Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase – Timeless and Entertaining

March 19th, 2019

A bit of an outsider struggling to fit into her new surroundings, Nancy and her pals set out to solve a mystery, make new friends, and establish their place in the community. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “Now, it’s no secret that Nancy Drew is timeless. The books were first written in 1930 and they have been inspiring women ever since. I believe Nancy Drew is timeless and we all need a little girl power!” See her full review below.

Nancy Drew And The Hidden Staircase
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This movie is very entertaining which is why we go to the movies. Even though I have no nostalgic attachment to the Nancy Drew books, I really enjoyed this film.

The story is about Nancy Drew who has just moved to a small town called River Heights. She meets an elder woman named Flora who claims her house is haunted. Nancy decides to investigate with the help of her friends, George and Bess, and Flora’s “mean girl” niece, Helen. My biggest issue with this movie is the mystery. I understand that this movie is aimed at younger kids, yet I feel the mystery is too easy to solve. However, that is my only major problem with this film. Plus, I didn’t mind this that much, since even though the mystery is obvious, I mostly let it slide as I enjoyed the characters so much.

One thing I really like about this film is the typical mean girl character, Helen. At first it seems like Helen is just a stereotypical popular girl. Instead, she’s only mean for a little bit of the movie. Halfway in she actually goes through a character arc. I really like this as I honestly feel mean girl characters are so overdone at this point. So it is nice to see this character done differently. However, my favorite character is hands down Flora. She is a very funny and so memorable. Everyone needs to have an Aunt Flora in their life. Flora had some of the best lines in the movie.

I really like the cast of this film. Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew is fantastic. She is very engaging and I hope to see more of her in the future. Linda Lavin as Flora is amazing. She brings so much charisma and humor to every scene she is in. Zoe Renee as George and Mackenzie Graham as Bess are also pretty good supporting characters. I wish they were in the movie more.

Now, it’s no secret that Nancy Drew is timeless. The books were first written in 1930 by Carolyn Keene and and they have been inspiring women ever since. I believe Nancy Drew is timeless and we all need a little girl power!

I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. This film comes out on March 15, 2019 so look for it.

Photos ©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Wonder Park – Whimsical Animated Fantasy With Great Messages

March 17th, 2019

June, an optimistic, imaginative girl, discovers an incredible amusement park called Wonderland hidden in the woods. The park is full of fantastical rides and talking, funny animals – only the park is in disarray. June soon discovers the park came from her imagination and she’s the only one who can fix it, so she bands together with the animals to save this magical place and bring back the wonder in Wonderland. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ivey H. comments, “This animated fantasy film is awesome! It has a good message for younger viewers, is whimsical, bright and colorful.” Nathalia J. adds, “This refreshing film will have you on the silliest adventure ever. Make sure to buckle up for this wild ride through the imagination of the “Wonders in Wonderland.” See their full reviews below.

Wonder Park
By Ivey H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

This animated fantasy film is awesome! It has a good message for younger viewers, is whimsical, bright and colorful. The music is very inspiring.

The storyline is about a little girl’s extraordinary imagination. She and her mom have a special bond, sharing a passion for creating a magical place called Wonderland. Then, an unexpected life-changing event occurs, causing June’s world to change forever. She becomes very depressed and decides to put Wonderland away. She quits doing the things she loves most. Will the wonder ever come back to Wonderland?

The lead character June is played by Sofia Mali. Her voice-over work is outstanding. You’re really able to connect with her adventurous heart, emotions and struggles as she experiences them. Steve, the porcupine is played by Jhon Oliver. He secretly admires Greta the hog. He had me laughing throughout the film. Whenever he gets nervous, he loses his sharp quills and you had better run!

The jokes in this film are very practical, as June is somewhat of math genius. Some of my favorite scenes are the homemade roller coaster that June and the neighborhood kids attempt to make. One particularly funny scene is when they are on the bus and June wants to escape. This is when she discovers there is really a Wonderland. The park is full of unexpected rides, zero gravity fun and chimpanzee zombies.  June remembers how she created Wonder Park by whispering into her stuffed animal Peanut’s ear and remembers that anything is possible. Her stuffed animals are her inspiration and caretakers of the park. The music and singing really carries you through the scenes. They are very relaxing and beautiful. The theme song “Wonder” was written by Ali Dee, Doug Davis and Anthony Mirabella and performed by Rachel Platten. The screenplay is written by award-nominee Josh Appelbaum.

I like that this film, which is a fun animation, has a much deeper meaning. It is very emotional and I cried a few times.  Junes has a loving father and mother that encourage her to create and dream. However they face difficult times, as many families do. Many children may face times in their life that are not easy to understand. Losing someone close to you and having your life turned upside down breaks your spirit. So you stop being a kid and stop enjoying life and doing the things you love to do. Here, June stops imagining a land where everything is different.

There are some scenes where June and her friend make risky decisions like going off on her own. I recommend this film for ages 4 to 12. Teens may enjoy it also. It opens in theaters in the United States and Spain on March 15, 2019. Look for it.

Wonder Park
By Nathalia J. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Are you ready for a wonderfully fun and imaginative family adventure family movie? This exhilarating, thrilling, interesting and adventurous film was created by Josh Applebaum and André  Nemec. This refreshing film will have you on the silliest adventure ever. Make sure to buckle up for this wild ride through the imagination of the “Wonders in Wonderland.”

This film follows a wildly creative girl named June who, with her mother spend countless hours imagining, designing and building models of an amazing park, all from their imagination. The heart of Wonder Park exists in the relationship between June and her mom, which is extremely beautiful to me. It reminds me of my mom and me.

As the film progresses, you get to see June enter this world in real life and from a different perspective. You also get to see June go on a wildly and festive ride through her imagination. She gets to encounter her own fantasy characters, which she created when she was little.

The lead characters are young June (Sophia Mali), Cooper (Ken Jeong), older June (Brianna Denski), Greta (Mila Kunis), Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell) and many more.  My favorite character is clearly the favorable and cheerful Boomer. I adore Boomer because he is the friendliest and most outgoing character of them all. I also love that he is always positive and gives second chances to all his boon companions. An example is when June explains how she generated the darkness in Wonder Park. When June apologizes to Boomer she feels as if she disappointed him. Though he is always friendly, he felt unhappy when June let him down.

The animation by Peter Chan and Nathan Fowler is simply marvelous. It is colorful, unique and imaginative – from the beautiful sky to the detailed roller coasters, to the crazy popping popcorn machine. This animation should be acknowledged because it is amazing to see the Wonder Park as such a bright and innovative Wonder Land.

This film has no bad language or dangerous actions that children might attempt to imitate. It does teach children to always carry an imagination throughout their life because it can be healthful and healthy throughout good and bad times.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, as well as adults. This film opens in theaters march 15, 2019. Make sure to go check out this astonishing and adventurous film at your local theater.

Photos © 2018 Paramount Animation, a division of Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

Superpower Dogs – An Inside Look at Life-Saving Dogs Trained in Disaster Response and More

March 17th, 2019

Join an immersive IMAX adventure to experience the life-saving superpowers and extraordinary bravery of some of the world’s most amazing dogs. In this inspiring true story, our best friends are also real-life superheroes. Journey around the globe to meet remarkable dogs who save lives and discover the powerful bond they share with their human partners. Follow ‘Halo’, a rookie puppy training to join one of the most elite disaster response teams in America. Meet ‘Henry’, an avalanche rescue expert in the Canadian Rockies, ‘Reef’, a Newfoundland lifeguard with the Italian coastguard, ‘Ricochet’, a Californian surf legend helping people with special needs, and the Bloodhound brothers, ‘Tipper and Tony’, who are leading the fight to save endangered species in Africa. As we discover the incredible abilities of dogs and the astonishing science behind their superpowers, we’ll never look at our best friends the same way again. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Lukas L. comments, “This movie really shows that all dogs have super powers with their amazing senses, even if they are not trained to dig 15 feet into the snow or lift forty times their own weight.” See his full review below.

Superpower Dogs
By Lukas Loza, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 12

I loved watching the film Superpower Dogs.  The camera work is absolutely amazing with so many interesting shots and lighting angles in this 3D IMAX production.  The director really worked with so many special effects to get lots of close ups and precise detailing. You really see things from the dog’s point of view, as well as its trainer’s. It is a very entertaining movie that appeals to all ages. This movie really shows that all dogs have super powers with their amazing senses, even if they are not trained to dig 15 feet into the snow or lift forty times their own weight.

The movie features a disaster response dog named Halo and her journey to become a service dog for disaster response.  She is joined by five other dogs named Henry (avalanche rescue), Reef (water rescue), Ricochet (emotional support dog who enjoys surfing) and Tony and Tipper (endangered species protection in Kenya).  Their trainers play extremely important roles in the film and also in their training. It shows what all the dogs do, but the main focus is on Halo.

This is a documentary so there are no actors involved.  It is directed by Daniel Ferguson and produced by Dominic Cunningham-Reid, George Duffield and Taran Davies. The cinematographer is Reed Smoot.  Big propos to all the crew! There are all kinds of special effects where they show us a peak of the dog’s anatomy. It is very realistic, but purposefully made as a special effect, which is so great. Also, they show a physical representation of scents from a dog’s perspective, since they have very exquisite smelling skills. It is difficult to bring smells to life but this Imax movie does it! 

The only bummer for me was I wish they gave a little more attention and time to the other dogs in the movie. I think the director only had 45 minutes, so I imagine it would be hard to include lots of details about all the dogs and their trainers.

The message of the film is that all dogs have superpowers, even if they are not rescue dogs. This movie can will appeal to all animal lovers (even cat lovers), even though the main focus is on dogs.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, as well as adults. This film is playing now at select IMAX theaters. Go check it out!

Captain Marvel – A Must-Watch for Any Superhero Fan!

March 8th, 2019

Captain Marvel is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who finds herself caught in the middle of an intergalactic battle between her people and the Skrulls. Living on Earth in 1995, she keeps having recurring memories of another life as U.S. Air Force pilot Carol Danvers. With help from Nick Fury, Captain Marvel tries to uncover the secrets of her past while harnessing her special superpowers to end the war with the evil Skrulls. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “This film makes good use of its 90s setting. There are a lot of jokes involving technology and pop culture from this period that work well. Also, the soundtrack has a nice selection of songs from the 90s that complement the film very well.” Arjun N. adds, Captain Marvel is a solid, if slightly flawed entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A talented cast and savvy direction make for a crowd pleaser. Any superhero fan must watch this as the hype for Avengers: Endgame arises.” See their full reviews below.

Captain Marvel
Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Captain Marvel is a fun, if sometimes flawed superhero adventure that further develops the cosmic landscape of the Marvel movies with good performances from Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson.

Captain Marvel takes place in 1995 and follows Vers, a Kree warrior with flaming fists on her way to becoming Captain Marvel who finds herself on Earth after a mission gone wrong. She teams up with a detective named Nick Fury to pick apart the secrets of her past. Meanwhile, Vers has to stop the shapeshifting Skrulls from infiltrating the planet and putting an end to the war with the Kree.

I like the performances in this film. Brie Larson is good as Captain Marvel and brings an understated verve to the role. Larson is good at delivering quips, but also has a few pretty powerful moments in her performance that help develop Captain Marvel as a character. Samuel L. Jackson is also good as Nick Fury. This is a different Fury from what we’re used to with Jackson offering some nuanced clues about the changes Fury will face in the future. In Larson and Jackson’s third onscreen collaboration, the duo brings great chemistry and the scenes with them playing off of each other are easily some of this film’s best moments.

This film makes good use of its 90s setting. There are a lot of jokes involving technology and pop culture from this period that work well. Also, the soundtrack has a nice selection of songs from the 90s that complement the film very well. The setting doesn’t feels like an attempt to cash in on nostalgia, but the 90s theme gives the film a more pronounced tone and humor. I also really enjoyed the element of mystery that comes with the Skrulls’ ability to shapeshift into anyone and its clever use throughout the film.

I do find quite a few flaws with this film. Jude Law’s performance as Yon-Ragg, the Kree leader, is disappointing. He feels so self-serious; it’s as if he’s in a different movie. There is a lot of exposition throughout the first half that, after a while, is a chore to listen to. Action scenes range from well-choreographed to hard to tell what is going on.

I recommend this film for ages 9 to 18, for some sci-fi violence and language and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. Captain Marvel falls a bit short of being completely marvelous, but it’s enjoyable and well worth the price of admission. I recommend you go see this film when it comes out on March 8, 2019.

Captain Marvel
By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Captain Marvel is a solid, if slightly flawed entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A talented cast and savvy direction make for a crowd pleaser. Any superhero fan must watch this as the hype for Avengers: Endgame arises.

The story follows Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) as she becomes one of the universe’s most powerful heroes. Set in the 90s, this adventure follows her struggle to regain her past as one mysterious incident created her powers. Amidst this, a galactic war arises between the Kree, her brethren, and the Skrulls, shapeshifting fugitives, as Carol remains the only one powerful enough to end the war. This war takes to Earth, with S.H.I.E.L.D. in its adolescence investigating. With this, Carol must team up with no other than a nascent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as the two investigate all sides to this war.

Brie Larson, as Carol Danvers, surprised me and is my favorite character as she is nothing like what the controversial trailers portrayed – hardened and emotionless. In fact, she is very sassy and witty, like Tony Stark, and even humanizes the character with her relatable struggles. Sure she is stoic and hardened to some extent, but she does everything she needs to, as audiences need to be sold of her importance in not just Avengers: Endgame, but the whole MCU, and that’s exactly what we get. Samuel L. Jackson, as Nick Fury, is absolutely incredible, even if certain character decisions from a writing standpoint are very questionable, with one reveal just baffling. The dynamics between Danvers and Fury is one of the movie’s best, with a buddy cop feel to it. It is investing to watch the younger, more inexperienced Fury, with certain nods to his future being a neat addition. The same goes to Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson. It is a welcome surprise to see the simpler days of these two. Ben Mendelsohn, as Talos, also gives his all with his Skrull leader a formidable foe and he is more charismatic for it. As twists and turns reveal, he and his race became a sympathetic asset, with their kind being one of the most intriguing amongst the MCU roster. Last but not least, Jude Law, as Yon-Rogg, is interesting in his mentorship of Carol, and the twists regarding his character add for an emotional edge.

Anna Boden and Ryan Fledge aptly direct the film, with a stylish approach somewhat like Thor: Ragnarok. Every scene is well produced, but the style and vision are sometimes lost amongst the craft. The special effects are mostly on standard, but the de-aging effects for Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg rise far above the standard. They don’t look fake, and all expressions are truly natural. We are truly in the future of seamless CGI. My favorite scene is when Danvers truly becomes Captain Marvel, unleashing her full power amongst an enemy crew.

The message of this film is to never give up. Danvers takes several hits, to the point of giving up, but she always rises up to the challenge. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 due to some intense violence and language. The movie released in theaters on March 8,, 2019, so check it out.

KIDS FIRST! Partners with to Launch Family Streaming Service

March 6th, 2019

KIDS FIRST! and are proud to announce the launch of a new, ad-free digital streaming service for high quality children’s programming, on March 1, 2019. The content is curated from filmmakers from all around the world and the bulk of the revenue from the channel will go directly to the filmmakers. The rapidly growing, which launched in January, 2019 is providing KIDS FIRST! a platform to deliver a collection of family-friendly content that is inspirational, enriching and motivational.

“What the KIDS FIRST! Digital Channel ( offers families is engaging, informative and fun content with pro-social values that both kids and parents love,” comments Ranny Levy, founder and president of KIDS FIRST! “It’s not so easy to find programming like this in the jungle of digital channels, but KIDS FIRST! has 28 years experience in doing just that.”

The partnership came about when Levy met founder, Eric Streeper, at a film event in Santa Fe, NM, where both companies are headquartered. Streeper, a Santa Fe native, spent eight years working in tech/entertainment in Los Angeles. The idea to create came after working for a wildly popular YouTube star who, despite having a very large audience, wasn’t generating very much revenue from the platform. Streeper saw an opportunity to help filmmakers take control of their work and develop an audience to support it. While visiting his hometown two years ago, the creative and entrepreneurial energy there impressed Streeper and he realized it was the ideal place to launch his new media company. “Our goal is to level the playing field for creators,” Streeper proclaims, “and help them access the same resources that the big entertainment companies have.” When he met Levy he thought, “What a great way to give families access to programming that has been vetted by parents and kids reviewers alike through their extensive review process.”

KIDS FIRST! has a team of more than 100 kids and adults who review and recommend films with no algorithms involved. The KIDS FIRST! reviewers go through extensive training to asure continuity in film selection. The films on the channel represent the diversity of the filmmakers who made them –  from a documentary following the first Roma/Gipsy youth soccer team in Italy to one about educating girls in India. A high school student has created an animated series about the Mars Rovers. A Spanish film follows a 9-year-old boy dealing with loss. Another short is about a girl and her pet pig. A music video tells what it’s like to be an engineer. A feature film explores a changing mother/son dynamic and another one reveals the true story of an 11-year-old foster child with brittle bone disease who overcame his problems and directs his first musical. For a quick overview of the channel, check out the trailer at

KIDS FIRST! Channel:
KIDS FIRST! website:
Xerb website:
KIDS FIRST! and Xerb assets:

Number of films: 93
Number of filmmakers: 45
Number of countries: 15
Number of languages: 12
Price: $5.99/month

ABOUT KIDS FIRST! KIDS FIRST! Digital Channel is project of the 28-year-old national nonprofit (501-c-3) Coalition for Quality Children’s Media whose mission is to teach children critical viewing skills and to increase the visibility and availability of quality children’s media. KIDS FIRST! Digital Channel is an online space where kids and families can watch movies that both inspire and teach – and where parents don’t have to worry about what their kids are watching. A former educator, Levy created an award-winning PBS show, produced an ACE-nominated television show and managed an independent film production and distribution company in the mid 80s. In 1991, Levy founded the Coalition for Quality Children’s Media and its KIDS FIRST! program. The KIDS FIRST! Digital Channel features original animated programming, music videos, feature length films and international programming from 15 different countries, teaching about people and cultures world-wide. You can access the channel at

About is a streaming service, similar to Netflix, but different. allows independent filmmakers and organizations to create tailored subscription channels and share them with a devoted fan-base. is  changing how creators get paid online, how they build their audience, and how they collaborate with each other — all in an incredibly simple way. The future of content is independent. Are you a content creator, or want to run a channel? If you want to engage directly with an audience that loves your work and build a sustainable business around what you’re passionate about, we want to hear from you! Send us a message and come join our beta partner program. is built for you.

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