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Archive for the 'Film Critics Blog' Category

The Eyes of Tammy Faye * Heartwarming Story Showing How People’s Beliefs Make Them Who They Are

Monday, September 27th, 2021

This film offers an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and 80s, Tammy Faye and her husband, Jim Bakker, rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mikella G. comments, “I liked the film The Eyes of Tammy Faye because it is a heartwarming story that opened me up to a whole other world that I was unaware of. It taught me about others’ way of life and how their beliefs can make them the person that they are.” See her full review below.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye
By Mikella G, KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, age 15

I liked the film The Eyes of Tammy Faye because it is a heartwarming story that opened me up to a whole other world that I was unaware of. It taught me about others’ way of life and how their beliefs can make them the person that they are.

This movie follows the lives of Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield). They both dedicated their lives to Christianity and made a living from it. They found each other young and grew together. However, as their work continued to evolve Jim began to forget why this all started. Whereas Tammy made plenty of mistakes, but always remembers who she is. 

Something that I enjoyed about this film is how honest and real it is. It shows the reality of the lives of these two people and doesn’t sugar coat anything. Another thing that stands out is the acting. Jessica Chastain makes her character extremely believable, and her voice truly moves you. Andrew Garfield is always in the moment; I often forgot that he isn’t his character in real life.

Additionally, this film takes place in a completely different time period, and they both really tap into that. Furthermore, the characters’ ages are constantly changing as the decades go by. Tammy and Jim always look and act exactly as they were supposed to be during each time period. Lastly, the sets and costume designs are executed extremely well. All of the locations, props, cars, building exteriors and interiors fit the era. The movie also includes a huge wardrobe, and everything fits the time period. I love fashion, so this made a bit impact on me. Everything made me believe I was actually living during that time.

The message of this film is to always stay true to yourself and your beliefs. This film does contain some sexual content.

I give The Eyes of Tammy Faye 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 as well as adults. The Eyes of Tammy Faye releases in theaters September 17, 2021.

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Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty * Totally Engaging; Makes Us Want To See More

Monday, September 13th, 2021

Continuing the dramatic tale of survival revolving around three families of meerkats who are descendants of the legendary meerkat matriarch, Flower. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dominic D. comments, The latest series, Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty, is totally engaging and makes us want to see more of our favorite mongooses.” See his full review below.

Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty (2021)

By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Many of us live in areas where Mother Nature brings a variety of seasons which exposes us to a wide array of ecosystems. Because we’re used to this variety, we have become incredibly curious about areas of the globe whose ecosystems are perhaps not as vast; one area in particular is the desert. With its harshly hot and dry climate, we know that anything able to withstand such brutal weather has to be an amazing creature and that’s one reason we have completely fallen for the South African meerkat.  The documentary series Meerkat Manor has entertained us for over 15 years and has brought the wondrous secrets of the Kalahari Desert right into our homes. The latest series, Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty, is totally engaging and makes us want to see more of our favorite mongooses.

Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty follows three families of the most charismatic desert mammals and showcases their family dynamics. In the spotlight of this series is Swift, the granddaughter of the original Meerkat Manor Whisker family matriarch, Flower. We’ve waited 12 years to catch up on what the Whiskers, Hakuna Mata and Ubuntu families have been up to and there are many surprises within this series as some things have changed. The new series continues to show us just how difficult life in the desert can be, yet with the perfect family dynamics and role assignments, animals can overcome these challenges. Just like in our own lives, people compete for space, food, and other resources, the meerkat families are no different. These episodes highlight that, despite the fact that the meerkats share a common bloodline, individual survival and the survival of their family is their main concern.

There are a lot of great things about this series, but my favorite part is the character led story telling by narrator Bill Nighy. The series humanizes the meerkats and gives each their own entertaining personalities. There are heroes, villains, babysitters, a Romeo and Juliet pair, and so much more. These personalities are hilarious and interesting to watch. The cinematography is also fantastic with its capturing of some of the most harsh weather conditions on Earth. I especially enjoyed the scenes where the camera was placed deep within the meerkat burrows. Meerkat Manor:  Rise of the Dynasty is a captivating series about the natural world and I appreciate its educational value.   

The message of this series is about teamwork.  Of course, family, culture and perseverance are worth  mentioning here also; however, if this species didn’t have a system of working together, they could not thrive within their harsh ecosystem. Each meerkat has a specific role to support its family. They work cohesively in a variety of ways to assure the success of their family. Whether their role is one filled with drama or with entertainment, one thing is for certain – these desert dwellers are sure to tug at your heartstrings.

I give Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. Adults, especially animal lovers and nature enthusiasts, will also love this series. Meerkat Manor: Rise of the Dynasty is available now on BBC American and AMC+. Episodes 7 and 8 are coming out on September 4 and September 9, 2021. 

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Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. * Perfect Modern Teen Role Model Shown In A Positive And Truthful Light

Tuesday, September 7th, 2021

Set in modern-day Hawai‘i, Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. – a coming-of-age dramedy inspired by the hit medical series Doogie Howser, M.D. – follows Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha, a 16-year-old prodigy juggling a budding medical career and life as a teenager. With the support of her caring — and comical — ‘ohana (family) and friends, Lahela is determined to make the most of her teenage years and forge her own path. Guiding Lahela is her career-driven mother Dr. Clara Hannon who’s also her supervisor at the hospital, her doting father Benny who helps keep her connected to what matters most, her free-spirited older brother Kai, her gregarious younger brother Brian Patrick, her best friend Steph, her surfer crush Walter and her fellow hospital colleagues, Dr. Lee, Charles and Noelani.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ashleigh C. comments, “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.  is a show that our generation so desperately needs. It exemplifies the life of a modern teenager in a positive and truthful light while being totally binge-able.” See her full review below.

Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. 
By Ashleigh Clyde, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 17 

https://youtu.be/E11M2_OMkk4

Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.  is a show that our generation so desperately needs. It exemplifies the life of a modern teenager in a positive and truthful light while being totally binge-able. 

Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. is a Disney Plus Original Series inspired by the 1989 TV series Doogie Howser. It follows Lahela “Doogie” Kamealoha, a medical prodigy who is only 16 years old. With her life as a doctor and a teenager she struggles to keep up with both lifestyles.  

The main character, Lahela (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) is a great character that exhumes girl power. From the show before this she is a modern take on old practices. Plus, she is a person of color and a female who is breaking unforeseen barriers at an early age. Apart from Lahela, Dr. Lee (Ronny Chieng) is one of my favorites. His jokes and comedic timing are always funny. Oftentimes, Disney comedies are very predictable and rarely contain great jokes; however, the humor in this show has modern references that create a wonderful watching experience. Same with the costumes in this show; the wardrobe throughout for Lahela are age appropriate and wearable. The show is based in Hawaii, so the sets at the hospital, the beach and the Kamealoha home are all beautiful with bright, vibrant colors accompanied with the soothing sounds of the ocean. My favorite part of this show is how it reflects the modernity of teenagers throughout the years. Many shows today portray teenagers in an inappropriate and unrealistic light. But this show makes it comfortable for a 17-year-old girl, like me, to be proud to be a teenager. 

The message of this show is that it may seem like the world is on your shoulders, but the family around you has plenty of shoulders to help with the weight. This film promotes positive social behavior. 

I give Doogie Kamealoha, M.D. 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. This show starts streaming exclusively on Disney+ September 8, 2021, with new episodes every Wednesday. 

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9/11: Inside The President’s War Room * A Remarkably Detailed Documentary About 9/11 Attacks

Saturday, September 4th, 2021

9/11 from the President’s perspective, with exclusive access to information from the one’s that had to take decisions during the World Trade Center’s attack. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “In 2021, we will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the greatest American tragedies of the 21st  century, the September 11 attacks. To help educate the public about exactly how this horrific event unfolded, the remarkably detailed documentary 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room was created.” See his full review below.

9/11: Inside The President’s War Room

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15 

In 2021, we will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the greatest American tragedies of the 21st  century, the September 11 attacks. To help educate the public about exactly how this horrific event unfolded, the remarkably detailed documentary 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room was created.

Going minute by minute, hour by hour, 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room offers two narratives, following the president’s actions, thoughts, and movements, and the developing situation in New York City. 

President George W. Bush was interviewed for this film and his impeccable memory of the day and skilled delivery make the documentary even more unique. His impassioned vow to bring Al-Qaeda to justice, his struggle to keep his anger in check, and his helplessness as he was flown around the country to avoid a rumored attack on Air Force One show exactly how novel this crisis was. The film includes high-quality archival footage and the perspectives of individuals like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Ted Olson, as well as the president and vice president’s chief of staff. I’ve never seen a more thoroughly researched and impeccably pieced-together documentary. The many perspectives from all these individuals contribute to a strong narrative that captures you from minute one. Each interview is compelling and the editing cuts between medium shots of the individuals and archival footage, creating an immersive and truly “in the room” experience. The background music complements the film’s somber tone. 

9/11: Inside The President’s War Room is a portrait of resilience, tact, patience and leadership.  There is some  mild profanity in the film as well as some footage of the Twin Towers collapsing with screams in the background.

I give 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room is available now on Apple TV+ . 

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What If… ? * Fails At Multiple Attempts To Recreate The Authenticity Of Previous Marvel Films

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

Exploring pivotal moments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and turning them on their head, leading the audience into uncharted territory. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude Adler comments, “Marvel Studio’s What If… ? is a major hit across the multiverse with its narrator-type journey, yet fails at multiple attempts to recreate the authenticity of previous Marvel films.” See his full review below.

What If… ?

By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Think about every decision or choice you’ve ever made and now, wonder, “what if I did that differently?” Marvel Studio answers these mind-boggling questions with its new hit animated series, What If… ? Every major plot line that occurred throughout the history of the MCU is twisted and turned to show different outcomes of various realities. Every Marvel film has a similar, typical way of story-telling, yet What If… ? has a new authentic narrator-type style that is extremely refreshing to longtime fans. However, the episodes fall a bit short recreating the nostalgic feeling from each film, resulting in many jokes feeling out of place and simply not landing. 

After the events of Loki, we are not dealing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe anymore. We are dealing with the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse! The Watcher (Jeffery Wright) is our all-seeing tour guide, showing us various different realities in which time and events play out extremely differently from what we know. Each episode explores stories generated from the simplest of choices. These subtle choices could result in a new superhero being born, a foe becoming a friend or even a murder. 

DC Comics has been the leader in superhero animation for a while now, but with What If… ? that title might be in jeopardy. The animation in this new series is extremely unique. The broad color scheme is very eye pleasing and ties into the 3D art extremely well, providing a tranquil flow. Witnessing characters written by different writers from previous films can be very noticeable at times. With new content added to stories we already know and love, certain characters feel out of place because of the writers recreating their personalities.

Marvel content over recent years has been very intense. Unlike its predecessors, What If… ? is more lighthearted and not driven by a serious tone. Throughout the series, action and mild cursing frequently occur. Each episode is radically different from other episodes due to the lack of continuity of the story. As a result, there are new morals and lessons included in every episode. A prominent moral lesson throughout the show is that you can be whatever you want, despite the obstacles. The show explores themes such as perseverance, trust and family. 

Marvel Studio’s What If… ? is a major hit across the multiverse with its narrator-type journey, yet fails at multiple attempts to recreate the authenticity of previous Marvel films. I give What If… ? 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 18, plus adults. A new episode of What If… ? streams every Wednesday starting August 11, 2021 on Disney+. Make sure to check it out!

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Notorious Nick * Exciting, Great Moral About Fighting For What You Believe In

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Nick Newell, a one-armed MMA fighter gets a rare chance to fight for the lightweight championship. He strives to win for himself and all the other people in the world with physical challenges. The film is based on an inspiring true story of a young man who became known as “Notorious Nick.”

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S., comments, “This film is absolutely amazing. Hopefully the way it approaches disability in an empowering perspective will encourage more studios to do the same. Instead of Nick always being knocked down and seeing the negativity of his disability, he learns his strengths, never giving up, working to find a way to perform at his full capacity.” See her full review below.

Notorious Nick
By Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Notorious Nick will have you on the edge of your seat, cheering and screaming at the top of your lungs! This film delivers on all aspects; it leaves you teary-eyed and motivated to get out of your comfort zone. This is the perfect family film.

Notorious Nick tells the true story of Nick Newell (Cody Christian), who is a one-handed MMA fighter. Nick starts off as a wrestler and faces multiple challenges, but pulls through, becoming a world renowned MMA fighter, known as Notorious Nick. With the support of his family, best friend and coach, Nick proves that sky’s the limit.

This film is absolutely amazing. Hopefully the way it approaches disability in an empowering perspective will encourage more studios to do the same. Instead of Nick always being knocked down and seeing the negativity of his disability, he learns his strengths, never giving up, working to find a way to perform at his full capacity. He holds his own against famous mixed martial artists. He also encourages a boy with a similar disability to change his attitude. He believes in himself, even when he is the only one who does.  His mother is a great role model, inspiring other parents by always pushing Nick to succeed. The sheer determination between this mother and son duo empowers everyone. Nick learns how to fight inside the ring and out, even when he has to fight for his right to compete in the Light Weight Championships. He has to prove that – every competition where he has fought was legitimate, and he never backs down – determined to prove himself to the board and his opponent. Stay for the end credits for a chance to meet the real-life Notorious Nick and his coach. He talks about his journey and about how he’s only just getting started.

The moral of this film is to never give up; fight for what you believe in; and believe in yourself. Nick always fights against bullies, discrimination, opponents and negativity. With his disability, he learns to compete in the ring, to be considered just as great as his competition. He proves himself worthy to everyone and to himself. Be forewarned that there is profanity and depictions of alcohol use.

 I give Notorious Nick 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters August 6, 2021.

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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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