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POPULAR THEORY
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
POPULAR THEORY
BLUE FOX ENTERTAINMENT Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - Popular Theory follows Erwin, a 12-year old genius, far smarter than any of her high school classmates. But Erwin's genius has come at a price: isolation. She doesn't have any friends and even her sister thinks she's a social leper. Determined to win the State Science Fair, she teams up with classmate Winston, a fellow outcast and chemistry guru, to create a popularity chemical which they add into sticks of chewing gum.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With compelling performances and a story emphasizing brains over social status, Popular Theory is both a heartfelt story of friendship and innovation that young viewers will love. Erwin (Sophia Reid-Gantzert), a young genius named for Nobel Prize-winning physicist Erwin Schr�dinger, is the youngest student in high school and a bona fide loner. She enjoys spending time on her own doing complex science experiments so much that her aunt and father, who raise her, grow concerned and place a science plan on her. But when she meets fellow genius Winston (Lincoln Lambert), they team up to evade the ban and invent a pheromone that threatens to upset the natural order of high school.

Lincoln Lambert and Sophia Reid-Gantzert's dynamic is my favorite part of Popular Theory. At a young age, both actors seem to have mastered the art of owning their character, whether it's the micro-gestures of disgust, awe, sadness and hypochondria that Lambert portrays as Winston or Reid-Gantzert's comfort being Erwin. It's truly a delight to see them interact on screen as they transition from rivals to "colleagues," to friends, and as forces push and pull them apart. I'm a Lincoln Lambert fan, having spoken to him about his film Language Arts and having discussed his creative process. But I have to admit that Reid-Gantzert steals the show. That's largely because the screenwriters (Ali Scher and Joe Swanson) have crafted a teen movie that, thankfully, doesn't turn into a rom-com halfway through. Too often the archetype of the wannabe teenage girl eager to change herself exploited. Yes, there's an element of that trope in the film, both in Erwin's character and in Erwin's sister, Ari (Chloe East). But Erwin always stays true to who she is and takes pride in her status as a genius without coming across as too egotistical -- a good role model for young viewers. On another note, the dynamic in Erwin's home reminds one a bit of Matilda, with her aunt and father looking at her as some freak-of-nature genius. Some comical and unexpectedly sentimental moments come from Aunt Tammy (Cheryl Hines), who's an eccentric hairstylist. Erwin's father, Arthur (Marc Evan Jackson), stricken by the grief of losing his wife, feels a little like a prop character mainly because of a lack of screen time. He isn't given much to work with in terms of dialogue or emoting. I wonder how the film would be affected if Erwin was only raised by her aunt. The direction and production quality are other highlights. The few moments dragging the film down are wooden performances by secondary characters, but those are overshadowed by the strength and integrity of the plot.

Popular Theory shows how dangerous instantaneous popularity can be and comments on the ethics of using technology for personal and social benefit. Making change through friendship and positivity can make the high school experience and life better in more ways than one.

I give Popular Theory 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Popular Theory released in theaters on February 9, 2024.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Popular Theory highlights the idea that friendship is all about chemistry! The movie shows the negative aspects of popularity and how a positive charge or change through friendship can make the high school experience, and life, more meaningful.

Erwin Page (Sophia Reid-Ganzert) is a 12-year-old genius at Magnolia High School and suffers from social isolation. Her formative years were spent primarily alone with her scientific experiments and books were her friends. Erwin's Aunt Tammy (Cheryl Hines) is certain that science is stunting her social development and with Erwin's Dad (Marc Evan Jackson) empties her room of all science materials to force her to interact with others. The situation is made worse in opposition with her popular older sister Ari (Chloe East) which contrasts the difference in the girls' social positions. High school can be depicted as survival of the fittest where popularity is all that matters to the student body. Erwin is disturbed when new student Winston (Lincoln Lambert), who is 13, enrolls at school and the two of them engage in competition for the upcoming science fair award and scholarship. Erwin and Winston end up together as science partners in their quest to win the competition by utilizing pheromones to impact popularity in their "Friendship Formula."

The ensemble cast in Popular Theory is funny and acidic and gives us the exact chemical reaction that one would hope for. The developing friendship and competitive nature of Erwin and Winston is believable and endearing. I really enjoyed the comedic timing of Cheryl Hines in her supporting role as Aunt Tammy. Also, I have to mention the hysterical drama offered by high school test subjects Casey (Kat Conner Sterling) and Alan (Varak Baronian) as they experience the reactions to their popularity quotient during the social experiment. Great performances by many other high school student cast members really make this movie combust. Popular Theory is directed by Ali Scher, who is also a co-writer with Joe Swanson. I really enjoyed the relationships and the dialogue they created. The movie has a fun soundtrack from music supervisor Ben Sokoler and music editor Jason Soudah which adds to the cause and effect of this film.

This film's message is that false friends can't replace true friends and, as in science, "particles have no meaning as isolated entities, but are better understood through their interconnections." You don't need to be popular at school or in life to thrive or be liked by everybody, but people do need somebody to connect with. Erwin and Winston don't win the science fair, but they do discover the real friendship formula.

I give Popular Theory 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This movie released in theaters February 9, 2024 so go learn why popularity isn't all that matters.

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Popular Theory is an adorable film that showcases true friendship. The camera work, charming script, clever cinematography and great actors make this film a delightful experience.

The story begins by introducing Erwin (Sophia Reid-Gantzert), a 12-year-old genius who's in 11th grade. She meets Winston (Lincoln Lambert), another 12 year-old-genius who's initially her biggest competition. But, they agree to be colleagues and work on an experiment for the school science fair. They face many obstacles but discover what friendship truly means.

I really love this film. So many aspects make it unique and really stand out. I love the camera movement; from scene to scene the film is packed with clever transitions that are so appealing to the eye. Cinematographer Damian Horan knew what he was doing - the colors are especially interesting. Erwin is constantly surrounded by the color blue; while Winston is represented by the color orange. When the two first meet the juxtaposition of the colors stands out, as their friendship grows they both start wearing each other's colors. The color palette is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is also very symbolic and adds to the storytelling. I've seen similar applications like in the film 500 Days Of Summer, but I love the way Damian Horan shot this film, almost making the colors a standalone character. The art direction by Gavin Mosier and set design decoration by Mily Moreno is genius; kudos to the entire art department. Sophia Reid-Gantzert as Erwin and Lincoln Lambert as Winston make the cutest duo. They're such great actors individually, but also they work so well together. One of my favorite characters is Cheryl Hines as Aunt Tammy; she's a hairdresser and utilizes her craft as an art form. I also like how every character serves a different purpose in the film. I love the storyline; not only is it adorable but this film offers a great representation of what kids go through in high school and I think people can relate to many aspects of this film.

This film deals with many different themes like bullying, friendship, doing what is best for others, and other themes. The film's message is that popularity isn't everything and anyone can find true friendship.

I give Popular Theory 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Popular Theory is available now in theaters.

By Zo� C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


ORION AND THE DARK
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
ORION AND THE DARK
NETFLIX Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5 - 12
Description - A boy with an active imagination faces his fears on an unforgettable journey through the night with his new friend: a giant, smiling creature named Dark.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - See youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The film Orion and the Dark is a family friendly film that includes various types of emotions such as sad, happy, afraid and more. I love the animation and the contrast between the light and dark.

The storyline follows a boy named Orion (Jacob Temblay). Orion is terrified of the dark until one night an entity named Dark comes to his house to show him there is no reason to be afraid. He takes Orion with him to show him his job. In the process, Dark takes Orion to see the other night entities. Everytime he goes to see all the night entities' jobs he ends up messing them up. Orion explains to the other night entities how Light is amazing and Dark is bad. Dark overhears him and thinks nobody likes him. All the other night entities quit because they want to see how the Light is. Dark has to do his job all by himself now. Dark doesn't want to do his job alone so he goes into the light and disappears. Orion gets all the night entities back together to save Dark. To do that dream goes in his imagination and finds Dark there. In the end Orion likes the dark and appreciates them now because without dark it was too light.

My favorite part of this film is when Dark takes Orion to see his job. I think it is so cool to see Dark and Orion fly through the sky. I also enjoy watching the night entities doing their job. I especially love Dream's job. It is amazing how Dream goes into people's imagination and makes their dreams out of something that has happened in their life. It is very surprising when the audience realizes that Orion and the Dark is a story that future Orion is telling his daughter, explaining how he gets over his fear of the dark.

The film's message is to face your fears because if you don't you will miss out on life. At the end, Orion faces his fear! He just does it and he feels better. He feels like he can accomplish and do anything now.

I give Orion And The Dark 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. This film starts streaming on Netflix February 2, 2024.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


NASHVILLLE WISH, A
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
NASHVILLLE WISH, A
VISION FILMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - A country singer falls for the girl of his dreams and has to choose between love and his dreams of stardom in Nashville.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A Nashville Wish is the romantic country film of a lifetime. Combining drama, country music, and romance, this film is engaging and enjoyable. It has strong acting, pleasant music and, for the most part, an excellent storyline.

This film follows Tucker (Maxfield Camp) as he navigates the ups and downs of his musical career and his relationship throughout his senior year of high school and the following summer. Tucker has a dream relationship with his longtime crush, the cheer captain, Lisa (Kaileigh Bullard). However, this relationship begins to create more obstacles and challenges for Tucker as he is forced to decide whether the greatest love of his life is worth sacrificing the possibility of his lifelong dream, to record music in Nashville. With Lisa's parents disapproving of Tucker, their long term plan for her in the family business, and her reputation in town, she also has to make a difficult decision.

The characters in A Nashville Wish are portrayed meaningfully and emotionally. Tucker and Lisa are both very dynamic characters who have deep, personal backstories. For example, we discover that some of Tucker's motives are due to a family loss a few years back. This demonstrates even further the depth of each character and how much effort went into creating these characters and bringing them to life onscreen. The acting fully mirrors the talent of the writers. Maxfield Camp and Kaileigh Bullard have amazing chemistry as a couple throughout the highs and lows of their onscreen relationship. They are so genuine; it truly seems like they're in love. Maxfield wonderfully accentuates Tucker's changes through a variety of conflicts, emotions, friendships and so much more. To match the spectacular characters and acting, the music is fantastic and fits the movie in every way. Despite not being a big country music fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the songs that are incorporated at every twist and turn of the plot. They help express the characters' emotions and thoughts, and also help with the setting and mood of the film. The tone of the music always matches the events occurring in the film. While the songs help move the story along, the story is a bit lacking at times. Although the plot and the concept is unique and very engaging, some of the subplots failed to engage me and ended up slowing down the movement of the story. For example, parts of the film focus on Tucker's best friend, Chewy (Fletcher Olsen). Although the character and the acting are perfect for the film, some of the storyline involving him is really unnecessary and slow.

The theme of A Nashville Wish is that when difficult decisions come around in life, it's important to think long and hard about your priorities so you don't make irrational decisions. Tucker's big decision is the main focal point of the film and this message is emphasized through his character and his decisions.

I give A Nashville Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can watch A Nashville Wish in theaters beginning February 2, 2024, and on video on demand beginning February 27, 2024.

By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

With a foot-tapping score, A Nashville Wish is a classic family watch that delivers exactly what it promises -- a high school romance with some country music.

In a small town in West Virginia, high school senior Tucker (Maxfield Camp) has big dreams to travel to Nashville and cement his career as a country music star with his best friend Chewie (Fletcher Olson) after graduation. He falls in love with the beautiful cheerleader Lisa (Kaileigh Bullard), and she's smitten by him as well after a serendipitous event at a concert where their favorite artist Cassie Jo Campbell (Alexis Gomez) is playing. There's just one problem -- Lisa comes from a wealthy family who owns a prominent business in town, and her parents won't let her go to Nashville with Tucker. Lisa defies her parents, and all is set. But in a conveniently-timed scene, right before they leave for Nashville, Chewie tells her that she will ruin Tucker's chances of becoming a star and convinces her to dump Tucker and stay home. Now Tucker is heartbroken in Nashville, and Lisa is heartbroken in West Virginia. Viewers will see how the two get back together -- if at all -- and the role Cassie Jo Campbell plays in Tucker's life.

There's no diving deep into emotions, psyche, or similar here; A Nashville Wish is among the leagues of Hallmark-esque films releasing each year, which is perfectly fine. It works as good, clean family entertainment. The acting is passable, with Camp and Olson, ironically enough, having the best chemistry with one another. A couple scenes are interestingly staged, including a musical interlude where Tucker and Lisa are in the middle of a field alone...except for a truck full of singers behind them. The cinematography is good, though, with lots of medium shots and closeups that squeeze as much emotion out of the script as possible. The music is the most striking element, as it should be in a country music-centric film. Admittedly, I'm not a country connoisseur, but the songs are amazing, both in terms of the vocals and production quality. Lee Greenwood is the most recognizable voice as Grandpa Woods. T. Graham Brown sings a country and gospel song, and the film leads Maxfield Camp, Kaileigh Bullard, and Alexis Gomez do as well.

A Nashville Wish promotes following your passion and finding a balance between personal and professional aspirations by focusing on the professional first, and then letting the personal fall into place.

I give A Nashville Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 plus adults. You can watch A Nashville Wish in theaters beginning February 2, 2024, and on video on demand beginning February 27, 2024.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

A Nashville Wish is a moving musical with an inspiring success story. It is set in the countryside and told by interesting, dynamic characters and impressive musical performances. I love the encouraging environment the movie creates with characters who provide support for one another.

The movie follows a recent high school graduate, Tucker (Maxfield Camp), who is an aspiring country singer. Tucker and his best friend Chewy (Fletcher Olson) are ready to hit the road to Nashville to become stars when Tucker's dream girl, Lisa (Kaileigh Bullard), a popular cheerleader from a prestigious but strict family, suddenly and unexpectedly takes an interest in him. Unfortunately, Lisa's parents are disapproving of Tucker's plan, forcing Tucker to make a decision that could change the course of his future.

One thing I love about A Nashville Wish is that Tucker has a great support system - the encouragement from his family and friends is clear from the beginning. Chewy and Tucker have shared the same dream of moving to Nashville to become famous since they were in fourth grade. It is nice that Tucker has a friend who shares his interests. And for many artists, gaining family approval presents a challenge, but this is not an obstacle Tucker faces, as his parents and grandfather (Lee Greenwood) truly believe in his star potential and urge him to pursue his passions. I admire Tucker's perseverance as well. At times, his life is hard, such as when he is struggling for money in Nashville. But music is Tucker's dream for a very long time - he never considers giving up on it, and eventually he finds success and stardom! The singing in the movie is also worthy of praise - all the main actors have vocal training and a background in music, adding to the film's authenticity. A Nashville Wish takes you on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, from the move to Nashville and arguments with Chewy to Tucker's date with Lisa at a Cassie Jo Campbell (Alexis Gomez) concert. Tucker's duet with Cassie makes the film wholesome and brings it full circle.

A Nashville Wish reminds us that determination is vital to succeed. It's what drives you to go for your biggest goals, even when the world deals you a tricky hand. It's also a reminder to keep your eyes on the prize and trust that the small things will work themselves out - the universe has a plan for you. So stay focused and remember to thank the people who believe in you!

I give A Nashville Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. A Nashville Wish releases in theaters beginning February 2, 2024, and on video on demand beginning February 27, 2024.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $ 9
Media: FeatureFilm


TASTE OF THINGS, THE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
TASTE OF THINGS, THE
IFC FLMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - The relationship between Eugenie, an esteemed cook, and Dodin, the gourmet she has been working for over the last 20 years. Growing fonder of one another, their bond turns into a romance and gives rise to delicious dishes that impress even the world's most illustrious chefs. When Dodin is faced with Eugenie's reluctance to commit to him, he decides to start cooking for her.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A leisurely, luminous portrait of love, culture and cuisine, The Taste of Things is a feast for the eyes. It's all about partnership through a shared passion, conveying feelings through fewer words and baked Alaska. With such deep themes and beautiful visuals, no wonder it's France's selection for this year's Academy Awards.

The Taste of Things is a tough movie to summarize. It's about so much more than its plot... but here goes. The film takes place entirely in a 19th century French manor, mostly in its warmly-lit, wood-accented kitchen and centers on the bonds between the characters. Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel), an esteemed gourmet partly based on real-life gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin, oversees the meal, helps with the cooking and visits with his group of friends. His partner in the kitchen, Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), beams as she whips up dozens of French culinary marvels. They have two assistants, who seem more like daughters, the teen Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and her niece Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire). This scene unfolds each day for years. The film follows Dodin's and Eugenie's romance as it evolves from unspoken partnership to marriage to separation by illness, as well as how the younger members of the kitchen grow.The Taste of Things is a film about indulgence -- in food, in love, in family. It also shows viewers that truly powerful relationships are those that transcend labels and that are bound by shared love for one another and, in this case, a shared passion. It shows viewers that food is inextricably tied to love, life and joy. Be forewarned that the film does contain scenes with partial nudity and smoking.

I give The Taste of Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Taste of Things releases on February 9, 2024 in theaters and is an Oscar nominee.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


MEAN GIRLS
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MEAN GIRLS
PARAMOUNT PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Cady Heron is a hit with the Plastics, an A-list girl clique at her new school. But everything changes when she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Get in losers! The iconic Mean Girls is back in its new modern day adaptation for a new generation of fans to enjoy. As a brilliant combination of the 2004 movie and the Broadway musical, this film is stunning, entertaining and the perfect movie to start the New Year!

Mean Girls borrows the same storyline as the original film, with plenty of plot twists. The film is presented as a story narrated by Janice (Auli'i Cravalho) and Damien (Jaquel Spivey). It follows Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), a new student at North Shore High School who moved to the US from Kenya. She makes friends with Janice and Damien, and eventually crosses paths with Regina George (Rene� Rapp), Gretchen Weiners (Bebe Wood) and Karen Shetty (Avantika), also known as "The Plastics." When Cady is sent to spy on The Plastics by Janice and Damien, it sets off a series of chain reactions including drama, betrayal, and getting hit by a bus.

Fans of both the original Mean Girls movie and the Mean Girls Broadway musical will not be disappointed. My favorite song was "Someone Gets Hurt" sung by Renee Rapp. From her gorgeous vocals and the beautiful scenery, this performance is so mesmerizing that it could have been a stand-alone music video. I love that they include other songs from the Broadway show like "Apex Predator" and "Revenge Party" as well as new ones. I also love the special cameo appearances and newly discovered facts about the original characters; both of which really add depth to the film. I love how the movie includes things like social media and other references to things unavailable in 2004. I watched this film in theaters and there were so many places where I just wanted to pause or rewind it because they were so mind blowing. This is a movie I would love to see again!

The film's message is to be yourself and not get caught up with the wrong people. Cady was so fed up of "living the life" with The Plastics that she betrays her true friends and loses the smart and sweet girl she originally was. Parents should be aware that there is foul language as well as suggestive topics and special effects that are so realistic they will make you gasp.

I give Mean Girls 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18, plus adults. Be sure to watch after the credits for a very short post credits scene. Be sure to check out Mean Girls in theaters now!

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I like the musical remake film Mean Girls because of its interesting plot and enjoyable characters. It's very relatable for teenagers and hilariously entertaining to watch.

The film follows Cady who moves to a new town where a notorious popular clique runs the local high school. She becomes close with them to spy on them for her other friends and get closer to a guy. In the process, her acting isn't as fake anymore.

The main characters are Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), Janis 'Imi'ike (Auli'i Cravalho), Regina George (Rene� Rapp), Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey), Karen Shetty (Avantika), Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood) and Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney). The casting is perfect in the film. The actors are not only wonderful, but they portray the characters in the original movie. They all have different and unique personalities. Mean Girls has many musical numbers. The characters randomly break out into song, which is a bit cheesy at some points, but it makes it stand apart from the original movie. The camerawork is magnificent because it captures the whole setting of the kids at school and their personal interactions. The lighting really stand out during the musical numbers where it enhances the contrast between the singer and the rest of the cast. When Regina is singing, she is illuminated while the rest of the cast is standing still, unlit and frozen. I applaud the producer, Tina Fey, who also plays Ms. Norbury. Speaking of a previous cast member, there is a special cameo appearance of the original Cady Heron by Lindsay Lohan. I recommend watching the original Mean Girls (2004) because there are many iconic scenes that are included in this film. The inclusion of those scenes makes me appreciate the movie even more. My favorite part of the film is its humor. There is a lot of it and it made me laugh a lot while watching it. Important to mention is that the humor is all based on things that today's teens can relate to. The term "text slang" is used as well as other new and trending concepts and words.

The film's message is to be yourself and don't pretend to be someone you're not. Cady wants to become like Regina, but she learns that her true self is what makes her special. This film has foul language and the use of many inappropriate terms.

I give Mean Girls 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Mean Girls releases in theaters January 12, 202

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Do you have what it takes to be on top of the social food chain? Join the clique, the Plastics, and get ready to watch the reimagined, iconic 2004 Mean Girls movie this winter with friends and family!

Cady (Angourie Rice) is the new kid at North Shore High, where she befriends Janice (Auli'i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey). Regina George (Renee Rapp), Karen (Avantika Vandanapu) and Gretchen (Bebe Wood) take Cady in as one of the Plastics. When Cady falls for Regina's ex she finds herself in her cross hairs and, while being part of the Plastics, Cady betrays her true friends Janice and Damian. Through the film, Cady realizes that she was wrong and that should just be herself and make it up to Janice and Damian. She learns that everyone is special and should be recognized for that.

What I enjoy the most about this film are the stunning show tunes. I love the catchy rhythm and voices of the actors! My favorite song is "Someone Gets Hurt." I also really like the costume designs. The costumes have a modern Y2K style, which Gen Z teens can relate to. Another thing worth mentioning is the cast. Each actor plays their character perfectly and has their own spin on the classic characters. For example, Bebe Wood allows the audience to feel the emotions of Gretchen on a deeper level. When Regina bosses her around, Gretchen gets fed up with having to deal with Regina to the point that she doesn't let Regina sit with them at lunch when she breaks one of the Plastics rules. Kudos to the casting director. I really love how this film reimagines the original Mean Girls. I love how they keep the iconic lines and songs in this film. Lastly I love the set designs, especially those during the musical numbers that are bright and on theme.

The film's message is to focus on yourself and be nice because everyone in this world just wants to coexist. This film teaches us that we are special in our own way and we should not try to be someone we are not. We should not have to change who we are just to fit in. Please be advised that there is harsh language and other age-inappropriate content in this film.

I give Mean Girls 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Mean Girls is available in theaters now.

By Valerie R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: Web Series


MASTERS OF  THE AIR
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MASTERS OF THE AIR
APPLE TV Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: TV SERIES, AGES 12-18
Description - An Apple Original Series from Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman - the producers of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. During World War II, airmen risk their lives with the 100th Bomb Group, a brotherhood forged by courage, loss, and triumph. Masters of the Air is based on the 2007 book Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany by Donald L. Miller and follows the actions of the 100th Bomb Group, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber unit in the Eighth Air Force in eastern England during World War II. The series serves as a companion to Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010). It is the first series to be produced by Apple Studios, in cooperation with Playtone, and Amblin Television.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Masters of the Air is exactly the kind of masterpiece viewers expect from the dynamic duo of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Perfect for fans of war dramas, Masters of the Air has the rich plotline and sky-high production quality to not only entertain, but even educate its viewers; it's a shame that the pacing lets the magnificent series down slightly.

Adapted from Donald L. Miller's book of the same name, Masters of the Air presents in nine episodes the story of eleven men who, in a plane called the "Flying Fortress," battle flocks of German fighters. These men were a part of the 100th Bombardment Group of the US Army Air Forces in World War II, nicknamed the "Bloody Hundredth," due to the heavy losses they suffered over the course of their campaigns. They embark on a scintillating journey as they work to destroy Hitler's Third Reich. It's truly a momentous story.

Both Band of Brothers and The Pacific, the films that Masters of Air is linked with (it provides the Air Force narrative to supplement their stories of terrestrial and naval warfare) are well-known for their incredible visuals and CGI. Masters of Air is no different; the midair combat is almost dizzyingly realistic, the sets are stunningly crafted, and every character's look is intricately pieced together. The series warrants a theater experience, which viewers unfortunately won't get. These amazing VFX are thanks to the high production budget of the film -- between $200 million and $250 million. The series also has some incredible talent behind it, though; Austin Butler, who plays Major Gale Cleven, and Barry Keoghan, who plays Lt. Curtis Biddick, headline Masters of the Air, and their brotherhood and bond is palpable. Their storyline becomes especially strong after an unfortunate turn of events when they're taken as prisoners of war. The only knock on Masters of the Air is its pacing; every episode feels lengthy, but the first two episodes are especially rough. It was tough to sit and wait for the plot to get moving, though there are combat scenes after the first half-hour of episode 1. I suppose it took me some time to get used to Cary Joji Fukunaga's style of direction, though he ensures that every part of each scene he films has not a hair out of place, which is commendable.

Masters of the Air is a lesson in patriotism, courage and resilience. The men of the show stick together even when death is at their doorstep -- not just for their own pride or sanity, but more importantly, for their country.

I give Masters of the Air 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The first two episodes of this miniseries will release on Apple TV+ on January 26, 2024. New episodes will be released the following Fridays through March 15.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: TV


UNDER THE INFLUENCER
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
UNDER THE INFLUENCER
VISION FILMS
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - A 25-yr-old influencer struggles to cling on to her status but is running out of tricks. Will she have to separate her online persona from her authentic self?
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Under The Influencer is one of the most optimistic films I've ever seen! You get a taste of what it's like behind the scenes in a social media influencer's life, including all the struggles and accomplishments, too. Not everything turns out as planned and life gets in the way, which makes for a great film for those on a journey to finding themself.

We follow Tori (Taylor Scorse) as her YouTube account following begins slowly plummeting but that's all she eats, sleeps, and breathes. During this time she is not only desperately trying to find ways to fix it, but is also trying to heal from a messy Internet break up . Throughout this time Tori is coming to terms with the fact that her personal life and her social media life might need to cross paths, but she is not comfortable with making that happen. She enjoys learning new things about herself but struggles to grasp the fact that her content is taking over her life, and not in a good way. Tori hits complete rock bottom, and that's when she starts to make a breakthrough. She lets go of some people and has new experiences with others that affect her for the better. As for locations, from the sunsets to the mansions the settings were great. The acting was pretty spot on as well and some of the characters make their mark when it comes to learning the life lessons. Overall this film is great and watching it unravel will definitely prompt emotions in audiences.

Under The Influencer is relatable and shows realistic challenges for not just influencers but all people, too. When you see what the true meaning behind this film is it really touches the heart. Tori starts to see how social media is crushing the real her behind the mask she puts on. And yet she is not completely alone, as her best friend and employee Sara (Chandler Young) helps her through her journey of showing who she really is. Tori never really stays low when she gets knocked down; she just keeps learning and doing what's best for her.

The film's message is to not be afraid to show the world the real you. You never know what is going to happen or change in your life. So learn from the mistakes you make to improve yourself.

I give Under the Influencer 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Under The Influencer is available now on VOD!

By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Under The Influencer is an amazing tale of social media and self-identity. The topics are very relatable and modern to teens as well as others.

The plot of this film centers around a girl named Tori who has a large following on her YouTube channel. No matter what she does though, the channel gets a large amount of hateful comments on it for no reason. As the film progresses she begins to resent the life she's built and the tension continues as the plot develops.

One of the most exquisite parts of this film is simply how relatable it is today. The presence of social media and the hate that spirals from it is not uncommon. This sort of tension is what a lot of people face now with the influence of the internet growing as rapidly as it has. It helps the film's relatability to teens and other influencers. Another spectacular part of the film that is very interesting to see is the way they portray YouTube channels as a type of business or enterprise. Rather than just one person filming videos in their basement they showed a team of people working to plan everything out perfectly and keep the image of the influencer intact. It's one of the reasons the fans of the fictional channel in the film thought everything was so fake. It just didn't seem genuine. Going off of that another really important part of the movie is the way the fans react when the content is fake vs genuine. People like to see the real and unfiltered side of people on YouTube and other social media platforms rather than just the scripted highlights of others' lives. It makes the whole thing a lot more relatable.

The film's message is to just be yourself and never change or destroy yourself for others, because that's never going to get anyone anywhere.

I give Under The Influencer 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film is available now on DVD and VOD.

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

Under the Influencer is an uplifting and satisfying film with a very important message. Romance is blended with working and friendship elements, which gives it a little bit of everything. The acting and writing deliver an important message, despite some slower patches in the film.

Under the Influencer follows Tori (Taylor Joree Scorse) as she starts off as a very successful influencer. Her views and popularity start to decline significantly, and she can't figure out why. She realizes that, not only has she lost the approval and support of fans, but she's also lost herself. She put all of her effort and focus into her social media persona. When she can no longer rely on fame and positivity, she takes off on a journey to determine who she really is when she's not in front of a camera. She has to figure out what she, not the girl on the camera, enjoys.

The highlight of this film is how the message is incorporated in a way that not only emphasizes it, but also keeps it entertaining and related to the storyline and the protagonist. Taylor Joree Scorse places such a strong emphasis on this message through her acting. She lets her emotions shine through; demonstrating how being lost and not knowing who she is affects her. She uses her facial expressions and body language to accentuate the theme, plus, her dialogue allows the message to shine through. There are lines and moments when her inner struggle is so clear -- she doesn't know who to be, and the things she says or doesn't say really show the impact this has on her. The ending wraps up the film so nicely, tying the new romantic element into the message, and leaving viewers with a positive feeling. While this part of the film is very enjoyable, there are definitely some weaker aspects. There are a few stretches that seem unnecessarily long and get a bit boring. There are some very important scenes and moments within these stretches, but there's a bit too much extraneous stuff that takes away from the stronger, more important parts of the film.

The film's message is that finding yourself is the most important thing in life. It's easy to get lost in pretending to be someone else, especially as a social media influencer who's constantly trying to please other people. This theme makes the film uplifting, encouraging people to find parts of themselves they either didn't know they had or wanted to hide before.

I give Under the Influencer 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. You can watch Under the Influencer on VOD beginning December 12, 2023.

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


WONKA
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
WONKA
WARNER BROS. PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - With dreams of opening a shop in a city renowned for its chocolate, a young and poor Willy Wonka discovers that the industry is run by a cartel of greedy chocolatiers.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Wonka is a magical, vibrant and fresh retelling of the classic story that the world needs right now. With a spectacular cast, eye-catching visuals, and an absorbing story, Wonka is the perfect holiday treat.

Wonka takes place prior to the Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, so we follow a young Willy Wonka (Timoth�e Chalamet), who travels to London to make his name known and share his chocolate with the world. Opposed by Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman) and Bleacher (Tom Davis), Willy is prevented from selling his candy, but with the help of his companion Noodle (Calah Lane), he just may have a chance.

Wonka's cast is nothing short of incredible. Every single performance adds to the overall feeling of the world with some wacky and eccentric characters. For me, Timoth�e Chalamet delivers the most surprising and fun performance. He really embodies Willy Wonka's older self, but adds younger nuances, with his innocence, enthusiasm and wit. Hugh Grant, who has a much smaller, but unforgettable role as an Oompa-Loompa, delivers by far the funniest lines in the film. He is pretty much playing Hugh Grant, but in the best way possible, and he adds so much flair to the movie which makes it so much more enjoyable. Wonka's visuals are one of the best parts of the film, and are very unique and dream-like. A distinct visual style is seen in the sky, the outfits, and setting. Director Paul King and Production Designer Nathan Crowley create a very fantastical and whimsical 1930s London. Wonka is incredibly atmospheric in its set design and feels pulled right out of the pages of a storybook. Wonka feels necessary and worthwhile because it truly embraces the elements that viewers were drawn to in the first place - a magical escape into a world of vibrant imagination. On the other hand, Wonka is surprising because while it precedes a well-known story, it introduces elements that surpass the classic. The story feels original and refreshing.

Wonka beautifully captures the importance of aspirations and dreams. Willy begins the movie without anything, but is pushed by his undying imagination. Wonka encourages viewers to embrace creativity and passion, forgetting all limitations and striving for a bright future.

I give Wonka 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Catch Wonka December 15, 2023 in theaters.

By Daniel S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

Wonka is an amazing movie! This film, directed by Paul King, is a feel-good musical that took me on a very emotional ride. Viewers learn the origin story of the eccentric chocolatier and magician.

Willy (Timoth�e Chalamet) dreams of opening a chocolate shop in the Gallery Gourmet but quickly runs out of money. He meets Bleacher (Tom Davis), who introduces Willy to Mrs. Scrubbitt (Olivia Colman), who tricks him into a contract and forces him to work in her laundry room to pay off his debt. There he meets other indentured workers - Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter), Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell), Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar) and Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher). Noodle (Calah Lane) becomes Willy's closest ally and joins him to defeat the corrupt Chocolate Cartel and reach his goal of opening a chocolate shop.

I never expected to feel so many emotions in a Willy Wonka movie. There is the familiar magicalness of Willy who whips up the most amazing chocolate and candy confections, like Hoverchocs that can make you fly. Yet the performances, musical score and art direction really pulled me into the story. The song, "Pure Imagination," appears in different versions throughout the film and adds to the emotional experience. I really like the character development and the sibling-like friendship between Willy and Noodle. When Willy agrees to secretly leave town to free his friends, Timoth�e Chalamet's singing of "Sorry Noodle" had me crying my eyes out. The evilness of the Chocolate Cartel led by Mr. Slugworth (Paterson Joseph) had me so angry as they repeatedly try to defeat Willy and they eventually trap Willy and Noodle. My favorite part is when the Oompa Loompa Lofty (Hugh Grant) saves Willy and Noodle from being drowned in chocolate.

The message of Wonka is to let your imagination run wild and keep striving for your dreams even when the odds are stacked against you. In the end, the struggle will be worth it, especially if you have friends to share your success with.

I give Wonka 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. The film will be released in theaters on December 15, 2023.

By Kira O, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Let's step into a world of pure imagination! The new Wonka film is nothing short of magical! The entire cast shines and my whole family loved this movie. This movie is extra colorful, extra magical, extra sweet and deliciously decadent.

Based on the extraordinary character at the center of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl's iconic children's book, Wonka tells the wondrous story of how the world's greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today. It is a prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Starring Timoth�e Chalamet in the title role, this irresistibly vivid and inventive big screen spectacle introduces audiences to a young Willy Wonka, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world -- one delectable bite at a time, proving that the best things in life begin with a dream, and, if you're lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible.

As a fan of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I loved Wonka. I love all the songs and dance numbers. It is a scrumdiddlyumptions musical. I was laughing out loud in the theater and the entire cast had me in awe. The movie has an intoxicating mix of magic and music, mayhem and emotion, all told with fabulous heart and humor. Timothee Chalamet is extraordinary as Willy Wonka. He is brilliant as he dances, sings, makes chocolate, and follows his dreams. He had me smiling from ear to ear the entire movie. Keegan Michale Key as the chief of police is hilarious. He is just so funny throughout the entire movie as he is always trying to catch Wonka and eating way too many sweets. Calah Lane, as Noodle, is perfect for this role. She is brilliant in the movie and her story in the movie is beautiful. I loved watching her and Timothee Chalamet on screen together. The chemistry between the two of them is just perfect. I love all the vibrant colors throughout the movie. The costumes are amazing and fit the movie perfectly. I predict that audiences will be singing and dancing and loving every minute of this movie just like I was and leaving the theater with a sweet tooth for more Wonka!

The film's message is about following your dreams. The character Wonka is full of ideas and has a wonderful imagination. He is determined to change the world, open a store and he does not let anything get in his way or stop him. He follows his dreams and believes in himself.

I give Wonka 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. You can watch Wonka in theaters beginning December 15, 2023.

By Kennedy P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


BOY AND THE HERON, THE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
BOY AND THE HERON, THE
GKIDS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - From Academy Award winning and internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy And The Heron follows the incredible journey of young Mahito. After he experiences the tragic loss of his mother, Mahito settles into a new town that is anything but ordinary. After several strange encounters with a grey heron, Mahito goes on a search for his mother that leads him to a magical world unknown.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Boy And The Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a very unique Japanese film. The amazing high quality sound effects and suspenseful background music are spectacular. However, this film does get confusing very quickly.

This semi-autobiographical animated movie follows the story of young Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki), who tragically loses his mother in a fire and moves to the country with his dad Shoichi (Takuya Kimura) and his step-mom Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura). Action soon rises after Mahito interacts with a talking gray heron (Masaki Suda) who is revealed to be a shapeshifting avian guide. The gray heron alludes to Mahito's mother still being alive and Mahito goes on a journey to find her.

The sound effects in The Boy And The Heron enhance the film tremendously. Even though this film is animated the sound effects make it seem almost as if it is a live action film. From realistic deep footsteps to the realistic sounds of crashing ocean waves; sound director K�ji Kasamatsu absolutely brought this movie to life. I also enjoyed the background music throughout this film. The music by Joe Hisaishi creates suspenseful and surprising moments that kept me engaged throughout my viewing experience. My favorite scene in the movie is when Mahito and a fisherwomen named Kiriko (K� Shibasaki) watch the Warwara (creatures whole embody both life and death) be released into the normal world. The music is beautiful and creates a sense of awe and wonder. Who could forget the gorgeous animation by the world renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki? Every scene in this movie is animated to perfection. For example, when Mahito first enters this new world he lands on an island surrounded by a vast deep blue ocean and stormy clouds. The ocean waves crash very fluidly and the clouds are different shades of purple and move very realistically. The detail and fluidity of the animation does not go unnoticed. As much as I like this film, I did find it somewhat confusing. Over the course of two hours we primarily follow the main character searching for his mother, but this plot is somewhat drowned out by many other side plots taking place, which makes things murky and difficult to track.

The film's message is to not let grief hold you back and to find different healthy ways to move on. However, this film delivers this message in a very confusing way. It's important to note that this movie contains mentions of self-harm, minor cursing, gore and small jump scares that could be frightening to younger audiences.

I give The Boy And The Heron 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters December 8, 2023. Make sure you give it a watch!

By Tia O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The film The Boy and The Heron is unlike any film I've ever seen before. I was in awe with the beautiful scenery and the music that goes from simple piano notes to complex orchestrations.

The storyline follows a family living during a time of war in Tokyo. Tragically, the main character, Mahito Maki's (Soma Santoki) mother dies in a fire at the hospital where she works. Years later, Mahito and his father move from Tokyo to start a new life with his new step-mother. Outside this new home, Mahito is drawn to a gray heron that seems to be taunting him and leading him to a tower on the property. His step-mother, Natsuko, (Yoshino Kimura) disappears and Mahito follows the heron into the tower in search of her. Entering the tower brings him into another world where he meets his mother from another time and together they race to find Natsuko while battling many obstacles such as pelicans, parakeets and the heron's sneaky and selfish ways.

I love the character, Kiriko (Ko Shibasaki), both in her younger and older self. She is helpful and fierce and stays by Mahito's side. The ship she lives on in the strange tower world is so beautiful and the idea of her taking care of the warawara before they float into our world and are born as human beings shows how nurturing she is. I really enjoy how this movie makes me think and make connections between parallel worlds. I knew that Lady Himi was going to be his mom and when I realized that he was meeting her during the year she vanished into the tower when she was younger, my mind was blown as the puzzle came together. I was also shocked when Natsuko said that Mahito's mom is her sister! There are many twists and turns in this film that kept me on the edge of my seat. The artistry in the animation, by Hayao Miyazaki, is really neat to watch and made me want to research and learn more about the film and about anime.

The film's message is to find acceptance after the loss of a loved one and to find peace during a time of turmoil. Mahito struggles with personal grief while his country is also struggling during a period of war.

I give The Boy and The Heron 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This film releases in theaters December 8, 2023.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


CANDY CANE LANE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
CANDY CANE LANE
AMAZON PRIME Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-18
Description - Eddie Murphy stars in this holiday comedy adventure about a man on a mission to win his neighborhood's annual Christmas home decoration contest. After Chris (Eddie Murphy) inadvertently makes a deal with a mischievous elf named Pepper (Jillian Bell) to better his chances of winning, she casts a magic spell that brings the 12 Days of Christmas to life and wreaks havoc on the whole town. At the risk of ruining the holidays for his family, Chris, his wife Carol (Tracee Ellis Ross), and their three children must race against the clock to break Pepper's spell, battle deviously magical characters and save Christmas for everyone.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - Eddie Murphy nails it in this holiday film that is definitely destined to become an evergreen Christmas go to. I really didn't know too much about it before watching it and was surprised at the inclusion of the CGI generated miniature people, which adds another layer of zaniness to it.

The story follows the annual holiday seasonal competition in El Segundo, CA, known as Candy Cane Lane where neighbors fiercely compete for best decorated house. This year's competition is amped up with the promise of a $100K prize wife (Tracee Ellis Ross), daughter Joy (), son Nick (Thaddeus J. Mixon and younger daughter Holly (Madison Thomas) aren't quite on board until they learn the severity of the situation.

Madison Thomas definitely steals the show as her dad's sidekick, following him into the popup mysterious and somewhat ominous Christmas shop called Kringle's hidden away under a freeway overpass. Another show stopper is Pepper (Jillian Bell), the shop owner whose ethics are questionable from the get go. Then, there are the magical little village people - Pip (Nick Offerman), Cordelia (Robin Thede), Gary (Christ Redd) and a group of seemingly innocent carolers who burst into song with the slightest provocation. The twisted tale of how Pepper has connived capturing these little people unravels as the plot develops. My favorite part is the 12 Days of Christmas "tree" that Chris falls for and brings home only to learn that each of the elements becomes real - and real enough to be real problems. All of a sudden seven swans are swimming in the Carver's pool. Geese are laying eggs while air borne and dropping them on innocent bystanders, like Carver's wife! Pipers are piping and dancing in the street; drummers are drumming and making pests of themselves. All this madcap craziness comes to a head as Chris hustles to complete his tasks of gathering the golden rings before the magic hour, only to discover minutes before that the number of rings he thought he needed to procure, was vastly underestimated, since the song repeats them with each round and it's 40, not 5 that he needs to collect or become one of the little village people that Pepper bosses around. However the family rallies, Santa shows up, and ultimately, the good guys win and the bad guys are punished.

The film's message really comes down to the importance of family. As Chris tells his family, "everything I do I do for you." And they come to understand that is really true.

I give Candy Cane Lane 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, or those who are kids at heart. It is available now on Prime Video so, check it out. I promise you'll get some good laughs out of it.

Julie S., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Candy Cane Lane is the perfect Christmas Movie to watch with your family and friends in 2023. Candy Cane Lane is filled with adventures, magic and laughter. It definitely brings the Christmas spirits to life!

The story follows a family from El Segundo, California who live on a street called Candy Cane Lane, where every year there is a contest for the best house lit up for Christmas. During this year's contest the competition between all the neighbors is way more intense than in previous years. To win this competition families must have the best and brightest lighting, the biggest Santas, the most colorful elves, the loudest music and the most incredible angels on their front yard. The dad, Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy) finds out about this huge contest on TV and goes crazy. He tries everything to win first place, even making a deal with a lunatic elf, Pepper (Jillian Bell), without even realizing that what he is doing would create a big problem for his family and the whole town.

The film is hilarious, has a twist on classic songs, and a family we can all relate to. Mom, Carol Carver (Tracee Ellis Ross), is a super hard-working woman who is trying to get a promotion at work during the busiest time of the year. The oldest daughter, Joy Carver (Genneya Walton), has a dream to go to college and be part of the track team. The middle son, Nick Carver (Thaddeus J. Mixxon), is not a big math student, but has a passion for music and the youngest daughter, Holly Carver (Madison Thomas), loves Christmas as much as her dad. One of my favorite scenes is when Chris and Holly Carver are looking for Christmas decorations and find a store in the middle of nowhere. The special effects in that store are super fun and magical. Another great scene is when the contest starts at Candy Cane Lane and Santa shows up in his sleigh, points his finger at every house on the street, and viewers erupt with excitement as each house brings a Christmas theme to life. You must watch and see the seasonal magic happening at Carver's house. I know you will just love it as much as I did.

The film's message is that family comes first and they will always be there for you. It doesn't matter what challenges you are facing, when you have your family by your side, you will always figure out a way to find solutions.

I give Candy Cane Lane 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. It is available on Prime Video beginning December 1, 2023.

By Keila V., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie Candy Cane Lane, directed by Reginald Hudlin. The witty humor and stunning set design make this one of my new favorite holiday movies.

This adventurous comedy follows Christmas lover Chris Carver (Eddie Murphy) and his family as they compete in the annual neighborhood house decorating Christmas contest. However this year the stakes are higher; the winner of the contest will receive a $100,000 cash prize. After unintentionally making a deal with mischievous elf Pepper (Jillian Bell), she casts a spell that brings the 12 Days of Christmas to life. To prevent disaster before Christmas, Chris and his family must break Pepper's spell before it's too late.

The humor in Candy Cane Lane is one of its biggest highlights. Eddie Murphy's comedic timing and quick-witted performance make for some laugh-out-loud moments. He also brings charm, joy, and relatability to his character through his distinctive comedic style, making him one of my personal favorite characters. Chris Carver is the type of dad every kid would love to spend time with during the holidays. The set design in this film is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Set designer Adam Mull absolutely captures the wonder of the Christmas Spirit in every set design. My favorite scene is when Chris and his daughter Holly (Madison Thomas) first meet Pepper at her Christmas Shop. As soon as they both walk through the door the scene explodes with Christmas magic; each Christmas tree is decorated with beautiful unique ornaments and the environment made me feel like I was right there in the scene. Adam Mull transformed this movie into an onscreen winter wonderland; in every scene you can see how much time and effort went into this film's creation.

The film's message is that, through thick and thin, families should stick together and use teamwork when tackling a problem. This message is important for families to hear year round but especially during the holidays; a time where many families come together and spend quality time with one another.

I give Candy Cane Lane 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. Candy Cane Lane premieres on Amazon Prime Video December 1, 2023. Make sure to check it out!

By Tia O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


CANTERVILLE GHOST, THE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
CANTERVILLE GHOST, THE
SHOUT! STUDIOS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - Join us on an Oscar Wilde adventure where... being scary is not what it used to be! As the nineteenth gives way to the twentieth century and scientific invention brings forth new ways of traversing and seeing the world, a modern American family moves into their recently purchased, country home, Canterville Chase, in England, only to find it is haunted by a ghost. Sir Simon de Canterville has been haunting the grounds of Canterville Chase successfully for over three hundred years, but he meets his match when he tries to scare out the new arrivals.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I found The Canterville Ghost incredibly appealing due to the lessons ingrained in the movie. I enjoyed that the daughter ultimately has a change of heart and falls in love with a member of the royal family in England who she initially wanted nothing to do with.

The Canterville Ghost is about an innovative American family of five moving to England into a manor which has been deemed haunted by all those who previously lived there. The oldest and only daughter of the three kids encounters the Canterville ghost first, but since she does not want to be there she hatches a plan to have the ghost (who she ultimately befriends) scare her family so they move back home. Since the family's dad is a scientist, he is not afraid of the ghost; neither is his wife; and the kids enjoy playing with the ghost and pranking him as well. Ultimately, the daughter helps the ghost achieve everlasting rest and falls in love with one of the royal members of England.

Overall, this is a great film. I enjoyed the part where the boys are not afraid of the ghost and, in an effort to have fun, play with the ghost's head and use it as a football when trying to care for him. I enjoyed how Virginia was willing to go into the locked garden to help the ghost leave the mortal world and rest with his love (who has died). I love that the film has an interesting storyline -- something to always look forward to and delightful plot twists. For example, the maid whose family had lived in Canterville castle for generations believed the ghost had murdered his wife. It is later found out he was sabotaged by a member of the royal family generations ago who wanted to take over his castle. It is funny when the maid says she is not to speak of the story about the ghost's wife and then immediately spills the story as if they had begged to hear it. I believe a child would enjoy this film because it is humorous, the animation and graphics are well put together, and it is a story about ghosts, friendship, forgiveness, and love.

The movie flows very well. The film definitely draws the viewer in and one cannot help but be empathetic of the characters feelings and emotions. In the first part, there is a scene showing the person who lived there before Virginia's family who is scared of the ghost and is driven insane. In the next scene when the family moves in, the maid explains how everyone who has previously lived there was driven insane and continuously yells. This makes the viewer want to continue watching the movie to see how the ghost will torment the American family that has moved in. The screenplay and characters develop very well. The dad starts off, and remains, a logical scientist who does not fear ghosts. The boys are playful and fun and continue to blame each other for their shenanigans. Virginia goes from being homesick to falling in love with Henry, a member of the royal family.

The visual quality is amazing. The scenes are colorful, contrasting and interesting. It is very interesting to see one of the last scenes where Virginia is in the locked garden where it is incredibly bright and colorful (replicating where Sir Simon's wife had died) and, at the same time, the camera gives a Henry's point of view on the other side of the gate. Some of the concepts are suited for older kids - tweens and teens - such as the idea that people lived using candles before electricity. Virginia's dad hosts a banquet celebrating his invention of light bulbs which may catch younger viewers by surprise. When he shows the banquet attendees that he will be bringing light bulbs to England it makes the viewer question how long we have had such technological advancements. U.S. kids are not familiar with why the higher classes in England are referred to as Sir or Duke. This film definitely invites the viewer to question and problem solve. It makes the viewer question how royal families in England live, specifically when Henry goes to see Virginia before the banquet and says he will protect her from English high society. When Sir Simon explains the story of his love's death, the viewer learns to not believe everything they hear. The two boys are goofy --the ghost ends up displaying kind qualities by saving Henry whom he initially wanted to harm. The parents are loving and kind, and Virginia and Henry meet by chance, become good friends and eventually fall in love.

The film's messages are to never be fearful, to not judge others by what you hear about them, and to learn to give opportunities to new things as one may end up loving it.

I give The Canterville 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It releases in theaters October 20, 2023 and digitally October 5 on all major channels.

By Steve A., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The new animated film, The Canterville Ghost by British director Robert Chandler honors the author's geniality with a beautiful film that is not just entertaining and fun to watch but also captivates with the characters adventures and dilemmas.

The humorous short story The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde has been adapted into different forms like films, radio, TV episodes and even an Opera since its release in 1887. True to the original book, the story follows a modern American family that moves to their recently purchased country home, Canterville Chase in England. The Otis family consists of Dad (David Harewood), Mom (Meera Syal), two twin wild sons (Jakey Schiff, Bennett Miller) and Virginia (Emily Carey), a rebellious and determined teenager. Soon they discover the old mansion is inhabited by a ghost who has been wandering its corridors and rooms for over 300 years - Sir Simon de Canterville. The subsequent encounters are unexpected as the past repeats itself.

Although the animation doesn't offer innovations, this film is absolutely charming, and is very well done. The concept of haunted houses is typically a crowd pleaser. Most audiences can't deny the pleasure they feel by being scared, especially when they are in a safe place like a movie theater. The Canterville Ghost captures this thrill in its production design and the narrative storytelling offered by co-directors Kim Burden and Robert Chandler. The vibrant colors and color palette really caught my attention. I love how the animation is filled with details in costume design. One of the aspects I most enjoyed is the camera work, from the oscillating shots that make you feel like a POV of Sir Simon, to some camera placements that feel like somebody's watching from a hidden place. The characters are funny and I love Virginia's journey from not wanting to be in the house to her intrepid relationship with Sir Simon. Stephen Fry delivers the perfect emotion voicing Sir Simon de Canterville. He not only has the perfect gravitas for the most iconic character in the film, he has previously interpreted Oscar Wilde. Emily Carey portrays her role as defiant, brave and determined - with Virginia in total command.

The film's message is to value people of all persuasion and to make the most of your lifetime. The Canterville Ghost has the perfect tone for young audiences and will delight grownups with its amusing narration.

I give The Canterville Ghost 5 out of five stars and recommended it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. The film opens in theaters nationwide on October 20, 2023 - right on time for Halloween celebrations.

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I really like the animated film, The Canterville Ghost. It definitely got me into the Halloween spirit. It's an enjoyable watch, sprinkled with mysteries and comedy, plus a compelling plot and likable characters.

The Otis family just moved into a new home that's notorious for housing the ghost Sir Simon de Canterville. He has successfully haunted every resident up until now. Will the family be the exception?

The main characters are Sir Simon de Canterville (Stephen Fry), Virginia Otis (Emily Carey), the Duke of Cheshire (Freddie Highmore), Lucretia Otis (Meera Syal), Hiram Otis (David Harewood, Louis Otis (Jake Schiff), Kent Otis (Bennett Miller) and Mrs. Umney (Imelda Staunton). The characters are all so loving and respectable toward each other, which makes the story very enjoyable. Their genuine interactions show that the family cares so much for each other. Each of the characters has unique personality traits. I especially like Virginia, who is both strong-willed and kind hearted. Her anger reflects her passion, and I admire her ambitious mindset. I also appreciate that the writers adapted those personality traits into a female teen, which gives inspiration for young girls. Virginia is forced to move away from all her friends, so she needs time adjusting to her new life. It's a lot to handle, but it adds to her character development. Also, the twin brothers, Louis and Kent, are two peas in a pod, but get into a lot of trouble. It's amusing to watch their shenanigans, like when they toss around a ghost's head as if it's a football. This film is based on the novella by Oscar Wilde. The movie brings this beloved story to life and makes it entertaining for the younger generation. I applaud the producers and directors, Robert Chandler and Kim Burdon, for adapting the story into an enjoyable watch. The animation is incredible and extremely realistic. The quality is great, as well. When the house is on fire, the flames look real. Speaking of the house, this setting is magical and reminds me of a haunted house at night. My favorite part of the film is when all of the members of the Royal Society start flying around in a circle on the ceiling. The Canterville Ghost makes them fly, which made me laugh because all of them are completely afraid. The guest's costumes are elegant and royal, from puffy dresses to fancy suits.

The message of this film is that love is all you need. Sir Simon de Canterville states, "Love is the greatest adventure of them all." It's also about letting go, forgiveness, friendship, and family.

I give The Canterville Ghost 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. The Canterville Ghost releases in theaters October 20, 2023 and digitally October 5, 2023

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

The Canterville Ghost is a hilarious and entertaining movie. It has lots of twists and turns and definitely showcases some very funny plot points throughout the film.

The storyline follows an American family who moves into a manor called Canterville Chase in England. However it turns out their manor has been haunted for 300 years and there's a ghost named Sir Simon de Canterville attempting to scare them out. None of the family is scared by the ghost though and he must continue to find ways to try to freak them out. The ghost also tries to break his curse of being stuck haunting the manor for all eternity and this family might just be his way out.

The Canterville Ghost is animated and the style is absolutely incredible. It has the perfect amount of realism mixed with an animation style that creates the perfect combination that makes the film even more interesting. The plot and characters' relations are absolutely hilarious and stunning. All the characters have such diverse and interesting connections to each other such as Sir Simon de Canterville (Stephen Fry) who is the ghost haunting the manor. The diversity resembles the diversity in our own society and communities. It's almost like they are real people. The characters themselves are also very relatable. Such as this one character named Virginia Otis (Emily Carey) who does not want to move and does everything she can to try to get out of it. Despite ghost movies being a relatively common concept, this one takes a whole new turn that definitely spices up the story. Such as the one at the very beginning where you find that the family is a lot harder to scare than the ghost thought. It is also not such a scary movie which makes it more suitable for younger kids. The beginning is a little hard to understand as it takes off without a lot of context. It does make more sense once the story develops.

The message of this film is that you have to stop and smell the roses and not be too impulsive or you might get really hurt.

I give The Canterville Ghost 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 plus adults. It will be released in theaters on October 20, 2023 and digitally October 5 on all major channele.

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

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


TEDDY'S CHRISTMAS
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
TEDDY'S CHRISTMAS
1 SOUL PRODUCTION Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - While visiting a Christmas market in her Norwegian town, eight-year-old Mariann discovers an unbelievable secret: on the top shelf of the lottery booth, a teddy bear has just moved his head and started sniffing. Feeling an instant connection with the living toy, Mariann can't think of any better wish for Christmas and tries to win him. However, Teddy (voiced by Zachary Levi) has different plans, dreaming of a wealthy owner who can teach him everything the world has to offer. But when Teddy is taken away to a woodshed, his new best friend, the hedgehog Bolla, helps him realize what really counts in life.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I like the film Teddy's Christmas because Teddy's character (Zachary Levi) makes me laugh and so does the hedgehog, Bolla (Lene Kongsvik Johansen), when they are stuck together in the basement learning to cuddle. I like how the film looks like it is from an older era. As soon as you see the snow and decor you know it is Christmas. It is very seasonal.

The storyline is about a teddy bear that can talk. Marianne goes to town for an almond and ends up playing a carnival game where she sees Teddy move so she attempts to win, and does! Teddy moves the wheel because he wants to go with someone who has more money than her. She goes home to get another coin to play again but before she comes back another man wins Teddy. She goes and tries to find the man but fails.

I love Teddy's character and I also enjoyed Marianne (Marte Klerck-Nilssen) and her brother's close knit relationship. You can tell they love each other. The storyline has unexpected events and is adventurous. Marianne definitely has a big imagination and I wish I had a big imagination like hers. My favorite part is when Teddy and the hedgehog are in the basement and then the hedgehog starts doing a song and dance. It is a great musical moment. She does multiple dances and waves her arms around senselessly while attempting to get Teddy to cuddle. I love how when she dances it sounds like she makes up her own language. I also enjoy when her grandpa comes to the room in a Santa Claus costume and pretends as though he is the real Santa Claus. He delivers presents and afterwards Marianne approaches him and asks if it was him. He says, "yes, but don't tell anyone." She must be extremely smart to have figured that out! The film was made in Norway and it is interesting to see all their different traditions and meals. At first, I was distracted because the words they speak don't match the movement of the actors' mouths, but then I realized that is because the actors are speaking in a different language. I got used to it pretty quickly.

The film's message is to appreciate who you are and what you have. Teddy wants to be someone he isn't and go places he can't and he isn't happy until he realizes he is in a great place already. He is meant to be cuddled and now he has a whole family to cuddle with.

I give Teddy's Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8, plus adults. This film releases in theaters December 1, 2023.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

I like the film Teddy's Christmas. The acting is absolutely superb; the plot is adorable and filled with Christmas spirit. I loved all the different settings and was particularly interested in the smooth character development of Teddy.

The story follows 8-year-old Mariann (Marte Klerck).While visiting a Christmas market in her Norwegian town; she spots a talking teddy bear at a carnival game booth. However, when someone else wins it, she takes off on a mission to find it but ends up causing a lot of damage instead.

This is a really good film that I really enjoyed. The acting of Marte Klerk as Mariann is amazing --he really portrays the character well, which greatly influences the entirety of the film. She has such a noticeable spark throughout the film. I also really enjoy the character, Mom (Mariann Hole) in the film. She really brings this character to life, particularly in the scene where Teddy learns what a hug is. That is so adorable because his first hug was with a hedgehog who thinks she is un-huggable. The ending is filled with so much kindness and Christmas spirit it inspired me in many ways. My favorite aspect of the whole film is Teddy (John F. Brungot.) John's voice acting is a perfect match for this role, which is a somewhat sarcastic yet loving character. At the beginning of the film all Teddy wants is a rich owner who can take him places. In fact he originally doesn't like Marianne simply because she is a child and doesn't have money, but at the end you can see how much he has matured since the beginning. It touched my heart to see how far he came in his emotional journey. Additionally the settings such as the snowy Christmas market are very realistic and beautiful, especially the Christmas Market game stand. It is super colorful and an adorable little tent.

The firm's message is to always be honest and know that sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Parents should be aware that Marianne's behavior is rather suggestive at times.

I give Teddy's Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. You can watch it in theaters beginning December 1, 2023.

By Sofia T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Teddy's Christmas, directed by Andrea Eckerbom, is a heartwarming animated gem celebrating the magic of Christmas. The enchanting story of eight-year-old Mariann and her connection with the sentient Teddy is a delightful blend of nostalgia and whimsy. Zachary Levi's captivating voice work and seamless animation make this Norwegian tale a festive treat for all ages.

In Teddy's Christmas, the enchanting story unfolds in a Norwegian town during the festive season. Eight-year-old Mariann (Marte Klerck-Nilssen) discovers a magical secret at a Christmas market - a teddy bear named Teddy comes to life! Determined to make him her own, Mariann faces unexpected challenges as Teddy dreams of a worldly adventure. Alongside his newfound friend, Bolla (Lene Kongsvik Johansen), the hedgehog, the film takes us on a heartwarming journey exploring the true meaning of friendship and the joy of the holiday season.

This heartwarming tale is a must-see for anyone who embraces the holiday spirit and shares the season's joy with loved ones. Bringing Teddy's Christmas to life is a talented cast led by Marte Klerck-Nilssen as the charming eight-year-old Mariann. The chemistry between Klerck-Nilssen and the animated character Teddy, voiced by the charismatic Zachary Levi, is a standout feature that adds a layer of enchantment to the film. The seamless animation compliments the festive and immersive sets of the Norwegian town's Christmas market. The costuming attention to detail and overall visual design create a cozy and magical atmosphere. One of my favorite aspects is Zachary Levi's voice work for Teddy, infusing the character with personality and charm. The whimsical music further enhances the enchanting experience, making it a memorable and heartwarming holiday film.

At its heart, Teddy's Christmas carries a poignant message about the true meaning of friendship, love, and the joy of giving during the holiday season. The film successfully emphasizes the importance of cherishing moments with loved ones and valuing the simple joys of life.

I give Teddy's Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. You can catch the magic of Teddy's Christmas releases in theaters starting on December 1, 2023.

by Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-8
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: Web Series


WISH (2023)
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
WISH (2023)
WALT DISNEY ANIMATED STUDIOS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - Walt Disney Animation Studios' Wish is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force--a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe--the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico--to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Wish is a beautiful film that contains a very valuable life lesson; not only is the movie inspiring, it is also hilarious. It's perfect to watch with friends and family!

The story follows a girl named Asha (Ariana DeBose) who longs to fulfill her wish. Then something strange happens and Asha's wishing star comes to life, Asha calls the wishing star, "Star"! King Magnifico (Chris Pine), a powerful sorcerer who looks like he is doing everything for the kingdom, but in reality, he is doing everything for himself. One of my favorite characters is Valentino (Alan Tudyk), the hilarious goat that cheers up everyone even when they're in a tough situation.

The animation is great although it is not as quite as good as many other animated films we see today. On the other hand, the special effects are incredible and match the story perfectly. My favorite scene is when Asha is talking to her friends about the wishing star coming to her and helping her with her wish. Asha puts Star and Valentino in the chicken pen and tells them to be quiet. When Asha shows Star to everyone, we are treated to chicken dance that Valentino is leading. What makes this scene so funny is the contrast between the serious topic and one that isn't serious at all! Another stunning scene takes place on top of King Magnifico's castle. Asha is in pain from the power King Magnifico has struck her and everyone in the kingdom, with. The citizens of Rosas are looking up at Asha. They too have been struck by King Magnifico's bad magic, but they still sing with their hearts content to fight for their kingdom. You need to watch and see what happens next, I believe that you will love it just as much as I did!

The film's film is to always keep dreaming about your wishes -- you will find a way to get there and someday they will come true. What matters most is that the wish is really your heart's desire. Another message is to keep fighting for your dream because, if it is really what you want, it will come true.

I give Wish 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. It opens in theaters on November 22, 2023.

By Keila V., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 12

Wish stands as the latest jewel in the Disney crown, a captivating addition to the beloved collection that has defined the magic of animated storytelling for generations. The film, reminiscent of prime Disney, artfully weaves a tale filled with enchanting moments, exceptional acting, and an irresistible vibrancy that pays homage to the studio's golden era.

At the heart of Wish lies the compelling story of Asha, portrayed with grace and charm by Ariana DeBose. A soon-to-be 18-year-old, Asha embarks on a journey discovering the transformative power of wishing upon a star. Her wish, far from ordinary, becomes a courageous plea to thwart the plans of the imposing King Magnifico, portrayed with regal charisma by Chris Pine. The narrative unfolds with a perfect blend of whimsy and depth, capturing the hearts of audiences from start to finish.

The palpable enthusiasm surrounding the film is undeniable. Wish not only delivers a cinematic experience that is compelling and entertaining, but manages to empower its audience at the same time. The film's brevity sets a new benchmark for Disney, departing from sprawling narratives and standing as a testament to the creative prowess of the filmmakers. In terms of technical brilliance, Wish excels in its innovative approach. The combination of 3D characters and 2D backgrounds creates an animated masterpiece, showcasing the film's commitment to pushing artistic boundaries. Chris Pine's portrayal of King Magnifico is outstanding, portraying the character as a misunderstood villain, shedding light on Pine's underrated acting skills. Ariana DeBose, with her remarkable voice and expressive acting, brings depth and authenticity to her character, adding to the film's overall allure. The pacing of the film is a noteworthy element, keeping the audience engaged throughout the film.

The film's message, "some dreams come true," resonates perfectly with the quintessential Disney spirit. It encapsulates the magic of dreams and the belief that, no matter the circumstances, some wishes do come true.

I give Wish 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters on November 22, 2023.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Set in the beautiful kingdom of Rosas, I found Wish to be an enchanting and fascinating movie with amazing singing and really funny characters!

Asha (Ariana DeBose) lives in Rosas where a sorcerer king named Magnifico (Chris Pine), and a queen named Amaya (Angelique Cabral) rule. Asha also has a cute sidekick, a goat named Valentino (Alan Tudyk). Magnifico has a special power which is the ability to grant wishes. Young Asha makes a wish so powerful that it's answered by a cosmic force, a ball of boundless energy called Star. With Star's help, Asha is able to save her kingdom from the evil king and prove that magic things can happen.

Rosas is a beautifully animated town where people always have fun. However, the setting sometimes looks rather flat, uncharacteristic of the lively Disney animation I am l so used to. Sometimes the secondary characters look like they are all wearing the same clothes and they don't have much impact to the story. Ariana DeBose's singing is so spectacular; you can hear the power and the emotion in her voice. Chris Pine is a great voice actor for Magnifico because you can hear the difference between when Magnifico is the good king vs when he plays the "Evil sorcerer." Alan Tudyk is really funny and is perfect for the role of Valentino! The little Star is super cute and lively, making me laugh out loud! Wish was especially made for the 100th anniversary of Disney Studios and meets KIDSFIRST! criteria. I loved the interesting story and the many great songs. Disney is also launching a new Wish Together campaign with their decade's long partnership with Make-a-Wish Foundation with the release of this movie.

The film reminds us to never give up following our passion because when we do, we lose the light inside ourselves and we forget what we are living for. When somebody pushes us down, that is the time that we have to do our best to stand up to them because we have the light and power within each of us. We also are reminded that we are always stronger when we stand together. When Asha is defeated by Magnifico, she starts singing a powerful song which moves everyone to sing with her and they defeat Magnifico together.

give Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters now.

By Avani M., KIDSFIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Wish, the latest animated film from Disney, is somewhat mediocre. From an animation standpoint, this movie is visually stunning with adorable animals and striking settings. However, it is a bit lacking in its story.

Asha (Ariana DeBose) is a peppy, optimistic, and caring 17-year-old girl living in the magical kingdom of Rosas. She is interviewing for an apprenticeship with the powerful, magical, and beloved King Magnifico (Chris Pine), who grants people wishes, when she notices he isn't what he seems to be. When she relies on a star to grant the wish that King Magnifico wouldn't, the star comes down from the sky and helps her cause a revolution to save her kingdom from King Magnifico.

This movie celebrates 100 years of Disney and the idea of wishing upon a star. It has many references to the studio's previous movies--some subtle, some obvious-- and they are sometimes funny. A couple references I caught are to Peter Pan, Cinderella and Mary Poppins. And though it was nice to see an original 'princess-y' movie from Disney after some of the remakes from other studios, Wish relies a bit too much on Disney's older movies instead of creating something entirely new and unique. The animation is beautiful in this movie. It is distinctive compared to other recently-animated Disney movies and has a kind of hand-drawn feel while staying pretty true to Disney's signature style for 3D animation. The animals are so, so cute. They look like 3D versions of animal characters straight out of Bambi, and I really enjoyed it whenever they came on screen. I also love the star in this movie. I think it was the right choice to make it silent because it adds to the magic and mysteriousness of the star. Its design and face are simple and that's what makes it so endearing. In spite of my appreciation for the animation, the story and songs are unmemorable. The story is pretty simple and understandable for children, and I can see why kids might like it, though it likely may not be as entertaining for teens and adults or be as popular on social media platforms as some movie soundtrack songs were recently. The cast and characters are very diverse. Asha is the second Disney female lead character of African descent, with the first being Tiana. Asha's friend group, based on the Seven Dwarfs from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, is very diverse, with people from many different origins and ethnicities, including Dahlia, who has a walking disability and is voiced by Jennifer Kumiyama, who is in a wheelchair herself. Be sure to stay all the way to the end for a sweet post-credit scene.

The messages of Wish are that your dreams are special and make up a big part of you, and that you should work hard to make your dreams come true.

I give Wish 3 out of 5 stars, and I recommend it for ages 5 to 12. Wish is in theaters as of November 22, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


LEO
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
LEO
NETFLIX Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - Actor and comedian Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania, The Wedding Singer) delivers signature laughs in this coming-of-age animated musical comedy about the last year of elementary school - as seen through the eyes of a class pet. Jaded 74-year-old lizard Leo (Sandler) has been stuck in the same Florida classroom for decades with his terrarium-mate turtle (Bill Burr). When he learns he only has one year left to live, he plans to escape to experience life on the outside but instead gets caught up in the problems of his anxious students -- including an impossibly mean substitute teacher. It ends up being the strangest but most rewarding bucket list ever.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love the movie Leo --it is funny and relatable. Leo is a coming-of-age story, seen through the eyes of a school's class pet, as much as it is a coming-to-terms with aging story.

The story features Leonardo (Adam Sandler) and Squirtle (Bill Burr) who are quick witted, full of jokes and the best classroom pets ever. Leonardo, Leo for short, overhears a parent saying that lizards live up to 75; at age 74, Leo decides it is time to escape and live his life to the fullest. In comes strict "old school" substitute teacher Ms. Malkin (Cecily Strong) who wants to teach the 5th graders responsibility by taking turns to care for the classroom pets over the weekend. Each reluctant 5th grader who takes Leo home discovers his secret, along with wisdom about who they are and how they can better fit in the world. Every student returns Leo to the classroom and Squirtle is his biggest fan, boosting Leo's spirits and outlook on his caged life. When his secret is revealed, jealousy and distrust seeps in and Ms. Malkin, who feels the most threatened, takes Leo away.

Each 5th grader experiences positive change after their time with Leo and, in return, Leo experiences living like he never has before. The animation is colorful and realistic, from the background scenery to the small details like how a caterpillar is depicted. Each of the actors who play the 5th graders fits their character from their personality to their hair and body type. I especially liked Summer (Sunny Sandler) with her fast-talking, super sweet kindness, as well as the overly "great" and popular Jayda (Sadie Sandler). The little balls of energy that represent the kindergarteners are on point. And from the overprotected, super-safe, drone-watched home of Eli (Roey Smigel) to the over-the -top, mega-great mansion of Jayda's family, it is easy to get a sense of each character from their surroundings. The musical element of Leo propels the characters into songs that tell of their struggles, hopes and dreams while moving the story along in a beautiful way. I like the opening song that expresses how the last year of elementary school is about being on top and the melancholy song toward the end of the film each 5th grader sings about when they were younger.

While facing his mortality, Leo learns the important lesson that he has a lot of life experience to share. He is transformed from a grumpy old lizard with nothing to show for his 74 years to beloved friend and confidant who discovers he has many more years ahead of him. Another theme of Leo is in the significance of not underestimating yourself and the film delivers the message to live an authentic life by sharing your talents and being true.

I give Leo 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. Leo releases on Netflix November 21, 2023.

By Madeleine H.K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


MAXINE'S BABY: THE TYLER PERRY STORY
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MAXINE'S BABY: THE TYLER PERRY STORY
AMAZON STUDIOS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Writer, actor, filmmaker, studio head and media titan, Tyler Perry, is America's consummate multihyphenate. But underneath this entertainment behemoth is a man working humbly to heal his childhood trauma by transforming his pain into promise. Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story, a nod to his mother's love, is a tender and intimate portrait of visionary and innovator Tyler Perry: his harrowing but faithful road to the top of an industry that didn't always include him. With unfettered access, directors/filmmakers Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz lead us into the inner-world of a man, whose story has never fully been told, as he becomes a father and a media mogul with a mission to pave his own road to the top. The product is a profound lesson on remembering where you came from to know where you want to go.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story is a beautiful movie. This documentary is so inspiring with lessons on the importance of forgiveness, faith and perseverance. And I learned so much about Tyler Perry!

The movie reveals the childhood trauma that Tyler Perry went through and shows how he became the most successful African American filmmaker we all know. It's also a tribute to his late mother, Maxine, hence the title of the movie.

According to co-directors Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz, this movie took ten years to make. I had no idea what Tyler went through as a child because he had a pretty private life, so it was incredible to learn more about him and see how strong he is. We already know about his success, but in this documentary, we get to see all the challenges he faced. It highlights many aspects of his life like his faith, his abusive father, his previous studios, the start of his famous character Madea and the impact he had on the movie industry. Something else that is interesting that I learned about from this film is that Tyler Perry's newest studio is on an old confederate army base in Atlanta, which really makes this movie come full circle. The beauty of this rich documentary is that it provides so many different points of views from so many different people and perspectives. We hear from his supporters, his haters, his family, and his friends, such as Oprah Winfrey, Ozzie Areu, Gayle King and Ari Emanuel. In addition to hearing from all of these people, the movie also uncovers never-before-seen videos of Maxine Perry, Tyler's mom, which is really special since she has passed away and she's the movie's namesake.

The film's message is all about forgiveness. Even after all the abuse, Tyler was able to forgive and move on from his trauma, which really allowed him to grow. Be aware that this movie deals with abuse, has a few graphic images and also some profanity. I give Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases on Prime Video on November 17, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


CARALIQUE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
CARALIQUE
VISION FILMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 TO 18
Description - When a young, aspiring fashion designer's first ideas are passed over, she learns to stick to her instincts and never give up, bringing more sparkle and brightening the world around her.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Caralique is a relatable and inspiring movie. It's filled with incredible relationships and even more incredible fashion ideas.

The plot of this film is centered on a girl named Caralique (Isabella Blake-Thomas) whose mom is forced to give up her fashion dream in France and moves to the United States due to a loss of her job and therefore, money. However her daughter still continues to come up with fashion ideas. This eventually lands her mom a job. The story continues to play out from there.

The movie Caralique focuses a lot on fashion. With that being said, the fashion in the movie is absolutely stunning. All the designs are gorgeous and innovative. They could be worn in real life if someone created them. The film also utilizes languages in a very unique way. In the beginning the mom speaks a lot of both French and English to the daughter, fostering her use of both languages. Then as the daughter continues to get older they use less French but the influence can still be seen. The editors also add subtitles for when French language is used in the film so even if you don't speak French, you can still understand what's going on. There are lots of characters in the movie. Each has a distinct personality, such as the character named Eloise (Abbie Georganna) who has an accent and has a very different place in life and in her school, different from others her age.

The message of the film is to trust your instincts and never give up on your dreams.

I give Caralique 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 plus adults. The film can be viewed on VOD and DVD beginning November 21. 2023.

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

Caralique is a film full of lessons we need to bring to life and has thrilling scenes that I really enjoyed and made me thrilled.

The storyline follows Caralique (Isabella Blake Thomas), a young girl, inspired by her parents, who is completely in love with fashion design and has been since she was a little girl. She wants to make people happy by wearing her clothes. Difficulties happen, but still, Caralique has an extraordinary idea that can change her life.

This film is fantastic and so inspiring! It made me believe that we never have to give up even during the hardest situations. My favorite part of the film is when Caralique realizes that she is different, and that is what makes her successful. Scenes like this make us reflect on life. The acting is absolutely brilliant! For example, Caralique cries when she loses a very dear relative and is very discouraged and I could really feel her despair. I also liked the costumes, which play a major role in the film - each one is uniquely based on an individual personality. Caralique's brilliantly shows the stages of her life. Since childhood, she has dressed with a child's version of contemporary clothes, such as simple denim shorts, a white outfit, or even a dress, with the help of her mother. In adulthood, she dresses differently from the normal, with clothing ideas uniquely her own, reflecting her personality.

The film's message is to be yourself no matter where you are, believe in your dreams and don't listen to the bad advice.

I give Caralique 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases on VOD and DVD on November 21, 2023.

By Anna Clara B, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Caralique is extremely appealing -- the plot pulled me in from the very beginning, starting with the brief overview of Caralique's life story and following with interesting conflicts. The characters are easy to sympathize with, adding to the anticipation of what will follow in the story, making each scene that much more enjoyable. It's a heartwarming story about sticking to what you believe in and doing what you are passionate about.

The storyline follows a young aspiring fashion designer who learns to never give up on her dreams even when she is faced with hardships and has to overcome the difficulties of the fashion industry. Caralique (Isabella Blake-Thomas) learns from her motivating mother and father to chase what she wants most in life -- creating fashion in a unique way.

The conflicts help build the fascinating character, Caralique, into someone you can easily relate to and feel sympathy for; her determination is both incredibly riveting and entertaining. Visually this film is spectacularly colorful, each scene being just, if not more, entertaining than the last. This fits the theme of the film perfectly as the fashion is well displayed into every frame and you are easily drawn to what the character will make next. Caralique is a driven character who promotes individualism and staying true to your passion; she succeeds in this by showing great determination and problem solving in unique ways. The writing in the show is very good, with well-timed pacing and easy-to-follow content. Each scene is significant to the plot development, whether it's something dramatic or something small. Each character has its own time to be evaluated by the audience and therefore builds sense of empathy for further development. The concepts within the film are definitely suitable for a youth audience -- a great amount of the film centers on a teenager's daily life hanging out with friends, having a part time job, and going to school. A child could enjoy this film, as the story centers around a child's motivation not to give up on their dreams even in their teenage years. This incredibly important life lesson is communicated throughout the film perfectly using language a child can easily understand and relate to. This film easily encourages audiences to focus on their passions even if they face hardships, which in turn can motivate younger audiences to start their journey early.

The film's message focuses on the importance of staying motivated to achieve your dreams and not letting others stand in your way. The film encourages the audience to stay motivated and chase your dreams, which is a wonderful life lesson for any age group especially kids.

I give Caralique 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It releases on VOD and DVD November 21, 2023.

By Maverick C., KIDS FIRST!

Caralique is an emotional film that is also beautiful and inspiring. This film has an excellent story, talented actors and pretty props, designs and costumes. Caralique is truly a work of art that everyone should experience.

This film follows a girl, Caralique (Isabella Blake-Thomas), from her journey as a young, 8-year old (Kali Funston) to a teen with big dreams. Her mom, Arlette (Helene Cardona), was a talented fashion designer who gave up her dreams to raise her daughter. They struggled financially for most of Caralique's early life, and when her mom loses her job, they must "go on an adventure," as Arlette calls their search for a home. At one of her mom's unsuccessful job interviews, Caralique gives the interviewer a drawing she made. This drawing is the key to Caralique's success, but she faces many obstacles before she gets there.

Caralique's plot is fun and engaging, with many emotional points as well. The story has a perfect amount of happy, uplifting parts to balance the sadder moments. The main characters are determined and sweet, creating great role models and an inspirational storyline. However, some events in the film are slightly unrealistic. For example, even with Caralique's impressive artistic abilities, it is doubtful that a job interviewer would take a second glance at a drawing given to them by an eight-year-old. While this makes the film a bit less realistic and relatable, it does boost the optimistic mood and themes of the film. The actors that portray Caralique and Arlette add so much to the film with not only the raw emotion through their voices and facial expressions, but their chemistry as scene partners. Isabella Blake-Thomas and Helene Cardona truly appear as mother and daughter on screen. Their relationship is vital to the development of the story and the emphasis on the theme -- and the actors do not disappoint. In addition to the mother-daughter relationship, fashion design is a primary focus of Caralique. Since both main characters are so talented in fashion design it's important that the dresses, fabrics and designs reflect these qualities. They certainly live up to this expectation. There are original designs, vibrant colors, unique ideas and matching hair and makeup for each one. The screen is so pleasant to look at all the time with these beautiful costumes and props.

The theme of Caralique is to never give up on your dream, even if it seems like everything is against you. Both Caralique and Arlette must overcome so many obstacles to achieve their goals. This inspirational message is a big part of Caralique, and is developed throughout the film.

I give Caralique 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Caralique on VOD and DVD/Blu-ray beginning November 21, 2023.

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


TROLLS BAND TOGETHER
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
TROLLS BAND TOGETHER
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS - THEATRICAL DIVISION Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-12
Description - Poppy discovers that Branch was once part of the boy band 'BroZone' with his brothers, Floyd, John Dory, Spruce and Clay. When Floyd is kidnapped, Branch and Poppy embark on a journey to reunite his two other brothers and rescue Floyd.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kennedy P. comments, "I love the new animated musical, Trolls Band Together. The movie delivers a lot of heart, along with showing the importance of family values, friendship, and love. Trolls Band Together had me out of my seat, dancing and singing along to all the songs." Tiana S. adds, "It's time to hit the backstreet for a new edition to the Trolls movie franchise! Trolls Band Together has the perfect music, acting and animation that kept me *Nsync with the story!" Kira O. says, "The music adds a lot of energetic fun to the film, including a new song called "Better Place," from the 90s boy band *NSync. That should make some parents in the audience happy since the band hasn't released a new song in 20 years!" Valerie R. wraps it up with, "I really admire how they brought NSYNC back together to record the song "Better Place" for the film. All in all, this film is a fun and family-friendly film that I and my family really enjoyed! Plus, I love the very important message this movie conveys." See their full reviews plus an interview with director, Walter Dohrn below.
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love the new animated musical, Trolls Band Together. The movie delivers a lot of heart, along with showing the importance of family values, friendship, and love. Trolls Band Together had me out of my seat, dancing and singing along to all the songs.

In the film, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Branch (Justin Timberlake) are now officially, finally, a couple. As they grow closer, Poppy discovers that Branch has a secret past. He was once part of her favorite boy band "BroZone," with his four brothers. BroZone disbanded when Branch was still a baby, as did the family, and Branch has not seen his brothers since. When Branch's bro Floyd is kidnapped for his musical talents by a pair of pop-star villains, Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells), Branch and Poppy embark on a harrowing and emotional journey to reunite the brothers and rescue Floyd from a fate even worse than pop-culture obscurity.

Trolls Band Together embraces the boy band era with so many references to everyone's favorite bands. The movie delivers a lot of heart, along with showing the importance of family values, friendship, and love. The entire movie is filled with humor, catchy cover songs, amazing animation, and lessons about family. Directed by Walt Dohm and Tim Heitz, the animation in this DreamWorks production is stunning -- all the vibrant colors throughout the movie are amazing. I was not able to take your eyes off the screen. All the music goes so well with the storyline in every scene. It features a new original song, "Better Place," from Justin Timberlake's old boy band NSYNC. It was so fun to sing and dance along. The voice actors are terrific. Timberlake and Kendrick are joined by Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Icona Pop, Anderson Paak, Ron Funches, Kenan Thompson, Kunal Nayyar plus a handful of newcomers. They could not have picked a better group of actors to voice these characters. The script by Elizabeth Tippet is so smart, but my favorite part is all the songs and dances throughout the movie. Trolls movies have been a hit with viewers of all ages and this one is no different. I predict that everyone will be singing and dancing and loving every minute of this movie.

The film's message is about family dynamics and how all family relationships are different. It shows viewers that no two families are the same and all families have their differences with each other, but they are still family. Be aware that it contains some rude and suggestive humor and some scary creatures like the Bergens and large spiders, plus the trolls are chased and eaten.

I give Trolls Band Together 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. You can watch Trolls Band Together in theaters on November 17, 2023.

By Kennedy P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

It's time to hit the backstreet for a new edition to the Trolls movie franchise! Trolls Band Together has the perfect music, acting and animation that kept me *Nsync with the story!

In Trolls Band Together we get to see the family of Branch (Justin Timberlake) and their former band "BroZone." After the band breaks up, one of the brothers, Floyd (Troye Sivian) gets kidnapped by Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Venner (Andrew Rannells) who steal his talent. It's up to Branch, his brothers, Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and some other new and recurring characters to find a way to save him before it's too late.

The film's main characters are Poppy, Branch and the BroZone brothers. There are many new characters introduced in this film. I personally love characters with an evil aura and Velvet has to be my favorite. She's the perfect mix of a prideful mean girl and a typical big sister. Velvet's singing performance by Brianna Mazzola sounds so angelic and beautiful, which I loved as well. Speaking of singing, the music covers in this film are outstanding! I love the boy band references throughout the film, like New Kids on The Block, 98 Degrees and One Direction. Plus NSync came together to record a new song for this film. In the film, we see a lot of issues between family members. BroZone members are constantly at odds with each other - John Dory (Eric Andr�), trying to be the boss of everyone and the brothers treating Branch like a baby, causing hard feelings and arguments. Even Velvet shows her evil and demanding ways towards Venner. This movie is worth watching and covers a lot of issues we can relate to.

The film's message is about the true meaning of family. Being a family by blood is one thing, but actually portraying an equal family system is more important, especially among siblings. Kindness, equality, and understanding can relieve so many issues. Things parents may need to look out for are kissing scenes, love-related aspects like making out or having kids, and other very subtle words.

I give Trolls Band Together 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It opens in theaters November 17, 2023. Be sure to stay for a short post-credits scene.

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Trolls Band Together is an awesome movie! This latest film in this DreamWorks trilogy did not disappoint me! It is filled with surprising back stories for some of the most beloved Trolls characters.

Similar to the first two Trolls films, viewers join a rescue adventure led by Branch (Justin Timberlake) and Poppy (Anna Kendrick). The film starts with a lead up to the wedding of Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) and King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) when a person from Branch's past comes crashing in.

We learn that Branch has three older brothers, John Dory (Eric Andr�), Spruce (Daveed Diggs), Clay (Kid Cudi) and Floyd (Troye Sivan). They had a boy band, BroZone that failed, leaving Branch to live alone with their grandmother. Fast forward to present day and Floyd has been kidnapped by the film's villains, Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells) who plan to steal Floyd's singing talent. John Dory tries to get the band back together, to save Floyd. First, he enlists the help of Poppy and Branch, and then they set out to find Spruce, and then Clay. My favorite part is when they are searching for Clay and end up at an abandoned golf course and discover a new community of trolls. Viva (Camila Cabello) is the leader of the troll community. I don't want to spoil the surprise but a main character is very important to Viva. The animation is very good and consistent with the Trolls trilogy, which means vibrant colors, a wide range of characters and lots of pop music montages from the '80s, '90s and 2000s. The music adds a lot of energetic fun to the film, including a new song called "Better Place," from the 90s boy band *NSync. That should make some parents in the audience happy since the band hasn't released a new song in 20 years!

The message of Trolls Band Together is that things do not have to be perfect to work, including families.

I give Trolls Band Together 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8, plus adults. It releases in theaters on November 17, 2023.

By Kira O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Want to embark on a magical adventure filled with funky characters and a spectacular soundtrack? Trolls Band Together is the perfect movie for you and your entire family to watch together on movie night as I and my family loved it.

The story follows Branch (Justin Timberlake) who discovers that one of his brothers is being held captive by villainous pop stars Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells). Poppy (Anna Kendrick), Branch and his other brothers, Clay (Kid Cudi), John Dory (Eric Andre) and Spruce (Daveed Diggs) embark on an emotional journey in order to rescue their brother Floyd (Troye Sivan). During the journey Poppy discovers she has a long lost sister named Viva (Camila Cabello). Throughout their journey the Trolls learn the importance of family, and the importance of sticking together and solving problems together.

What I enjoy the most about this film are the character designs and animation throughout the entire film. The animation is perfectly clear and visible; it is very different from the original Trolls movies, and looks hyper-realistic. I love how they reference bands like NSYNC, One Direction and Boys ll Men to describe Branch and his brothers' former band that disbanded. Another thing I love about this film is the comedic timing of the characters. The jokes are absolutely hysterical! Although there is so much to love about this film I am not a fan of the visual effects; the colors are so exotic that they made me feel quite nauseous and dizzy. The flashing lights and the variety of colors made my eyes hurt. Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack, which made me feel like dancing and singing along. I really admire how they brought NSYNC back together to record the song "Better Place" for the film. All in all, this film is a fun and family-friendly film that I and my family really enjoyed! Plus, I love the very important message this movie conveys.

The film's message is that family is the most important thing and that family should always stick together. Never take family for granted and always put family first. Please be advised that there is brief profanity.

I give Trolls Band Together 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. Trolls Band Together releases in theaters Friday November 17, 2023

By Valerie R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


MARVELS, THE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MARVELS, THE
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. But unintended consequences see Carol shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with that of Jersey City super-fan, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, and Carol's estranged niece, now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau. Together, this unlikely trio must team-up and learn to work in concert to save the universe as "The Marvels."
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - While it is far from perfect, The Marvels is a captivating film filled with adventure and laughter. It has unexpected twists and turns around every corner that help make it an entertaining movie.

The Marvels centers around members of the Avengers. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), better known as Captain Marvel, has found herself and her superpowers linked with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and new teenage superhero Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), aka Miss Marvel. These three powerful women must team up to stop Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), the ruler of a struggling civilization who has set her eyes on taking resources from thriving planets. However many secrets about Carol's past resurface as they do so.

Iman Vellani's performance as Kamala Khan overpowers the movie with a new side of joy to the MCU. Her explosive personality bursts through the screen as a huge highlight throughout the entire film. I love her character as she brings it to life with a passion. There are so many insane plot twists throughout the film and, while most are a great addition to the plot, a few get a little too crazy for my liking; though they aren't wild enough to drag the movie down. I enjoyed the plot being based around three strong women who are in charge. It's something not seen as often in superhero movies, especially in the past, but the MCU has been doing it a lot recently and it's very empowering. My favorite part of the movie is towards the beginning when Monica, Kamala and Carol first discover their powers have been entangled and they find themselves fighting soldiers in three different places and switching back and forth between locations throughout the battle. It's super fun to watch and my eyes were glued to the screen.

The message of The Marvels is that true friends and family will love you and always be there for you no matter what. Carol learns this throughout the movie as she sometimes worries about what the people who care for her will think about her past; eventually, she accepts that they will love her for who she is now and not what she's done before.

I give The Marvels 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters November 10, 2023.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

The Marvels is a blockbuster film, filled with action and adventure. It is highly engaging while still staying true to the message throughout the entire movie.

In this film viewers are reunited with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) for a second time, in this sequel to Captain Marvel. The plot follows Captain Marvel, along with her little cousin who isn't so small anymore. After experimenting with the power of time and universes, the two powerful women find themselves to be linked with a teenage girl from New Jersey, who likes to think of herself as Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani). These three team up in order to gain their revenge on the Supreme Intelligence, all while going up against old and new enemies, and keeping the universes stable.

A huge standout in this film is the CGI effects. Throughout the movie the three main characters' powers are synced together, and we often find them switching positions mid fight. The way that this is executed is very impressive. The visuals in the fight scenes, moving from space, to earth, and to other galaxies is all so overwhelming, but intriguing at the same time. Additionally, the costumes are really impressive and eye-catching. In the different universes that they explore, the people in those villages have the most unique looks - everything from their hair, to their makeup and their attire is so creative, and really stands out. I also enjoyed Captain Marvel's signature suit she wears, which really contributes to her statement look. Finally, this film is highly engaging. There is never a dull moment, and it held my attention the entire time. Every scene is packed with action, and definitely lives up to the original film, as well as the Marvel name. I also enjoyed the plot, and how straight forward it is. It gets right to the point. I never found my mind wandering off, or feeling lost in the story. The movie kept attention 100% of the time, which is rare.

The message of The Marvels is to remember your truth, and always do what you believe is right. Be forewarned that this film contains some intense fighting scenes and the use of weapons.

I give The Marvels 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Marvels releases in theaters November 10, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The film, The Marvels blends teamwork, girl power, comedy and emotion with action-adventure. It's heartening to see a movie that not only entertains but also resonates with positive themes.

The central plot revolves around Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Mrs. Marvel (Iman Vellani) teaming up to thwart the menacing Der-Bann (Zawe Ashton) from wreaking havoc on their homes - classic Marvel setup.

The enthusiasm for the film is palpable; the movie is successful in delivering a compelling, entertaining, and empowering cinematic experience. The brevity of The Marvels sets a new record for Marvel in terms of its runtime and it stands out in a franchise known for sprawling narratives. The commendation extends to the CGI and camera work, with special mention of shots and angles that enhance the viewing experience. It's clear that attention to detail has been a priority, ensuring that every frame contributes to the overall brilliance of the film. Brie Larson's portrayal of Captain Marvel showcases her character's development. The shift from a more serious tone to a nuanced performance is highlighted, indicating growth in both the actor and the character. Zawe Ashton's portrayal of the villain, Dar-Benn, earns high praise, what I consider to be "Oscar-Worthy." The film's pacing is lauded for its seamless flow, allowing the audience to absorb every moment without missing a beat.

The emphasis on "girl power" as the film's message is particularly noteworthy, aligning with the growing trend of empowering narratives in the entertainment industry. However, be forewarned about the profanity in the film which adds a layer of responsibility to parents.

I give The Marvels 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Marvel fans, both young and old, will find an exciting experience when this film opens in theaters on November 10, 2023.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I love The Marvels. It is fun, laugh-out-loud funny, has some heartfelt moments and the chemistry between the three leading ladies is outstanding. The film definitely kept me entertained from beginning to end.

In The Marvels Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. However, unintended consequences see her shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to a wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with two other superheroes to form the Marvels - Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) learn to work together because their powers become entangled.

I love all the action scenes and watching the three leading ladies working together to fight against evil. I recommend watching Ms. Marvel and Wanda Vision on Disney+ before watching The Marvels. They give you the background on Kamala and Monica, which will help you understand where they are coming from in this film. I immediately fell in love and related to Iman Vellani's (Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel). She is a Marvel fan, just like us, and she is so excited to meet her heroes and fangirls just like we would do ourselves! I was so happy to see her family in the film as well because they steal the show. The family scenes are full of laughs and the family dynamics really make this movie. The chemistry between the three leading ladies is truly amazing. They work so well together and look like they are having so much fun together. Their friendship seems genuine on the screen. The battle scenes are epic, especially when the three of them switch places, which is so fun to watch.

The Marvels is about teamwork, girl power, friendship, family, heart and action. It shows how family will always be there for you, no matter what, and reminds you to always stay true to who you are. You are never wrong when you are doing what is right.

I give The Marvels 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. The Marvels is available in theaters now.

By Kennedy P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


NEXT GOAL WINS
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
NEXT GOAL WINS
SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Directed by Academy Award� Winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) and based on a true story, Next Goal Wins follows the American Samoa soccer team, infamously known for their brutal 31-0 loss in 2001. With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hoping he will turn the world's worst soccer team around in this heartfelt underdog comedy.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - SEE YOUTH COMMENTS
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Next Goal Wins, based on a true story, is a heartwarming and genuinely enjoyable film that captures the essence of teamwork, perseverance and the human spirit. It's a family-friendly movie that offers both humor and feel-good moments and is told with an authenticity that makes it relatable and engaging.

The story revolves around the determined coach, Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) who takes on the challenging task of coaching an American Samoa soccer team with a historically abysmal loss record. Their only goal is to score one point, a seemingly insurmountable task.

This film is a delightful cinematic experience that celebrates the power of belief, teamwork, and the indomitable human spirit in the world of sports. As the film develops, it dives deeper into the characters' lives, particularly Coach Rongen and the soccer team. The connections that form between the players showcase the power of heartfelt camaraderie in sports. The film brings out both the emotional and comedic aspects of these players journey. It's clear that the cast and crew put their heart and soul into this project, resulting in a standout film. The camera work is outstanding - it captures the action on the field with finesse, making you feel like you're right there with the team as they strive for victory. Michael Fassbender's performance as Coach Rongen is commendable, as he skillfully balances humor with emotional elements in the film, delivering a memorable character. Oscar Kightley, as Tavita, Coach Rongen's right-hand man, brings a good-spirited energy to the film. His character adds to the loveable dynamic of the team, making it easy for the audience to root for them. The film's pacing is fast-paced, keeping the story engaging and ensuring that viewers remain invested in the team's journey from start to finish.

The film's core message is a simple, yet powerful one: believe in yourself and have fun. It's a message that resonates with both young and adult audiences, reminding us of the importance of enjoying the process and having faith in our abilities. It's important to note that the film contains some profanity, alcohol use, glimpses of drug use, and a transgender lead character, which may require some parental guidance depending on the age of the viewers.

I give Next Goal Wins a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults who appreciate uplifting and heartwarming stories. It releases in theaters on November 17, 2023.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


HAUNTING IN VENICE, A
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
HAUNTING IN VENICE, A
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - A Haunting in Venice is set in eerie, post-World War II Venice on All Hallows' Eve and is a terrifying mystery featuring the return of the celebrated sleuth, Hercule Poirot. Now retired and living in self-imposed exile in the world's most glamorous city, Poirot reluctantly attends a s�ance at a decaying, haunted palazzo. When one of the guests is murdered, the detective is thrust into a sinister world of shadows and secrets.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - While A Haunting in Venice is a significant departure from its roots as an Agatha Christie novel, its clever writing, superb set design and cinematography--and Kenneth Branagh's skillful acting--make it a relentlessly intriguing, vivid film for lovers of mystery, history, and intrigue.

In 1947, the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) is in retirement in Venice, and when visited by his American authoress friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey), he is pulled into a mystery at the palazzo, a former orphanage haunted by children's spirits. Oliver invites Poirot to a seance held by opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), who's mourning the death of her daughter, Alicia. He must get to the bottom of whether Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh), a medium who means to summon Alicia's spirit during the s�ance, is legitimate or not. What ensues is a creepy series of -- perhaps fortunate -- events. The plot is interesting, but the solution to the mystery is not particularly unique, though it is unveiled with a lovely, dramatic monologue by Branagh. The setting of the story in post-World War II Venice is most striking; some characters suffer from PTSD, and even Joyce Reynolds was a nurse during the war. Everyone is in mourning of some sort.

The story revels in the richness of its visuals, unique setting, and in its talkative script. Kenneth Branagh not only headlines, but also directs the film. Branagh, cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos and production designer John Paul Kelly are a dream team; they beautifully capture one of the world's most striking cities, interspersing the action--which takes place in the dark, ornate palazzo--with classic, scenic shots of gondolas and canals at sunset. The classic horror movie effects like scurrying rats, falling chandeliers, and banging doors are not overdone, though they are somewhat cliched. Branagh hams up Poirot's Belgian French accent and truly seems to be loving his role. Tina Fey shines as the sharp-tongued American, the authoress with a suspicious motive; she balances out Poirot's gloominess with some humor and an almost campy demeanor. This, along with other elements in the film, means that A Haunting in Venice is both a horror and a whodunit, a perfect film for Halloween, the spooky season, or anytime.

A Haunting in Venice touches on all kinds of themes -- religion, the supernatural, and belief in good over evil. Poirot repeats time and again that his job, dealing with cruelty, vice, and death, means he simply cannot believe that God exists. He lives, instead, on cold rationality. This mystery doesn't exactly make him change his mind, but he ends with a belief that he, as a detective, can do some good in the world, and he decides to emerge from retirement. There's optimism and light even in this dark tale. Parents should be aware that A Haunting in Venice contains mentions of suicide, death, murder, and violence.

I give A Haunting in Venice 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. A Haunting in Venice debuts on digital retailers and Hulu on October 31, 2023, and arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on November 28, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

A Haunting in Venice combines real life and supernatural elements into one creepy mystery. Although it is slow to start and a bit overwhelming at times, but it has a very interesting plot with many in-depth characters.

This film follows retired detective Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh) as he attends a Halloween party followed by a seance at a palazzo that is rumored to be haunted. Trapped in the house with people he doesn't know and danger increasing by the minute, he realizes he must identify the murderer as quickly as possible. As he speaks with each of the other people trapped in the house and puts together the pieces of the trouble, he must also ignore the voices he's hearing and children's ghosts he's seeing.

A Haunting in Venice takes place in a haunted palazzo, which sets the story up to be scary and suspenseful. The palazzo is dark and appears old and abandoned. The structure, furniture and general style of the place also clues me in to how ancient the house really is. It is perfectly ominous, forcing me to constantly be on the edge of my seat. While this film does an excellent job of creating suspense and eeriness within the haunted palazzo, some of the supernatural elements are unnecessary distractions. The main focus of the plot is around the mystery, figuring out who committed the murder of Alice long ago, and who could be committing crimes now. However, with the constant emphasis of supernatural bits, such as the supposed ghosts and voices that some people seem to be seeing and hearing, the mystery seems less important than escaping these spirits. While the combination of the supernatural and mystery elements make for a constantly suspenseful story, it often leads to too much chaos, distracting me from the mystery and the story eventually becomes slightly hard to follow. With all of this being said, the mystery itself is very well done. Clues throughout the film as well as careful concentration during each of the characters' alibis all add up to the shocking ending of who is responsible for these crimes. Each character has so much depth, with their alibis showing information from their background, providing possible motives and revealing some reason to suspect them.

The theme of A Haunting in Venice is to be careful who you trust. Even though most of the characters seem to get along fine, they all realize that the murderer is among them, possibly even someone they thought to be their friend. The Haunting in Venice does contain some gore and mildly inappropriate language, as well as scary and creepy elements.

I give A Haunting in Venice 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch The Haunting in Venice on Hulu and other digital retailers beginning October 31, 2023 and on Blu-ray and DVD beginning November 28.

By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

A Haunting in Venice is a chilling murder mystery with a ghostly twist. I love the set design and the plot development, and the use of symbolism adds to its grim sophistication.

The storyline takes place over Halloween night and follows Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), a retired detective who has relocated to Venice, Italy, intending to find a peaceful balance in his life away from solving mysteries. Poirot's old friend Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) convinces him to join her at a Halloween party at the palazzo, where he meets Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly), who persuades him to solve the mystery of her daughter (Rowan Robinson)'s murder. However, all is not what it seems, and after a disturbing session with a spiritualist (Michelle Yeoh), Poirot begins to suspect he is up against a supernatural force.

The setting of Venice is fitting for the movie, with its peaceful canals and masquerade parties. The palazzo has an abandoned charm, and the dark, Baroque-inspired interior reflects the ghastly style of the movie. The lighting is dim for the most part, adding to the ominously peaceful vibe. I enjoyed the cinematography, especially for flashback scenes, which are black and white and grainy, like an old movie. This pattern repeats itself in the flashbacks in all Poirot movies. A Haunting in Venice is, in part, a psychological thriller. If you pay close attention, you will notice that apples are used as a symbol throughout the film. At the end, Poirot confirms that the apples were used as a diversion - someone used them to try to play games with his mind. At the beginning of the movie, Poirot is nearly drowned while apple-bobbing. Apples are placed in every room in the palazzo, intended to lead Poirot to think he is losing his mind. There are also multiple references made to Adam and Eve, one of which is the apple. Another is the cuckoo clock, which features Adam, Eve and Satan. This clock is shown multiple times. The chiming of the clock is used to foreshadow an epiphany, a reveal or a shocking event.

The message of A Haunting in Venice is that we should all watch out, because the people we trust the most might be the first to betray us. Another message is that you should never rule out any possibilities if they have a chance of being the truth, because sometimes it can surprise you. Be aware that there are disturbing scenes of violence, spiritual possession and psychosis.

I give A Haunting In Venice 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. A Haunting in Venice debuts on digital retailers and Hulu on October 31, 2023, and arrives on Blu-ray/DVD on November 28, 2023.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDYS
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
FIVE NIGHTS AT FREDDYS
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS - THEATRICAL DIVISION Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - A troubled security guard begins working at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. During his first night on the job, he realizes that the night shift won't be so easy to get through. Pretty soon he will unveil what actually happened at Freddy's.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Five Nights at Freddy's is a comedic horror film, filled with intensity and suspense. It brought me to the edge of my seat and kept me wanting more.

Based on the popular and highly-engaging video game, the storyline follows Mike (Josh Hutcherson), who is struggling to make it financially while having to care for his younger sister. He gets offered a security job night shift for the abandoned "Freddy's Pizzeria" and, at first, is hesitant, but eventually realizes that he has no choice. Mike struggles with past family trauma and has very vivid dreams at night. When he starts to fall asleep at work his dreams get longer and clearer. He soon learns that the job he has taken can be the answer to more things than he could have ever imagined.

A huge standout in this film is the cinematography. Every camera angle holds so much purpose, and is made with such intention. Moods are created from a singular camera angle and set the tone for the entire film. For example, the flashbacks scenes that accompany Mike's dreams focus on specific moments to highlight their importance. The director, Chris Columbus, creates this uncomfortable feeling through his work, and delivers an outstanding film. Additionally, I really enjoyed the suspense throughout the entire movie. I never knew what was going to happen next, and I was riveted to the screen. I wanted to cover my eyes, but didn't want to look away at the same time! There is the perfect amount of scariness, laughter and surprise. Lastly, the message of this film is both heartwarming and intriguing. The importance of never giving up is highlighted in such an interesting way and can almost be hard to spot. However, at the end, even though we are left wanting more, it is clear that hope is one of the only ways to get through life. Joy and happiness is a must in order to continue successfully, and that is the underlying meaning of this movie.

The message of Five Nights at Freddy's is to listen to your heart and never give up on what you believe in. Be forewarned that this film does include gruesome content.

give Five Nights at Freddy's 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Five Nights at Freddy's in theaters and on Peacock October 27, 2023.

By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-17
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


LOKI: SEASON 2
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
LOKI: SEASON 2
DISNEY+ Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: TV SERIES, AGES 8 TO18
Description - Loki: Season 2 picks up in the aftermath of the shocking season finale when Loki finds himself in a battle for the soul of the Time Variance Authority. Along with�Mobius, Hunter B-15 and a team of new and returning characters, Loki navigates an ever-expanding and increasingly dangerous multiverse in search of Sylvie, Judge Renslayer, Miss Minutes and the truth of what it means to possess free will and glorious purpose.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Loki: Season 2, Episode 3, 1893 is the climax episode that will keep viewers entertained. Filled with action, time travel, plot twists and dramatic irony, this is one of the most engaging episodes.

This episode continues Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) journey at the TVA with Mobius (Owen Wilson), but it travels back in time to visit another variant of "He Who Remains," named Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors) in 1893, who, after being given a TVA notebook by Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and the rouge cartoon clock, Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), proceeds to work on various invention prototypes. This leads to a feud between the many teams in a battle of their wants and needs from this new "He Who Remains" variant. You'll have to watch to see how the story unfolds.

I love seeing Jonathan Majors as the "He Who Remains" variant. His character's stutter is realistic, adds depth to his role while he gives an incredible performance. It is hard for me to even believe it's him. The costumes are also amazing. When the present-day characters travel to 1893 their outfits change to reflect the new era. The special effects of characters like Miss Minutes' and Loki's powers are mind-blowing. Keep in mind this episode is pretty lengthy, but it doesn't feel like it, at all. It's incredible how the writers can stray from a typical Loki storyline and still make it engaging and entertaining. Music also plays a big part in this show, especially in relation to the different time periods and the action scenes. And keeping with the time travel, even the regular Marvel intro is updated with the sounds of classic piano tunes, which is really creative!

This episode touches on believing in yourself, finding where you belong, and trusting in others. This episode shows many examples of these messages from Victor Timely presenting all his new ideas to the times when evil strikes and betrayal occurs. The only scene that is somewhat inappropriate is one where Miss Minutes tries to flirt with Mr. Timely.

Loki: Season 2, Episode 3,1893 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. You can watch it on Disney+ now and new episodes release every Thursday.

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Loki Season 2, Episode 4 is a new fun, adventurous and action-packed experience for those who have already seen the first season as well as those who are just beginning to watch the show. I really enjoyed the new season of Loki because of the CGI, the acting, the time manipulation in the show and the messages in the show. This series is kid-friendly with some moderate violence and could also be of interest to adults as well.

The storyline follows the mercurial villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Along with Mobius (Owen Wilson), Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and a team of new and returning characters, Loki tries to stop the temporal loom from exploding and destroying not only the TVA (Time Variance Authority), but also a big fraction of the quantum realm with it. Throughout his journey he makes new friends and meets new enemies. Once he and his team begin their mission to prevent the explosion of the temporal loom, something horrible happens, something so horrible that it would change their lives forever.

This new episode is phenomenal, and I enjoyed it a lot, primarily because of the CGI. The CGI makes everything like space debris and the particles flying around in the quantum realm look so realistic. Another thing I really enjoyed about this episode is the acting. The cast play their roles so well and put on terrific performances. Additionally, the time manipulation is absolutely mind blowing. In one scene we see Loki talking to Sylvie, and when Sylvie goes to the next floor, she sees present day Loki zapping another Loki from a different timeframe. This scene is the icing on the cake for me. I like how this show is kid-friendly but can easily interest some adults as well.

Although there are many messages this series portrays, the one that I really like and rings very true to life is that the most valuable thing a person can spend is time, whether it's time with family, time at work, or time alone. Be forewarned that it does contain moderate violence, some cursing, and some alcohol use.

Loki Season 2, Episode 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It is available now on Disney+ so be sure to check it out. See ya!

by Gavin S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Episode 5 of Loki: Season 2 is a unique, thrilling portrait of Loki rocketing through the multiverse, paying for his past mistakes; it offsets Marvel's other tedious TV projects with action and vivacity. It didn't disappoint my expectations, and I'm sure it won't let down ardent Marvel fans, those binging the show, or others looking for an episode to catch on Disney+.

Loki: Season 2 picks up with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) searching for the soul of the Time Variance Authority, an authority dedicated to preserving the Sacred Timeline. In Episode 5, he's focused on using his almost-funny time-slipping abilities to get to all the people who were at the Time Variance Authority when wires were crossed. None of them recognize him, and Loki can't stop slipping into new times and locations. For example, he sees Mobius (Owen Wilson) selling jet skis as a middle-aged dad in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2022. The God of Mischief assembles a team and tries to earn their trust. Perhaps it's because I was entering this episode blind, but the plot seems extremely complex for the first half of the episode as I pieced things together; luckily, things were much easier to understand after establishing some context.

In Season 2, the stakes are elevated, and the writing is super strong; I was glued to the screen throughout the 45-minute Episode 5. The visual effects are very realistic, as are the practical sets -- the color-correction across timelines differs, but it adds to the aesthetic of each character whom Loki is trying to find. The cinematography is wonderful, with lots of close-ups and medium shots to capture Tom Hiddleston's emotions, along with those of the other characters. Mentioning the cast, all skillfully carry the complex plot, which could have become overwhelming. Tom Hiddleston is one of my favorite actors - the lovable yet full-of-himself Norse god Loki. Ke Huy Quan as OB, the techie trying to help Loki, is another favorite I didn't expect; his earnest effort to help and bumbling personality go together wonderfully. Owen Wilson as Mobius adds a wonderful comedic tint to the episode, with physical comedy (miming that he'll call the police on Loki when he first arrives), zingers, and more subtle lines (He remarks with a bewildered expression that when Loki time-slips, "it looks like you're being born, or dying - or both at the same time."). Overall, a wonderful package.

This episode of the show promotes teamwork and taking responsibility to solve problems when they arise. Loki may be the God of Mischief, but he takes a remarkable amount of accountability to restore the TVA and works with every character across timelines. Loki's time-slipping can feel a little bit like a jump scare, with his face and body contorting and some demonic noises accompanying it, so parents with young children might want to tell them to brace themselves.

Loki: Season 2, Episode 5 gets 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Loki Season 2 is playing exclusively on Disney+ now, with new episodes weekly.

by Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: TV


FACEPLANT, SEASON 2: THE SIDE OF SUCCESS NO ONE TALKS
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
FACEPLANT, SEASON 2: THE SIDE OF SUCCESS NO ONE TALKS
SINGLETON FOUNDATION Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: TV SERIES, AGES 8 TO18
Description - The Singleton Foundation for Financial Literacy & Entrepreneurship is launching Season 2 of Faceplant, a documentary style series about some familiar faces, their career and life struggles, and how they overcame them to get back up stronger than ever. From Hollywood actors, directors and producers to Olympic athletes, the show gives inspiration as we hear how they took the lemons life gave them and turned it into lemonade. Uncover the personal stories from people who discover the value of failure in pursuit of their dreams. One person highlighted in Season 2 is Damian Escobar in The Side of Success That Nobody Talks About. Originally from Jamaica, Queens, New York, world renowned violinist Damien's inspiring journey of making it big (3rd place on America's Got Talent), losing it all (and sleeping on his mother's couch), fights to rebuild for a second chance at success -- because if you can get to the top, you can also surely find yourself at the bottom.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - From struggle to symphony, the inspirational and moving documentary The Side of Success No One Talks About beautifully captures the remarkable journey of a musician who's weathered life's toughest storms to reclaim his passion.

This short documentary is part of the popular docu-series, Faceplant, about seven entrepreneurs who share their game-changing life lessons with us. This film offers a portrait of Damien Escobar, a gifted violinist whose journey to success and back is heartwarming. From his early start in music, his acceptance into Juilliard at 9 years old and performing for three U.S. presidents, to the lows of financial hardship and personal crisis, this documentary gives us a glimpse into the rollercoaster life of a musical prodigy.

This is a short film hat will resonate with a wide range of audiences, from aspiring musicians to anyone in need of inspiration during challenging times. The film exquisitely profiles Damien and the talented and ambitious individuals who mirror him. Damien's resilience and passion for music shine through every frame, making it impossible not to root for him, in this a classic underdog-to-hero story. One of the standout aspects of this documentary is its ability to convey the emotional depth of Damien's journey. The audience can feel his triumphs and setbacks, and the film truly makes you emotionally invested in his story in a short period of time. Additionally, the interviews with Damien provide valuable insights into his experiences and mindset. My favorite part is when Damien shares his rediscovery of his love for music and embarks on a successful solo career. It's a testament to the power of passion and determination, and it's truly inspiring to witness him rise from adversity.

This film carries a powerful message of resilience, the pursuit of one's true passion, and the importance of finding joy in the journey of life. It encourages viewers to reflect on their own paths and the obstacles they may encounter along the way.

I give Faceplant, Season 2: The Side of Success No One Talks About 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can find it streaming online now at Millionstories.com.

By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 19

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: TV


ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE
BLUE FOX ENTERTAINMENT Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATUREE, AGES 12-18
Description - Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an upcoming movie based of the coming-of-age young adult novel by American author Benjamin Alire S�enz. Set in El Paso, Texas in 1987, the novel follows two Mexican teenagers, Aristotle "Ari" Mendoza and Dante Quintana, their friendship, and their struggles with racial and ethnic identity, sexuality, and family relationships.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe emerges in this convoluted cinema era of super heroes and special effects offering a refreshing story. Everything from the storyline, to the cinematography and indie film style is right up my alley.

The story begins in 1987 with a boy named Aristotle (Max Pelayo) who keeps to himself. He goes to the local swimming pool in hopes of learning to swim and meets Dante (Reese Gonzales). The two instantly click as they realize they have a lot in common and start hanging out every day. Dante moves away for a year but the two boys exchange letters and remain in contact. Both Dante and Aristotle have a long road of self-discovery ahead, but that doesn't interfere with the strong connection between them.

I love how this film deals with so many different themes all at once -- family dilemmas, sexuality, self-growth, and ethnic identity. I always relate to seeing Latino representation in films; Aristotle is Mexican and I love that this film has a lot to do with his heritage. The cinematography is delicate and bright as is the overall aesthetic of the film. My favorite scene is when Aristotle and Dante tie their Converse shoes together and hang them on a light post at night. The lighting and simple concept of tying their shoes together is so beautiful; especially in the way that scene is shot. It is so powerful and meaningful. The acting is also impressive. Max Pelayo's portrayal of Aristotle is terrific - despite Aristotle having lots of inner conflicts, Max portrays him in such a beautiful way. I love Reese Gonzales as Dante as well; Dante is a very awkward person but in the cutest way and Reese captures that dichotomy and plays into that tricky kind of feel. I'm a huge fan of Eugenio Derbez, who plays Jamie Mendoza, Aristotle's dad. He's such an incredible actor. Eva Longoria, as Dante's mom, and Veronica Falcon, as Aristotle's mom, both really caught my attention. I love how both moms are so different and both love their kids infinitely. Veronica is the perfect example of a Mexican mom. I wish Eva had more screen time but nevertheless she is great. This film is based on a novel with the same name by Benjamin Alire S�enz and is produced by Eugenio Derbez and Lin-Manuel Miranda who narrates the audio book.

The film's message is that true love always prevails, but takes time. Please note that it contains some strong violence, strong language, sexual material, teen drug and alcohol use and smoking.

I give Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters, HBO and Netflix September 8, 2023.

By Zoe C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


AMMU'S TREASURES BY CHANDRIKA TANDON
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
AMMU'S TREASURES BY CHANDRIKA TANDON
SOUL CHANTS MUSIC
Series: AUDIO CD FOR AGES 2-5
Description - Ammu's Treasures is a gift of intergenerational love and wisdom, with profound messages for everyday living. A three-volume omnibus of 35 songs and 21 chants, Chandrika invites its listeners to reminisce or make new memories with traditional folk tunes and familiar popular songs and poems. This music collection also includes ancient Vedic chants set to Indian scales, aimed to soothe and relax. Ammu's Treasures features many maestros including Cyro Baptista, Martin Bejerano, Peter Calo, Purbayan Chatterjee, Rakesh Chaurasia, B�la Fleck, Eugene Friesen, Maeve Gilchrist, Jamey Haddad, Bobby Keyes, Kevin Kliesch, Howard Levy, Romero Lubambo, Marcus Rojas, Dave Schroeder, Michael Ward-Bergeman, Kenny Werner, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Scott Cannizzaro, Teese Gohl, John Kiehl, Kevin Killen, Mirek Vana, and more. Marc Lumer and Bob Spang contributed their talents to beautiful accompanying lyric videos.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Ammu's Treasures is great for young kids looking for auditory entertainment; with pop songs, poems, Vedic chants, and more, listeners will have more than enough to be transported to a whole new musical world.

Ammu's Treasures is a three-volume omnibus of 35 songs and 21 chants compiled by renowned musician Chandrika Tandon. The album features many maestros including Cyro Baptista, Martin Bejerano, Rakesh Chaurasia, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and more.

Ammu's Treasures is beautifully composed, with each piece clearly having hours of thought behind its instrumentals, vocals and mixing. Plus, the accompanying lyric videos by Marc Lumer and Bob Spang are vibrant and enjoyable. The album was conceptualized by Tandon as a gift to her grandchildren, and it's evident that she painstakingly pieced together the motley array of songs in the album; I'll admit that the mix of pop songs, nursery rhymes, chants and instrumental pieces took me by surprise at the beginning, but only those who actually listen to the songs will realize how they come together to form a beautiful lyrical panoply. My personal favorite pieces are "Chants - To the Light," "Listen to the Pouring Rain," and "Au Clair la Lune," as much for their nostalgic value as for their elegance.

Ammu's Treasures was created to spread intergenerational love through art (one of the purest kinds of love!). And you do truly feel it after listening to two or three numbers, a magical sensation that envelopes you with joy and warmth. It's truly wonderful.

I give Ammu's Treasures 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 5 plus adults. Ammu's Treasures released on all major audio vendors beginning September 7, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The children's album Ammu's Treasures is very well sang by Chandrika Tandon. The vocals are strong and lyrical. It brings back memories of my early childhood and the songs I used to sing, and the happy, cartoonish music videos will appeal to young kids.

Ammu's Treasures is a collection of 35 songs and 21 chants that range from traditional folk tunes to familiar and popular songs and nursery rhymes for multi-generations, sung by Grammy nominee Chandrika Tandon. It includes some music videos featuring an animated family of colorful bears -- one of whom is dressed in traditional Indian clothing - along with other characters.

Ammu's Treasures is appropriate for a multigenerational audience, particularly younger kids. For example, babies and toddlers will enjoy the nursery rhymes like "Teddy Bears' Picnic," "Hush Little Baby" and "Bye Bye Blackbird." The colorfully animated music videos, such as "Miller of the Dee" will also attract younger viewers. Many of the songs will be familiar to both children and adults, such as "Edelweiss" and "Scarborough Fair." Songs like "Au Clair de la Lune," "Molly Malone," "Vive Le Compagnie," and "Que Sera Sera" might remind adults of their own childhoods. Ammu's Treasures features many maestros including Cyro Baptista, Martin Bejerano, Peter Calo, Purbayan Chatterjee, Rakesh Chaurasia, B�la Fleck, Eugene Friesen, Maeve Gilchrist, Jamey Haddad, Bobby Keyes, Kevin Kliesch, Howard Levy, Romero Lubambo, Marcus Rojas, Dave Schroeder, Michael Ward-Bergeman, Kenny Werner, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, Scott Cannizzaro, Teese Gohl, John Kiehl, Kevin Killen, Mirek Vana, and more. Marc Lumer and Bob Spang contributed their talents to the lyric videos. Chandrika Tandon also acknowledges her Indian heritage with songs such as "Surganani." In the song "There's a Hole in My Bucket" the name of the girl is changed from Liza to Kavi, which is an Indian girls' name. I like that.

Ammu's Treasures conveys an overall happy, cheerful message meant for the ears of younger audiences. There is no inappropriate language in any of the songs.

I give Ammu's Treasures 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 5, plus adults. Ammu's Treasures released on all major audio vendors beginning September 7, 2023.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14
Runtime: 137 minutes
KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 2-5
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: AUDIO


CURSES
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
CURSES
APPLE TV Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: TV SERIES, AGES 5-12
Description - When a generations- long family curse turns Alex Vanderhouven to stone, it's up to his two kids, Pandora and Russ, and his wife Sky, to return artifacts stolen by their ancestors to their rightful homes to finally lift the curse for good.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Curses is a fun and mysterious 10 episode series that is full of adventures and soon to be solved mysteries. This show is very kid friendly and could be interesting to adults as well. I really enjoy how this show refers to ancient civilizations and how the adventures you take around the world.

The storyline follows the Vanderhouven family when a generations-long family curse turns Alex Vanderhouven (Reid Scott) to stone. It's up to his wife Sky Vanderhouven (Lyric Lewis) and their two kids, Russ (Andre Robinson) and Pandora (Gabrielle Nevaeh) to return artifacts stolen by their ancestors to their rightful homes to finally lift the curse for good. The Vanderhouvens need to solve this mystery soon before it's too late.

This very adventurous show is full of unsolved mysteries and has lots of educational benefits. For example, in one episode we learn about two ancient civilizations -- the Aztecs, and the Olmec. The animation is phenomenal and the voice-acting cast is amazing - Rhys Darby, Rhea Perlman, Phylicia Rashad and horror legend Robert Englund, among others - which makes it outstanding. The voice actors really portray their characters exceptionally well. The way the director shows the bond between the family members and how they support each other is rare for an animated show. This show is so inspiring and heartfelt. However, I will say that the storyline is very predictable; for instance, when the kids go looking for their father I already knew something bad had happened because of how he was being so secretive from the beginning of the show.

The show's message is that, with the help of a family member, friend, or a trusted adult, you can do anything.

I give Curses 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 through 12, plus adults. This show premieres on Apple TV+ October 27, 2023, just in time for Halloween. Be sure to check it out.

By Gavin S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: TV


SPY KIDS: ARMAGEDDON
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
SPY KIDS: ARMAGEDDON
NETFLIX Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - The children of the world's greatest secret agents unwittingly help a powerful game developer unleash a computer virus that gives him control of all technology, leading them to become spies themselves to save their parents and the world.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Wow! Spy Kids: Armageddon is an action-packed, family-friendly adventure that takes the beloved Spy Kids franchise to new heights. Directed by the visionary Robert Rodriguez, this film combines thrilling spy missions with heartwarming family moments, making it a fantastic addition to the series.

The film follows the next generation of Spy Kids, Nora Torrez (Gina Rodriguez) and Terrance Tango (Zachary Levi)'s children, tasked to save the world from a diabolical villain's doomsday device. The young cast, led by talented newcomers Connor Esterson and Everly Carganilla, brings fresh energy to the franchise. The action sequences are exhilarating, and the gadgets are as ingenious as ever, providing a visual spectacle that left me on the edge of my seat.

Spy Kids: Armageddon excels in production elements. The imaginative sets, cleverly designed spy gadgets, and visually stunning special effects create a world that feels familiar and full of surprises. Standout performances by Everly Carganilla as Patty Tango-Torrez and Connor Esterson as Tony Tango-Torrez add depth to the cast, and their chemistry with the lead characters is delightful. Rodriguez's signature style shines through in the film's direction, keeping the pace engaging and fully immersing the audience in the Spy Kids universe.

At its core, Spy Kids: Armageddon delivers a positive message about teamwork, family and believing in oneself. The young spies face challenges and make mistakes, but ultimately learn and grow from their experiences.

I give Spy Kids: Armageddon 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults who have fond memories of the original Spy Kids movies. You can catch this exciting family adventure right now on Netflix, making it a perfect choice for a cozy movie night at home with your little spies-in-training.

By Hanadie K, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
PAW PATROL: THE MIGHTY MOVIE
PARAMOUNT PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 2-8
Description - A magical meteor crash lands in Adventure City and gives the PAW Patrol pups superpowers, transforming them into The Mighty Pups.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - If you need a new movie to keep your young ones entertained check out PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie. It has everything kids love and more.

After a meteor strikes Adventure City, damaging their Pup Tower - the PAW Patrol finds themselves with superpowers. But the pups soon realize they're in danger because Humdinger and mad scientist Victoria Vance are after these superpowers to make themselves into ultimate supervillains. It's up to Ryder and his team of mighty puppies to keep what is theirs as they learn that truly no pup is too small.

PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie is fantastically entertaining for younger viewers, with its fun storyline, bright colors and adorable characters. There are so many fun scenes that younger kids will enjoy. I really enjoyed the music choices in this film - it's a good mix of popular songs that different age groups will recognize and they are placed at nice points of the movie. The film takes place in Adventure City and the animators really excel in the attention to detail in creating the city as well as the other settings throughout the film. My favorite scene is when Sky tells Chase about her backstory; it is a really sentimental point of the film and is super sweet.

The theme of PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie is that if you believe in yourself you can do anything. Sky spends most of the movie contemplating her size because she's the smallest in the group, but in the end she learns that her size doesn't determine whether she can be a hero, she just has to believe in herself. Ryder says throughout the movie, "no pup too small." The pups learn the importance of this throughout the movie when they realize they all must work together to keep their powers.

I give PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 8. It releases in theaters September 29, 2023.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 2-8
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN (DVD/BLU-RAY)
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
RUBY GILLMAN, TEENAGE KRAKEN (DVD/BLU-RAY)
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS - THEATRICAL DIVISION Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 5-12
Description - Sometimes the hero you are meant to be lies just beneath the surface. This summer, DreamWorks Animation dives into the turbulent waters of high school with a hilarious, heartfelt action comedy about a shy teenager who discovers that she's part of a legendary royal lineage of mythical sea krakens and that her destiny, in the depths of the oceans, is bigger than she ever dreamed.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, is an absolute delight! This enchanting animated gem seamlessly weaves heartwarming coming-of-age themes with underwater fantasy, delivering a profound message about embracing one's uniqueness, making this a must-see film for all ages.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken, tells the captivating story of Ruby (Lana Condor), a 16-year-old girl longing for acceptance in high school. Her life takes an extraordinary turn when she discovers her lineage as a descendant of warrior Kraken queens and her destiny to protect the oceans from power-hungry mermaids. As Ruby grapples with her newfound identity, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, forming an unlikely friendship with Chelsea (Annie Murphy), a mermaid, and reconnecting with her estranged grandmother.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken brings its characters to life with a talented cast that shines throughout the film. Lana Condor delivers a remarkable performance as Ruby, capturing the essence of a shy teenager thrust into an enchanting underwater world. Annie Murphy adds depth to her character, Chelsea, the captivating mermaid, while Jane Fonda's commanding portrayal of Ruby's grandmother adds gravitas to the story. The film's imaginative world-building and stunning animation immerse the audience in a visually captivating underwater realm. For fans looking to dive deeper the Blu-ray and DVD release offers a treasure trove of bonus materials, including deleted scenes with intros by co-director Faryn Pearl, and a chance to meet the talented humans behind the scenes. One standout aspect is the pivotal scene where Ruby discovers her true heritage and destiny, a breathtaking moment that symbolizes her journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

The film's underlying message is of self-discovery and embracing one's uniqueness is strong.

I give Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken 4 out of 5 stars and recommended for ages, 5 to 18, plus adults. Ruby Gillman is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

By Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is a hilarious film with a captivating story -- I couldn't even get up for more popcorn! It is illustrated by bright and interesting characters that you will root for and evil ones you'll be afraid of. I love the music chosen for the film, but my favorite part is definitely the animation.

The storyline follows 16-year-old Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor), a kraken girl who just wants to be a normal teenager, but the universe has other plans for her. When she accidentally sends Connor (Jaboukie Young-White), the boy she had planned to ask to prom, overboard and dives in after him, she discovers that she is not only a giant kraken, but underwater royalty, granddaughter of the kraken queen (Jane Fonda). With the help of her new kraken superpowers and her Uncle Brill (Sam Richardson), she uncovers her family history and the ancient rivalry between the krakens and the evil mermaids, all while trying to maintain her friendships and avoiding the monster-hunting sailor, Gordon Lighthouse (Will Forte).

You need to know that the kraken are sworn to protect the oceans of the world against the power-hungry mermaids. The characters in Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken immediately drew me in. Viewers will cheer Ruby on from the beginning because of her determination and her vivid personality. Her little brother, Sam, has a contagious happy energy that made me feel more awake when I watched him destroy his opponents at dodgeball. Uncle Brill is so effortlessly hilarious, even when he doesn't mean to be -- such as when he accidentally reveals Ruby's lineage to her. His goofy antics kept me entertained throughout the film. It's hard not to adore Connor, with his big eyes and innocent personality. The wicked mermaid (Annie Murphy), on the other hand, is malicious and terrifying. The soundtrack of Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken features upbeat songs that many teenagers will find relatable, such as I Just Wanna Shine by Fitz and the Tantrums. What I find most stunning about the film is the animation. I love the way the mermaid's hair is like a glowing white mist -- and how all the krakens' markings glow in the dark. The underwater Kraken Kingdom is beautifully constructed, and I love the way the main building is designed with a skylight. The lights and darks and the animation's color scheme make a huge impact on the film as a whole. Even the fast-moving scenes, such as the fight for the trident, are seamlessly animated, and it almost feels like a three-dimensional experience.

Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken reminded me that anyone can do anything, regardless of their age or species! Our differences don't make us weird; they make us special. We can't all have laser eyes, but everyone has a superpower unique to them, just waiting to be unlocked.

I give Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. The movie releases in theaters June 30, 2023.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The film Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is great! I like that they center the film on a 15-year-old and her struggles as a teenager. The film also has some really talented voice actors and hilarious characters that made it really fun to watch and a great time at the movies.

The film is set in a seaside town where Ruby Gillman (Lana Condor) is a teenage kraken just trying to fit in when, after an accident, she turns into a giant kraken! She is embarrassed about her newfound power and desperately wants to hide it. The conflict arises when Ruby tries to learn about her powers, but her mother (Toni Collette) tries to stop her. Ruby decides to learn anyway and finds out that she is much more than just a giant kraken.

Thematically, this film explores coming-of-age and how to treat each other nicely. There are a ton of great things about the movie. To begin, the animation is very creative and colorful. While mostly CGI, it includes traditional 2D animation mixed in. The design of the town is well crafted, and the krakens are very interesting because they have tentacle-like arms and legs that stretch and bend in hilarious ways. The voice actors are great in this film, as well. Annie Murphy's portrayal of Chelsea really covers a wide range of personalities, from sweet to menacing. One of the funniest characters is Uncle Brill, who is just trying to help but always seems to end up getting bonked. My favorite scenes are all the ones under water, because of the wide variety of creatures we see. The ending has a bit of a plot twist.

The film's message is very uplifting -- to answer the call and discover your true self. It's a very positive social message, especially for teenagers. Be aware that there is one mildly disturbing scene where a character almost drowns.

I give Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken is available now in theaters.

By Connor S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS, THE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
ISLAND OF LOST GIRLS, THE
VISION FILMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-12
Description - Three young girls try to stick together as they get trapped in a sea cave filled with crashing waves, hundreds of sea lions, and giant elephant seals.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love Island of Lost Girls! Its captivating storyline, outstanding performances by young actresses who fearlessly handle their own stunts, and breathtaking cinematography on a remote island make it a must-see family thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat.

The storyline follows three young sisters who accidentally become stranded on a remote island, battling nature's dangers and wildlife as they strive to stay together and survive a thrilling, unplanned adventure.

I like the originality of the storyline, which engaged me throughout. The girls' resilience in the face of challenges adds depth to the narrative. The only drawback is that the film runs a bit long which makes it difficult to maintain its intensity. The cinematography completely immerses the audience in a captivating world with breathtaking shots that showcase the remote island's wild beauty and close-ups that intensify emotional moments, such as the sisters' struggles. The camera effectively captures encounters with wildlife, like sea lions and elephant seals, which adds to the film's tension. Dynamic camera angles within the sea cave enhance the sense of adventure and danger. The costumes suit the storyline perfectly - given the girls being stranded on a remote island, they primarily wear wet bathing suits throughout the film. The remote island off the coast of Baja, California, serves as a breathtaking and immersive setting with its rugged coastline, sea caves and natural wildlife, such as sea lions and elephant seals; it creates a sense of realism that enhances the adventure and peril of the girls' journey. One standout location is the sea cave, which becomes the story's central element of tension and wonder. The dark, labyrinthine passages of the cave, illuminated by natural light, add a sense of mystery and danger. The background music, featured music, and sound effects enhance the film's storytelling. Notably, the music intensifies during critical moments, such as when the girls face danger or navigate treacherous waters, effectively building tension. The natural sounds of the sea, waves and wildlife make the audience feel intimately connected to the characters and their struggle for survival. The central characters are portrayed by real-life sisters Autumn Schmidt, Avila Schmidt and Scarlet Schmidt. The sisters are carefree and adventurous at the start, embarking on a fun day at the beach. However, their characters transform significantly as the story unfolds, and they become stranded on the remote island. They evolve from carefree individuals into determined and resourceful young girls who have to rely on one another to survive. Each sister faces personal challenges and fears, and their growth is evident in their ability to confront and conquer these obstacles. This film benefits significantly from the collaborative efforts of the filmmaker family, with parents Ann-Marie Schmidt and Brian Schmidt directing and co-writing the film alongside their daughter Avila Schmidt. Their combined talents result in a cohesive and emotionally engaging narrative, and excellent performances by their daughters, Autumn, Avila, and Scarlet. My favorite part is when the girls dare to escape from their house to sneak to the beach. This scene captures their adventurous spirit and sets the tone for the entire film. It's a moment filled with excitement and anticipation as the sisters embark on what they believe will be a carefree day of fun. The scene effectively establishes their characters and close bond, making it a memorable and engaging start to their remarkable journey.

The film's message is about the strength of family bonds and the ability to adapt and grow in the face of adversity. It highlights the power of unity and determination and the importance of facing challenges together. It conveys that, even in the most challenging situations, the support and love of family can help individuals overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Note that the film does show kids doing risky things that kids might imitate. The girls perform dangerous stunts and engage in water activities that require caution and expertise.

I give Island of Lost Girls 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It is available on VOD and DVD October 3, 2023. So look for it!

By Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Island of The Lost Girls is a strange juxtaposition of a childhood "Mission Impossible" combined with "Survivor." As a viewer I felt a bit lost in the purpose of this film.

The storyline follows three orphaned girls who seek adventure together on the beach in California. The story begins with an adoption interview with the oldest daughter Avila (Avila Marie Schmidt) which turns out to be unsuccessful when the couple realize that Avila has two younger sisters and they are not ready for that kind of commitment. The middle sister, Autumn (Autumn Fiore Schmidt), declares it's going to be "a grand adventure, I promise" and her words are truer than anyone could predict. As the girls sneak out together to overcome their disappointment about the failed adoption, they encounter wildlife and dangerous situations after they are caught in a rip current and pulled away from shore. Luckily, they overcome these situations and learn to survive together on a remote island.

The cinematography, under the direction of Heatha McGrath, is outstanding and really highlights the beauty of the island and wildlife. I really love all the interesting camera angles and wildlife footage - the location is incredible. The camera work is outstanding. I like how they included all the childhood flashback scenes. I should mention that the film is truly a labor of love by the entire Schmidt family. The parents, Ann-Marie Schmidt and Brian Schmidt direct and co-write the film and the girls are all played by their three children, Avila, Autumn and Scarlet. The music by Cali Wang drives the emotions in the film and the three girls contribute musically as well. You cannot find three more independent, fearless and adorable girls who I easily fell in love with. Their interaction is genuine and makes you want to be part of their family, especially the youngest, precocious Scarlet. The girls' adventures include unbelievable and dangerous scenes against the ocean waves and currents combined with local wildlife such as sea lions. Scarlet interacts closely with elephant seals who are dangerous and fighting. Avila and Autumn scale cliffs and maneuver through dangerous caves and Autumn falls from dangerous heights in more than one scene which makes their adventure seem more like a dangerous mission. In spite of all that, the girls learn to survive on this island and to scavenge resources and food from wildlife and what is available to them.

The film's message is that love is unconditional and demonstrates how you can be independent and take risks while supporting one another in the spirit of love. Most of the film shows and even glorifies dangerous behavior for young children such as the girls performing dangerous stunts and water activities. There is very little adult supervision shown, which makes it doubly dangerous.

I rate Island of The Lost Girls, 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It is available on VOD October 3, 2023.

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST!

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


MILLION MILES AWAY, A
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MILLION MILES AWAY, A
AMAZON PRIME Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - This film is a biopic about Jose Hernandez and his path from a farm worker to becoming an engineer and an astronaut. Jose M Hernandez was born in Mexico. While working in the fields, he co-developed the first digital mammography imaging system. He then persevered to become a crew member on Space Shuttle mission STS-128. Tells a tale of perseverance, community and sacrifice to accomplish a seemingly impossible dream.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A Million Miles Away is an absolutely incredible film that is definitely worth watching. The film has great performances, a compelling story and stunning visuals.

The storyline reveals the true life story of Jose Hernandez, the first migrant farmworker to become an astronaut. His journey is filled with incredible perseverance and resilience, as he overcomes numerous obstacles to achieve his dream of reaching the stars.

A Million Miles Away is full of remarkable acting. Michael Pena leads as Hernandez with much charisma and dramatic depth. He excellently captures the humble, smart and ambitious astronaut. It's very difficult not to root for him, as we can all resonate with aspects of his journey. Rosa Salazar portrays the strong, supportive, and similarly determined Adela, who marries Hernandez. Salazar's performance effectively portrays the film's theme of dreams interfering with reality and one's struggle to chase their ambitions while concurrently supporting their family. The way in which Hernandez's story is told in this film is especially captivating. The film connects his past with his present life, helping us understand how his earlier life influenced who he has become. Throughout the film, watching Jose get closer and closer to becoming an astronaut is incredibly satisfying. The film keeps us engaged and eager to see how his life unfolds - making it a truly memorable viewing experience.

The film's message is one of aspiration and persistence. Jose's path is filled with barriers and obstacles, but his unyielding determination drives him to fulfill and pursue his dreams. With Jose Hernandez's traits, one can reach what previously felt a million miles away.

I give A Million Miles Away 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases on September 15, 2023.

By Daniel S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


LITTLE HEROES (2023)
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
LITTLE HEROES (2023)
VISION FILMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-12
Description - A typical summer for four young friends becomes the adventure of a lifetime when they notice that something is amiss at their favorite swimming spot as their friends and family begin falling ill. When they discover that the local factory is dumping harmful chemicals into the town's water, they must expose the truth and figure out how to stop the pollution and save the town before it's too late.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With a simple but engaging story and strong casting, Little Heroes is the perfect film to culminate your summer with!

Little Heroes takes place in a small town where four young friends -- Robbie (Coleman Christian), Brewster (Max Gerstenberg), Eric (Corban Jazz) and Grace (Ashtine Besteda) -- are enjoying their summer break. Brewster's father works in a factory which gets a contract with the town government. He soon finds out that the factory plans to expand their operations, and as a byproduct, is dumping hazardous chemicals into a lake where his son and his friends swim. The friend group catches wind of this and realizes they must use their wits to find a solution.

The casting of Little Heroes is a high point, as is its production quality. Coleman Christian as Robbie and Max Gerstenberg as Brewster are the stars of the cast; it's evident they paid attention to even the littlest nuances in playing their characters. Director and producer Brittany Goodwin has taken all the pains to ensure that every audiovisual element of the film is perfectly tuned. The score by Andrei Shulgach comes off a little bit like stock music, but it does suit the film. It's similar with the costumes, which fit the film's eclectic characters but somehow seem snatched out of a children's book. My personal favorite is the set design by Jennifer Dopp, Donald Imm and Craig Weaver, and the editing and color-correction by Justin Moe and Cinegach Studios. The town in which Little Heroes takes place looks picture-perfect, and every frame is vibrant. I also enjoyed how the plot came together; sure, it is predictable at some points, but there are other plot points (including a romance!) that come out of nowhere. The script feels a little bit forced and the chemistry between Brewster and his father doesn't really work for me; their relationship feels unnatural.

Little Heroes promotes teamwork, caring for our environment, and friendship. It also shows that our individual talents are what help us most in times of crisis. It's a great film for young viewers interested in conservation and those who are fans of realistic fiction. Parents should know that the children do wander around on their own in the film and do risky things like jumping into a biohazardous lake. Also, one character nearly drowns.

I give Little Heroes 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases on October 17, 2023 on demand.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

I really like the hilarious adventure film, Little Heroes. It has a suspenseful storyline that kept me engaged and is a wonderful comfort movie!

This film is about a group of friends attempting to save their whole town before a factory releases harmful chemicals into their favorite lake. Will it be too late to stop the corrupt factory?

The characters in the friend group are Robbie (Coleman Christian), Brewster (Max Gerstenberg), Grace (Ashtine Besteda), and Eric (Corban Jaaz). Other main characters are Diana (Alexa Feldman), Drew Brewster (Brian Stever), and Kerri Smithson (Brittany Goodwin). The characters' interactions are entertaining and they make me feel like I'm in the scene with them. I really admire that despite hardships in their lives, Robbie, Brewster, Grace, and Eric always show up for each other. This is shown when Robbie has a deep conversation with Brewster about his dad working extra hours to make more money. Audiences could relate to this on a personal level. Robbie is a supportive friend, as are the others. I also like the diversity in the friend group. From interests to feminism, everyone in the audience is represented in some way in the group. They are all completely different but get along. Next, I applaud the director and writers, Brittany Goodwin, Doug Maddox, and Jeremiah Wiseblood. They created a suspenseful storyline with an interesting resolution (you'll have to wait and see!) The film is slow at times but it eventually picks up the pace. The camerawork is shaky when there's a lot of action, and closeups when the scene feels more intimate. The sets are well-made, too. I like their clubhouse because it looks like the perfect hangout place. The watering hole, town ice cream shop, and factory look realistic, as well. There's tension in the music when Brewster sneaks into the factory. All of these little details enhance the movie overall. My favorite part of the film is the characters Grace and Diana. They're both strong female leaders and I like their personalities.

The message of this film is that community is the only thing that matters. Love comes before money, power, and success. Brewster's dad figures this out. Another message is that teamwork makes the dream work. Also, Robbie mentions to Brewster that he has "friends that love him," which is an important reminder.

I give Little Heroes 4 out of 5 stars and recommend this for ages 8 to 12. Little Heroes comes out October 17, 2023 on VOD.

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13



KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-12
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


GHOSTERS: PHANTOM PATROL
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
GHOSTERS: PHANTOM PATROL
ARTISTVIEW ENTERTAINMENT Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 8-18
Description - Get ready for an epic adventure with "Ghosters: Phantom Patrol!" When tricky ghosts break free from a super-secret government facility, things get wild, a little spooky, and a whole lot of fun! As New York City is packed with mischievous ghosts, two clueless security guards team up with a pair of fearless tech-savvy kids to save the day. Get ready for a side-splitting and thrilling ride as they dive into the ghostly commotion and work together to save the city!
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Ghosters: Phantom Patrol is a spoof of the classic movie, Ghostbusters. It has good cinematography, but a lot of the time I found myself confused. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or scream at the animated images, and the plot is confusing.

The storyline takes place in New York City and follows Wilbur (Leon Mayfield) and Casey (Heath C. Heine), two ordinary men work the night shift as guards in a mysterious government facility. They soon discover the building is home to ghosts who have been trapped and contained in glowing green tubes (a reference to Ghostbusters, where ghosts are trapped in similar tubes). When the ghosts escape the building, it's up to Wilbur and Casey to stop them from taking over the city.

There are many similarities between Ghosters and Ghostbusters, such as the theme music, the New York setting, and even the logo with the ghost shown at the beginning (though it isn't exactly the same). Fans of Ghostbusters will enjoy certain scenes, like the scene where one spirit takes over a giant statue, a nod to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. However, some things are very different - the iconic four-person crew is missing, and Ghosters is set in the 21st century and ends in a video game. I especially like Wilbur's character -- he provides comic relief, such as when he has to ride a child's bike and when he eats a Domino's� pizza during an attack scene. But while the movie is funny and the landscapes of New York are beautifully captured, it falls a bit short. It has no climax; the movie never peaks. It's all action from the start with no plot twist or big reveal. The characters have no objective or goal either. Wilbur and Casey's escape from the building lacks pizzazz - we are left to use our imaginations. The animated images are confusing as well. Although Ghosters has a funny tone, the ghosts are actually pretty scary looking, with sunken white eyes and limbs that can twist and contort in ways we can't imagine. They're terrifying but very unrealistic. I'm still not sure whether they are supposed to be funny or creepy!

As this movie is meant to be a spoof that makes fun of another movie, the message is a bit unclear. Be aware that there is some mild language, very mild graphic content, some alcohol references and one drug reference. The ghosts may be quite frightening, especially to young children and they scared me.

I give Ghosters: Phantom Patrol 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This film releases on AVOD on September 22, 2023.

The film Ghosters: Phantom Patrol is a very interesting movie. I like this film because it's the perfect mix of funny and suspenseful along with also tackling tough family dynamics.

This storyline follows two guys, Wilbur (Leon Mayfield) and Casey (Heath C. Heine), as they work an overnight surveillance job in a government building. The two, being unemployed, take the job and everything seems to be going fine until they find out they aren't the only ones in the building.

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Joey (Arthur Gazarian) and his dad, Casey, get to bond over fighting some ghosts. Casey was going to miss his son's birthday because of his new job that he got but he later ends up making it up to his son when he joins the battle against the spirits with his dad. The way that Heine and Gazarian show the reconciliation between a dad and a son in a time of need is truly amazing. My favorite character is Wilbur because he is hilarious throughout the film. There is a moment where Wilbur gets out of the facility he's trapped in after Casey does. Once he realizes that he was left there to fend for himself while the others are off looking for what may help them with the ghosts, he finds a very small bike and begins to pedal himself to the source of the issue to be as much help as he can, even if it's going to take a little bit longer for him to get there than the others.

This film's message is that your family will always have your back. Even while Jenah and Casey are not happy with each other, Jenah still stands by Casey's side in his time of need, making sure he is safe. Be aware there is mild swearing and brief discussion about violent actions.

I give Ghosters: Phantom Patrol 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12. Ghosters: Phantom Patrol will be available in theaters this fall on September 22, 2023.

By Victoria L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


AMERICAN: AN ODYSSEY TO 1947
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
AMERICAN: AN ODYSSEY TO 1947
MAPLE ROAD PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - Following the rise and fall of Orson Welles, while interweaving stories of diverse individuals amidst the backdrop of the Great Depression, World War II, and the dropping of the atomic bomb, director Danny Wu's American: An Odyssey To 1947 sheds light on the defining moments that shaped the destinies of the subjects, and the nation's collective consciousness. In the early 1940s, director Orson Welles navigates his meteoric Hollywood rise. As WWII begins, a Japanese American boy visits abroad, and an African American soldier enlists in the army. As the story heads towards 1947, each character follows their own ambitions in search of their American identity. The tone of the film is split into two halves, with the first half being about the romantic rise of a great American director, and the second half transitioning into the realities of race and life in the Jim Crow era. In the end, as one American returns home, another American is forced into exile.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With vivid interviews and b-roll to complement its engaging narrative, American: An Odyssey to 1947 had me glued to the screen and enhanced my understanding of a transformative era in American history.

The film takes viewers through the first half of the 20th century, following stories as diverse as Citizen Kane star Orson Welles rising to fame, to FDR shaking up politics, to Japanese citizens being shipped to internment camps. Things students might yawn at in class -- the makeup of the Northern and Southern Democratic Party, for example -- are made captivating as they're examined through different lenses, including seeing mid-century politics through the shifting relationship of media magnate William Randolph Hearst and FDR.

Thanks to its detailed, well-paced interviews and high-quality photos and videos, American: An Odyssey to 1947 seems destined not for a history classroom but for the silver screen. It might take some time to get used to the multiple narratives being presented, as there isn't much of a transition between them, but viewers can be assured that all becomes clear within the first thirty minutes. The cinematography is clean and clear, as is the soundtrack. My favorite part of the editing is the interspersed of archival interview footage from Orson Welles and others from the 20th century, as well as the somewhat-experimental initial and final sequences shot in black-and-white.

This film promotes patriotism, but also suggests there's more to American identity than meets the eye -- some bad and some good. The film is all about looking back at our experiences and doing better going forward.

American: An Odyssey to 1947 gets 5 stars out of 5 from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film opens in select theaters beginning September 8, 2023 in New York City and releases on digital platforms September 12, 2023.



KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: Web Series


BEYOND THE GRAVE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
BEYOND THE GRAVE
UNCORK'D ENTERTAINMENT Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Exploring the different aspects of the afterlife, including near-death experiences and more.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Beyond the Grave is one of the most informative and awakening documentaries I have ever watched! The whole concept of it is alluring because who wouldn't want to learn about what happens in the afterlife. I also enjoy it because of how everything is so clearly explained. The documentary covers lots of spiritual discoveries and intriguing stories. It is also amusing to watch if you are interested in paranormal activity.

The plot of Beyond the Grave follows Serena DC who is on a mission to figure out as much as she can about what happens after you die. She travels around meeting with different experts, doctors, mediums, and even paranormal investigators who all have stories to disclose. Throughout her trips Serena attains new knowledge that she is using to answer the main question of what really happens to one's soul after they pass and other factors that involve their life before death.

Beyond the Grave has loads of information and each piece adds a bit to the puzzle. The main reason Serena interviews all of these people is because the majority of them share at least one thing, which is the fact that they faced death head on in their own way. For the ones who didn't, they are professionals when it comes to life and death situations. One of the people she meets whose narrative touched me was Susana Grau. She gained abilities after her near-death experience to the point that she can communicate with present spirits. She gave Ms. DC some really interesting information. Another interesting person is Ellen Whealton, who witnessed things out of earth's reach that changed her life for the better and made her who she is today. Each of the people Serena talks with explain their stories and how they changed their lives. The documentary is very well executed from the camera work to the interviews.

The film's message is to show and prove that death, the one assured thing in life, may sound scary but it could truly be just the beginning of something unimaginable to the human mind and its analysis should be seen as such.

I give Beyond the Grave 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Beyond the Grave releases September 5, 2023, on VOD!

By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3
FOCUS FEATURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - From writer and director Nia Vardalos, the worldwide phenomenon MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING is coming back to theaters with a brand-new adventure. Join the Portokalos family as they travel to a family reunion in Greece for a heartwarming and hilarious trip full of love, twists and turns. Opa!
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is the latest of the hilarious trilogy -- this time with more emotion and nostalgia added to its humor. Fans of the franchise will love watching their favorite Greek family back for another wedding and, this time it's set in Greece! I was amazed by the cinematography, the characters and, of course, the jokes!

The movie follows the Portokalos family as they vacation to their recently deceased father's (Michael Constantine) hometown in Greece for a family reunion, coordinated by their cousin and self-appointed mayor Victory (Melina Kotselou). In Greece, Toula (Nia Vardalos) attempts to fulfill her father's death wish -- to deliver his old journal to his childhood friends George (Ektoras Kaloudis), Dimos (Menelaos Ntaflos), and Thanasis (Spyros Kasfiks). However, the discovery of even more new extended family members leads to yet another Greek wedding.

Throughout the film, the landscapes are beautifully captured, showing some very beautiful pictures of rural Greece. We see lush green forests and rolling hills, crystal-clear rivers and cloudless blue skies. Closer to the village, we see a long winding road, cobblestone streets, secret passageways and older, worn buildings that have a rustic charm to them. Several times, we see sunny beaches with white sand. This makes it feel more like a three-dimensional experience than a movie. While fans will miss Grandpa Gus and his amusing ability to connect every word to its Greek root, they will enjoy meeting newer characters such as Toula's daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris). Also, many familiar characters have returned, including Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), who thinks she's in charge of everyone else, and Toula's cousin Nick (Louis Mandylor). The soundtrack features upbeat Greek songs, such as the wedding dance. But my favorite part of the movie is all the jokes. Every morning, the family is awakened by a rooster. Cousin Nick hilariously tries to shave his face at the breakfast table. There is one scene where a sheep randomly enters the house before most people are up. An aunt is startled by the sheep, which is right next to her when she wakens, and exclaims that she thought her husband had come back from the dead.

This film reminds us that time with our loved ones is valuable, and we should make the most of it. We only get to live once, so we should live each day to the fullest and appreciate our cherished people every day.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gets 4.5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. The releases in theaters September 8, 2023.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is a fun comedic film that takes you on an adventure to an authentic small town in Greece.

This film brings the Portokalos family together for the third time and, in this film they are going to their father's hometown for a special reunion. In his last words to his daughter, Toula (Nia Vardalos), he asked her to reconnect with his best friends from childhood and give them his diary. The family embarks on a journey of new discoveries, finding their culture, and connecting with the people around them.

I really enjoyed the beautiful locations in this film. Everything from ocean views, to food, to music, and the Greek culture made me feel as though I was getting swept off my feet and fully emerged into Greece. This really speaks for the film, plus it has such a fun summer aesthetic. Additionally, this movie has the total package of humor and insight. There are many moments of laughter, specifically with Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) and her fun free spirit. The scenes with Aunt Voula and Toula are such key bonding moments for them; their special relationship to one-another intensified during this trip. I also found this film to be quite the tear-jerker as I was definitely wiping tears from my eyes by the end. There are so many emotions and pure human reactions incorporated into this film which gives it so much life. You can feel the love that the all the family members have for one another, based on how they stick together and believe in each other. Another standout is the storyline. Sometimes sequels can fall flat and feel repetitive. However, this is definitely not the case here! The third time the Portokalos come together to continue their story is exciting, while still staying authentic to who they are and what they believe in.

The message of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is to never give up on the power of hope and love. The film does contain some jokes intended for an older audiences, so be forewarned.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gets 4.5 out of stars and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 releases in theaters September 8, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Get ready to yell "Opa!" for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3! This emotional, but fun movie is definitely the most upbeat of the trilogy, and this particular film holds a special message about family and love.

This film follows Toula (Nia Vardalos), Ian (John Corbett) and the rest of the Portokalos family as they are on their way to a family reunion in their motherland - Greece. As they want to make a tribute to Gus Portokalos, Toula attempts to track down Gus's three best friends from childhood to give them a special gift. Along this journey, the family discovers new and important roots and celebrates many cultures, all while trying to plan the best family reunion ever.

My favorite part of this film is definitely the location. This film is set in Plaka, Athens and it is absolutely breathtaking to see the oceans and the mountains and the small villages; everything is so unique and special. I also love the costumes, especially those worn by Elena Kampouris's character, Paris. They are all so fashionable and I fell in love with their patterns and colors. I also appreciate that they celebrate many different cultures in this film, as it shows that they are open to being diverse and they make sure to include everyone, no matter where someone is from. My favorite character is definitely Toula because, even though she struggles with so much in her life, she is the epitome of resilience.

The message of this film is to be open to new experiences, because you never know how similar you are to others. As the Portokalos family stays in Greece, they find new connections and new friends. Be aware that there is mild profanity, sexual references, and partial nudity.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This movie will be released in theaters on September 8, 2023.

By Ari P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH
NETFLIX Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Lifelong best friends Stacy (Sunny Sandler) and Lydia (Samantha Lorraine) have long dreamt of epic bat mitzvahs but when popular boy Andy Goldfarb (Dylan Hoffman) and Hebrew school drama come between them, their perfect plans go comically awry. Directed by Sammi Cohen, produced by Happy Madison and Alloy Entertainment, and also starring Idina Menzel, Sadie Sandler, Sarah Sherman, Luis Guzm�n, and Jackie & Adam Sandler, You are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah chronicles the high comedy and modern teen angst that comes with family, friendship, and first crushes.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I really enjoyed watching You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah and felt very connected with it for so many reasons. I definitely feel that, regardless of one's religious beliefs you can find a way to relate to this film, which I especially love. The story is very well written and I love the way this film was shot.

The storyline is about a 12-year-old girl, Stacy, who has been planning her bat mitzvah since she is turning 13. So was her best friend Lydia and they both planned on helping each other for their big day which meant everything for them. Stacy has a big crush on Andy, a boy who goes to the girls' school. But things take a turn when boys start interfering with the girls' personal lives and friendship.

I strongly believe this film is very relatable for many viewers, especially teens. I saw myself experiencing many things that are similar to what Stacy and Lydia deal with in this film. The script is very influenced by Gen Z in the best way possible. The dialogue feels very natural and not at all forced. One of my biggest pet peeves with teen films is when the dialogue tries to sound like a "cool teen" might, when in reality it comes off as cheesy. The entire film feels very natural to me in that it doesn't feel like a clich� high school style of film. I really like the score of this film, the overall acting, and the script -- all of that combined really captivated me. Kudos to director Sammi Cohen whose direction is very on the ball with this film. Sunny Sandler's portrayal of Stacy is so relatable; I love Sunny's acting style. Samantha Lorraine's characterization of Lydia works so well with showing her friendship with Sunny - it feels like they've been best friends for years. I also loved Sadie Sandler's portrayal of Ronnie, Stacy's older sister. Her character is so uniquely different from Stacy; I love the dynamic between them and the contrast of their characters. Dylan Hoffman's Andy is the perfect representation of teenage boys nowadays which Dylan executes so well. Last, Sarah Sherman's portrayal of Rabbi Rebecca really stands out -- she is one of my favorite characters because of her distinctive characterization. Although I am not Jewish, that didn't interfere with how I connected with this film in the slightest.

I think the message of this film is that even when one's intentions aren't bad you can still hurt someone else.

I give You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available on Netflix beginning August 25, 2023.

By Zoe C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


MONKEY KING, THE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
MONKEY KING, THE
NETFLIX Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - The Monkey King is an action-packed family comedy that follows a rebellious and charismatic Monkey and his magical fighting Stick on an epic quest for victory over 100 demons, an eccentric Dragon King, and Monkey's greatest foe of all --his own ego! Along the way, a young village girl challenges his self-centered attitude and shows him that even the smallest pebble can have a big effect on the world.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Monkey King is a modern twist on the classic Chinese tale. It takes you on an exciting adventure of discovery and growth, while being packed with fun and suspense.

The storyline follows a journey of the Monkey King (Jimmy O. Yang). Although he is strong and powerful, the praise that he receives can sometimes go to his head. When he is faced with the ultimate challenge of defeating the Dragon King (Bowen Yang), he must learn to put his pride aside and work with the secretive, but friendly Lin (Jolie Haong-Rappapert) who can help him conquer this journey.

A huge standout is the character development in the film. The Monkey King changes a lot throughout the movie. He starts off conceited and relentless and, by the end, he's changed for the better. His character learns multiple lessons along the way which helps teach young viewers about selflessness and understanding that sometimes the right answer isn't always what's best for you. I enjoy the creative storyline. The Director (Anthony Stacchi) and Producer (Peilin Chou) have incorporated aspects of traditional Chinese culture and tales to create a modern day version of The Monkey King that grasps multiple audiences. The townspeople are inspired by the Ming Dynasty, which was cool for me to see as I have been learning all about that during the past year. I always get excited when I'm able to connect and understand historical references! Lastly, the film's animation is top notch! The quality is clear, and the color scheme really fits the aesthetic. The Monkey King feels so alive and vibrant, which definitely catches my attention.

The message of The Monkey King is that everyone has the power to create their own path in life.

I give The Monkey King 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. You can watch The Monkey King on Netflix beginning August 11, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


GOLDA
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
GOLDA
BLEECKER STREET MEDIA Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Golda is a ticking-clock thriller set during the tense 19 days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Helen Mirren), faced with the potential of Israel's complete destruction, must navigate overwhelming odds, a skeptical cabinet, and a complex relationship with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber), with millions of lives in the balance. Her tough leadership and compassion would ultimately decide the fate of her nation and leave her with a controversial legacy around the world.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - What a remarkable film with a stunning performance by Helen Mirren. I am absolutely awed by her, once again.

The film focuses on the 19-day Yom Kippur War and the tragedy of it all.

I remember in my youth, this war happening, but if pressed for the details, I would be hard-pressed to provide that. What this film shows is how Prime Minister Meir handled this crisis with an iron glove. Dealing with her all male cabinet and advisors, she is always the quintessential leader. She asks for their advice, but clearly the decisions she makes are completely her own. We see her soft side as she shows concern for the son of one of her secretaries in one scene and, in another, pulls out a small notebook wherein she keeps track of the number of troops who have died. I walked out of this film numbed to my core and really couldn't speak about it for hours. It just made me think deeply about how vulnerable the state of Israel is and what it must be like for those who live there to be surrounded by big and powerful countries.

The film's message is really about standing your ground in even the most difficult of situations.

I give Golda 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. By Julie S., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Golda is a somewhat bland, but interesting look at how Israel's prime minister from 1969 to 1974, Golda Meir confronted the forces that threatened her country. Aside from its monotone nature, Golda contains award worthy performances, and visually striking cinematography.

When Egypt, Syria, and Jordan launched an attack on Israel, Golda Meir (Helen Mirren), Israel's determined Prime Minister, managed internal conflicts within her predominantly male cabinet and raced against time to avert disaster during the 19-day span of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Golda portrays her intense struggle to preserve Israel.

Helen Mirren's performance as Golda Meir is the film's strongest asset. Mirren commits to the role and transforms herself physically. Meir's struggle to grapple and navigate Israel's ongoing war is depicted flawlessly, along with the deep feelings of stress and terror seen in her eyes. Her patriotism and profound love for the citizens of Israel is clear. Live Schreiber has a minor, but pivotal role as Henry Kissinger and delivers a performance just as remarkable. His dynamic with Meir is one of the film's most enjoyable aspects due to their rocky relationship. Golda's runtime is definitely felt. While it sets a necessary somber mood for the gravity of the situation, it makes Golda void of visual variety. The film maintains a constant gloomy color tone, which is artistic, but this makes the film very tedious to watch. Even with its ticking clock pace, Golda is filled with excessive verbal communication instead of actual events occurring. Showing instead of telling would make Golda's stress and the growing tension more believable. Another huge highlight of Golda is Jasper Wolf's cinematography. Golda is filled with unique and stunning shots and camera movements. Shots are used to express the tension with rapid camera motion along with still, more mellow shots. This assists the actors' performances by improving the impact of their emotion.

Golda's message is the importance of unity and perseverance in difficult times. Despite all odds, Golda Meir pushes through obstacles in order to protect her country of Israel. She stands not for herself, but for all in trouble and in need of hope. Her endless patriotism and devotion drives her to fight for Israel and unify all. Parents should be aware that Golda is centered around a very heavy topic and includes violence and profanity.

I give Golda 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It will be released in theaters August 25, 2023.

By Daniel Salem, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


INTO THE SPOTLIGHT (2023)
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
INTO THE SPOTLIGHT (2023)
REVIVE PRODUCTIONS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - Into the Spotlight centers on a high schooler who grew up writing music with her rockstar dad but always preferred to stay out of the limelight. When her best friend isn't able to perform, she steps in as her substitute at their high school talent show. The incredible performance goes viral, and she becomes an overnight star.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Into the Spotlight is a remarkable film! The film includes lots of singing, dancing, and some romance as well. It is also great if you are a fan of plot twists because there is definitely a jaw dropper for this one, it was extremely fun to watch!

The storyline follows Laura Banks (Kate Larson) who has a passion for singing and songwriting but not the best confidence to do so. She is very shy when it comes to audiences and performing, but when she is alone she sings with grace and no fear. Laura's friends, Riley (Marisa Lynae Hampton), Ben (Raphael Ruggero) and David (Justin Sterner) are just as talented as she is. Laura ends up unintentionally falling into fame and, in the process, loses touch with her authentic self. As she juggles with the trappings of success her identity becomes overshadowed, but with the guidance of her parents and friends, she embarks on a journey of rediscovering herself for the better, seeking to reclaim the genuine essence of who she is before it's too late.

This film has numerous surprising turns that kept me on my toes throughout the entire film. There's the ideal high school drama between the protagonist, Laura, and her school bully Violet (Isabelle Almoyan) who twists up issues and adds fuel to the fire whenever she can. Additionally, there a school talent show where Laura makes her debut with her friends that practically puts her on the map. An important theme is to never be afraid because you might miss out on something great if you do. The costumes are very relatable --gorgeous and classy. The sets are cool as well; some are at the school and others are impressive homes, vintage retail stores, and fabulous apartments. The whole time I thought how this film is both surreal and relatable all at once. The songs are catchy and perfectly match the various scenes. As for the actors' performances, they are executed well but lacked emotion. Everything makes sense in the end and none of it is expected.

The film's message is to never lose sight of who you are and to stay true to yourself along with the ones you love. Steer clear of those who want to change you for the worse.

I give Into the Spotlight 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Into the Spotlight releases September 1, 2023 on VOD!

By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Into the Spotlight is a film full of teaching that I enjoyed and felt thrilled because it talks about success and this film really defines that!

The storyline follows Laura Banks (Kate Larson), a teenager who is discovering what she wants, and a scholarly event suddenly shows the girl what her purpose is. Everything is right but someone very important to Laura's career has an idea that goes against the girl's thoughts and can change her life as well as everybody else involved.

What I enjoy about this film is how it depicts situations very similar to the days of many students; it addresses serious subjects that we need to learn, including music and singing, which I relate to. My favorite part is when Laura becomes courageous and shows everybody her talent. Laura's energy is contagious! I like the way Laura's father is kind to her and is always on her side. I love seeing such a great example of good parenting. The costumes are very typical of what a young person might wear today. For example the t-shirts the teenagers wear to school and what they usually use. The soundtrack is very important for the film and the singers perform them quite admirably. For example, I enjoyed the music when Laura sings and the music in a sad scene made it very touching.

The film's message is a reminder to choose friends for quality not quantity, and believe in yourself.

I give Into the Spotlight 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. It will be available on VOD and DVD September 1, 2023.

By Anna Clara B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


HILL, THE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
HILL, THE
BRIARCLIFF ENTERTAINMENT Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - Growing up impoverished in small-town Texas, young Rickey Hill shows an extraordinary ability for hitting a baseball, despite being burdened by leg braces from a degenerative spinal disease. His stern, pastor father discourages Rickey from playing baseball to protect him from injury, and to have him follow in his footsteps and become a preacher. As a young man, Ricky becomes a baseball phenomenon. His desire to participate in a try-out for a legendary major league scout divides the family and threatens Rickey's dream of playing professional baseball.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - See youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With a hard-hitting cast and beautifully written, evocative script, The Hill surely captured my attention and should appeal to sports, drama and biographical film fans as well.

The Hill is based on the true story of Rickey Hill (Colin Ford, Jesse Berry), a kid from a poor Baptist family in rural Texas. Rickey has big dreams of becoming a baseball superstar and he's immensely talented at batting, but he must face one problem -- his dad (Dennis Quaid) won't let him. Even when Rickey seems to have overcome congenital degenerative spinal disease, his father refuses to let him play, and he's intent on molding him into a pastor just like him.

The direction by Jeff Celentano and screenplay by Angelo Pizzo and Scott Marshall Smith come together to bind the story -- a riveting narrative of talent torn between passion and family. The set pieces and props, ever the wooden leg braces Rickey wears as a child, are all realistic. The dialogue in The Hill is real and raw, and I especially like how each cast member has convincing Texan accents. Dennis Quaid is an absolute superstar in the film; you'll want to scream your head off at him sometimes and at other times, you'll consider where he's coming from -- though that's an angle the film doesn't explore much. I was most taken by Jesse Berry's portrayal of the young, fiery Rickey; he helms the film's many tear-jerker moments. It's certainly a stellar performance by a child actor, especially given the complexity of the role.

The Hill promotes pursuing your dreams with resilience; never saying never; and gaining a better understanding of perspectives different from you. The film contains religious content given Rickey's upbringing in a strict, conservative Baptist family.

I give The Hill 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters on August 25, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


SNOOPY PRESENTS: ONE-OF-A-KIND MARCIE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
SNOOPY PRESENTS: ONE-OF-A-KIND MARCIE
APPLE TV Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 5-18
Description - One-of-a-Kind Marcie follows Marcie, an introvert who loves her solitude but also enjoys helping her friends. During the school golf championship, Marcie assists Peppermint Patty as her caddie, offering thoughtful and deliberate advice to help her win. Meanwhile, back at school, Marcie is nominated for class president and starts to observe other friends and classmates needing help -- from traffic jams in the hallway to not having enough to share with everyone at lunch. Full of great ideas, Marcie wants to offer help but struggles to share them in a way that doesn't force her to be in the spotlight. She is eventually empowered to buck other people's expectations and embrace her own unique way of doing things -- allowing her to help her friends in her own way out of the spotlight.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Snoopy Presents: One-of-a-kind Marcie is truly one of a kind! In the new and first feature film about the infamous and brilliant Marcie from the Peanuts gang, the true essence of the beloved character is revealed. It's quite different from the style and messages of previous Peanuts films but still with the look and feel we've come to love of the classic franchise.

In Snoopy Presents: One-of-a-Kind Marcie, Marcie (Arianna McDonald), the main character, is an introvert who struggles with using all her amazing ideas to help solve problems for her friends and classmates on the big stage ... from wanting to solve the pizza shortage at her school, to helping Peppermint Patty (Lexi Perri) with playing golf. Peppermint Patty suggests Marcie run for Class President since she has such great ideas; however, since Marcie is too shy, she doesn't want to do it. Throughout the film, we get to see the challenges Marcie faces while trying to juggle being an introvert and wanting to help everyone.

My favorite aspect of this film is what the director Raymond S. Persi refers to as "still picture" scenes, which are used to show Marcie's feeling when talking about not wanting to run for Class President. She goes into her own little world surrounded by black shadows that appear to be "coming for her." This film is unique because the other films tend to focus on Charlie Brown, the whole gang, or characters who are popular, special events, and holidays. Instead this one highlights a personality type and Marcie's challenges. I love that the Executive Producer and son of Charles M. Schultz, Mr. Craig Shultz, drew inspiration for the film from the movie Hidden Figures and wanted to make a film about a smart girl with big ideas that just needed a way to show them off!

The message of this film is to just be yourself, be one-of-a-kind. Even if you are introverted, you can do anything and even if you feel overwhelmed, that's okay. You can find other ways to get your ideas out there! In the film, Marcie speaks about this multiple times to herself and to her friends. Don't let your personality type stop you in life.

I give Snoopy Presents: One-of-a-kind Marcie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. You can watch it on Apple TV+ starting August 18, 2023.

By Tiana S, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 5-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: TV


BLUE BEETLE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
BLUE BEETLE
WARNER BROS. PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I really love the film Blue Beetle! One thing I enjoy is the strong cultural theme at its center. It is a great sci-fi film, with a great tone and some pretty fun comedic scenes and characters, which is different for a DC movie.

The storyline is set in Palmera City where Jamie Reyes (Xolo Maridue�a), a Gotham pre-law graduate, is trying to get a job. When he meets Jenny Kord (Bruna Marqueszine), she gives him a piece of alien technology called the "Scarab" that gives him superpowers. The plot thickens when a woman named Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) tries to steal the Scarab back from Jamie, putting his entire family in danger.

The storyline is great. What this story does differently than other superhero movies is make the main character's family a big part of the action. There are a lot of other unique things about this film, too. I love the way the director and writers bring representation of Latino culture into the film through the characters and the sets. Palmera City, Jamie's house and Jamie's family all feel very realistic. The costumes are incredible as well, especially the Blue Beetle suit -- it's slick and has a personality of its own. Of all the characters, my favorite is Rudy (George Lopez), who brings a lot of fun into his scenes. He is the 'tech support' for Jamie, but is also a conspiracy theorist, and there are a lot of jokes based on his quirky personality. The makeup effects are great too; for example the scene where Jamie transforms into the Blue Beetle.

The film's message is that family makes you stronger, not weaker, which is a theme I love. Be forewarned that the film has a few violent scenes, a lot of action, some profanity and sexual references.

I give Blue Beetle 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters on August 18, 2023.

By Connor S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

By Connor S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Blue Beetle is a fascinating adventurous movie that checks off every box. It brings you to laughter, tears and everything in between all while being an intense blockbuster film!

Blue Beetle takes place in Palmera City, and follows Jamie Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) who starts off as a typical college graduate trying to find himself and his calling. That all changes when an ancient relic, a Scarab, chooses Jamie as its host and sends him and his family on a life changing adventure.

A huge standout in this film is the creative storyline. I really enjoyed the idea of the Scarab, and how the characters go about finding a solution. Each character really comes to life, and watching their journey is so interesting. This movie hits all the marks and has something for everyone. There are so many comedic scenes, yet still definitely has some tear-jerking moments, especially in the end. These different dynamics contribute to creating a well-rounded film, which leads up to the satisfaction that comes at the end. It is quite intense and had me on the edge of my seat most of the time. Another thing I enjoyed are the characters. They each have their own personalities and skills, but ultimately come together through their common love of family. For example, Jamie, Blue Beetle, is more of a go-with-the-flow kind of guy and a little unsure of himself. Then there's Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), who is confident and experienced. Rudy (George Lopez) likes to take risks and often prays for the best. All of these different characteristics and personalities come together and mesh so well in creating a power team!

Lastly, the scenery in this movie is outstanding. The island is beautiful and the CGI is extremely clear. From the clear blue ocean water, to the local heartwarming neighborhoods, everything is extremely appealing to the eye. These features draw my attention, and locked me into what I'm watching.

The message of Blue Beetle is that strength comes from love and hope. Be forewarned that this film contains some strong language, aggressive violence and use of weapons.

I give Blue Beetle 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Blue Beetle releases in theaters August 18, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Blue Beetle is an awesome movie! I like it because the story revolves around family and it's a comedic sci-fi film made me laugh and cry.

Blue Beetle is about a young man named Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridue�a), who returns home after graduating from college and discovers that his family is about to lose their house. When he and his sister, Milagro Reyes (Belissa Escobedo), get jobs working at the house of Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), Milagro's mischief causes them to get fired, but not before they meet Victoria's niece, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine). Jenny offers to help Jaime land a job at Kord Industries but instead, she winds up asking him to protect the Scarab, an alien artifact that turns him into the Blue Beetle. The Scarab gives Jaime superhero powers but he is reluctant to use them until his family and Jenny become the target of the film's villain, Victoria Kord. She wants to harness the power of the Scarab to build superhuman warriors and rule the world.

You won't want to miss this heart-warming action-packed film. Throughout the entire film, the cinematography is so good that it feels like you are right in the middle of all the action. My favorite part is when Jaime is in danger and his family and Jenny rescue him by using advanced technology developed by Jenny's late father. Even Jaime's grandmother, Nana (Adriana Barraza), shows off her impressive combat skills by wielding a futuristic-looking rainbow-colored cannon. The upbeat Latin-inspired soundtrack adds even more energy to the already intense scenes as Jaime's loved ones risk their safety to protect him. I was especially impressed by Uncle Rudy's (George Lopez) bravery when he faced off against Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) and narrowly avoided being hit by a fireball. Overall, this movie is truly a thrilling and action-packed ride that will have you rooting for the Reyes family as they laugh together, encourage one another, and cope with tragedy.

The film's message is that family matters more than anything else, and the love of your family make you strong even when things seem impossible. Be forewarned that there are some strong language and scenes with blood and gore that may be scary for a younger audience.

I give Blue Beetle 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Blue Beetle is available in movie theaters on August 18, 2023.

By Kira O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I really enjoyed Blue Beetle. The characters are heartwarming and lovable while the VFX are beautiful. The message of this film is about family which I felt was a genuine storyline and not the typical family story line we see in movies.

The storyline follows Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena), a recent college graduate, who is chosen by an alien scarab to be its symbiotic host. The alien scarab gives the teen a suit of armor with extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever altering his future as he becomes the superhero known as Blue Beetle.

Blue Beetle Is a great family film with a theme used correctly while having lovable characters. What makes the characters so lovable? Their charisma and charm. The best example of this is Rudy Reyes (George Lopez) who steals the show. Anytime he's on camera it's going to be a good time. The other character that's lovable is Nana Reyes (Adrianna Brazza) who is heartwarming to watch on camera while still remaining a funny character. I won't say more about her because, if I do, I might spoil some of her best moments. If you see this film you'll understand. Finally the person that I believe to be the heart of this film is Alberto Reyes (Damian Alcazar). This character is how the theme of this film is used correctly with very few lines. He somehow makes an impact on this film greater than anybody else. Without him this film wouldn't be the same. Now let's talk about the VFX. This movie is a breath of fresh air. The VFX for this film is pretty beautiful. There's one moment with Jaime and his dad that is just magnificent and even the Blue Beetle suit looks realistic. Even with all these good things Blue Beetle has its flaws. There are some moments in this film that could have been better like providing scenes that give it more depth. I know the character Blue Beetle, but if this is your first time ever seeing the character Blue Beetle you won't know much about his backstory. You will still enjoy it - it's a great experience and you should definitely go watch it.

The theme of this film is about family. It deals with all the things surrounding a family, such as the loss of a family member, the struggles of a family to afford rent that month, or issues with each other. All of these problems blend so well that, by the end of the film, the characters have grown and learned. It gives them development. It's kind of hard to describe how wonderfully portrayed the theme of family is here. In order to truly understand you have to go watch the film.

I give Blue Beetle 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommended it for ages 12 to 18. This film releases in theaters on August 18, 2023

By Rayce S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES SEASON 4
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL: THE MUSICAL: THE SERIES SEASON 4
WALT DISNEY STUDIOS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: TV SERIES, AGES 12-18
Description - After an epic summer at Camp Shallow Lake, the Wildcats return to East High where they prepare a stage production of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year." But plans are disrupted when Principal Gutierrez announces that Disney has decided to make the long-awaited "High School Musical 4: The Reunion" movie on location at their beloved high school.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4 is a great new season to add to the previous three. The series features many returning characters that are known and loved, as well as some new additions to the cast.

Season 4 has the East High students putting on a production of High School Musical 3: Senior Year. However things take a twist when it's revealed by a famous couple that they, along with some of the original cast of the High School Musical trilogy are going to be making High School Musical 4 right in the East High School. With tensions brewing and the movie crew taking over the school, the East High students are in for a wild ride this season.

The twists and turns that happen throughout this season are amazingly captivating. Every time I think things can't get crazier, they do. The relationship between Ricky (Joshua Bassett) and Gina (Sofia Wylie) is very cute and one of the best parts of this season. Actually all of the relationship and friendship dynamics in the show are very cute and scripted. Another cool part of this season is the return of lots of alumni from the original series, including Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel and the legendary Alyson Reed. The whole cast excels in their performances of their characters -- the dynamics of the various relationships are well defined and make sense. For example the relationship between characters Ashlyn (Julia Lester) and Maddox (Saylor Bell Cruda) starts as a platonic friendship with lots of texting yet seems to be developing into more. The show is filmed again at the iconic East High School, which is an appealing part of the series that we all relate to now. One of my all-time favorite parts of this season is the creation of an entirely fake show called Mark and Spark with its own intro and theme song. A new character, Mack (Mathew Sato), comes to East High to star in High School Musical 4 and Mark and Spark is the show that made him famous when he was young. The show features many revised versions of Disney songs such as Now or Never from High School Musical 3 as well as lots of new original songs that are very catchy. One of my favorites is the song in episode one that Ricky and Gina write together about their relationship. Other returning actors include Dara Rene�, Julia Lester, Frankie Rodriguez, Kate Reinders, Liamani Segura and many more.

The message of this season is to be in the moment and don't get caught up in the past. It is a continuing message throughout the entire series.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. The new season releases all episodes August 9, 2023 on Disney+.

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

I love High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4. It's filled with engaging content and storylines that keep you hooked. The characters and themes are easy to enjoy and understand, especially if you are a High School Musical fan and even if you are new to the series.

The new series joins the East High drama club's return from a hectic summer camp when things take an unexpected turn. The original cast of High School Musical, the movie, arrives to introduce a new movie idea with the East High drama club included in the cast. The drama club will also stage an adaptation of one of the HSM films. The plot moves quickly and is fun and easy to follow with some unexpected surprises along the way. Each episode recaps the previous storyline and keeps it going with new twists, subplots and characters that make them easy to watch and watch again. The camera work with smooth zooms and clear focus on the actors enhances the viewing experience. I love how the costumes match the vibe of average teens, featuring popular brands and fresh styles. I appreciate the attention to detail with the set design; they truly reflect high schoolers rooms from the neat and organized to the truly messy. I couldn't help but enjoy the music. The background music really sets the mood and moves the story along. But it is the cast's songs that really tell the story with well-rounded lyrics and fun-to-listen-to melodies. I really enjoyed the harmonies of the Halloween special; full of fun and a great surprise to start off the first episode of the season--an excellent beat. The new main character Gina (Sofia Wylie) shows a deep emotional side while remaining strong and confident. I enjoy how relatable her character is. The scriptwriter did a strong job with fast-moving dialogue that is witty, complex and heartfelt. The writers create a series that entertains, with a story inside of a story, without being confusing. My favorite part is when Gina meets Mark (Matthew Sato) her childhood crush and her current boyfriend Ricky (Joshua Bassett) jealously and comically tries to prove he's better than him.

The message of this season is about taking things slowly, not rushing into decisions, and figuring things out calmly.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I and recommend it to ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Season 4 releases August 9, 2023 on Disney+.



KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: TV


SLUMBER PARTY, THE
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
SLUMBER PARTY, THE
DISNEY+ Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURES, AGES 8 TO 18
Description - The Slumber Party depicts the hilarious aftermath of a sleepover birthday party hypnotism gone wrong as best friends Megan and Paige, along with soon-to-be step-sister Veronica, wake up with absolutely no memory of the night before. Now they must retrace their steps to find missing birthday girl Anna Maria and explain why there's a flock of baby ducks in the bathtub, what happened to Megan's eyebrow, and why she's wearing unattainable hottie Jake Ramirez's signature black hoodie.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love The Slumber Party. It is a heartwarming Disney film that brilliantly captures the essence of teenage friendships and the journey of self-discovery. With its enchanting storyline and captivating moments, the movie celebrates the power of friendship while encouraging viewers to break free from insecurities, making it a genuinely empowering cinematic experience.

The storyline follows best friends Megan (Darby Camp), Anna Maria (Valentina Herrera) and Paige (Emmy Liu-Wang) at a sleepover celebrating Anna Maria's birthday before high school begins. However, things take an unexpected turn when Anna Maria's soon-to-be stepsister is included, causing tensions among the girls. The night takes a magical twist when the party entertainer, Mesmer, hypnotizes them and leads them on a hilarious and life-changing adventure that makes them put aside their self-consciousness and embrace their true selves.

This heartwarming Disney film is a delightful and empowering experience for youth and family audiences that offer valuable life lessons and an enchanting adventure. The Slumber Party weaves a captivating tale of friendship and self-discovery through the remarkable performances of Megan, Anna Maria and Paige. The film's nostalgic sets and locations immerse the audience in the world of teenage camaraderie; while the imaginative costumes, complemented by an impressive soundtrack, add depth to the characters. Mesmer's hypnotic scenes and seamless special effects contribute a touch of magic, all masterfully directed. A standout moment is when the girls steal a hedgehog car float, showcasing youthful rebellion and friendship, leaving viewers exhilarated. The Slumber Party delivers an enchanting cinematic experience, celebrating the power of friendship and the joy of embracing one's true self. The film is uplifting and leaves viewers with a heartwarming feeling at the end, reminding us that true friendships and self-acceptance can lead to extraordinary and magical adventures.

The message of The Slumber Party is about the power of friendship, self-discovery and embracing one's true self as the girls learn to break free from their insecurities and support each other through the challenges of adolescence. There are no concerning elements present in the movie, making it a delightful and family-friendly film.

I give The Slumber Party 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It releases July 27, 2023 on Disney Channel and July 28 on Disney+.

By Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Sure you have been to a slumber party before, but trust me you have never been to one like this. This film has a great message that anybody no matter what age they are, can take away. This movie is fun, enjoyable, and it kept me wondering throughout the whole movie. So sit back, relax, and enjoy The Slumber Party.

This film is about Megan (Darby Camp), Anna Marie (Valentina Herrera), Paige (Emmy Liu-Wang), and Veronica (Alex Cooper Cohen) who have a slumber party for Anna Marie's birthday. Anna Marie wants to get her mind off of her dad's wedding so to help her live without thinking, she hires a hypnotist. After waking up with no memory of what happened last night, they can't seem to find out where Anna Marie is. The friends have to follow clues to try to where Anna Marie is.

An aspect of the film that I really enjoy is the comedy. All the characters in this film have such a great sense of humor which keeps you laughing the whole time. The audience can relate to many of the characters because they are going through real life situations. For example, Anna Marie's dad is getting remarried and she is not happy about it. She doesn't want to accept that he is moving on and this is a topic that many kids can relate to. My favorite character is Megan because she has a good sense of humor and I enjoyed her character development. Megan is afraid to try new things and to put herself out there. But with the help of her friends she is able to push past her anxiety of trying different things.

The message of The Slumber Party is that trying something new may not be easy but sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. And who knows you may even enjoy trying something new. This film is completely appropriate and is a great movie to watch with the family in your free time.

I give The Slumber Party 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12. This film is out now and you can find it on Disney+. Be sure to check it out!

By Giana N., Age 12, KIDSFIRST! Film Critic

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
LAKOTA NATION VS. UNITED STATES
IFC FLMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: DOCUMENTARY, AGES 12-18
Description - A chronicle about how the Lakota Indians fight to reclaim control of the Black Hills. Will investigate how the sacred land was stolen in violation of treaty agreements and feature interviews with Indigenous citizens.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Lakota Nation vs. United States educates and entertains with hard-hitting interviews and lyrical narration. It's an incredible watch for history buffs, especially those looking to learn more about a significant moment in US history.

A chronicle of the Lakota people and their homeland of the Black Hills, Lakota Nation vs. United States traces the journey of a marginalized people. It starts with the Indian Wars of the 1800s, describes how sacred land was stolen in violation of treaty agreements. It progresses through the centuries all the way to today, as people protest a most ironic shrine to white supremacy, Mount Rushmore, and continue to call for the recognition of their tribal rights.

The film is unique for a variety of reasons. First, it's co-directed by Jesse Short Bull -- an Oglala Lakota man -- and Laura Tomaselli, one of the few times in mass media we see Native Americans telling their stories. It is a wonderful touch that provides the whole film with a spirit of warmth and respect. The film is written and narrated by acclaimed Oglala poet Layli Long Soldier, and its narration will be the first thing to strike you in Lakota Nation vs. United States. The rhythmic refrain of "X marks the spot," the soft, dignified, yet strong voice of Long Soldier, and the emotional roller-coaster of the story are truly mesmerizing. Tomaselli also serves as the editor of the film, and she, along with cinematographer Kevin Phillips use a wealth of archival and modern footage and rousing interviews with activists and leaders to tell this beautiful story of a land and a people who have survived exploitation, forced migration, and genocide, and who still wait for justice to come.

Lakota Nation vs. United States promotes resilience, valuing culture, standing up to oppression, and honoring history. The Lakota provide us with so many lessons from which to learn and grow into better versions of ourselves.

I give Lakota Nation vs. United States 5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. It releases July 21, 2023 in select markets and will roll out later to other locations.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


DREAMIN' WILD
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
DREAMIN' WILD
ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Dreamin' Wild, the true story of love and redemption, is about what happened to singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson and his family when the album he and his brother recorded as teens was rediscovered after thirty years of obscurity and was suddenly hailed by music critics as a lost masterpiece. While the album's rediscovery brings hopes of second chances, it also brings long-buried emotions as Donnie, his wife Nancy, brother Joe, and father Don Sr. come to terms with the past and their newly found fame.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With its toe-tapping music and sincere performances, Dreamin' Wild definitely entertained me and I believe will enrapture pop-rock fans as well as those who have never heard of Donnie and Joe Emerson. The film tells a true story with immense heart. It is shot elegantly and the story is fascinating; the at-times flat narration is the only chink in Dreamin Wild's armor.

Dreamin' Wild opens in the rural Pacific Northwest, as singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson (Casey Affleck) and his family, are approached by a representative from Light in the Attic, who says he thinks the album Donnie and his brother Joe (Walton Goggins) recorded as teenagers is the next big hit. When the album, also named Dreamin' Wild, makes its rounds, it is hailed by music critics as a lost masterpiece. And whereas the brothers see this stroke of luck as a second chance for stardom, it also unmoors other deep-seated emotions, fears, and hopes, as Donnie, Joe, and the family come to terms with the past, present and possible future.

The moving story is shot with clarity, care and craft; the lighting and framing do justice to the Emersons' bucolic hometown as well as their eclectic and ethereal 'jam space.' Casey Affleck has somewhat patented the 'damaged man exploring his trauma' trope, perhaps because of his real-life experience fending off his demons with alcoholism. That takes nothing away from his deep performance as Donnie in Dreamin' Wild. His portrayal of emotional damage and hope is enough to keep you gripped. Walton Goggins is equally spectacular. Every dialogue-heavy scene is followed by the brothers jamming, and then another dialogue-heavy scene; this format gets a little tiring by the 60-minute mark, but the plot developments and emotional performances redeem the film's at-times slow pace.

Dreamin' Wild encourages following your dreams but staying grounded, being hopeful but never forgetting where you've come from, and caring for your family and yourself.

I give Dreamin' Wild 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Dreamin' Wild will release exclusively in theaters on August 4, 2023.



KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


OPERATION NAPOLEON
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
OPERATION NAPOLEON
MAGNOLIA PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Icelandic lawyer Kristin gets drawn into the vortex of an international conspiracy when she receives footage of an airplane wreck, recently revealed by the melting of one of Iceland's largest glaciers. The old German World War II plane not only brings ruthless criminals onto the scene, but also CIA director William Carr, who has been secretly trying to remove the wreck for a long time. Kristin refuses to rest until the key has been discovered that will solve the riddle of Operation Napoleon.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Operation Napoleon is a great film for fans of mysteries and international intrigue. Its interesting plot shines, thanks to stellar cinematography and despite a rough screenplay and sometimes wooden performances from the cast.

Operation Napoleon follows Icelandic lawyer Krist�n (Vivian �lafsd�ttir), who is drawn into an international conspiracy and falsely implicated in a murder after her brother finds a Nazi plane atop the Vatnajokull Glacier. Now she must unravel the history behind the conspiracy, codenamed Operation Napoleon by the CIA, and escape U.S. agents tracking her down.

As with many Nordic films, the style of acting in Operation Napoleon is very understated. This does not do the film too many favors when it comes to scenes of life and death, in which the characters struggle to emote and to immerse the viewers in each scene. The editing and cinematography are highlights -- sets are believable; the color correction is consistently cold (to do justice to Icelandic winters); and everything looks great. The film doesn't slow down to breathe too frequently, which helps keep the momentum of the action going. But the screenplay is a mixed bag; the script doesn't provide enough detail behind many characters' goals and ambitions, and the story waits until the end to explain the real motive behind Operation Napoleon, in a relatively awkward way. Iain Glen, who plays William Carr, and Olafur Darri, who plays Einar, are the best actors of the lot. �lafsd�ttir and her male lead counterpart Jack Fox (who plays researcher Steve Rush) both come across as one-note characters. Still, the premise of the film is interesting enough to keep you watching.

Operation Napoleon promotes honor and the pursuit of truth.

I give Operation Napoleon 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Operation Napoleon releases in theaters and on demand on August 11, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


GRAN TURISMO
KIDS FIRST ALL STAR
GRAN TURISMO
COLUMBIA PICTURES Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Based on the unbelievable, inspiring true story of a team of underdogs - a struggling, working-class gamer, a failed former race car driver, and an idealistic motorsport exec - who risk it all to take on the most elite sport in the world.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A scintillating, exhilarating watch, Gran Turismo will hold your attention from start to finish with its well-written script, deep characters, and detailed and immersive graphics.

The film follows Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), a teen from Cardiff, Wales, who's obsessed with the video game Gran Turismo. Jann's family doesn't really understand his passion and worries about him, especially since he dropped out of university because of his dream to be a racecar driver. When Jann is selected as one of 10 kids worldwide to compete in Nissan's GT Academy for a shot to be a professional racer, he must face tragedies, love, deceit, and so much more on the path to glory.

The cast shines in this film. Archie Madekwe as Jann Mardenborough captures the emotions of a teen with big dreams and the fire inside him to pursue them. He comes across as emotionless in the first few scenes but warms up into his character--by the climax, you're sure to be rooting for Mardenborough. My other favorite character is David Harbour as Jack Salter, a tough character to play. He's a typical Hollywood coach, aggressive but a bit jaded because of his previous experience in racing. Over the course of the film, he warms up, which is where Harbour shines; the transformation from a brooding middle-aged has-been to a kind but fiery coach is spellbinding. The screenplay by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin enhances the film massively, as do the cinematography and graphics, as well as the monumental score by Lorne Balfe and Andrew Kawczynski. In every racing scene, you feel like you're in the car with Jann; my jaw was clenched throughout every hairpin turn. When the lights go green at the beginning of every race, the whole theater vibrates with the sound of the engine starting up.

Gran Turismo promotes resilience. Every time Jann fails, Jack Salter (David Harbour), his trainer, pushes him to overcome the failure, get up, dust himself off, and move on to the next race. Interestingly, Salter starts off in the film by not believing in Jann or any of the other kids in the GT Academy. Jann's performance turns Salter into his most ardent supporter. Herein lies another message: proving your detractors wrong. Salter's belief in always doing the right thing puts him at odds with Nissan marketing executive Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), but is another great takeaway. And of course, the core of the film is about achieving your dreams, no matter how unattainable they seem; when fate, fortune, and prowess align, you will find success. Parents should be aware of scenes with slightly foul language, one kissing scene, and one scene where kids drink and hang out in an industrial area and then have to run from the police.

I give Gran Turismo 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Gran Turismo releases in theaters on August 11, 2023.

I am blown away by the new film Gran Turismo. From the start, Gran Turismo pulled me in on an emotional roller coaster - or should I say emotional "racetrack." This movie had me and everyone else in the movie theater on the edge of our seats due to a steady stream of intense racing and deep care for the characters.

Based on an unbelievable yet true story, Gran Tursimo follows Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), a teenager who is obsessed with the "racing simulator" Gran Turismo and who happens to be one of the best in the world. He is one of ten selected to train and compete for an opportunity to become a professional racecar driver for Nissan. Can Jann beat the odds and overcome the challenges of racing and fulfill his lifelong dream of racing? Your body will experience a lot of adrenaline finding out.

After watching this movie, I definitely have a newfound respect for racers. I had no idea about the amount of physical and mental strain racing causes. The writers and actors of this movie really deliver on this point. One of the strongest performances comes from Archie Madekwe as Jann because he makes you really feel his emotions. You celebrate his highs, worry about his close calls, and grieve with his lows. I also love David Harbor because he brilliantly plays a "salty" yet lovable chief engineer, Jack Salter. He is such a dynamic character, and I can sense his change from a cold and doubtful to warm and caring. I wouldn't necessarily consider this movie a comedy, but one of the biggest things that contributes to its humor is the dichotomy between the musical tastes of Jack (Black Sabbath) and Jann (Enya and Kenny G.) They play each song at the perfect moments and let the audiences relax or have a good laugh after being so tense during stressful scenes. The stunts, sets, and special effects are insane! All of the racetracks are spot-on accurate and the actual Jann Mardenborough (the man the movie is based on) is the stunt driver for Archie Madekwe. Additionally, all of the scenes with Jann/Archie Madekwe playing Gran Turismo are genuine, which adds to the realism of the film. I'm not a huge fan of racing, and I've only played the actual game, Gran Turismo, a couple of times, but I still love this movie and believe that others will too.

The messages of Gran Tursimo are to never give up on your dreams and to always believe in yourself, no matter what others think. There is some profanity and aggressive driving scenes. Don't watch this movie and plan on sleeping right away-- adrenaline courses through your veins well after the movie ends.

I give Gran Turismo 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This is a must watch for Gran Turismo players and racing fans. This movie comes out in theaters August 11, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Gran Turismo: A True Story, a cinematic masterpiece, zooms into the spotlight as a racing film of the decade. It captures the electric feeling of racing, offering a whirlwind of action, emotion and delightful humor.

Centered around the inspiring true story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe), the film follows the incredible journey of a young man whose passion for racing propels him from the virtual world to the real racetracks. The film beautifully showcases how Mardenborough's racing skills, honed through video games, catapulted him into the world of professional racing, smashing preconceived notions and fueling his aspirations.

With its gripping narrative, Gran Turismo: A True Story is a beacon of hope for those with big dreams. As the story unfolds, the racing becomes increasingly captivating, mirroring the evolution of Jann's journey. The film effectively captures the transition from playing racing video games in his bedroom to the high-stakes reality of racing on the track. David Harbour shines as Jack Salter, the mentor who guides and transforms Jann into a formidable competitor. Harbour's portrayal is compelling, akin to a real-life crew chief, adding authenticity to the film. An intriguing twist in this cinematic gem is that Jann Mardenborough himself served as a stunt driver for Archie Madekwe, adding an extra layer of realism to the racing scenes. The movie's pacing is finely tuned, ensuring the audience remains engrossed throughout. The racing cinematography is a masterpiece -- every scene is a testament to precision and attention to detail, propelling viewers into the heart of the action.

The film's core message is simple, yet powerful: dreams do come true. This theme resonates deeply as Jann Mardenborough's journey from gaming enthusiast to professional racer reflects the tenacity required to turn aspirations into reality. Note that there is a good chunk of profanity in this film.

I give Gran Turismo: A True Story a well-deserved 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, as well as adults who possess big dreams. Rev up your calendars for August 11, 2023, when it speeds into theaters, promising an adrenaline-charged cinematic experience.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Gran Turismo is a heart-pounding action film that kept me on the edge of my seat as it follows the story of Jann Mardenborough (Archie Madekwe) as a video game player turned race car driver. The CGI is phenomenal, transporting the actor from his bedroom to the racetrack and vice versa.

Based on a true story, Gran Turismo is about Danny Moore (Orlando Bloom), a marketing executive from Nissan with an idea that the top 10 Gran Turismo players should compete in an actual race. He and Jack Salter (David Harbour), start an academy to train the gamers to race against professional racers.

No one believes that video game players will be able to handle a real life racing experience. The film demonstrates how we have to believe in ourselves if we ever want to succeed in life. When everyone is telling Jann that he can't and shouldn't follow his dreams, he commits to working harder and ultimately shows that he can make it happen. When a crash inevitably happens, we learn the importance of facing your trauma in order to realize your actual potential. The performances by the key characters are outstanding; I could feel the emotions that the actors portray. Archie Madekwe is amazing as Jann Mardenborough because I can feel his passion and dedication to racing. Djimon Honsu delivers an incredibly touching performance playing Jann's dad. He is initially unsupportive of Jann, but feels remorse when he sees Jann actually start to succeed in his dreams. David Harbour and Orlando Bloom are really great -- the whole GT academy idea seems realistic as they define it. Even when facing failure, they do not give up and keep training the racers.

This film's biggest theme is that when the world looks down upon you, you show them that you have what it takes and, with hard work and dedication, will make it happen. Be forewarned that there is some profanity.

I give Gran Turismo 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases theaters on August 11, 2023.

By Avani M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 12-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm


FURRY FORTUNE, THE
KIDS FIRST ENDORSED
FURRY FORTUNE, THE
VISION FILMS Click Title to View High Bandwidth Online Video Trailer This title has online video!
Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - Based on the popular children's book by Donna Morgan it is about a dog whose fur turns into money.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth reviews
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Furry Fortune is a very entertaining film about learning to not take advantage of the things you have. Also it reminds us that family should always come first, especially before money.

The story follows young twins, Zoey (Juju Brener) and Dax (Mason Bloomberg), and their dog Nuzzles (Henry) who sheds money from his fur due to a wish Dax made to help their mother (Mo Allen) and father (Shane Heartline) who are struggling with money. They end up with so much money and it gets in the way of their family, plus their neighbors get suspicious of how the Taylor family suddenly has so much money. This makes them obsessed with finding out their secret.

What I like the most about this film is the brother-sister relationship Zoey and Dax have. I also adore how the actors make their characters look and feel like they are a family. The acting by the child actors is outstanding. I love how Zoey's characteristics are mature, sassy, smart and very grown up. Dax characteristics on the other hand are very childish, sweet and kind. The actors show what siblings actually act like -- even when they fight, they still love each other. The neighbors, William Kearst III (Adam Kulbersh) and his son Odom Kearst (Mason Wells), bring humor into the film by their spying on the Taylor family. I also really enjoyed the cinematography; the images are steady, in focus, and very clear. Another thing worth mentioning are the set designs -- the Taylor family's house feels like a nice, clean and cozy home. And, the twin's treehouse with all its gadgets, pulleys and other crazy stuff that allows people to go in and out of the tree house is outstanding.

The film's message is to never take what you have for granted and that family is everything! It also reminds us that money can't buy you happiness, so appreciate what you have and always make family a priority. Never let anyone or anything get in the way of family; family always comes first.

I give The Furry Fortune 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. It releases on video on demand and DVD beginning August 1, 2023.

By Valerie R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have a dog that sheds money? Welcome to the life of twins Dax (Mason Blomberg) and Zoe Taylor (Juju Journey Brener). An absurd story is executed with comedy and charm, portraying the importance of family over money in the film The Furry Fortune.

The Furry Fortune follows Dax and Zoe on their adventures as they start out as bored and neglected children and navigate their way through unexpected events to eventually arrive at a very important realization. Not only does Furry Fortune focus on Dax and Zoe's lives, but it also shows snippets of their parents, Doug (Shane Hartline) and Emily Taylor (Mo Allen), and their next door neighbors, William Kearst (Adam Kulbersh) and Odom Kearst (Mason Wells). The neighbors are willing to do whatever it takes for money, which becomes a problem when the Taylors are forced to hide their windfall from everyone. Will the secret stay a secret, or will the money become a curse rather than a blessing?

The acting in The Furry Fortune truly makes so much of a difference. Specifically, Mason Blomberg and Juju Journey Brener, as the twins, emphasize the message of the film. Through their sad and left out expressions, we are able to further relate to the characters and understand the importance of the theme. Their parents are constantly putting work and money over spending time with their kids, and the twins demonstrate the effect it has on them. In addition, the acting performances of Shane Hartline and Mo Allen, as the parents, show what not to do, and how one person's actions can affect someone so much without them even realizing it. Without these in-depth acting performances, the message wouldn't be as strong or seem as relevant to viewers' lives. The comedy throughout provides a nice break from some of the sadder and more serious moments. On top of some jokes and hilarious moments, the film is funny as a whole because of the absurdity of the world they are living in -- a dog that sheds money? How much more ridiculous can a film get? But it is such a fun concept and kept me engaged the entire time.

The message of The Furry Fortune is that time can make more money, but money can't make more time. Dax and Zoe think that the more money you have, the happier you will be. They both come to realize that if you spend all of your time chasing money, you lose time that you can't get back. The Furry Fortune emphasizes the importance of putting family first and spending time doing the things you love with the people you love while you can. There is some very mild inappropriate language.

I give The Furry Fortune 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It releases on video on demand and DVD beginning August 1, 2023.

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 8-18
Suggested Retail Price: $
Media: FeatureFilm



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