Jury Coordination and Notes

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Summer Of Soul * Beautiful Story Of A Life-Changing Festival & The Civil Rights Movement

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a feature documentary about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Allison B. comments, “What do you know about the Harlem Culture Festival? This beautiful event that created so much love and togetherness has rarely been seen or discussed in mainstream media, until now. Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) tells the beautiful story of this life-changing festival, and what it meant for the civil rights movement.” See her full review below.

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not be Televised)
By Allison B., Age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

What do you know about the Harlem Culture Festival? This beautiful event that created so much love and togetherness has rarely been seen or discussed in mainstream media, until now. Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) tells the beautiful story of this life-changing festival, and what it meant for the civil rights movement. This documentary offers an eye-opening perspective of the times that motivated the festival and its incredible outcome.

Gladys Knight & the Pips perform at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, featured in the documentary SUMMER OF SOUL. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved

Summer of Soul talks about the importance of the Harlem Culture Festival, and what it meant to the people of color at that time. There are many interviews with people that discuss how this event impacted their lives and gave them a sense of unity during those trying times. We also are fortunate enough to see live, unseen performances from such icons as Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, B.B. King and more.

What impressed me the most is that this happened in the same year as Woodstock. I grew up hearing a lot about the Woodstock Festival, but until I saw this movie, I had never heard of the Harlem Culture Festival. This shows just how divided our country was at that time, and how unfortunate it is that more people don’t know about this beautiful event. I learned so much from this movie, especially about different aspects of the civil rights movement. It features videos showing the riots that occurred over justice and equality. Sadly, these riots still happen today for similar reasons. I especially appreciate that this documentary doesn’t only show the fun parts of the Harlem Culture Festival, but these various socio-political aspects of times. The director, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, shows us the beauty of the event, plus the reason behind it.

The message of this film is: when you have to fight back, fight with love and creativity. People will always bring each other down, but if we can just help one person to know their worth, then we are doing good. That is something we could all hear more often.

I give Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Couldn’t Be Televised) 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 10 to 17, plus adults. Releasing in theaters July 2, 2021.

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Schmigadoon! * A Fun-Filled Musical Comedy Perfect For Theatre Kids And Musical Lovers!

Friday, July 16th, 2021

A couple, Melissa and Josh, go on a backpacking trip in an attempt to patch up their failing relationship, only to find themselves still arguing. They then discover a magical town called Schmigadoon, which is perpetually trapped in a Golden Age-style musical, and slowly realize that they cannot leave until they find true love. The title and concept is a parody of the 1947 Broadway musical Brigadoon. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katie F. comments, “Schmigadoon! is a fun-filled musical comedy perfect for theatre kids and musical lovers! The cast of this new series has some famous faces like: Keegan-Michael Key, Dove Cameron, Kristen Chenoworth and many more!” See her full review below.

Schmigadoon!
By Katie F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, age 12

Schmigadoon! is a fun-filled musical comedy perfect for theatre kids and musical lovers! The cast of this new series has some famous faces like: Keegan-Michael Key, Dove Cameron, Kristen Chenoworth and many more! 

On a bonding trip, lovers Josh and Melissa accidentally find themselves in the 1940’s musical town of Schmigadoon. Josh and Melissa see everyone bursting into song and dance and soon discover that they can’t go home until they find true love. Do they have it? Will they find it? Watch Schmigadoon! to find out!

The cast of Schmigadoon! stands out and so do the sets  Josh Skinner (Keegan-Michael Key) is not excited about this musical town and tries everything he can to get away from all the singing and dancing. Josh experiences many emotional highs and lows: engagement, break-ups and drama. Melissa (Cecily Strong) is the one who decides on the bonding trip which leads them to Schmigadoon!  She does enjoy the musical town and, eventually, joins in on the fun.

The scary Mrs. Mildred Layton (Kristen Chenoworth), wife of Reverend Layton, is the leader of the “Mothers of the Future” organization and isn’t very fond of Josh and Melissa’s arrival. As well as Josh, Mildred is also trying everything she can to get them to leave, as she thinks they are ruining “her” town. Betsy (Dove Cameron) is a young waitress who takes a quick interest in Dr. Skinner and tries to be his true love.  Enchanting and wise school teacher Emma Tate (Arianna DeBose) doesn’t care much for love and focuses on teaching the children, but all that changes when she meets Josh. 

The set replicates a genuine theatre stage set, creating a definitive boundary between the real world and Schmigadoon!’s stage set—I love that. The music is all taken from mid-1900s musicals, but the words have been changed. You’ll spend all day singing the tunes in your head, trying to figure out what the original songs are. I love the contrast in costumes from Josh and Melissa’s modern day clothes to the town’s 1940’s outfits. 

While there is more than one message to the story, the main one is that when hope looks lost don’t give up (and maybe add a bit of song and dance).

I give Schmigadoon! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults, but strongly recommend this for theatre kids. This series does contain strong language and some slightly inappropriate scenes. You can find Schmigadoon! starting July 16, 2021 on Apple TV. I’m looking forward to a season 2 already!

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Ghostwriter * Great Storylines, Creative Incorporation Of Literary Elements, Terrific Acting

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Ghostwriter follows four kids who are brought together by a mysterious ghost in a neighborhood bookstore, and must team up to release fictional characters from works of literature. Ghostwriter, garnered an historic Daytime Emmy Award win for Outstanding Children’s or Family Viewing Programming for season one, and recently debuted new episodes from season two on Apple TV+ which follows the young heroes working to save their bookstore and discover the true identity of their ghostly companion. By the end of this season, Episode 13, the students have bravely completed their missions, closing the book on this adventure! The award-winning show is currently in production for season three with a new group of curious, intelligent children on another unbelievable literary journey.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kyla C. comments, “With some of the best storylines, creative incorporation of literary elements and beyond impressive acting, Ghostwriter is an absolute must-see for all kids and teens!” See her full review below.

Ghostwriter (2021)
By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Have you ever wanted to have tea with the Mad Hatter, battle the Frankenstein monster or solve a mystery with Sherlock Holmes? Welcome to the lives of Ruben Reyna (Isaac Arellanes), Chevon Redmond (Amadi Chapata), Donna Palmer-Moreno (Hannah Levinson) and Curtis Palmer-Moreno (Justin Sanchez). With some of the best storylines, creative incorporation of literary elements and beyond impressive acting, Ghostwriter is an absolute must-see for all kids and teens!

Ghostwriter follows four kids on a fantastical mission to solve a mystery and figure out what unfinished business the ghost wants them to complete. Along with mysteriously dropping random clues left and right, the ‘ghostwriter’ releases characters from different books. Although these fictional people can only be seen by the four kids, they do cause disruption while helping solve the mystery. After the characters have served their purpose, the middle-schoolers work to return them to their appropriate book and take the next step in figuring out the ghost puzzle. In the last few episodes, the kids actually dive into the world of a book rather than having the characters from the book come to them, which adds excitement to the already fabulous TV series.

Ghostwriter is one of the most creative shows that I’ve ever seen. The prospect of fictional characters coming to life and interacting with young teens and kids is a wonderful one and I can’t imagine it being done any much better than it is in Ghostwriter. The show is very written well. The inclusion the literary characters is woven naturally into a normal teenage drama, creating a fun environment that doesn’t seem forced in any way. Realistic dialogue is peppered with the fantastical elements. To go with this incredible dialogue, the actors portraying the kids all deliver relatable and funny performances that grabbed my attention. The delivery of their lines, together with their physical motions and facial expressions are seamless.

The actors that portray the book characters are also above and beyond. Each one uses accents, slang and behavior that are a little out of the ordinary. Cameron Brodeur, as the Camarillo Kid, displays a range of emotions for his complex character. His accent and cowboy-style actions add to this interesting and entertaining character. Another actor whose performance shines is Jeff Joseph, who plays Frank. Frank shows up in multiple episodes as an older man from a poem. His old country accent is superb and really enhances his character. Frank makes a return appearance in the most recently released episodes. These characters from different time periods and worlds need costumes that show us where they are from and who they are.

The costume designers deserve a big tip of the hat for their superb work. Sets and props are well-executed. Although many of the episodes are based around real people coming to life, there are a couple of scenes where imaginary animals are the focal point. The animators make the transitions between animation and live action seamless, without it being obvious that a fantastical creature is alive.

The message of Ghostwriter is to value your friends and know that unlikely friendships will occur, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good ones. There are a couple of minor intense scenes, such as battling monsters and a crime mystery, and several suspenseful episodes. For example, the “Frankenstein” and “Jungle Book” episodes and the last few in the second season are more intense.

I give Ghostwriter 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 16. Ghostwriter is currently streaming on Apple TV+.

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Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One * Batman’s Early Years Before He Became Who He Is Now

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

It’s a dark time in Gotham City. Held hostage by the powerful Falcone crime family, the city is rife with crime and corruption. Adding to the chaos is the mysterious Holiday killer, who has been targeting the underworld and leaving a trail of terror… and body bags. Batman, Lieutenant Gordon and D.A. Harvey Dent race against the calendar as it advances toward the next ill-fated holiday. Based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One begins a twisted chain of events that will forever change the Dark Knight. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ayden P. comments, “Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One offers a decent take on Batman’s early years before Batman evolved into the great detective he is now. Like the other Batman films, Gotham does not appear to be the best place to live. This film stands apart from other animated Batman films because it shows Batman as a novice detective.” See his full review below.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One
By Ayden P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One offers a decent take on Batman’s early years before Batman evolved into the great detective he is now. Like the other Batman films, Gotham does not appear to be the best place to live. This film stands apart from other animated Batman films because it shows Batman as a novice detective.

The story begins with a brutal murder on Halloween, which prompts Batman (Jensen Ackles) to team up with the two un-corrupt lawmen Police Captain James Gordon (Billy Burke) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Josh Duhamel). They team up to take down Roman, the head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. As the team works together, something unexpected occurs. There is a string of deaths that occurs on holidays; then the three realize that they are dealing with a holiday killer. After some investigation, with Batman following the clues, he thinks he knows who the holiday killer is, but he discovers the high cost of being wrong.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One incorporates settings that are typical in a Batman film. Since the film takes a look at Batman in his earlier years, it helps viewers to understand why he feels compelled to over analyze things. The film’s lack of transition between holidays, which is integral to the plot, is a little confusing; the story moves swiftly from one holiday to the next and only when something occurs related to the holiday do we know when it is taking place. The animation is reminiscent of Batman the Animated series – nothing too exciting, but workable. The images have lots of straight lines, which gives a different look to the characters, but not so much that it distracts from the plot. Batman is still my favorite character and I like seeing his evolution in the film; as the seasons come and go, he grows.

The message of this film is that sometimes you have to rely on others to help you overcome big problems. Another reminder is to not be afraid to question the evidence before assuming someone is guilty.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One gets 3 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This is available now on DVD and on demand.

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Marathon * Surprisingly Fun And Engaging Satire Of Documentaries

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

An unprofessional documentary film crew follows five amateur runners as they train for Devil’s Canyon Marathon, an offbeat desert race organized by Ed Clap, a desperate shoe store owner pulling out all the stops to celebrate its fifteenth year. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “surprisingly fun and engaging satire of documentaries.” See her full review below.

Marathon
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Marathon is a mockumentary that follows four people training for a marathon, and the highs and lows they face in the months leading up to the big day. This movie is a surprisingly fun and engaging satire of documentaries—it really subverted my expectations.

Marathon recreates the style of documentaries, pretty accurately. At times you forget that this is a parody, not an actual documentary film. However, the purposefully unprofessional nature becomes clear every now and again. One example is that the characters occasionally reference the fact that they are being filmed. I especially like how Ryan, one of the runners we follow, builds up a sort of rivalry with his assigned cameraman, Jeff. As such, he directly insults and complains about his cameraman, breaking the fourth wall. To me, this is one of the funniest bits in the movie.

Speaking of comedy, Marathon has a very interesting style of humor. Most of the humor comes from the ridiculousness of the situations, while the characters take everything incredibly seriously, which I love. This comedic style is very appealing to me. For example, the character of Jenna Kowalski wants to break a world record by running the marathon in a fruit costume. And she, as well as the people in her life, do not seem to understand the inherent silliness that comes from this idea. However, I think my favorite running joke in this movie comes from Emilou Paunch, one of the runners. Or at least, she would be, except she decides to quit after realizing how long the marathon would be. Despite this, the camera people still follow her around and film her life while she does incredibly mundane things. The contrast between Emilou’s subplot and the rest of the subplots is brilliant, and I love every second she’s on screen. However, I will say that I think the screen time between each runner is extremely unbalanced – specifically with Shareef. In comparison to the other four, it feels like he has almost no development, due to how short his scenes are.

The message of this film is that sometimes your plans don’t work out the way you hoped. I do have to warn viewers, though: there is quite a bit of swearing, and there are many inappropriate jokes definitely not suitable for younger audiences.

I give Marathon 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18. It comes out on July 6, 2021.

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The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 * Brings Us Closer to Our Deep Connection with Animals

Monday, July 5th, 2021

The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 is a feature length documentary that will take audiences on a journey to find the forgotten “52 Hertz Whale.” Calling out at 52 Hz, a frequency unrecognized by other whales, this mysterious creature is believed to have lived its life in complete solitude, its calls forever unanswered by its own kind. In our ever-present fascination with these majestic beasts, the tale of “52” has prompted an intense reaction amongst our own species, pointing to a greater awareness of human loneliness than ever before. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Nyara A., comments, “The riveting documentary The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52, by Joshua Zeman, brings us closer to our deep connection with animals. From the very first moment of the film, the beauty of the underwater world and the majesty of whales hooks the viewer in. The story is filled with hope and disappointment; it evokes emotion at every twist and turn. Anyone who watches the film immediately sympathizes with the 52 Hertz Whale.” See her full review below.

The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52
By Nyara A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

https://youtu.be/ppsKJtiub3w

The riveting documentary The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52, by Joshua Zeman, brings us closer to our deep connection with animals. From the very first moment of the film, the beauty of the underwater world and the majesty of whales hooks the viewer in. The story is filled with hope and disappointment; it  evokes emotion at every twist and turn. Anyone who watches the film immediately sympathizes with the 52 Hertz Whale.

The call of the 52 Hertz Whale was first detected during the Cold War. At first, the noise was thought to come from a Russian submarine, but later it was discovered to be a whale. Scientists had never heard whale sounds with that frequency before and one scientist, Bill Watkins, began to search for it. After the death of Bill Watkins a group of scientists decided to set out on a seven day expedition in search of 52. The film follows the ups and downs of their adventure, with no guarantee of success. Will they find the 52 Hertz Whale? The ending might not be what you expect.

This film features the world’s biggest experts in marine biology and whales. Each of these scientists has their own expertise and, when they work together, they create the perfect team to find 52. They communicate so well that, without even knowing it, I was learning about anatomy, whale communication, and important patterns in science. The music brings everything together, creating a dramatic and sentimental effect. The whale sounds are haunting and touched me deeply. My favorite parts of this film are the majestic underwater scenes. By placing suction cup cameras onto the whales and using underwater drones, the filmmakers were able to record whale movements and interactions in all their beauty.

This message of this film is that humans and animals are connected in more ways than we can ever imagine. We don’t need a common language to communicate. We are connected by nature and emotion. We learn that severe noise pollution from shipping containers and oil drilling disrupts their ability to understand each other. The story makes me want to buy locally and think of ways to protect the safety of whale habitats. There is occasional use of profanity, but there are no offensive or degrading words. While some of the expeditions are risky, it is unlikely that kids would imitate them.

The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. It is a must-see film. I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Adults will absolutely love this film as well. The film releases in theaters July 9, 2021 and on digital on July 16, 2021.

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The Mighty Ones: Season 2 * Fun and Colorful, Nice Mix of Hidden Educational Messages

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

The adventures of a gang of tiny creatures — a pebble, a strawberry, a twig and a leaf — who are best friends and live in a terribly unkempt backyard belonging to a trio of equally unkempt humans. This band of diminutive heroes calls themselves the Mighty Ones, and while they may be the smallest things in the yard, they’re determined to live big lives.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Our favorite mighty tiny creatures – Very Berry, Leaf, Twig and Rocksy –  are back for a new round of adventures in The Mighty Ones Season 2. This animated series is fun and colorful, with a nice mix of hidden educational messages. Each episode presents an obstacle for the Mighty Ones crew, which they usually create themselves, but they always find a way to get out of it.” See her full review below.

The Mighty Ones: Season 2
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Series Critic, Age 10

Our favorite mighty tiny creatures – Very Berry, Leaf, Twig and Rocksy –  are back for a new round of adventures in The Mighty Ones Season 2. This animated series is fun and colorful, with a nice mix of hidden educational messages. Each episode presents an obstacle for the Mighty Ones crew, which they usually create themselves, but they always find a way to get out of it. This series is very bubbly and enjoyable!

The Mighty Ones is about a group of four friends: Very Berry (Alex Cazares), Twig (Josh Brener), Leaf (Jimmy Tatro) and Rocksy (Jessica McKenna). They live in a messy backyard of humans that they call giants or gods. The messiness makes for great new adventures on every path. While they are the smallest things in the yard, there is no obstacle they can’t overcome because they always work together and have each other’s backs.

The main characters are Very Berry, a fun and adventurous strawberry; Leaf, a laid-back and cool leaf; Twig, a smart and nervous stick; and Rocksy, a considerate pebble, who is also the group leader. I love how each character has huge goals and its own personality. My favorite scene is from the “Home Touchers” episode when Rocksy is trapped in the humans’ house. Kensington (Janina Gavankar), one of the “giants,” is listening to a podcast about murderous ghosts. The show describes the signs of a ghost being in the house and, each time Twig and Berry make that exact noise to capture Rocky’s attention, it scares Kensington.

The message of The Mighty Ones is to trust your friends because they have your best interest at heart and you can do more together than alone. There is also a hidden message throughout the series about how humans affect the lives of other living things. The “Mighty Ones” are affected by all the things the humans keep in their backyard, which correlates to how humans affect climate change and the lives of other species.

I give The Mighty Ones 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 8 to 12. You can find Season 2streaming on Peacock and Hulu beginning July 1, 2021.

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Fathom * Outstanding Documentary Showing How Awesome the Ocean Really Is

Saturday, June 26th, 2021

Directed and photographed by Drew Xanthopoulos (The Sensitives), Fathom follows Dr. Ellen Garland and Dr. Michelle Fournet, two scientists focused on the study of humpback whale songs and social communication. As they embark on parallel research journeys on opposite sides of the world, they seek to better understand whale culture and communication. The documentary film uniquely reveals a deep commitment and reverence to the scientific process and the universal human need to seek answers about the world around us. From hypothesis to groundbreaking experiences in the field, Fathom showcases the passion, curiosity, collaboration, perseverance and work it takes for leading scientists to make scientific discoveries.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha B. comments, “Fathom is an outstanding documentary that shows how interesting and awesome oceanography really is. One of the many things that makes this film great is the cinematography; it captures the beautiful ocean setting in a way that makes you feel as if you are there.” See her full review and her interview with the director below.

Fathom
By Samantha B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Fathom is an outstanding documentary that shows how interesting and awesome oceanography really is. One of the many things that makes this film great is the cinematography; it captures the beautiful ocean setting in a way that makes you feel as if you are there. Another aspect I enjoyed are the scientists. These women are incredible at what they do and at explaining it to non-scientists. I love two female scientists are featured because they are extremely underrepresented in this field of work.

The storyline follows two female scientists on a boat testing their hypotheses about whale communication. One of them, Dr. Ellen Garland, is answering her question about how far whale communication can travel. The second scientist, Dr. Michelle Fournet, is studying the whale’s woop – a distinct type of call that is “almost as if the whale is saying, ‘hey.’” Fathom not only focuses on the scientists’ work life, but also their personal interactions with the team, their families, and just being goofy people.

One of my favorite parts is when Dr. Fournet manages to accomplish her goal of tracking 30 whales in two weeks while also caring for her team. I love that Dr. Garland, as a feminist, talks about how hard it is to show weakness as a woman in a male-dominated line of work. The scenes with Dr. Fournet and her crew on their boat in the middle of the ocean are captured so perfectly, from the lighting to the rich colors of the ocean. It makes me want to be there.  When Dr. Fournet describes how dangerous this job is, it shows what these scientists are willing to risk to increase our knowledge about these beautiful whales.

The message of this film is about feminism; it is a recurring theme and is talked about a lot. These female scientists are great role models, especially for young girls who may be interested in science. This film promotes positive behavior, education and perseverance.

I give Fathom 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 18 plus adults. Fathom premieres on Apple TV+ June 25, 2021.

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Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway * Whimsical Animated Comedy-Adventure Film With Loads Of Laughs

Sunday, June 20th, 2021

Thomas and Bea are now married and living with Peter and his rabbit family. Bored of life in the garden, Peter goes to the big city, where he meets shady characters and ends up creating chaos for the whole family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Calee N. comments, “Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is a family-friendly comedy-adventure film. I loved watching whimsical animated film. It had me laughing from beginning to end. The crazy adventures of Peter and the animals are highly entertaining.” See her full review below.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway
By Calee Nowak, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway is a family-friendly comedy-adventure film. I loved watching whimsical animated film. It had me laughing from beginning to end. The crazy adventures of Peter and the animals are highly entertaining.

In this film, the characters you loved from the first movie are back. A beautiful wedding, a new business, and a perfect life on the farm appeared to be all Peter Rabbit and his family need, but things change when a book Bea wrote about the rabbits gets an opportunity to be published.

Director Will Gluck and screenwriter Patrick Burleigh bring back Peter Rabbit with a new adventure while maintaining what we love about the characters from the first movie. The talented voice-overs of Peter Rabbit (James Corben), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Cottontail (Aimee Horne), and Barnabas (Lennie James) bring life to the characters and laughter. Of course, a comedy-adventure is nothing without a proper soundtrack. The music by Dominic Lewis keeps up with the high-energy animal mischief and helps build emotion. Art directors Nicholas Dare and Sophie Nash create realistic computer-generated animals that could easily play the lead actors in any movie, including humans. Their personalities will have movie viewers falling in love with them and cheering their victory.

Through Peter Rabbit’s adventures on the farm and in the city, we learn that the importance of “family” is a continuous theme throughout the film. Unfortunately, Peter makes the mistake of letting the judgment of others question his character. However, the unconditional love from his siblings, cousin Bea, Thomas and the other animals helps him realize he doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved. Bea and Thomas finally understand that “family” comes in all shapes and sizes. 

I rate Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18. Adults will also enjoy sharing laughs with their families. Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway premieres in theaters June 11, 2021 and on Amazon Prime.

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Censor * Raises Lots Of Questions About Censorship, Effects Of Fiction, And Media Violence

Thursday, June 17th, 2021

After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B., comments, “Censor is a unique movie that raises a lot of questions about censorship, the effect that fiction has on people and violence in the media. I really appreciate it for its subtlety; however I feel like the message is a little unclear.” See her full review below.

Censor
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Censor is a unique movie that raises a lot of questions about censorship, the effect that fiction has on people and violence in the media. I really appreciate it for its subtlety; however I feel like the message is a little unclear.

The story follows Enid, a film censor. Her job consists of viewing graphic horror films and deciding what to cut and what to leave in. However, after a particular film reminds her of a traumatic childhood memory, she becomes convinced that there is some connection between her work and the disappearance of her sister.

First off, I want to take a moment to appreciate the atmosphere of this film. The lighting and sound design combine to create an extremely bleak and dreary mood, as if the entire film takes place on an unpleasant foggy day. It fits the constant sense of unease this movie gives off, especially when combined with the uncomfortable subject matter.

Censor has an interesting insight on fiction’s effect on reality. I’m very invested in this topic, as someone who loves video games and has constantly heard discussions about how the medium causes violence. Though the film doesn’t outright say it, there’s an underlying message about how society sometimes draws conclusions that aren’t true. At one point, a murder gets connected to a film that Enid allowed to be released. However we later find out the killer didn’t even watch the aforementioned film. This leaves you wondering what the truth of the case is. This murder case is never brought up again and, ultimately, is not that important to the plot.

Censor’s themes surrounding the idea of censorship, and the way they connect to Enid’s past, are genuinely really engaging. Enid claims she does her job to “protect” people, and this perfectly ties into Enid’s trauma. A common thing that happens to trauma survivors is that their brain will block out the memories of the event. As such, Enid can’t remember the exact details of her trauma. Her brain is essentially censoring itself to protect her. But what exactly is it protecting her from? What is the truth of her past? This connection is so fascinating.

I must warn audiences, though, if you don’t like gore or discussions of gore, this movie is not for you. There’s a montage at the beginning showing all kinds of graphic violence, and there is more gore later in the film.

I give Censor 4 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 16 to 18. Censor releases on June 11, 2021.

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