Jury Coordination and Notes

The Falconer * Lots of Symbolism Like The Falcon Trapped In A Captive Life, Like People Born Within A Hostile Culture

October 22nd, 2022

The Falconer centers around two best friends, Tariq (Rami Zahar), the son of a poor beekeeper, and Cai (Rupert Fennessy), a Westerner with a passion for endangered animals, living in Oman the summer before he is set to go off to college. They work together at a dilapidated zoo, blissfully separated from many of the troubles of the outside world. Their care-free friendship is challenged when Tariq promises to help his sister, Alia (Noor Al Huda), escape from an abusive marriage. Cai’s worldview is pitted against Tariq’s daring plan to steal animals from the zoo and sell them on the black market to help empower Alia to leave her marriage. They are forced to wrestle with morally complex choices that reveal the vast distance between their worlds.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dominic D. comments, “From different worlds, separated by unique lifestyles, two friends model for viewers that no matter what divides us, we have a universal language that helps to form a strong bond. The Falconer, an award-winning adventure drama, is a one-of-a-kind film sure to wow its audience.” See his full review and interview below.

The Falconer (2022)
By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

From different worlds, separated by unique lifestyles, two friends model for viewers that no matter what divides us, we have a universal language that helps to form a strong bond. The Falconer, an award-winning adventure drama, is a one-of-a-kind film sure to wow its audience. It’s the first international movie in history to be filmed entirely in this Middle Eastern town which alone sets this film apart from others.

Based on real life events, The Falconer highlights the friendship of two teenage boys living in a tiny Oman village and separated by other cultures outside of their small world. Tariq, an Omani teenager, the son of a poor beekeeper, is somewhat of the underdog within the relationship as his friend Cai, the son of Westerners, was born into an affluent world.  Their passion for animals and the zoo that they work at solidifies their relationship and keeps them happy and shut off from the rest of the world, until their cultural difference becomes the wedge that will drive their friendship apart.  Tariq’s sister, forced into an arranged marriage, is being abused by her new husband and decides divorce is her only means to survive. Money — which their family does not have — is the only thing that can help her escape her marriage. The boys struggle with their moral conscience, but find that they can help Tariq’s sister by stealing the zoo animals and selling them on the black market; however a line is crossed when Tariq decides to sell Cai’s prize possession, the falcon he stole himself and dreams of one day setting free.

There is much symbolism in this film, which I find highly engaging. The falcon, for instance, is trapped in a captive life, much like many people who are born within a potentially hostile culture. This magnificent creature symbolizes the tension between a society that you are born into and the freedom that lives within you. This symbolism is deep-rooted and very authentic. What I also love about The Falconer is witnessing such breathtaking landscapes throughout the film. Some scenes are slow at times, but this allows viewers to take in the beauty that surrounds the actors and give us such an appreciation for Oman’s landscapes and geography. Hats off to the cinematographers who captured such perfect footage. And a big two thumbs up for directors Adam Sjoberg and Seanne Winslow for creating such a timely, humanistic film.

The messages in The Falconer are about close relationships and cultural differences. Friendships are indeed critical while going through life, but those close bonds have limits and will always be second to family. Family is deep-rooted and sometimes complicated. We tend to only understand the culture we live in, and yet we must learn to respect our cultural differences with others. Parents should know there is some adult language in this film.

I give The Falconer 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Falconer is available now on a variety of streaming platforms.

Share this page on:

Ghoster * Spooky Family Film Filled With Twists, Puzzles And Comedy That Invites You Into A World Of Ghosts, Dragons And Legends

October 8th, 2022

When a mysterious letter appears on the day they are being evicted, Elizabeth and her father can’t believe their luck to discover they’ve inherited Echoville Manor, a sprawling, thirty-seven room estate. Upon arriving, Elizabeth finds that the mansion is inhabited by the world’s cutest spirit, Ghoster, who has been trapped within a mirrored prison there for fifty years. Together, they must uncover the secrets to Echoville to free Ghoster before the nefarious Yuto captures her soul as well in his quest for immortality.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S., comments, “Ghoster is a spooky family film with twists, puzzles, and some comedy mixed in that is perfect for an autumn night. This exciting film invites you into a world of ghosts, dragons and legends that is both entertaining and filled with surprises.” See her full review below.

Ghoster
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Ghoster is a spooky family film with twists, puzzles, and some comedy mixed in that is perfect for an autumn night. This exciting film invites you into a world of ghosts, dragons and legends that is both entertaining and filled with surprises. I was drawn into the magic, the unbreakable family ties, and the collaborative efforts of the characters as they race against time.

In Ghoster, Elizabeth (Sophie Proctor) learns she’s the heir to Echoville Manor. Yuto, a wicked ghost dragon, is trying to fulfill a task that intertwines with the lives of Elizabeth, and those around her. When she and her father (J.R. Brown) arrive, she encounters Ghoster,(David Henrie), who implores her and her new friend, Mateo, (Josh Escayg), to help him find the light knife and destroy Yuto. They must work together or risk losing everything they care about.  

My favorite scene is when Elizabeth and the rest of the “scare squad” forge a plan to scare away the bankers who want to take possession of Echoville Manor. The scenes are both suspenseful and humorous. The reactions and facial expressions of the characters to the hauntings are delightfully entertaining. However, some of the scare tactics didn’t seem as though they would really scare anyone.  Elizabeth and her father share a bond that is unbreakable, even in several trying situations. The actors work together to make this bond believable and touching. Elizabeth (Proctor) and Mateo (Escayg) also forge a great friendship and work well together in the film. The setting of Echoville Manor is well decorated to portray an older estate. The old furniture and details of many of other furnishings, like the mirrors throughout the manor, showcase the age well.  The CGI is meticulous in detail, such as the spikes on Yuto which are very detailed.  The background music and sound effects really capture the moods, especially the suspenseful ones. Some of the storyline is predictable but there are enough twists in the plot to keep the viewer entertained.

The message in this film is that it sometimes takes courage to do what is right and to conquer your fears. Elizabeth is nervous about the challenges she faces to defeat Yuto. However, she knows it is the right thing to do to help Ghoster, so she faces it head on with the help of her family and friends. Parents should be aware there are some scenes which may be scary for young viewers.

I give Ghoster 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 12 to 18. Ghoster releases on Digital, VOD and DVD October 11, 2022.

Share this page on:

Blue’s Clues & You! Rainbow Puppy Adventures * Great Show For Young Children. The Music Is A Key Factor That Keeps You Entertained

October 5th, 2022

Rainbow Puppy is a charismatic and confident puppy that literally sparkles rainbow! While she grew up in our Blue’s Clues world, she’s made it Broadway BIG in New York City! With a vibrant personality to match her colorful fur, she has a song in her heart and is always singing and dancing, and is positively bubbling with talent! She can be found performing in musicals, skipping down red carpets and even appearing in music videos!  Rainbow Puppy has a flair for drama and fun, exudes passion and positivity, and breaks into song ALL. THE. TIME. With a melody in her heart and a dance in her step, she spreads music and laughter wherever she goes!

Giana N. comments, “The Nickelodeon kids show Blue’s Clues & You is back for yet another adventure with Rainbow Puppy. This DVD is full of captivating and fun episodes for younger children. Rainbow Puppy had such a positive attitude that it makes every episode so enjoyable to watch.” See her full review and interview below.

Blue’s Clues & You: Rainbow Puppy Adventures
Giana N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

The Nickelodeon kids show Blue’s Clues & You is back for yet another adventure with Rainbow Puppy. This DVD is full of captivating and fun episodes for younger children. Rainbow Puppy had such a positive attitude that it makes every episode so enjoyable to watch. If you are a Blue’s Clue’s fan or just a person ready for some adventure, you should check this out.

This DVD follows Rainbow Puppy (Brianna Bryan) as we watch her through multiple adventures with Blue (Traci Paige Johnson) and Josh (Joshua Dela Cruz) from “skidoo” to “skidoo” finding different clues to get answers to things. While she grew up in the Blue’s Clues world, she’s made it Broadway BIG in New York City! With a vibrant personality to match her colorful fur, she has a song in her heart and is always singing, dancing, and is positively bubbling with talent!

This is a great show for young children. The music in the show is one of the key factors that keeps the audience entertained. With catchy beats and lyrics, you will be singing along with them in no time. “Mail Time” and the theme song are definitely songs that get stuck in your head. I like all the different colorful places that they travel like Clue Lagoon and the colorful house they live in. This aspect could be something that audiences find appealing. My favorite character is Rainbow Puppy because she brings so much positivity and creativity to the show.

The message of this DVD is that life can be an adventure if you let it be an adventure. Blue, Josh, Rainbow Puppy and the other characters show that if you use your imagination and your creativity you can create your own adventures. This show is completely family-friendly.

I give Blue’s Clues & You: Rainbow Puppy 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 8. The DVD releases October 4, 2022. Be sure to check it out!

Share this page on:

Order of the Night Jay: The Forest Beckons * Heartwarming Graphic Novel With A Tale of Friendship

September 18th, 2022

Making friends can be hard for a nervous bear, even at summer camp. But Frank’s about to discover a mystery… and the camp needs him to save the day!

Frank is perhaps the most un-bear-like bear Camp Jay Bird has ever seen. Actually, he’s probably the ONLY bear Camp Jay Bird has ever seen. And there are tons of bugs, he’s getting picked on, and he can’t seem to earn a single badge! But there’s Ricky, an excitable little raccoon who shares Frank’s love of Mega Bunny comics. But Ricky’s friendship might be more than Frank can handle. After breaking camp rules, getting lost in the woods, and discovering ancient secrets about the long-forgotten Order of the Night Jay, how will Frank explain all this to his dad?

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Nyara A. comments, “Order of the Night Jay: The Forest Beckons is a heartwarming graphic novel that shares a tale of friendship, bravery, and discovery. Through detailed and colorful graphics, the reader journeys with a bear named Frank during his first experience at summer camp.” See her full review and interview below.

Order of the Night Jay: The Forest Beckons by Jonathan Schnapp
By Nyara A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Order of the Night Jay: The Forest Beckons is a heartwarming graphic novel that shares a tale of friendship, bravery, and discovery. Through detailed and colorful graphics, the reader journeys with a bear named Frank during his first experience at summer camp. My favorite parts of the book are the letters that Frank sends to his father describing his daily adventures.

Order of the Night Jay follows the protagonist Frank, a shy, anxious bear, who is just looking for some friends. Because he is the only big animal at camp he feels out of place. Teased due to his size, he worries whether he will ever fit in. When he meets Ricky, an extroverted and bubbly racoon, his whole outlook begins to change. On an overnight trip, the two friends discover a secret code. What does this code mean? And most importantly, where will this code lead them?

Author Jonathan Schnapp engages the reader with earthy and original graphics. Even though the characters are animals, the drawing style makes their emotions relatable and their facial expressions almost human. By using letters home, we get a glimpse into Frank’s mind. And Frank writes his own comic, within the comic, so we are able to see the creativity behind his quiet and shy facade. The words he uses are ones we have used or could easily relate to. Each of the characters has a unique backstory and graphics, too.

This book is perfectly suited for any child who is about to start something new, like a new school year, a new activity after school, or even going to summer camp for the first time. The graphics are most appropriate for elementary school-aged children. The story could start a little more quickly, so I would encourage readers to keep going because the story gets good!

I give Order of the Night Jay: The Forest Beckons 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12. It is available September 20, 2022 at online retailers and in bookstores.

Share this page on:

Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy * Adorable, Impeccably-Filmed Sci-Fi Adventure

September 11th, 2022

After losing his mother to illness and his best friend to an unexpected move, a young boy discovers a crashed spaceship and makes a new friend with awesome powers (although she does need a little help with her earthly social skills). Together, they embark on a zany, fun-filled adventure while taking on the bad guys and helping Maika find her way home.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy is an adorable and impeccably-filmed story of friendship and exploration. It’s the perfect sci-fi adventure for the whole family this September.” See his full review below.  

Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy 
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy is an adorable and impeccably-filmed story of friendship and exploration. It’s the perfect sci-fi adventure for the whole family this September.

Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy follows the story of Hung (Phu Truong Lai), a young boy in Vietnam. After Hung’s mother Hang (Elyse Dinh) passes away from lung disease, and he loses his best friend My to an unexpected move to Saigon, he discovers a crashed spaceship and makes a new friend, Maika (Chu Diep Anh), with powers. Together, they embark on fun-filled adventures while taking on various villains like the head of an aeronautical company before helping Maika find her way back to her home planet.

Ham Tran’s direction truly ties this film together; even though the film is based on a Czechoslovakian TV series that became a cultural sensation in Vietnam in the 1980s and ‘90s, it comes across as an original film. My favorite part of the film was the special effects, as I think it should be in a sci-fi film. When Maika does her “magic,” purple beams emanate from her fingers; it is beautiful! The performances by Chu Diep Anh as Maika and Hung by Phu Truong Lai steal the show; I was moved by Lai’s emotive performance in the initial scenes where his mother is hospitalized, and An’s chirpy, bubbly character stole my heart.

Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy promotes finding your own adventures, fostering positive friendships, and overall being a good, virtuous person. There is one scene to watch out for where Maika, unaware of Earthly social norms about clothing, pounces on Hung naked; she is shown from the neck up, though.

I give Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy 4 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 8 to 12.  Maika: The Girl from Another Galaxy debuts on digital outlets on September 6, 2022.

Share this page on:

Ivy + Bean * Buckle Your Seat Belts, Because Ivy And Bean Are Two Best Friends That Take The Audience On A Crazy Ride

September 8th, 2022

Two unlikely friends, the loud and fearless Bean, and the thoughtful and quiet Ivy. Yet the two discover that an adventure can reveal that even seemingly different people can become the best of friends.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Maica N. comments, “Ivy + Bean is a three part movie series based on the iconic Ivy + Bean children’s book series. Full of talented actors and a nostalgic plot, everyone can find something they enjoy in Ivy + Bean. Buckle your seat belts, because Ivy and Bean are two best friends that take the audience on a crazy ride.” See her full review and interview below.  

Ivy + Bean
By Maica N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, Age 15

Ivy + Bean is a three part movie series based on the iconic Ivy + Bean children’s book series. Full of talented actors and a nostalgic plot, everyone can find something they enjoy in Ivy + Bean. Buckle your seat belts, because Ivy and Bean are two best friends that take the audience on a crazy ride.

Ivy + Bean is about two young girls with very different personalities. Ivy (Keslee Blalock) is quiet and reserved, while Bean (Madison Skye) is loud, outgoing, and a risk taker. At first, the two want nothing to do with each other. But once they realize they have a similar imagination, they become best friends and find themselves on plenty of adventures.

Ivy + Bean is a great family friendly movie to watch when you’re just looking for some fun. The set design of Ivy + Bean is very well done, especially Ivy and Bean’s houses. Both houses and the girls’ rooms have a different tone, which highlights the differences between the two. Ivy has a lot of spells and ingredients in her room, but it is also neat. Meanwhile, Bean’s room is animal themed and relatively more chaotic than Ivy’s. This displays how Ivy is more reserved and organized and Bean is more wild and daring. We can also find examples of descriptive backgrounds in Ivy and Bean’s backyards. Ivy has this nice area she calls her secret garden with paper butterflies and flowers that she takes Bean to. However, Bean mostly stays in her backyard with holes that she’s dug and her tree houses. Props to the set and production designers for using these elements to expand the story.

Having too many movies can sometimes backfire if they’re long and don’t have an interesting plot. However, the three Ivy + Bean movies have perfect continuity and each one brings something new. My personal favorite is the second movie, The Ghost That Had to Go, because of the involvement of all of the new characters and the craziness of trying to get rid of the ghost.

The message of Ivy + Bean is that having a big imagination and being willing to try new things can lead you to greatness. Both Ivy and Bean were hesitant before becoming friends. When they finally tried to see eye to eye, they realized that they have a lot in common, and could be a better duo than they thought.

I give Ivy + Bean 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. You can find all three Ivy + Bean movies on Netflix on September 2, 2022. So make sure you check it out!

Share this page on:

Songbirds * Touching Documentary About The World’s Largest Collection Of Vintage Guitars Housed In Songbirds Museum In Chattanooga, TN

August 26th, 2022

The Songbirds guitar museum hosted the world’s largest collection of vintage guitars. Covid-19’s devastating blow to the music industry forced the museum to permanently close. This documentary film explores the final hours and cultural impact of this special collection.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “Songbirds is a touching documentary film about the world’s largest collection of vintage guitars housed in the museum of the same name located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The film is written and directed by Dagan Beckett, who has a special connection with the place and was able to write, produce and film the documentary in record time: just two weeks before the museum closed its doors in 2020.” See her full review and interview below.  

Songbirds
By Zoë C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Songbirds is a touching documentary film about the world’s largest collection of vintage guitars housed in the museum of the same name located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The film is written and directed by Dagan Beckett, who has a special connection with the place and was able to write, produce and film the documentary in record time: just two weeks before the museum closed its doors in 2020. The result is a love letter to the guitars, to his hometown and to a legacy that extends the life of the museum in a sort of digital memento.

Doyle Dykes Performing at Songbirds Museum

Beckett is a professional musician and also a filmmaker, so combining both disciplines generates a fascinating work for all music lovers, young and old. Over 1,500 guitars, including rare and vintage are part of the collection and displayed throughout the film. The narration combines interviews with historians, artists, visitors and workers with footage of the museum with music clips of live bands that performed at the venue. The audience discovers how guitars are made, how they change through the years and why they mean so much to artists. Opened in 2017 and closed due to the pandemic, Songbirds was a museum like no other, but the maintenance of these relics requires a lot of effort and the operative cost was impossible to maintain during the pandemic, forcing Songbirds to close and relocate the guitars.

Inside Songbirds Museum, empty

What I love the most is how Songbirds captures the emotion of how visitors experienced the opportunity to visit, work or simply be around this unprecedented collection of guitars that hold so much history and beauty. The documentary provides the viewer with the joy of discovering all these treasures, and the stories behind them, which produces a connection to these guitars through images and testimonies. For musicians like Joe Bonamassa, Vince Gill, John 5 and John Schneider, among others, Songbirds was like an artist’s playground—while having all these special guests in the film sharing their thoughts was another challenge for the director.

Museum-Curator-Irving-Berner-With-69-Telecaster

Songbirds has received five awards including a regional EMMY in the Documentary Film-Topical category and is part of the official selection of multiple film festivals around the world. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars, and I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18, plus adults.  Songbirds is now available on multiple streaming platforms in VOD including iTunes.

Share this page on:

Petit​e​ Maman * A French Coming Of Age Sci-Fi Hybrid That’s A Warm Bundle Of Cinematic Magic

August 18th, 2022

Céline Sciamma continues to prove herself as one of the most accomplished and unpredictable contemporary French filmmakers with her follow up to PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE, the uniquely emotional, PETITE MAMAN. Following the death of her beloved grandmother, 8-year-old Nelly accompanies her parents to her mother’s childhood home to begin the difficult process of cleaning out its contents. As Nelly explores the house and nearby woods, she is immediately drawn to a neighbor her own age building a treehouse. What follows is a tender tale of childhood grief, memory and connection.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Petit​e​ Maman is a warm bundle of cinematic magic. Director Celina Sciamma’s French coming of age sci-fi hybrid never gets too bogged down in tedious specifics of its fantastical set-up. Petit Maman bends time to tell the story about the bond between a daughter and her mother that transcends it.”  See his full reviews below.

Petit​e​ Maman
Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

https://youtu.be/LVRWJv9qW0Q

Petit​e​ Maman is a warm bundle of cinematic magic. Director Celina Sciamma’s French coming of age sci-fi hybrid never gets too bogged down in tedious specifics of its fantastical set-up. Petit Maman bends time to tell the story about the bond between a daughter and her mother that transcends it.

Petit​e​ Maman, which I had the pleasure of seeing at the Middleburg Film Festival, centers itself around a little girl named Nelly (Josephine Sanz) and her family, reeling after the death of a loved one, as they spend some time in Nelly’s mother’s childhood home. Nelly’s mother leaves the family behind in the midst of the immense grief she’s suffering, leaving her husband and daughter with little idea of when she’ll return. In the meantime, Nelly ventures into the woods, where she meets and begins to pal around with a young girl, who she learns, by some twist of cosmic fate, is a much younger version of her own mother, who faces trials of her own.  A single stretch of woods bridges decades between them. Together, they try to help each other cope in these moments of personal turmoil and Nelly can maybe get to understand why her mother left and what she’s going through.  This movie quite literally follows its two leads after their meeting, making food, building forts, making believe. Petit Maman uses those pastimes of youth to hit audiences with a surprisingly layered exploration of something as monumental as grief from a kid’s perspective. 

I loved, loved, loved the setup of this movie—it doesn’t ever seek to explain how Nelly and this younger version of her mother meet in terms of time and space, but it uses that heightened concept to speak to something more human. Here, two children reckon with fear and their powerlessness in the conflicts they face, and in the comfort and security they give each other lies the courage to face them.

The lesson of Petit​e​ Maman is just to be there for the people you love in times of great difficulty. 

I give Petit​e​ Maman 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. It’s an understated, but moving little gem that I hope doesn’t escape people’s radar. Petite Maman is currently streaming on various VOD platforms including iTunes and Vudu.

Share this page on:

Happy Day * Kid-Friendly, Energetic & Fun With An Organic Energy And A Sense Of Wonder

July 29th, 2022

Family-friendly, rocking kids’ tunes for all ages to enjoy. Fun and educational songs with positive messages about appreciating our environment, using our imaginations, and validating the one and only you, plus a wonderfully relaxing sleep song and even a tune with a yak’s perspective, co-written with the author of Yak Girl.

KIDS FIRST! Music Specialist, John Wood comments, “Jenn Cleary has created an accessible, appealing musical experience in this CD Happy Day. There’s an organic energy to the tracks that Cleary’s voice rides with a sense of wonder – nothing is unappealing… The album is custom made for its audience. The songs are kid-friendly, energetic and fun.” KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kira O. comments, “Jenn Cleary is great at creating fun songs such as “I Like Candy.” Her voice is clear and upbeat. She has the kind of voice that younger children will find appealing and soothing. Although the music is appropriate for kids younger than me, I still enjoyed many of the songs.” Ava C. adds, “The most appealing thing about the music on the Happy Day CD is that it is upbeat and it should capture the attention of little kids very well. Little kids like fun, catchy music, which most of the songs on the CD are.” Ashleigh C. wraps it up with, “Funky and fun, Jenn Cleary’s Album Happy Day is sure to make you gleeful and ready to bust out your best moves while learning! Happy Day is a CD filled with jazzy and groovy music that shares a variety of topics that teaches us about loving ourselves and also our planet.”

Happy Day
By Ava C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

The most appealing thing about the music on the Happy Day CD is that it is upbeat and it should capture the attention of little kids very well. Little kids like fun, catchy music, which most of the songs on the CD are. The least appealing thing for me is the type of music. It seems more like folk music, but that’s just a personal thing.

My favorite thing about the songs is that they all have positive messages and an upbeat tone. I played a couple songs for my twin three-year-old nieces and they really liked the songs titled, “Turtle Time” and “Happy Days.” The lead singer, Jenn Cleary, has a fun, soothing voice. I like how she includes the kids singing in the song, “Happy Days.” I also like the instrument choices. The guitar and harmonica bring a fun vibe to the music. The music is age appropriate for its audience. The vocabulary is well chosen and the words are easy to understand and sing along to. The children can relate to the lyrics in the songs. I found myself singing along with my nieces with the chorus for “Happy Days.” We played the song about three times. The quality sounds really good. Everything is clear. It is a professional level production. I’ve always wanted to start a garden and the song, “Plant A Garden” inspired me to want to do it even more.

This is a fun CD and adds a new flare to teaching children about the world around them, rather than the traditional ABC and nursery rhyme songs.

I give Happy Day 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 8. It is available now on digital platforms.

Happy Day
By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Funky and fun, Jenn Cleary’s Album Happy Day is sure to make you gleeful and ready to bust out your best moves while learning!

Happy Day is a CD filled with jazzy and groovy music that shares a variety of topics that teaches us about loving ourselves and also our planet. This album features Jenn Cleary and includes Mad Dog Freidman. There are a total of ten songs on the CD, each one averages around three minutes.

Jenn Cleary’s vocals are engaging, fun and calming, when appropriate. Most songs have a twangy, country vibe that is sure to make your head bob and foot tap. The instrumentals in this album are all fantastic; my favorite is It’s Time to Go to Sleep. This particular song reminds me of the meditation app Headspace that helps relieve the listener of stress, which is exactly what this song does. All the way down to the sound effects in the background, each song has a story that reminds me of a podcast. This is a CD parents wouldn’t mind sharing the aux for.

The message of Happy Day is to have fun and let loose, but don’t forget to take a nap once and a while. This CD promotes positive social behavior.

I give Happy Day 4 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5-8. It is available now on all audio streaming platforms such as Spotify. Be sure to give a listen!

Happy Day
By John Wood, KIDS FIRST!

The artist – Jenn Cleary – has created an accessible, appealing musical experience in this CD Happy Day. There’s an organic energy to the tracks that Cleary’s voice rides with a sense of wonder – nothing is unappealing.

“I can hear Cleary now!” The album is custom made for its audience. The songs are kid-friendly, energetic and fun. The continuity of the ten songs flows flawlessly. It’s professionally written and presents a wide variety of musical styles. It’s totally appropriate for a youth audience, but families will also enjoy on road trips. Love of animals, love of the environment and love of self are all emphasized. The artist does not talk down to her audience and makes familiar subject matter fresh with a twist of whimsy. There is a genuine respect in the lyrics and a positive message throughout.

All the performances are first-rate, especially the lead vocals. The musicians rock and the production is excellent. With all the negativity in the world that children assimilate, positive input from music and stories such as this can have a lasting positive effect. One would hope that the loving appreciation of animals and the environment would be further fostered.

Jenn Cleary’s terrific album is a bright sunshiny day on the children’s musical horizon. Clear and present vocals, terrific musicians and stellar production value make this recording a winner – winner winner chicken dinner. When a song is lovingly scribed to the hard-working good old yak you can’t go wrong. Imagination, magic, wonder and discovery make a fragrant potpourri of uplifting sounds and Happy Day delivers on all counts!

I give Happy Day 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8, plus adults. It definitely meets or exceeds the KIDS FIRST! criteria, is well produced, entertaining and has a place in the world of children’s music.





Share this page on:

Zombies 3 * This Zombie-Filled, Beastly, Out-Of-This-World Film Is Everything A Disney Fan Could Want!

July 25th, 2022

Zed anticipates an athletic scholarship while Addison is gearing up for Seabrook’s international cheer-off competition. Then suddenly, extraterrestrial beings appear around Seabrook, causing more than friendly competition.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “This Zombie-filled, “cheertastic,” beastly and out-of-this-world film, is everything a Disney movie fan could want! With the same original characters from Zombies 1 and 2, as well as, some new extra-terrestrial friends, Zombies 3 will have fans singing, dancing, cheering and feeling every emotion.” See her full review below.

Zombies 3
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This Zombie-filled, “cheertastic,” beastly and out-of-this-world film, is everything a Disney movie fan could want! With the same original characters from Zombies 1 and 2, as well as, some new extra-terrestrial friends, Zombies 3 will have fans singing, dancing, cheering and feeling every emotion.

Zombies 3 is about Addison (Meg Donnelly) who is still trying to find where she belongs and graduate from Seabrook High along with her zombie boyfriend, Zed (Milo Manheim), who is trying to break history as the first monster to go to college. While humans, zombies and werewolves have learned to co-exist in Seabrook, everything changes when aliens show up on Earth on a mission to uncover a code that leads them to their home planet. Will the aliens be able to reach their goal while the Seabrook students fight to win the Cheer Cup during their last year in high school?

The main characters are Addison, Zed and the aliens. As the third installment of the Zombies’ franchise, this film still has the same spirit as the previous ones. The soundtrack is quite different, with more of an “alien-like” vibe to it.

I love the aspect of inclusion in this film and how, even though the franchise is called Zombies, it includes many types of monsters with different powers among the humans. It’s heartwarming to see how Addison is always there for everyone and welcomes them to Seabrook High. She is the activist, leader and overall best friend of everyone at Seabrook, plus newcomers.  This film is based on Secrets Galore. Be prepared to be stunned by what is revealed in Zombies 3.

Some lessons from Zombies 3 are that anything is possible when you try, trust is always the key, and people have to do what they need to get what they want and need in life. This is demonstrated when Zed advocates to become the first zombie to go to college, how Addison trusts the aliens and welcomes them to join the Cheer Cup, despite their entrance and alien bodies, and how the aliens come to earth to find the most precious thing and will do whatever it takes to achieve that.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. You can watch Zombies 3 on Disney+ now.

Share this page on:
Entertainment News for Kids:
Join KIDS FIRST! on Twitter Join KIDS FIRST! on YouTube Join KIDS FIRST! on Instagram Join KIDS FIRST! on Tik Tok Join KIDS FIRST! on Facebook