On the Basis of Sex – Well Crafted and Authentic Representation of the Iconic RBG

January 12th, 2019

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a struggling attorney and new mother who faces adversity and numerous obstacles in her fight for equal rights. When Ruth takes on a groundbreaking tax case with her husband, attorney Martin Ginsburg, she knows it could change the direction of her career and the way the courts view gender discrimination. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ella L. comments, “The characters are well crafted and the aesthetic of the 50s to 70s time period really sets the tone of the movie. It feels real and true, as opposed to the glorified version of the story that some biographical films show. The authenticity and uniqueness of the film really helps it stand out.” See her full review below.

On the Basis of Sex
By Ella Ladd, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Mimi Leder’s ON THE BASIS OF SEX, a Focus Features release.

On the Basis of Sex is such a fun and empowering film. I enjoyed it quite a bit as it was equally  entertaining and informative. The characters are well crafted and the aesthetic of the 50s to 70s time period really sets the tone of the movie. It feels real and true, as opposed to the glorified version of the story that some biographical films show. The authenticity and uniqueness of the film really helps it stand out. This is a very important movie for people see.

This film follows the true story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones), a young and gifted lawyer, who struggles to find work simply because she is a woman. In order to prove that the law discriminates on the basis of sex, Ms. Ginsburg has to work harder than she ever has before.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Mimi Leder’s ON THE BASIS OF SEX

 
The film is very well written with an immaculate attention to detail, thanks to the writer being Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s nephew Daniel Stiepleman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing. It is full of heart and truth because Justice Ginsburg made sure everything was accurately portrayed. She read all of the drafts of the scripts to make sure that her story told well. It is never boring! I laughed out loud when it was funny and got angry seeing RBG rejected and having doors slammed in her face, due to her gender.

The acting is really great. Both Armie Hammer, who portrays Martin Ginsburg and Cailee Spaeny who portray Jane Ginsburg absolutely blew me away. Armie portrays Martin as a man who really loves and respects his wife in such a heartwarming way. Cailee portrays Jane as a funny and empowered feminist. The relationship between Jane and Ruth is displayed with such honesty and realism. My only complaint about the acting might be that Ruth’s accent could have been much stronger.

Felicity Jones stars as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Mimi Leder’s ON THE BASIS OF SEX, a Focus Features release.

I rate this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 18, as well as adults. This film tells such a special and unique story, one that is incredibly important, with equal amounts of heart, humor, turmoil and honesty. This triumphant story really gets you thinking. It opens nationwide in theaters January hits theatres worldwide on January 11, 2019, so do yourself a favor and go watch it.

The Upside – Wonderful Remake of the French Classic with Well-Founded Laughs

January 12th, 2019

Philip is a disabled white billionaire, who feels that life is not worth living. To help him in his day to day routine, he hires Del, an African American parolee, trying to reconnect with his estranged wife. What begins as a professional relationship develops into a friendship as Del shows his grouchy charge that life is worth living. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The Upside is a wonderful, but very contrived remake of the French classic: The Intouchables. The superb main duo makes for a variety of heartfelt and well-found laughs.” See his full review below.

The Upside
By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The Upside is a wonderful, but very contrived remake of the French classic: The Intouchables. The superb main duo makes for a variety of heartfelt and well-found laughs. Anyone looking for a packed “January movie” will find a perfect outing.

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star in THE UPSIDE David Lee/Photographer

Inspired by an incredible true story, the movie follows a recently released ex-convict named Dell (Kevin Hart), as he seeks employment to do right by his family’s financial needs and regain their trust. He finds the most unusual employment with an offer to care-take the paralyzed billionaire Phillip (Bryan Cranston). Most don’t believe in Dell’s capabilities, especially chief executive Yvonne (Nicole Kidman), with Dell failing, but slowly learning to care-take. Amidst this process, Dell and Phillip form an unlikely friendship and journey, bettering themselves.

Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston star in THE UPSIDE.

Kevin Hart, as Dell, is my favorite character, as he steps into newfound dramatic territory and delivers exceptionally. As always, his unique sense of humor remains and he is as better than ever with the amicable chemistry he shares with Bryan Cranston. Bryan Cranston, as Phillip, delivers a gravitas to his character when needed, as his condition make him hopeless. In only a way Cranston can deliver, his journey to regain hope and optimism through Dell is very compelling. It also helps that their unique banter is just so funny and intellectually executed. Nicole Kidman, as Yvonne, is another relatable character, as even she learns to smile from Dell, despite her disagreements. Her long history with Phillip is well sold, as well.

Bryan Cranston stars in THE UPSIDE David Lee/Photographer

Neil Burger serviceably directs the movie, with a great eye for scenery, even if many scenes fall within a repetitive layout at times. My favorite scene is the haircut scene, as it is a fun rendition of the classic French scene and even has more nuances of its own. The main problem with this movie comes from the fact that, in comparison to its French counterpart, there really isn’t much of a difference with a few scenes and characters having some subtleties. At times, its pace even takes a hit and even the newer additions don’t fare as well as the original. This can be viewed as a bit of a pro, as sticking with the original does prove to its advantage.

The message of this film is that a friendship is a relationship most valued and will always remain irreplaceable. If we all get along, we will strive towards greatness and a happier mental well-being. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, because of some sexual references and brief drug use. The movie releases in theaters on January 11, 2019, so check it out.

Mary Poppins Returns – A Charming Musical Filled To The Brim With Imagination And Whimsy

January 11th, 2019

In Depression-era London, a now-grown Jane and Michael Banks, along with Michael’s three children, are visited by the enigmatic Mary Poppins following a personal loss. Through her unique magical skills, and with the aid of her friend Jack, she helps the family rediscover the joy and wonder missing in their lives. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail Zoe L. comments, “What I really love about this film is that it has a great story, acting, singing, dancing and music. I particularly loved the live action mixed with vibrant colorful animation.” Benjamin P. adds, “Mary Poppins Returns is a charming musical filled to the brim with imagination and whimsy. It is quite entertaining and Emily Blunt is very good as the magical, manners-focused nanny.” Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror wraps it up with, “The costumes are alive with color. The cinematography is outstanding and depicts details to marvel in when you see the film the second or third time! The acting is superb and there are some surprises, too! Adults will be happy to see appearances by two old favorites. Suspend belief and see Mary Poppins Returns! It is practically perfect in every way!”

Mary Poppins Returns
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The movie, Mary Poppins Returns is a beautiful classic movie. I totally enjoyed it and can’t wait to watch it again. However, it is different from what I thought it would be. I thought I was going to see a remake of the original Mary Poppins, you know, the one made famous by the incredible Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. However, Mary Poppins Returns is a sequel.

The story takes place 25 years into the future of the Banks’ family and the brother and sister are all grown up now. Mr. Banks has recently lost his wife and is devastated. The family is losing their home because they are behind on payments. Fortunately, for the Banks’ family, Mary Poppins (played by the multi-talented Emily Blunt) returns to help the family.

What I really love about this film is that it has a great story, acting, singing, dancing and music. I particularly loved the live action mixed with vibrant colorful animation. There are also golden nuggets of lessons to be learned in life, which I’ll share shortly.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is Jack in Disney’s MARY POPPINS RETURNS

One of my favorite parts in the movie is when Mary Poppins makes her grand entrance gliding down from high in the sky with her umbrella. Another awesome scene is when Jack (played the brilliantly talented Lin-Manuel Miranda) uses a ladder to climb the multi-high clock tower. Another really cool scene is when all the characters go down a tub drain and enter a whole new world where they swim and sing. 

I love the singing voices of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is great to see a cameo appearance by the amazing Dick Van Dyke (as Mr. Dawes Jr.) who runs the bank. He literally lit up the film when he appears and dances on a desk. Angela Lansbury’s cameo as the Balloon Lady was also just perfect. She has one of those voices when you hear one word you know it’s her.  

The messages of Mary Poppins Returns are important for all of us to remember – never lose hope, try to look at the brighter side of things and don’t forget what it is to be or have the heart of a child. I recommend this for ages 5 to 18 and also for adults. This film comes to theatres December 19, 2018 and I think you will love it, too. I joyfully give Mary Poppins Returns 5 out of 5 stars!

Mary Poppins Returns
By Benjamin Price, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Mary Poppins Returns is a charming musical filled to the brim with imagination and whimsy. It is quite entertaining and Emily Blunt is very good as the magical, manners-focused nanny.

The storyline follows the title character as she returns to the Banks’ family home, decades later. Siblings Michael and Jane Banks are grown up. Michael, with kids of his own and mourning the loss of his wife, is about to lose the home that they have lived in since they were children. Poppins descends from the London sky, ready to help the Banks’ family with their plight and teach Michael’s kids to use their imaginations and improve their manners. The bank has given Michael a few days to pay off his house, setting off a countdown for Poppins, the Banks and a lamplighter named Jack to save the home.

Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda) Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) and the Banks children with a crew of street lamplighters.

The story is interesting. Michael Banks has hit rock bottom. His wife has tragically passed away and he’s about to lose the home he has lived in since childhood. The only thing that brings him joy is the comfort and company of his family. It’s a sad place to start, but it’s a great scenario for Mary Poppins to come to work her magic. The idea of losing your home is pretty realistic and the contrast with such a fantastical protagonist and situation, provides an aspect that I quite enjoyed.

Emily Blunt is very good as Mary Poppins. She puts her own twist on the character, yet you can still trace it back to the earlier onscreen depiction of Poppins. Blunt gives the character a sharper, comedic edge. Her Poppins is much more witty and sarcastic, but still gives a sense of compassion and care for those around her. Blunt really dives into the role and cements her portrayal in a charismatic way. She steals the show in nearly every scene.

I recommend Mary Poppins Returns for ages 5 to 18, due to some dark themes. Adults and fans of the original Mary Poppins will enjoy this film. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. The film has lots of charm and it’s great to see Poppins sail back onto the screen once again.

Mary Poppins Returns
By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

The magic of Disney reappears in Mary Poppins Returns, directed and produced by Rob Marshall! Do you remember when Mary Poppins flew in to save the day for Michael and Jane Banks in Disney’s Mary Poppins debut 1964? It was a magical time as she popped in and out. Today, we relive the magic as Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) flies in to assist Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) and his housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters), bring order to his home and care for his three children –  Anabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson) at Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane, London following a terrible loss.

Jack (lin-Manuel Miranda), Annabel (Pixie Davies), Georgie (Joel Dawson), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt).

The story begins with a fabulous musical dancing and singing performance by Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a city lamplighter and a man who has a soft spot for Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), Michael’s Sister, for most of his life. Liveliness quickly subsides to concern as Michael Banks’ home, their childhood home, is tapped by the repo man, in the form of two bank solicitors. The timeframe is 1930s depression-era London and many are strapped, yet there is one person who relishes the misfortune of others, William Weatherall Wilkins (Colin Firth), president of the bank. You see, the bank is quite happy to collect on other’s misfortune and the Banks family is a target for this greedy man.

Emily Blunt is Mary Poppins

With Mary Poppins at the helm, joy and wonder return to the children. She takes them on many colorful adventures including a visit to see her cousin, Topsy (Meryl Streep). The adventures are full of action and I found myself lost in their magic and not wanting them to end. There are big musical numbers in their travels. The film travels the road to musical and intrigues imagination along the way.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, as well as adults. The costumes are alive with color. The cinematography is outstanding and depicts details to marvel in when you see the film the second or third time! The acting is superb and there are some surprises, too! Adults will be happy to see appearances by two old favorites. Suspend belief and see Mary Poppins Returns! It is practically perfect in every way! This film opens in theaters nationwide December 19, 2018. See it!

Images © 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Stan & Ollie – Great Performances, Beautiful Scenarios And A Powerful Story About The Value Of Friendship.

January 11th, 2019

The true story of Hollywood’s greatest comedy double act, Laurel and Hardy, is brought to the big screen for the first time. Starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as the inimitable movie icons, Stan and Ollie is the heart-warming story of what would become the pair’s triumphant farewell tour. With their golden era long behind them, the pair embark on a variety hall tour of Britain and Ireland. Despite the pressures of a hectic schedule, and with the support of their wives Lucille (Shirley Henderson) and Ida (Nina Arianda) – a formidable double act in their own right – the pair’s love of performing, as well as for each other, endures as they secure their place in the hearts of their adoring public. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “…this film offers a great introduction to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (affectionately nicknamed Babe), two of the most fascinating entertainers of the Golden Era of Hollywood.” See her full review below.

Stan & Ollie
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Stan & Ollie is a fine biopic with great performances, beautiful scenarios and a powerful story about the value of friendship.

I didn’t know much about these comedians and this film offers a great introduction to Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy (affectionately nicknamed Babe), two of the most fascinating entertainers of the Golden Era of Hollywood. I like discovering the roots of filmmaking and physical comedy. The movie shows who they are, their artistic personalities and the dynamics of their friendship.

Directed by Jon S. Baird, the story starts in 1937 when the duo is at the peak of their career. Then it quickly moves to 1953 when their career is not solid anymore and the comedians embark on a trip to Great Britain to reconnect with fans and regain fame. Even though they are famous, there are empty seats at their shows. They have recognition, but not that much money. They return to what they know and love to do – comedy. People thought they retired, but they managed to perform and work hard like they did from the beginning. I like that the film centers in this poignant part of their lives where their friendship is put to a test, while they struggle with aging and loosing popularity. They haven’t stopped dreaming and hoped to obtain the financing for a movie project.

I enjoyed their slapstick comedy and noticed how different humor was in the 30s and 50s. I appreciated how committed they were as working actors. Stan and Ollie conformed a unique duo. They shared a strong friendship and were not only business partners, but truly close friends. Their bond was special. They complemented each other in the creative process and on stage with grace and sentiment. They seemed to be in constant collaboration. The film also shows their dynamics outside the stage and with their wives, who were kind of rivals, but they supported each other at the same time. Their love for comedy and performing arts was genuine. They really lived for that. But they didn’t always have happy moments. We see them disagree and even break each others’ hearts. Despite their different point of views about business, they shared a true love for performing and entertaining.

Unit stills photography

My favorite scene is the iconic gag where they keep on going in circles to find each other when they are next to each other all the time. I like all the jokes and I really enjoyed them. 

The most remarkable aspect of this film are the performances by John C. Reilly (Ollie) and Steve Coogan (Stan). Not only for their impeccable physical resemblance, helped by some awesome make up, but for their interpretations and rapport, which reflect the spirit of the duo. You can feel the actors’ admiration for the comedic duo.

Unit stills photography

The message of the film is that no matter how much you disagree and even fight with your friends, true feelings always endure and true friendship is endless.

I give Stan & Ollie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, as well as adults. Is a great movie for those who are familiar with early Hollywood films and for us who want to discover and connect with the origins of cinema.

I give Stan & Ollie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, as well as adults. Is a great movie for those who are familiar with early Hollywood films and for us who want to discover and connect with the origins of cinema.

Stan & Ollie
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Stan & Ollie is a superb bio-pic about the famous comedy duo. Spot-on casting and great direction make for a very informative and entertaining romp. Anyone looking for an outstanding bio-pic or a wonderful movie will want to watch this.

Unit stills photography

The movie follows the famous Laurel & Hardy, as they set out to tour Britain in 1953. However, years have passed since their heyday of being Hollywood comedy kings, and they face an uncertain challenge. They find success obtaining their long-lost charm and even reconnect with their most ardent fans. The tour eventually finds success, until Stan (John C. Reilly) and Ollie (Steve Coogan) can’t quite shake their disagreements and Ollie’s health starts failing. They are aware that this may very well be their swan song, but amid that they can rediscover just how much their brotherly bond means.

The titular duo, Stan (John C. Reilly) and Ollie (Steve Coogan), remain my favorite characters and bring great heart. The two share great chemistry and bring out the best with their impeccable theater performances. Same with their wives, Lucille Hardy (Shirley Henderson) and Ida Laurel (Nina Arianda), who equally sell their disagreements, but with sisterly love. Shirley, in particular, shines with emotionally charged reactions to her husband’s health. Danny Huston, as Hal Roach, embodies the famous producer, and gives us a good look behind the scenes in Laurel & Hardy. His frustrations with the group is also well presented and those provide a most realistic look at the bitter friendship the three had.

Unit stills photography

Jon S. Baird aptly directs the movie, with a great eye for the duo’s on-stage performances. The shifting timeline proves slightly confusing at times, but such moments are few and far between.  My favorite scene is the final concluding scene, that proves to be an epic ending to the tour and is very touching. It showcases the true power of friendship and the importance of the duo on comedy history. It is a perfect ending to this poetic tale.

The message of this film is that a friendship can always outweigh any challenges and even the test of time.  I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, because of brief language and smoking. The movie had a limited release in theaters on December 28, 2018 and is rolling out across the country, so check your local listings.

Images © SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.

Aquaman – Powerful Message About Being the Best You Can Be

January 1st, 2019

From Warner Bros. Pictures and director James Wan comes an action-packed adventure that spans the vast, visually breathtaking underwater world of the seven seas, “Aquaman,” starring Jason Momoa in the title role. The film reveals the origin story of half-human, half-Atlantean Arthur Curry and takes him on the journey of his lifetime–one that will not only force him to face who he really is, but to discover if he is worthy of who he was born to be… a king. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Siaki S. comments, “I really like this film because the message is so powerful. It’s about training to be the best you can be. Then, when you are ready, your task is to beat anything that’s in your way, with a humble heart because good always wins.” Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “As widely reported, there is a lot of CGI, and violent CGI. The War Of The Seas is scary at times. Conversely, the stunts and special effects are detailed and outstanding. The visuals are beautiful. The costumes are alive with color. Moms will see themselves in the reality of Motherhood self-sacrifice in Queen Atlanna.” See their full reviews below.

Aquaman
By Siaki Sii, KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 15

I really like this film because the message is so powerful. It’s about training to be the best you can be. Then, when you are ready, your task is to beat anything that’s in your way, with a humble heart because good always wins. Another reason why I like it is because of the action between Arthur and King Orm. These two teach that, no matter what the situation is, violence is never the answer. I also really like the background music because the suspense really moved me and made me want to jump out of my seat with excitement and joy.

This amazing action/adventure film is about the city of Atlantis, which is now an underwater kingdom ruled by the power-hungry king Orm. With his army by his side, King Orm plans to take over the remaining oceanic people to become the King of all oceans better known as the Oceanic Master, then to rule the surface world. Standing in Orm’s way is his half-Human, half-Atlantean brother, Aquaman, known as half-breed. With help from Vulko, who is the royal counselor of the throne, Aquaman must retrieve the powerful trident of Atlan to proclaim the title as the protector of the deep blue sea.

The cast includes Arthur/Aquaman (Jason Momoa, Game Of Thrones), Atlanna (Nicole Kidman, Dead Calm), King Atlan (Graham McTavish, Outlander), Mera (Amber Heard, Never Back Down), King Orm (Patrick Wilson, Insidious), Vulko (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man), Manta (Yahya Abdul-Manteen II, The Greatest Showman).

My favorite part of this film is when Arthur finds out that he has the power to talk to the creatures in the water, in other words echolocation. Following that, Arthur doesn’t know how to control the power that he has, which is why King Atlan puts Arthur in the hands of the royal counselor, Vulko, to learn to control his powers. From the training that Artur does with Vulko, Arthur shall use it in the future.

Aside from that, King Orm plans to take things into his own hands and decides to conquer the seven seas to become King Of The Deep Blue Sea, also known as the Oceanic Master. After that, King Orm plans to take apart the surface world to become his treasure for good.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, as well as adults. Truly the whole family will love this film as it has so many funny and good reaction moments. This film also requires very good anthropomorphic qualities in various scenes. Don’t miss this amazing action/adventure film directed by James Wan, which is playing in theaters now, to find out what happens at the end.

Aquaman
By Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Origin stories are always fun. Learning the back-story of a character is a wild ride, especially when discussing Aquaman. The unlikely and forbidden union of a human man and a queen from the depths of the seas resulted in a boy with surreal aquatic skills and knowledge. As the narrator of the film, Aquaman/ Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) tells the tale of his birth and youth in a lovely way – until his Mother Queen Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) is violently swept away by the troops of King Orm (Patrick Wilson), a power-hungry ruthless ruler. Now confused, Arthur is visited by a teacher named Vulko (Willem Dafoe) who teaches him the ways of his people.

As Arthur grows up, he learns he is the heir to Atlantis, an underwater kingdom. The story is told through a series of flashbacks, which teach the audience more about his origin story and how his disinterest in attaining a throne comes to be. Throughout the film, Arthur denies his birthright and refuses to fight for his rightful place as heir to a throne held by his half-brother, King Orm (Patrick Wilson). His betrothed, Princess Mera (Amber Heard) reconsiders her place in the kingdom as the battle for Atlantis ensues.

Throughout his life, Vulko has trained Arthur to educate him about the sea, and the reigning factions. As he is a cross-species being, he must learn how to get along above and below the sea. Arthur lives a history lesson as he learns about the sea Kings and evolution of the Master of the Sea.

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend this film for ages 14 to 18, as well as adults. As widely reported, there is a lot of CGI, and violent CGI. The War Of The Seas is scary at times. Conversely, the stunts and special effects are detailed and outstanding. The visuals are beautiful. The costumes are alive with color. Moms will see themselves in the reality of Motherhood self-sacrifice in Queen Atlanna. Hats off to Jason Momoa (swoon.) His over-the-top portrayal of Arthur works. He is equally funny and dedicated to the role. Suspend belief and enjoy a wet ride through lands never seen before. This film is in theaters now.

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