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My Anime Addiction By Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

The first film that turned me onto anime was Fullmetal Alchemist. The intense, adventurous action of Edward and Alphonse Elric captivated me. I find the entire idea of alchemy quite fascinating. The first time I watched this film, I was unaware of the elaborate history of alchemy. I watched it again when I was a bit older and understood it and enjoyed it even more. I was highly bewitched by the dark background of Edward and Alphonse and what Edward sacrificed for his brother. After watching this film, both the original and the Brotherhood version a total of six times, I was finally prepared to dig deeper into the enslaving ways of anime.

The next anime I watched was Seven Deadly Sins which is very similar to Fullmetal Alchemist. They both use the Sins as essential characters, but portray them in different ways. In Fullmetal Alchemist they are the central villains that the Elricks must overcome to accomplish their dire objective. In Seven Deadly Sins they are portrayed as the preeminent heroes of the story who are sadly misunderstood by the public as monsters. After watching this series, I went onto Hunter X Hunter which is where my binding animobsession really began.

I have watched Hunter X Hunter (148 episodes; 22 minutes each) five times. The first time I watched this show I stayed in my room, binge watching it, for two and a half full days until I finished it. This is, by far, the most emotionally intense and adventurous show I have ever seen. The main characters are very relatable and remind me of my own childhood. It is about a young boy named Gon whose father abandoned him in order to take the Hunter Exam. Gon is taken in by one of his father’s childhood friends and raised by her until he decides to take the Hunter Exam, in order to search for his father. The rest of the show is Gon’s journey searching for his father, who doesn’t exactly want to see him. He feels guilty for leaving his son many years ago and makes it as difficult as possible for Gon to find him. After finally getting off my deep addiction to this show, I turned to Sword Art Online to quench my anime thirst.

Sword Art Online is highly intense and thrilling. I ended up getting sucked into it and watched it seven times. This show is about a teenager named Kirito who luckily gets his hands on a highly anticipated game, Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online is a action packed MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) that allows you to dive inside the game when using nerve gear. Once all the players are inside the game, it gets corrupted by the creator and everyone is trapped inside, not being able to log out, until the players beat the 100th floor. Did I forget to mention that if any person dies inside the game, they also die in real life. This anime also has the best intensely beautiful soundtrack I have ever heard, I even listen to it when I am not watching the anime.

I am currently watching the Magi series and am trying to widen my horizons to other animes, like Black Butler, Death Note, Tokyo Ghoul and Blue Exorcist. Please contact me through [email protected] if you need any other recommendations or just want to talk about anime.

The Impact Of Films by Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Friday, February 10th, 2017

In my past blogs, I often look at how film is changing due to new technologies and changing mediums. This week, I don’t want to talk about how film is changing, but how film changes the world. Despite what many think, it isn’t just documentaries that can open up people’s eyes on current issues that need to be talked about. Historically, there are many films that completely changed the world thanks to their stories, messages and legendary quality.

I recently reviewed a film called Never Again is Now which focuses on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. It not only tells the story of horrible events taking place and their cause, but it also tells the story of Holocaust survivors. It connects the past and the present and shows how thinking that the Holocaust was one terrible event never to be repeated is far from the truth. The film focuses on current events in Europe, but that isn’t the only place it’s happening. It’s been happening in every corner in the world, including here in United States. No one can deny that there is a rise of racism that is very apparent in United States and it should not be allowed to continue. Anti-Semitism is a very strong example of how hatred is at an all time high around the globe.

This signs of hate are a massive issue that seem like no one can stop. But it is very easy to stop hatred of all types. If you see someone behaving in a racist or hateful way, stop them. Confront them. If you hear about an issue (as I learned about with anti-Semitism), don’t stay silent. Speak up. Social media has a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people and, just a simple post on FaceBook or Twitter helps spread the word about hate. It may seem like just talking about anti-Semitism or racism as a whole won’t do anything, but it will.

In Never Again is Now, one of the most important points made is that politically, no one wants to confront the issue of anti-Semitism. Talking about specific people being racist seems politically incorrect and that makes it even worst. Simply talking about such big issues will do so much.

Like I said, films make huge impacts on society as a whole. A one hour and thirty minute film made me think of the world in a completely different way. I soon realized that I can help spread the word about what is going on around the world. I want to leave this blog with a message to you, the reader. Don’t just stay silent. People stayed silent during the Holocaust and other genocides. If people spoke up instead of staying silent, many horrible events could have been prevented, and hate as a whole might have made a much smaller and more mild impact, if at all. Don’t let history repeat itself. Let us be smart for once and actually learn from our mistakes. Let’s move on to a brighter tomorrow for the sake of our children and their future.

There Are More Colors Than Black and White By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017


In the aftermath of two years straight of Academy Awards without black actor nominees, this year’s Oscars has plenty. For the first time in Oscar history, there is a black nominee in every acting category. 89 years later, and it’s finally happening. As a matter fact, there is also a black nominee in the directing category, adapted screenplay and producing. So most of the Big 8 categories (except original screenplay) has a black nominee. That’s a major feat. It certainly makes up, if you will, for the major snubs these last couple of years.

Beyond that, the impact of black cinema even extends into the documentary category. 13th, I Am Not Your Negro and O.J. Made in America are all films that deal, in some way, with the black experience. So even beyond the categories that casual fans really care about, there are black representatives. I mean this year, in general, seems to be destined to erase the unfortunate circumstances of the last two years’ award ceremonies. Just look at the releases – Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures and Loving. The uproar over a “White Oscars” this year would have been enormous. However, though I am proud of the Academy’s nomination diversity (having seen all of these films, I can say most of the nominated actors are deserving), I think it’s time we realized that diversity means more than just black and white.

In the 20th Century, all minorities were under-appreciated and under-represented by the Academy. In the 21st Century, the black cinematic community began getting their just due and, this year, they made history. However, what goes completely ignored is the Hispanic and Asian cinematic communities. Admittedly, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron have won the last three Best Director Oscars. With all due respect, neither of them are Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton. They aren’t major directors in the mainstream yet. Their biggest films were led by DiCaprio, Bullock and Keaton. Whereas, the films led by Javier Bardem and Gael Garcia Bernal didn’t the attention their acclaim would have suggested.

It would be nice to see more Hispanic actors nominated multiple times besides Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Benicio Del Toro. Furthermore, I would love for mainstream audiences to know more Asian actors beyond Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ken Jeong. Sure, Dev Patel is nominated this year. But let’s be honest, of Hispanics, Blacks and Asians, Asians get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

And the issues go back to what I said in the midst of the “Oscars So White” controversy. The Academy cannot nominate what they do not see. While movie buffs and critics may watch foreign films, it has been proven and confirmed that many Academy members don’t even watch the domestic films nominated for Academy Awards. Nominations for Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Isabelle Huppert in Elle, and Javier Bardem in Biutiful are referred to as “inspired nominations” – nominations that weren’t expected or predicted, but reflect a passion the Academy has over a little seen performance that deserves attention. That’s what many foreign performances by Hispanics and Asians end up being. There was a time when nomination of a black actor was considered “inspired” (Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) and now, it’s the norm. No, beyond that. Now it’s EXPECTED. Each year we expect white and black actors to be nominated, yet we don’t expect the same for Asian and Hispanic actors.

It goes back to exposure. The reason black actors started getting nominated more was because more films starring or featuring black people were being produced and entered into the mainstream. Now in 2017, we’re still low on the number of Asian and Hispanic actors that are well known and, even rarer, are good roles for them in mainstream films. Surely, we know about clichés such as Fresh Off the Boat and the Hispanic friend Michael Pena often plays. But where is the Manchester by the Sea for Benicio Del Toro? Where is Adriana Barraza’s Carol? Why can’t Choi Min-sik get the mainstream roles that he deserves? Diversity in Hollywood needs to go beyond black and white, and soon. The “inspired nomination” shouldn’t be primarily minorities. Sure we still have the likes of Laura Linney’s nomination for The Savages, but that type of nomination cannot continually be Asian and Hispanic performances, because those performances should be expected, not unusual.

Producers should realize that these actors have as much talent as the Goslings and Stones of the world. They should capitalize on these talents and understand that marketability can extend to Asians and Hispanics. The Academy simply cannot nominate what they don’t see and aren’t exposed to – plain and simple. Amores Perros and In the Mood for Love were lauded by critics and movie aficionados alike and yet, were still ignored by the Academy. So instead of pigeonholing non-White actors to films in their native tongue, let’s embrace them into our mainstream so that they get proper recognition and we can fulfill what the Academy Awards are for – honoring the best in cinema for the previous year. Last time I checked, cinema expands past the borders of America.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder By Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

GentlemansGuide.jpgI had the pleasure of seeing the Tony- Award winning musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the Playhouse at Rodney Square, formerly the Dupont Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.  The Playhouse at Rodney Square continues to feel like a grand theater of yesteryear.

I am a fan of musicals.  When I was a young child, I wanted to be a tap dancer in a musical show.  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder lives up to an award- winning musical production.  In each scene, lavish Edwardian decor of the sets put you in the time frame.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is the story of a young man Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) who discovers, to his great shock, that his unfortunate late mother was disinherited from the highborn D’Ysquith clan for marrying a Castilian musician for love.  Monty finds out he is ninth in line to inherit a dukedom and he decides to eliminate the other eight heirs standing in his way. Monty meets and eliminates them one by one.

I enjoyed watching Monty plan his way to dukedom.  It is so funny to watch all eight D’Ysquith heirs (John Rapson). Each character has distinctive look and personality as he portrays The Rev. Lord D’Ezekial, the buxom Lady Hyacinth, the pompousness of the reigning Lord Adalbert and the perkiness of the bright-eyed beekeeper Henry with whom he sings double-entendres in a mock-duet, “Better With a Man”).

One of my favorite numbers is the scene in which Monty tries to keep his latest love interest, Phoebe (Kristin Hahn), from discovering that his old flame, Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) is in the other room.  It is very creative and the ladies’ beautiful voices blend to let us see Monty dilemma.

All the cast members are excellent singers, dances and actors. If you want to be entertained, learn a few tips about how to move to front of the line of heirs and entertain more than one love, go see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder now playing at The Playhouse of Rodney Square, until November 20, 2016.

I recommend A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder for ages 14 to 18 and adults will enjoy it also. I give A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder 5 out of 5 stars.

What Makes a Movie Your Favorite by Gerry Orz

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

LeonardMaltin.Gerry.jpgThe thing that makes a movie someone’s favorite is what they like the most, or what suits their  personalities. Maybe it’s a mixture of classic or modern treatment or maybe it’s a certain actor. For myself, I can’t say “no” to an Adam Sandler comedy or a Speilberg’s adventure! This can actually be a bad thing for critics. Could this make their view of a film ‘foggy’ or allow them to not look carefully at the film and give it a good rating because they are bias toward a certain sensibility? I know that I have struggled with that in my experience as a film critic.

I see these big name critics and wonder if they have a favorite filmmaker or genre or, if they even allow one. For this job, in which there are no hard and fast rules, Hollywood can deem you good or bad for doing certain things. Confusing? It is true. Society may classify Adam Sandler “bad” for not going along with Hollywood and playing by the rules of the industry bHeadshot.GerrySM.jpgut, he is a good producer and comedian and his recent film was a hit. He seems to be getting better and better as the time goes by. However,  in my opinion, everyone have a favorite. It’s human nature which applies, even if you are Mr. Hollywood, that you must like one thing better than the other. What is your favorite type of film?

Summertime is Movie Time by Keefer Blakeslee, age 14

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

It’s summer! The biggest time for movies to come out. No school or homework to worry about. This gives people more time to be able to go to their local movie theater and see a flick. The reason I bring this up is because it reminds me how much I love movies. I grew up watching films on VHS tapes. Yes they still exist! My favorite growing up was “Fantasia.”

The way the animation fits the music always fascinated me. It’s like closing your eyes when you hear music and trying to picture what is happening. All my mom had to do was pop in a movie I liked and I was gone. It’s like picking up a book not being able to put it down for a second.

My parents and I traveled a lot when I was younger. So, to keep me from being bored, my mom got me a portable DVD player to watch movies on the go. I can’t remember any long road trips when I did not have a DVD player with me. Most of my birthday parties were at The Neptune Theater in my home town. When I turned eight, my mom got all my friend together to go watch “Kung Fu Panda.”

I’m difficult to get presents for and my mom knows that. Every birthday, she gives me a new movie to watch. This year she got me “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I now realize where I get my good taste in film. Movies have also helped me get away. When I go through a tough time in my life, I usually put on a comedy to cheer me up. When I am sick and want a sense of adventure I put on “Indiana Jones.”

That’s what movies do; they either take you to a far away land or bring your reality a different perspective. When I watch Jim Carrey’s physical comedy in the “Grinch,” I laugh. And, the death of Bambi’s mom in “Bambi” always brings a tear to my eye.

When I joined KIDS FIRST! Film Critics in 2012, I wanted to express my opinions and work with other kids who enjoy film like I do – not just as an art form, but a memory. Most of my fellow critics and I grew up with movies and when we watch an older film we saw when we were younger, it brings back memories. “Fantasia” still does that for me. In my spare time, after all my summer fun and chores are done, I ask my mom if we can go to the movies. When there are no new movies out, I grab a film I have not seen in my VHS collection. My mom always smiles and says “Yes” to both.

I’m always eager to sit down and watch a movie. Whether it’s good or bad, film will always be a part of my life. In the words of Roger Ebert “Thank you, and I’ll see you at the movies.”

Meet our KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Brianna

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Fourteen-year-old Brianna Beaton lives in Clermont, FL with her parents. She has a 23-year-old sister who lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her favorite things to do with her parents are play board games, watch TV, and cook. Brianna also likes to read and write stories. You can find Brianna playing tag, swimming and just goofing off with her friends who call her BB. Brianna’s favorite movie is I am Sam. Brianna looks up to actress Drew Barrymore because she started acting young and is the kind of person who doesn’t care what anyone says about her. Brianna wants to be a successful actress and a restaurant owner when she grows up. She also wants to write a fictional novel. She is most proud that she has been performing in theatre plays and won Best Actress, Most Dramatic, and Most Reliable awards in her theatre school. As a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Brianna enjoys sharing and expressing her feelings about films through video and/or written reviews. KIDS FIRST! gives her many opportunities to write.

Become a Local Film Critic and Get Free Stuff!

Monday, June 17th, 2013

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s not! KIDS FIRST! wants to hear from you. We want everyone to be a film critic and show that kids’ opinions matter. There is no entry fee, no contest… simply submit your video review and get your prize.

Every child age 18 and under that submits a video review of any film or DVD (rated PG-13 or under) will receive a gift card toward a media skin from our friends at ZINGrevolution.com and/or a certificate good for a free movie ticket at your local theater (sponsored by Quantum Rewards). Prizes only available while supplies last – but we have plenty to give away right now!

Visit our KIDS FIRST! Critics Go Local website for details on how to submit your review.

You can review any film or DVD (PG-13 and under) that you wish, but here are some DVD suggestions from KIDS FIRST! that can be purchased or rented locally:

Space Warriors (available at Walmart)

LEGO Batman The Movie: DC Superheroes Unite

Take a moment and check out some of the reviews by KIDS FIRST! National Film Critics on our website for ideas.

Local Film Critics are needed throughout the U.S., so go see that great new film that’s in the theater, or pull out one of your favorite DVDs and get the cameras rolling!

Is It Really Appropriate? Epic in Retrospect…

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

RATED_PG.svg.jpgAt KIDS FIRST! we use a different style, more specific, for determining age recommendation than the Motion Picture Rating (MPAA.) These ratings have meaning, and before you attend a film it’s important to read reviews – KIDS FIRST! reviews will give you a lot of insight and IMDB will also give you specifics on warnings related to the MPAA rating.

In case you don’t know the real meaning of the MPAA rating PG, it stands for “Parental Guidance Suggested” and the full description is:

Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents are urged to give parental guidance as the motion picture contains some material that parents might not find suitable for younger children.
Such films may contain only mild violence, language, drug references, brief nudity and/or implied or inferred sexual activity.

See what KIDS FIRST! has to say about Epic, our reviews, synopsis and recommendations by clicking here. Why do I bring this up? This weekend I attended a screening of Epic with my ten-year-old son. We prefer non-3D. The theater was relatively empty (probably because it wasn’t the 3D version) but in attendance were about 15-20 preschoolers with their moms. So it made me wonder, what does PG mean to them? In our KIDS FIRST! youth reviews of this film, our seven-year-old Film Critic, Adam C. points out that this film is “appropriate for ages six and up as there are some scary parts of the movie that I wouldn’t recommend to kids under the age of six.”

Throughout the film the mother next to us had to continually soothe her preschooler with “everything is okay,” and “see they are going to be okay.” While he told his mom, “I’m scared,” and asked “What is happening now mommy?” Clearly this young child was not prepared for the intense imagery, the suspense and extreme scenes of “good vs evil.” In fact, it’s unfair for any child his age to have to deal with evil and dark images and be expected to make sense out of them.

Please, save the good and evil messages, the battles and intensity for when your children can developmentally make sense of them. You will avoid many nightmares, confusion and the annoyance of others in the theater who do not sit with their older children to listen to your scared child and mommy explanations.

We loved Epic. It was exciting and colorful. It had a message beneath the message and if you are old enough, you know that the dark is needed to make the light continue – or at least your old enough to discuss the concept.

Hear more discussions about the film Epic on KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions Radio Show. You can also check out some of our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics’ video reviews by Brianna B. and Anthony A.

The Newest “Star Trek” Takes Us Back To The Early Days

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

StarTrekID_1.jpg“Star Trek into Darkness” is the second movie based on the original TV series and, for those of us who grew up watching this show, brings back all our favorite characters – Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Sulu (John Cho.) The storyline is also reminiscent of those of the past but fleshed out with 3D, great character development, outstanding sound effects and good acting throughout. Our youth film critics were wowed by the film. Patrick N., age 13, commented that it “left me in awe and thrill.” It also brings attention to the close brotherly relationship between Captain Kirk and Spock. In the end, Patrick finds a new passion for “Star Trek” as you can see below.

“Star Trek into Darkness”

By Patrick N.

View Patrick’s full video review here!

Satirical, emotional and epic are the only words to describe the new movie “Star Trek Into Darkness.” I got a chance to visit the Paramount Lot for an exclusive screening of this movie, which left me in awe and thrill. Although this movie is a sequel to the previous “Star Trek” series, movie goers who are not familiar with the story will understand the plot clearly. The actors portray their characters very well thanks to the director, J.J Abrams. The scenery and set for the futuristic year of 2240 are so vivid and realistic, audience members will forget they are in the year 2013. This movie is also produced for the IMAX 3D, which puts all the explosions and fight scenes in your face.

The relationship of all the characters on the iconic Starship Enterprise are deep and meaningful. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachery Quinto) develop a brotherly love through the struggles they conquer. The Villain, Khan (Benedict Cumberpatch) is a scary two-faced character that will leave the audience guessing his fate until the very end. Not only does the main star achieve his role perfectly, but the co-stars also do an superb job. The writers, Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof successfully add comedy to the script bringing an emotional roller coaster to the audience.

The set ranges from modern skyscrapers to futuristic spaceships. The designers portray the theme very well, using many computer generated images to create the year of 2240 in a way that make it seem so real. The 3D element is an added bonus because it brings the action up close. The beginning scene has a lot of running and fighting sequences and yet it is all filmed in such detail that the characters seem like they are going to run off screen.

After watching this movie, my passion for “Star Trek” has been sparked! I rate this movie 5 out of 5 because it balances the comedy and action scenes so well. It has multiple themes taking place but the on-going theme, “the power of friendship can build you or destroy you” is present throughout. This movie contains a handful of violence but is not bloody or graphic. The action sequences, violence and realistic make-up could be scary for younger audience members so, I recommend this for ages 13 to18. This movie has sparked an interest in “Star Trek” for me and hopefully it will do the same to you.

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