bit of a challenge. We have compiled a collection of DVDs, Feature Films and E-Books that we think make great holiday gifts for your loved ones. Those that our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics have watched and reviewed have a link to their video reviews which gives you the benefit of the kids’ point of view.  Since kids are the audience for these films, it makes sense to listen to what other kids think about them. More film reviews are available at www.kidsfirst.org. Happy holidays, Ranny Levy, KIDS FIRST!

FOR ACTION FANS
Dawn of Planet of the Apes
A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species. MSRP: 39.99; Age Recommendation:  12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

Harry Potter™ Hogwarts Collection
This collectible box set is sure to please fans who can now access all the Harry Potter films and exclusive behind-the-scenes content conveniently in one place. Included are all eight Harry Potter™ films, plus a whopping 45+ hours of previously released bonus material that contains the complete eight-part documentary series “Creating the World of Harry Potter.” MSRP: $249.99; Age Recommendation: 8-15 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

The Maze Runner
Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape. MSRP: $39.99: Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

X-men: Days of Future Past
The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future. MSRP:  39.99; Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

Earth to Echo
After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help. Starring Teo Halm, Astro and Reese Hartwig. Rated PG for some action, peril and mild language. MSRP: 39.99; Age Recommendation: 8-15 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Ernest & Celestine
Deep below snowy, cobblestone streets, tucked away in networks of winding tunnels, lives a tiny mouse named Celestine. Unlike her fellow mice, Celestine is an artist and a dreamer, and has a hard time fitting in. When she nearly ends up as breakfast for a grumpy bear named Ernest, the two become fast friends and embark on an adventure that will put a smile on your face and make your heart glow.  MSRP: $34.95; Age Recommendation:  5-18

Frozen Sing-Along DVD
Experience Frozen, the hit musical comedy from Walt Disney Animation Studios, like never before in a new to DVD, full-length Sing-Along Edition! Follow the lyrics with a bouncing Frozen snowflake. Join Anna as she sets off on an epic journey – teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and a snowman named Olaf – to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. It’s pure enchantment – and full of fun for the whole family! Includes the making-of featurette “Breaking the Ice”, the Sing Along Version of the Film, the Original Theatrical Version of the Film, and “Get a Horse!” Mickey Mouse Short. MSRP: $29.99. Age Recommendation: 4-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The quest through Middle-earth continues in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug when the epic fantasy adventure is released as an Extended Edition on Blu-ray 3D™ and Blu-ray™. This extended cut of the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy includes 25 minutes of extra film footage that extends individual scenes,  more than nine hours of new bonus features. Both Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray include Digital HD copies of the Extended Edition. MSRP: $54.98 & $35.99. Age Recommendation: 12-18
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

How to Train Your Dragon 2
It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. MSRP: $24.96; Age Recommendation: 8-12 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Maleficent
MALEFICENT explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic SLEEPING BEAUTY and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever. MSRP: $36.99. Age Recommendation: 10-18.
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition
Fall under the glorious spell of Disney’s Ultimate Princess Fairy Tale! The magic is real as you experience all the pageantry and power with incredible high-definition picture and thrilling, soaring sound! Beauty, wonder and adventure spin together in a grand legend that transcends time as Maleficent, one of animation’s most spectacular villains, sends the kingdom’s beloved Princess Aurora into an enchanted sleep. In a majestic story that awakens all your senses, Good Fairies arm brave Prince Phillip to defeat a fearsome fire-breathing dragon and rescue Aurora. But success in battle may not be enough, for the only way to awaken the Princess is with True Love’s kiss! MSRP: $36.99. Age Recommendation: 4-18

FOR FILM BUFFS

The Fault in our Stars
Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. MRSP:  29.99. Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Step inside the imaginative story book world of the highly popular French novel La Mécanique du Cœur (The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart) and beguiled by the wildly inventive adventures of Jack and Miss Acacia as they leap from page to the screen. Directed by Mathias Malzieu and Stéphane Berla, this is a visually opulent animated fairy tale set in an exciting period full of fabulous inventions, enchanting music and marvelous adventures. This superbly animated movie brings to life a unique tale of love and the acceptance of others through an awe-inspiring cinematic adventure filled with whimsical characters, stunning CG animation and unforgettable musical numbers. MSRP: $16.97; Age Recommendation: 8-15

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series
All 45 wacky episodes, plus the Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, have been meticulously re-mastered from the original film elements. Mecka-lecka hi, Mecka-hiney ho!  Pee-wee’s Playhouse is an educational, artistic and entertaining show that teaches kids strong ‘life lessons.’  With its innovative production design and Reubens’ rich original characters and humor, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is a magical place that sparks creativity and imagination—and brings joy to children and adults alike. Parents and grown-ups have always enjoyed the show’s many double entendres. Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Seasons 1 and 2 in a high-definition 4-DVD set. MSRP $149.99; Age recommendation: 5-18

Rio 2
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law. All our favorite RIO characters are back, and they’re joined by Oscar® nominee Andy Garcia, Grammy® winner Bruno Mars, Tony® winner Kristin Chenoweth and Oscar/Emmy ® /Tony winner Rita Moreno. RIO 2 also features new Brazilian artists and original music by Janelle Monae and Wondaland. MSRP: $24.99; Age Recommendation: 5-12 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

FOR YOUNGER KIDS

Littlest Pet Shop: Passport to Fashion
Blythe Baxter has two amazing gifts – she can talk to animals and can create amazing fashion!  Together with her pet friends- Zoe the spaniel, Pepper the skunk, Sunil the mongoose, Russell the hedgehog, Penny the panda, Vinnie the gecko and Minka the monkey, Blythe is determined to make her dream of a career in fashion come true. Join Blythe and her animal friends as they visit exotic cities such as Paris, Rio and Shanghai and learn that true friends will support you no matter what! MSRP $14.93 DVD; Age Recommendation: 5-8

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Keys of Friendship  
This DVD includes “Rarity Takes Manhattan,” “Pinkie Apple Pie,” “It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies,” “Twilight’s Kingdom, Part 1,” and “Twilight’s Kingdom, Part 2.” A fun sing-along is included as a bonus feature. Since her arrival in Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle has learned the true meaning and value of friendship. With her very best friends — Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Fluttershy and, of course, Spike — Twilight goes on the greatest of adventures and comes back with even more lessons. All of this has earned Twilight her wings and the crown of a Princess and now you can learn what Princess Twilight Sparkle has learned and take with you The Keys Of Friendship. MSRP $14.97 DVD; Recommended age: 4-12
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Spooktacular Pony Tales   
Features six episodes and a sing-along. Every pony loves Halloween… the candy, the pumpkins, the costumes, the friends! Join your favorite residents of Ponyville — Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie and, of course, Spike — as they take on some of the spookiest adventures Equestria’s ever seen! Time to gather around and hold on tight, because these six exciting tales are a chillingly good romp. The DVD comes with pumpkin carving stencils and a color Halloween poster perfect for seasonal decorating. MSRP $14.97 DVD; Recommended age: 4-12
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Planes: Fire & Rescue Blu-ray
In this heart-pumping, laugh-filled follow-up to last year’s smash hit “PLANES,” world famous racer Dusty Crophopper joins an elite fire and rescue unit and learns what it takes to be a true hero. Featuring non-stop action, memorable characters and never-before-seen bonus features, “PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE” is this fall’s must-own animated family film! Bonus features include the all-new exclusive short “Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular;” the mock-umentary “Welcome to Piston Peak;” and more. MSRP: $39.99. Age Recommendation: 2-12 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Veggie Tales: Celery Night Fever
Bruce Onion (voice of Terry Crews) is a nefarious real-estate developer who plans to turn the serene, green Celery Park into a parking lot.  His unsavory scheme spurs Laura Carrot and Junior Asparagus to enact a bold plan: reuniting the long-lost ’70s band The Groovy Brothers to play at a fund-raising concert. The problem is, The Groovy Brothers haven’t spoken to each other in decades, and the members have little interest in getting back together.  Their long-simmering feud spills over to affect Laura and Junior.  It’s not just Celery Park that’s in jeopardy – if best friends can’t learn to forgive each other and accept each other’s faults, the veggies might lose their cherished community gathering spot. MSRP: $14.97; Recommended age: 5-10.

HOLIDAY THEMED FAMILY DVDS

10 Movie Romance & Family Collection
Stuff your stockings with love this holiday season with ten films overflowing with the hope of the season. For family movie marathons or snuggly date nights, each of these stories spread a little Christmas magic, reconnecting family and friends as well as rekindling long-lost loves. In the end, you’ll hold your loved ones a little tighter, find your heart a little brighter, and spread the true meaning of the holiday season. Includes 10 best-selling movies: Christmas in Canaan, Merry-In-Laws, 12 Days of Christmas, A Christmas Proposal, Holiday Baggage, Annie Claus, Holiday Engagement, Christmas Pageant, Moonlight & Mistletoe, Most Wonderful Time of the Year. MSRP: $29.93. Age Recommendation: 8-18

A Belle for Christmas

Dean Cain of Lois & Clark and The Dog Who Saved Christmas stars as Glenn Barrows, a recent widower doing his best to raise his young kids Elliot and Phoebe who really miss their mom. When the Barrows adopt an adorable puppy named Belle during the holiday season, it seems that their healing may have begun. But will Glenn’s dog-hating, gold-digging new girlfriend spoil their newfound happiness, or can Elliot and Phoebe pull off a daring Christmas Eve rescue of their beloved new pet? Haylie Duff costars in this heartwarming comedy about family, friendship, and a four-legged holiday miracle. DVD SRP: $19.98; Age Recommendation: 7-18

The Christmas Ornament
Newly widowed Kathy plans to skip out on decking the halls and trimming the tree this Christmas, trying to avoid anything that will bring back memories of her late husband. The only Christmas tradition she will observe is baking cookies for her friends, a passion since she was a child. When Kathy meets handsome Christmas tree shop owner Tim, their undeniable chemistry – along with an ornament Tim gives her that symbolizes hope – helps Kathy open up to the joys of the season again. With the support of her best friend Jenna Kathy begins to embrace the hopeful message of the ornament. Although Kathy wants to take a chance on Tim, she struggles to find the balance between preserving the memory of her husband and moving on with her own future. MSRP: $14.93; Age Recommendation: 10-18

Octonauts: Very Vegimal Christmas
On this very merry DVD, join the Octonauts as they celebrate the holidays! The Vegimals’ plans for a Christmas feast aboard the Octopod are interrupted when the Octonauts become entangled in a gigantic blob of sea snot! The holiday excitement continues when the Octonauts travel to Professor Inkling’s childhood home, an undersea mountain, but soon discover that a rockslide has endangered the local creatures, including Inkling’s nephew, Squirt!  Can the Octonauts rescue the creatures and save Christmas in time?
MSRP: $9.99; Age Recommendation: 5-8

Nine Lives of Christmas
Fireman Zachary Stone is a confirmed bachelor who doesn’t believe in love or commitment. When a stray, tabby cat named Ambrose shows up at his door, Zachary takes him in and slowly starts to see that a little companionship might not be so bad. Zachary’s commitment to solitude is further challenged when he meets Marilee who teaches Zachary how to care for his new feline roommate. With Christmas rapidly approaching, Marilee’s sister Jaclyn convinces her to add romance to her nose-to-the-grindstone life of work and school, while fire chief Sam encourages Zachary to understand the importance of love, marriage and having someone special with whom to share the holidays. MSRP: $14.93; Age Recommendation: 10-18

A Royal Christmas
As the only daughter of an expert tailor in Philadelphia, Emily Corrigan is a kindhearted young woman proud of her blue-collar background. She is a devoted seamstress at the family business and madly in love with her doting European boyfriend, Leo. As their first Christmas together approaches, Leo drops a bombshell on his unsuspecting girlfriend: he is actually Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Cordinia, a small sovereign country. Emily is in shock and they fly to Cordinia to announce their engagement and spend the holidays with Leo’s disapproving mother, Queen Isadora. Less than enthusiastic about her son’s relationship with a commoner, Isadora makes Emily feel anything but welcome at their grand castle. Attempting to stay true to herself in a world where she clearly doesn’t belong, Emily wonders if love is enough to keep her newly royal relationship from falling apart before Christmas morning. MSRP: $14.93. Age Recommendation: 10-18.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Celebrate the magic of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer in the golden-packaged 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. Newly produced bonus features teach fans how to draw Rudolph, Hermey and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster; present video sing-alongs of the musical holiday favorites Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Holly Jolly Christmas; and offer a video version of a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer pop-up book.  MSRP: 17.99; Age Recommendation: 2-18

Signed,  Sealed,  Delivered Christmas
Based on the highly successful Hallmark series Signed, Sealed, Delivered created by Touched By An Angel’s Martha Williamson, follows the four postal workers turned detectives in their next mystery as they track down the original recipient of a Christmas card from the past. MSRP:  $14.93

Saving Santa: Adventures of a Time-Traveling Elf
Bernard, a low-ranking elf dreams of joining Santa’s elite team of inventors, who make the magic of Christmas possible. But when one of Bernards inventions reveals the secret location of the North Pole to a billionaire scoundrel Santa and Christmas are in jeopardy leaving Bernard to time travel to rescue Santa in time to save Christmas. Voices of Martin Freeman, Tim Curry, Tim Conway and Ashley Tisdale. MSRP: 19.98; Age Recommendation: 5 – 12

The Snowman (special anniversary edition)
An Academy Award Nominee (Best Animated Short Film, 1982), this delightful animation weaves a spell of magical enchantment as a young boy’s snowman comes to life and escorts him on a magical flying visit to the North Pole. Absolutely superlative family enjoyment that Includes the original introduction by author Raymond Briggs. Bonus features include The Story of the SnowmanTM and an alternate introduction from David Bowie. MSRP:  $9.99; Age Recommendation: 4 – 18.

A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! Holiday Show

Join DJ Lance Rock, Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Plex and Toodee as they dance, sing and decorate the tree to prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus! Filmed live at New York City’s The Beacon Theatre, celebrate the season with the colorful cast of characters singing their hits, including “It’s Wintertime,” “Every Snowflake’s Different, Just Like You” and a holiday version of everyone’s favorite “Party in my Tummy!” Includes special appearances by superstar Leslie Hall and the one and only Santa Claus! MSRP: $12.99. Age Recommendation: 2 – 8

A Very Merry Mix Up

Shop owner Alice Chapman (Alicia Witt) is nervous to meet her future in-laws at Christmas, especially because she is arriving ahead of her new fiancé, Will Mitchum (Scott Gibson). Alice’s trip becomes more stressful when her luggage is lost and her phone is damaged, leaving her no way to find Will’s family! As fate would have it, she meets her future brother-in-law, Matt Mitchum (Mark Wiebe), at baggage claim and is happy to get a ride home with him. As Alice meets Matt’s doting family, mom Penny (Susan Hogan), dad Joe (Richard Fitzpatrick) and Grandpa Charles (Lawrence Dane), she falls in love with their festive holiday traditions and warm welcome to their home. And when unexpected romance comes calling as Christmas approaches, Alice must decide if her “Merry Mix-Up” will actually turn out to be her destiny. MSRP: $14.93; Age Recommendation: 10-18

FOR THE FAITHFUL

Son of God
Now, the larger-than-life story of The New Testament gets a larger-than life treatment in the stand-alone feature SON OF GOD. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus as the film spans from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. It marks the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since Passion of the Christ, released ten years ago. MSRP: $25.99; Age Recommendation: 12 – 18

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Black Nativity
Struggling to pay the bills, single mom Naima (Jennifer Hudson) sends her teenage son Langston (Jacob Latimore) to live with his estranged grandparents, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) in New York City. At first Langston resents their strict household, but with the help of new friends – and a little divine intervention – he embarks on an inspirational journey of self-discovery that brings the whole family together. MSRP: $14.99; Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

E-Books

25 Days of a Tropical Christmas
25 Days of a Tropical Christmas is a celebration of the holiday season incorporating beautiful illustrations with a variation of a classic melody. Similar to the 12 days of Christmas but extended with a tropical theme, this is a fun and entertaining read with beautiful beach- themed illustrations. Written by D.G. Stern and Illustrated by Susan Lane. MSRP: $1.99; Age Recommendation: 5-12

THEATRICAL HOLIDAY MOVIE RELEASS

ANNIE
Dec. 19

Business tycoon and mayoral candidate Benjamin Stacks launches a campaign to take in Annie, a young girl who has been living with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan since her parents left her as a baby. Starring Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rose Byrne. Rating: PG

BIG HERO 6 (In 3D)
November 7
From Walt Disney Animation Studios, the team behind “Frozen” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” comes “Big Hero 6,” an action-packed comedy-adventure about the special bond that develops between Baymax (voice of Scott Adsit), a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada (voice of Ryan Potter). When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his close friends adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago (voice of Jamie Chung), neatnik Wasabi (voice of Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (voice of Genesis Rodriguez) and fanboy Fred (voice of T.J. Miller). Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called “Big Hero 6.” Starring: Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Damon Wayans Jr., T.J. Miller, Alan Tudyk, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, Daniel Henney, with Ryan Potter as Hiro Hamada and Scott Adsit as Baymax. Not yet rated.

BEYOND THE LIGHTS

Nov. 14
A talented young musician on the brink of super stardom struggles with the pressure of her new-found success. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover, Aisha Hinds. Rating: PG-13

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES
Dec. 19
The Company of Thorin has reached Smaug’s lair; but can Bilbo and the Dwarves reclaim Erebor and the treasure? And, if so, can they hold on to it? Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richar Armitage. Not yet rated.

INTO THE WOODS
December 25th

Into the Woods is a modern twist on several of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy)—all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them.  Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski and Johnny Depp.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB
Dec. 19
Larry spans the globe, while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. Starring Robin Williams, Dan Stevens, Ben Stiller. Not yet rated.

PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR
Nov. 18
Super spy teams aren’t born…they’re hatched. Discover the secrets of the greatest and most hilarious covert birds in the global espionage biz: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. These elitists of the elite are joining forces with a chic undercover organization, The North Wind. Led by handsome and husky Agent Classified (we could tell you his name, but then…you know). Together, they must stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, from destroying the world as we know it. Stars: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch.

#GivingTuesday Is Past But We Still Need Your Help

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Dear Friends of KIDS FIRST!Thank you so much for your continued support of KIDS FIRST! and our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics. This year, we started a new fund campaignon #GivingTuesday, asking for your support. Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of this year. Please consider making a contribution. No amount is too big or too small. Even $10, the price of a movie ticket, will make a difference. You can easily make a donation online at our fundraise.com page.

This year marks a record number of film reviews by our youth reporters and a record number of people reached by our coverage. Thanks to our media partners –  Huffington Post, Workingmother,com, GRANDmagazine.com, Voice America Kids Network, Kidzworld.com, Kidsville News, SoCal City Kids and 48 additional national, regional and local publications both print and online – our coverage reaches more than 7 million every month! That’s a lot.

Our hard-working youth reporters are appearing on the red carpet at premieres interviewing celebrities and talking about the films. They attend press screenings, press junkets and work alongside seasoned entertainment reporters where they hold their own!

We have posted more than 1100 videotaped film reviews and celebrity interviews on our KIDS FIRST! YouTube Channel which gets more than 13,000 views monthly!

#GivingTuesday is past but we still need your help!
As you consider your charitable year-end giving today, we hope that you will help support KIDS FIRST! We depend on donations from our supporters to raise 15% of our annual operating budget every year. A tax-deductible contribution from you will support our 2014-15 annual fund drive.

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This the Season to Enjoy Music!

Friday, November 14th, 2014

As the holiday season approaches, we have something special to share with you – some of the fabulous music CDs that we’ve recently endorsed. This music will surely be enjoyed by your children but, like most wonderful music, adults will find it equally pleasing. In 2014, the knowledgeable music critic John Wood joined our ranks as a music judge and, of course, our KIDS FIRST! Critics added their two cents in addition. Take a look below. I’m sure you will find some fabulous choices to share with the youth in your universe this holiday season.

APPETITE FOR CONSTRUCTION  (AGES 2-5).  These songs provide an active participation point for whole-family engagement, celebrating imaginative play, building, dance, puppet making and more.  “We wanted to make something that wasn’t only about listening, but could actually be recreated and re-imagined at home,” explains Stein. “The Pop Ups are all about making things,” adds Rabinowitz.  “We want our fans to be able to engage in that experience for themselves and really take part in the record, and to experience The Pop Ups world.”  THE POP UPS.

  • Adult Juror Comments: Stop the presses! Late breaking news: The Pop Ups have done it again! Their latest album ‘Appetite For Construction’ is a fanciful, danceable explosion of ideas and get-down rhymes and rhythms. The group is in touch with its musical lineage and producer/arranger Jason Rabinowitz does a masterful job of paying/playing homage to a myriad of pop culture voicing and styles. The group has a special spark and presents a moving target of attention grabbing hip nouveau vaudeville. Oh, and by the way, I liked the album. This is a finely constructed and produced album from the first downbeat. Nothing unappealing unlike a banana.  Each song segues into the next seamlessly with a myriad of pop culture styles.  Their liner notes hit it on the head, “This album is dedicated to the simple joy of making things with family & friends!” The group knows how to integrate terrific music with creative voice work that they perform live with the puppet portion of their shows. They always present a moving target of attention-grabbing modern vaudeville. Top rate sound quality has layers of harmonies, excellent musicianship and masterful recording technique. Reviewed by John Wood.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids absolutely loved this CD, especially the upbeat music that made them dance. They liked the vocalist, the instruments and the fun music. The kids that reviewed the CD were ages 2-7. The slower songs were not as enthusiastically enjoyed as much as the faster paced ones but. overall they really enjoyed this. One 2-year-old came running in from another room dancing along to it. Their favorite song is “Getting the Job Done” and they repeatedly said, “give it a 5” (rating). Audio. 40 min.; $12; Age: 2-5.

AS THE CROW FLIES  (AGES 2-5).  Family recording artist Dan Crow offers a brand new collection of original songs that celebrate his fun with travels around the world.  ALLS HOUSE FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT.

Adult Juror Comments: Dan Crow’s “As the Crow Flies” boasts the talents of a seasoned, much-traveled performer who knows his audience. The album is packed with outright fun and danceable hits that will have its audience on their feet and moving right along. Some of the highlights, supported by a band of all-stars, are the surf-inspired “Stevie’s Got a Maui Owie,” the multitude of fun available on the “Playground” and the timeless log of a little dog in “Greyfriar’s Bobby” complete with authentic Scottish instrumentation. A fun, inspired album the whole family will enjoy. There are lots of opportunities for participation, out and out fun, and movement. The children’s chorus is particularly appealing. The artist recalls growing up in his first house, the love of eating mac n’ cheese, the fun of traveling, anti-bullying and something we can all remember – waiting for the Tooth Fairy. The recording quality is terrific and the guest musicians and youth singers are all top notch. We love this one! `

Kid Juror Comments: This CD has a lot of fun and catchy songs. The lyrics don’t always make sense and are sometimes just silly but they will make kids want to laugh out loud and dance around the room. The instrumental part is a very strong part of the CD. It is what will make you want to get up and dance around. Even when the words are a bit too silly the instrumental section holds your attention. Although, young kids may not learn a lot from listening to the CD, they will enjoy the music and sometimes that is just as important as learning something new. I did learn something from the song “Bully Girl and Bully Boy.” The music styles are pretty similar throughout the CD. There is some rhyming and the songs touch on topics such as the tooth fairy and the playground, things kids can relate to.  I recommend this for kids ages 4 to 8. Audio. 40 min.; $12.99; Age: 5-8.

COOL KIND KID  (AGES 3-8).  Winner of more than 15 national awards, including Parents’ Choice and Teachers’ Choice. 17 original songs, each teaching a different social skill. The fun way for kids 2 to 9 to learn social skills to reject bullying. Kids are engaged as they learn “the kind kid is a COOL kid, not the bully.”  COOL KIND KID

Adult Juror Comments: This CD is a 17 set of character-affirming songs that present children with options to make positive choices in their daily existence of life, school and home with special attention paid t peer pressure. The songs are well produced and performed with a mix of adult and child performers. An array of musical styles from rock to pop to folk infuse the messages of manners, respect and making a stand with an accessible immediacy. The collection is a valuable teaching tool for parents and educators to integrate into their bag of tricks. The structure is sound. Every song has a behavior that ideally should be modeled – manners, standing up for what is right, following rules, kindness and similar. The content is age appropriate and, of course, emphasizes that it is “cool to be kind.”

Kid Juror Comments: This is a very cool music CD which includes 17 songs that demonstrate how to be polite and Well mannered, with a catchy beat! I honestly thought it may be a little cheesy but the CD pleasantly surprised me. The irst song of the album, “Cool Kind Kid,” is simply perfect for teaching younger kids about proper behavior.

All songs in the album not only send positive message but lead kids with an example. Music ranges from rock and roll to slow and soothing, to upbeat and modern. Each song is completely different from the last and concentrates on one
specific item. For example, one of my favorites, “When the Telephone Rings” talks about how to pick up and answer telephone correctly.

There are 17 songs in total. Each of the songs is about two to three minutes long. All somewhat tell a story and even though you may not realize, all teach you a lesson as well. Most of the songs are catchy. However, there are a couple that feel a bit forced and probably would have benefited from a better singer. But those are an exception and I do like the fact that the majority of the songs are sung by kids. Since I’m 12, the songs were a bit childish for me but I could see a class of preschoolers enjoying it and singing along. I also found it very smart to make this for such little kids, so when they grow up, they have good manners and a clear understanding between right and wrong.

My favorite song is “When the Telephone Rings.” The song is about being polite during a call, and I like it the most because the voice is very impressive and the lyrics are catchy. It all wraps up nicely as the song explores three different situations with a good sense of humor. These songs are for little kids, so I think the best age rating is 2 to 6. I don’t believe older kids would enjoy it or benefit from the message as much. Younger kids would not understand the purpose of it. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Reviewed By Gerry Orz, age 12, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

LOVE BUG BY RAFFI  (AGES 2-5).  This 16 song collection embodies all of the qualities that have already established Raffi as a beloved and trusted icon for young listeners. These are songs about love (“Love Bug,” “Seeing the Heart”), nature (“In the Real World,” “Blue White Planet”), play (“Free to Play,” “To the Park”), chores (“Mama Loves It”), teamwork (“On Hockey Days”), imagination (“Magic Wand”) and the need to slow down and catch one’s breath amidst the accelerated pace of modern life (“Cool Down Reggae”).  ROUNDER RECORDS/CONCORD MUSIC GROUP

Adult Juror Comments: Let’s start with the obvious, ‘Love Bug’ is a terrific album filled with lovely and entrancing songs. I could say, ridiculously, where have you been for twelve years? And the answer might be, doing lots of fun and satisfying stuff. It’s like we never missed you, Raffi. The soothing voice and positive artistic sensibilities are sharper than ever. The love for the individual child and family, care for our world and the simple joys of playing ice hockey, and enjoying the park are just a sampling of this splendidly produced and performed 16-song set. And a nod to the updated lyrics to ‘This Land is Your Land.’ Beautiful guitar work. engaging production and that voice that makes a stadium performance sound like a personal concert in your living room. Pick this up, you won’t put it down.

I really like the choice of mainly acoustic instruments (guitars, banjo, fiddle, drums, bass piano and dulcimer). This music breathes. Raffi is one of the foundations of children’s music – a national treasure that generations have grown up with. There are terrific songs, exceptionally performed and spot-on for the target audience. The structure and continuity are near-perfect.

The title says it all: Love Bug! Raffi is all about love, respect, our planet and the power children have to change their surroundings for the better. Like Fred Rogers, he is true to himself, respectful of his audience and always in a gentle, loving way. He is a seeker of good intentions for the World we live in. Raffi’s voice is an instrument that soothes and draws the audience to scoot just a little bit closer. The kid choruses are lovely. The production fabulous. The musicians add so much energy and propulsion. I hope that children will see a bigger picture of their involvement and heir apparent to a smaller, brighter and more loving world.

Kid Juror Comments: The kids really enjoyed this CD. This is the first time I’ve heard a Raffi CD and, although the lyrics are very intelligent and often mature, the kids still were completely drawn in to the songs. They sang along almost immediately and they wanted to hear more. After the original review, I started playing it in the car when they were out of control and they would immediately calm down and start singing along. They especially love the first two songs. Based on the kids’ reactions, I recommend this CD to anyone. They particularly loved the Dogwood Song and Love Bug was their second favorite. Audio. 40 min.; $15; Age: 2-7.

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