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Archive for February, 2012

‘Little Angels’ Just Right for Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

LittleAngels_ABCs.jpgLittle Angels is a new DVD series from Twentieth Century Fox. This animated series produced by Roma Downey (star of TV’s “Touched by an Angel”) teaches life lessons to preschoolers through stories from the Bible. With the release of the first three in this series – Little Angels ABCs, Little Angels Animals and Little Angels 1, 2, 3’s – timed for Valentine’s Day, they are a treat moms can feel good about sharing with their little angels.

The main characters are brother and sister Alex and Zoe, two ordinary kids who find that the angel decorations their parents had put on their ceiling come to life to help them through their daily discoveries and adversities.

The project is near and dear to Downey’s heart: “For many years, I had the privilege of playing an angel on television, bringing a message of God’s love to millions of Americans,” she says. “As a mother, I have longed to be part of a project that would help to bring that same message to children by not only teaching them the foundations of education, but also providing strong examples of good behavior. Little Angels does just that. It offers critical learning skills through the lens of timeless and age-appropriate Bible stories.” Little Angels is the first animated project from Lightworkers Media, a production company of which Downey is president that is dedicated to creating inspirational entertainment. She adds, “I only wish this series had been available when my kids were younger!”

KIDS FIRST! reviewed two DVDs in the Little Angels series: ABCs and Animals. In ABCs, Alex and Zoe, are first introduced to the angels, who help them learn to read by showing them how to recognize letters by their shapes and relate them to real-life images. The angels use concepts from the Bible to help them remember, for instance, “J” looks like a fishing hook, like one you might use to catch the Big Fish that ate Jonah — which starts with a “J.” The angels also help Zoe and Alex appreciate each other and treat each other fairly, with honesty and without jealousy.

In Little Angels Animals, the angels make Bible stories come to life, allowing the children to interact with its characters while learning lessons of cooperation and hard work. Throughout, the message that “God Loves You” helps them navigate their feelings and overcome fears and adversity. When Zoe is afraid of lightning and climbing to the top bunk, she learns from Jonah that facing her fears is less scary than not doing what God wants you to do, and as she chants “God loves me,” she is able to reach the top bunk and overcome her anxiety.

Young children from religious families will delight in seeing Alex and Zoe as they are helped by angels and get to talk to characters they’ve only read about – or, since they are preschool-aged, been told about. It is comforting to children of this age to feel as if they are never really alone and they are always loved.

Each vignette is short; three fit nicely into a 30-minute DVD, and you can choose a single episode, or story, at a time. The DVDs also include some special features. Roma Downey explains her underlying idea and gives parents tips for listening to their children. You can watch music videos covering the topics of each of the stories and animated with images from each.

The Little Angels ABCs, Little Angels Animals and Little Angels 1, 2, 3’s DVDs feature a great deal of interactive extras, including charming music videos and downloadable activity sheets, plus a downloadable bonus digital copy of each lesson that will allow for learning on the go.

For more about Little Angels, visit www.facebook.com/romaslittleangels or http://www.littleangels.com/.

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Presenting: KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critics for 2012

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

KF_FilmCritics_218x225.jpgReady to start their year of reviewing films, interviewing actors and filmmakers, and blogging their perceptions, the 2012 KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critics are here!

With a “Congratulations” to everyone who prepared the written and videotaped review they needed to enter, KIDS FIRST! is pleased to announce the winners of the 2012 KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search.

Age 6-8
Morgan Bertsch of Northridge, Calif.
Cheyenne Nguyen of Northridge, Calif.
Alternate: Aira Dani of Atlanta, Ga.

Age 9-10
Casey Chandler of Santa Fe, N.M.
Talia Rashba of Oak Park, Calif.
Alternate: Camille Bajema of Santa Fe, N.M.

Age 11-12
Brianna Beaton of Clermont, Fla.
Julianna Noone of Warwick, N.Y.
Alternate: Julia Chestnut of Highlands Ranch, Colo.
Alternate: Hunter Willow Jones of Kutztown, Penn.

Age 13-15
Victoria Burns of Atlanta, Ga.
Blakes Hawes of Kailua, Hi.
Alternate: Jennifer Huntoon of Bloomington, Ind.
Alternate: Ajay Sharma of Bloomington, Ind.

The focus of the KIDS FIRST! film critics program is teaching children healthy media habits as well as strong critical thinking, writing and public speaking skills that will stay with them for a lifetime. The KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Boot Camp, held annually in Los Angeles, teaches kids the skills to become an entertainment reporter. 

Six celebrity judges selected this year’s winners from 24 finalists who were determined by view voting on WonderworldTV.com/kidsfirst.  This year’s judges were Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theaters and Magnolia Pictures; Ben Lyons, E! film critic and frequent contributor to “Good Morning America”; Thelma Adams, a Yahoo contributing editor and author of the “Thelma Adams on Reel Women” column that runs on AMC filmcritic.com and who was the film critic at Us Weekly for 11 years following six years at the New York Post; and  George Pennacchio of the ABC7 Eyewitness News team in Los Angeles KABC-TV.

Industry supporters of the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Campaign are Amazon.com, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Warner Home Video and WonderWorld Entertainment. Campaign support also comes from national nonprofit organizations that include the National Education Association, National Association of Elementary School Principals and the National Council of Women’s Organizations, with a cumulative membership of more than 17 million.

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‘Journey 2’ Stars Sit Down with KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critic

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Journey2_TheMysteriousIsland.jpgA mythical island with beasts of surprising size (fist-sized elephants and train-sized centipedes) is the setting for a Treasure Island-like adventure that will be released in theaters Feb. 10. Fourteen-year-old Blake Hawes, one of the winners of the 2012 KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Search, thoroughly delves into the story and its presentation in his sensitive and observant review (below) of the film. The understanding stood him well, also, as he sat down with stars Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Dwayne Johnson and Luis Guzman on location in Hawaii to get them to share their experiences filming the movie (on video for KIDS FIRST!).

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
Reviewed by Blake Hawes
(See his full review on video.)

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a fun and entertaining movie and offers some brilliant eye candy in some of the most impressive action scenes. Sean Anderson (Josh Hutcherson) has a new man in his life, his stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson). This movie is more about the relationship between Sean and Hank than a mindless cliché adventure movie. Sean grew up with a lot of loss of loved ones and people coming in and out of his life. Sean has trust issues with his new stepdad and doesn’t want to get too close to him, for he’s afraid that he’ll leave him due to his unfortunate past. Hank wants to play a bigger role in Sean’s life and hopes to finally make a bond between them.

Then they uncover the mystery of the Mysterious Island and go on an adventure to find Sean’s long-lost grandfather (Michael Caine). The only way to get to the island is by flying by helicopter. The quirky and fun tour guide (Luis Guzmán) is the comic relief in this huge journey. His daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) is Sean’s love interest in the movie. The plot itself is easy to understand for younger audiences and it is fun to see how it plays out in the end. The movie is chockfull of massive set pieces, which all are creatively brought to life by cinematography and editing.

Hudgens doesn’t deliver the most believable performance of her career because of the fact that she acts more like a big-city girl than a hardened islander of their destination. But all in all, she has great chemistry between Hutcherson in the movie, and should be commended for it. Guzmán however, delivers some tongue-in-cheek jokes throughout the film. He’ll offer a couple of chuckles throughout the movie for older viewers, but most of his jokes will appeal to the younger audience. Journey2_BlakeHawes_VanessaHudgens_cropped.JPG

I like this movie because of its frantic action sequences and surprisingly well-suited soundtrack. This movie may be scary for younger viewers at points such as the lizard chase sequences. The intensity and the importance of the given situation during the final act of the movie gives the audience a very good reason to sit on the edge of their seats. Overall, I think the movie is very entertaining and has many great moments. I give it eight out of ten stars.

Photos: Journey 2: The Mysterious Island poster (top), Blake Hawes with Vanessa Hudgens (bottom)

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