Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for April, 2012

History and Art Drive ‘Return of the Horse’

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

ReturnOfTheHorse_watermarked_180x300.jpgA two-and-a-half-year labor of love, Return of the Horse gets its first screening May 17 at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, ahead of an upcoming schedule of screenings at film festivals and museums. The painstakingly researched documentary chronicles the history of America’s wild horses, North America’s native horse, interrelated with the “lifes and times” of the people – heroes, villains and victims – whose lives shaped their destiny.

“Painstakingly” is an unusually apt description in this case. Co-filmmaker Leo Hubbard notes that there is a lot of pain in the history of the American peoples’ relationship with the horse. The mustangs, prized for their endurance (and preferred by cattlemen for those long cattle drives popularized by Western, until the proliferation of railroad spurs shortened the drives to where the European horses could be utilized), were also cruelly treated pawns in the United States’ attempts to subdue the Native Americans.

The movie, aimed for an adult audience – with the ability to be presented to advanced high school students – was a challenge to husband-wife filmmakers Hubbard and Sharon Eliashar, both of whom produced, wrote, directed, filmed, edited and animated the film. Says Eliashar, “The challenge was to take complex scientific things and make it easy to explain them – to take historical concepts and show how connected they are to our relationship with the horse.” And also, she adds, to not make the movie a marathon eight-hour piece – an especially difficult task given the number of “Aha” moments they experienced during their research.

In addition to their background as educators, Eliashar and Hubbard bring a unique combination of artistic talents to the project. While they stress that Return of the Horse is not an entertainment film but is as accurate an account as science and history will allow from our 21st-century vantage point – the script was verified by leading historians at such respected institutions as The Smithsonian – its artistic elements are undeniable.

Eliashar, a musician as well as photographer (she was the film’s cinematographer), focused on creating an experience of authentic music throughout the film. Explains Hubbard, “When trying to get the flavor of the relationship, [she asked], ‘What were the sounds they were listening to? What music was Thomas Jefferson playing?'” She worked with the Library of Congress, for instance, to learn the first cowboy songs, and traced family records to track down living relatives in order to get the rights to include the music in the film – with more “Aha” moments along the way, for instance finding out that Jess Morris got the lyrics to “Goodbye Old Paint” from one of the era’s tremendous population of black cattle drivers.

Hubbard, an architect, artist and printmaker, put his talents into the graphics. Including maps, which are necessary to explaining history but commonly look like power point presentations. Not so in Return of the Horse. The goal, he explains, was to create powerful and beautiful images. “Every graphic should look like art you’d put on your wall,” he says.

While creating a film for “people who really want to learn,” as Hubbard expresses it, he and Eliashar have also crafted a sensory experience.

Photo: film still from Return of the Horse

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Let ‘Newsies’ Sing and Dance into Your Home on HDNet Movies KidScene

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Newsies.jpgThe inspiring tale of the little guys fighting powerful moguls, Newsies is built around the timeless and always popular theme of fairness for the everyman versus corporate greed. Setting it up as a musical gives it additional punch. In fact, KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Hunter Willow (age 11) says in her review (below), “It was the singing and dancing that kept me watching.” And Brianna Beaton (age 12), another KIDS FIRST! youth film critic who reviewed the film (also below), says, “I love the music because it’s giving you a feeling of what’s going on at that particular moment.” Brianna also credits the costuming for helping define the characters. Newsies is one of the classic films being screened on HDNet Movies kidScene several times throughout the month of April.

Reviewed by Hunter Willow
(See her full review on video.)

Newsies is fun-filled with lively music and dancing, which I LOVE!

It’s 1899, and Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World newspaper, and William Randolph Hurst, publisher of the New York Journal, decide to raise the prices of the distribution cost for the newsboys. Already poor, the newsboys won’t stand for it and they decide to strike.

Jack Kelly (Christian Bale — Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) leads the strike with David Jacobs (David Moscow), Jack’s best friend and the brains behind the strike. Gabriel Damon is Spot Conlon, the leader of the Brooklyn boys. It takes newspaper boys from all the boroughs of New York to come together to make a difference. Bryan Denton (Bill Pullman), a reporter for the Sun, who is writing about the strike in a competing paper and trying to help the boys by making sure people know what is happening. HunterWillow.jpg

I love musicals! It was the singing and dancing that kept me watching, but I only rate the movie a 3 out of 5 stars. Technically, the film is top-notch; however, the story is hard to follow at times and I had to ask what things meant. I think this movie is better for teens and adults, but it’s definitely worthwhile for younger kids who like musicals, like me!

All this month you can see Newsies on HDNet Movies kidScene! It’s been 20 years since the original release of Newsies. Finally, Disney is taking the movie to the stage! Newsies is now on Broadway for a limited run March 15 to June 10!

Reviewed by Brianna Beaton
(See her full review on video.)

Newsies is one of the best musicals I have ever seen.

I really like this film – it has a little touch of what New York is like, including the strong accents of the actors. I love the music because it’s giving you a feel of what’s going on at that particular moment. I must mention the choreography – it is absolutely outstanding, with tons of energy and precision.

Jack Kelly (Christian Bale) plays a young newspaper seller who tries to stand up for his fellow paper sellers, the “newsies.” Their boss has a little trouble making money and figures that since the newsies pay for their own stock before selling, he could raise the amount they pay for it. But they aren’t exactly happy with this decision and decide to stand up for what they want. Brianna.jpg

Kenny Ortega (High School Musical) directed this great film in 1992. It also stars David Moscow, playing David Jacobs.

The costumes are on point for this specific time period, late 1800s to early 1900s. You can tell who the characters are just by the costumes they are wearing.

This film sends a great message to stand up for what you want and is made for the music lovers at heart.
I recommend this film for ages 10 to adults.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars.

Look for this classic film on HDNet Movies kidScene, sit back and enjoy the music!

Photos: Newsies poster (top), Hunter Willow (middle), Brianna Beaton (bottom)

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KidScene Shows Legends Come to Life in ‘Tall Tale’

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

TallTale.jpgThe Wild West inspired some of Americana’s best-loved legends – such as Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill and Calamity Jane – and the “tall tales” of their deeds, in turn, inspire a young boy to stand up to a greedy land baron in the real world. “They teach him that if you believe in yourself and have the guts to stand up for yourself, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to,” says KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Julianna Noone (age 12) in her review (below). Her fellow KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Blake Hawes is especially taken with the movie’s concept. “I’ve never seen a movie quite like this one. Such an original idea,” he says in his review (below). Both also share how much they enjoyed watching the film, and HDNet Movies kidScene is making it easy for our KIDS FIRST! family to share the experience, giving the film several screenings throughout the month of April.

Tall Tale
Reviewed by Julianna Noone
(See her full review on video.)

Today, I am reviewing the 1995 film Tall Tale. This film is an action-packed film with a positive message to believe in yourself. This film is about a boy named Daniel Hackett (Nick Stahl — Terminator 3). In this movie, Daniel tries to save his family’s farm from Stiles, a greedy businessman, played by Scott Glenn, whom you might have seen in the movie Secretariat.  Throughout this film, Daniel is helped by Pecos Bill (Patrick Swayze — Ghost, Dirty Dancing), Paul Bunyan (Oliver Platt — 2012, Xmen, Dr. Dolittle) and John Henry (Roger Aaron Brown — TV shows “House, M.D.” and “Supernatural”). Together, they help Daniel save not only his farm, but all of Paradise Valley. They teach him that if you believe in yourself and have the guts to stand up for yourself, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. Julianna.jpg

The director, Jeremiah S. Chechik (
Chuck, Warehouse 13), and the writers Steve Bloom (Jack Frost, James and the Giant Peach) and Robert Rodat (Fly Away Home and TV’s “Falling Skies”) really do a great job with this film. I rate this film 4 out of 5 stars.  I believe this film is great for kids 7 to 14 and I hope they enjoy it as much as I did. Look for this classic family film on HDNet Movies kidScene this month.

Tall Tale
Reviewed by Blake Hawes
(See his full review on video.)

Tall Tale is a very interesting movie. I’ve never seen a movie quite like this one. Such an original idea, and I loved it.

Tall Tale is about some classic folk tales from early America. Tales like these, like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, are brought to life in cinema in a way I’ve never seen before in theaters.

Now, this movie is about a young boy trying to get his father’s farm back. That story is very emotional and touching, and it’s one of my favorite parts of this movie.

The music in this movie, however, is either good or bad. In the beginning of the movie, the music is awe-inspiring, and it had me wanting more. However, during the action scenes, it got a bit repetitive and a little cheesy after a while. BlakeHawes.jpg

I recommend this movie for kids 7 through 12 just ’cause kids a little younger will be a little scared of the action scenes but kids over 12 will think this movie’s a bit cheesy.  And it is a bit cheesy, but that doesn’t take away from the mood of the story. The mood of the story is very good, and I love the feeling that is found in this movie.

And this movie actually has Patrick Swayze, one of cinema’s best actors, as a kid actor. It’s really interesting watching him act at such an early age. I can see where they got his fan-dom from.

Photos: Tall Tale poster (top), Julianna Noone (middle), Blake Hawes (bottom)

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KIDS FIRST! Is There: ‘Chipmunks’ Red Carpet and Kids Choice Awards

Friday, April 6th, 2012

MorganAndCheyenne_ChipwreckedRedCarpet.JPGIs it fun to be on the Red Carpet to talk to the celebrities when a film studio celebrates a new release? KIDS FIRST! youth film critics Morgan Bertsch (age seven) and Cheyenne Nguyen (age eight) eagerly share their excitement at the Twentieth Century Fox Red Carpet event on March 27 for the DVD and Blu-ray release that same day of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Reporting live from the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, they capture interviews with producers Ross Bagdasarian Jr. and Janice Karman, Andy Buckley (who plays Captain Correlli), Jason Lee (who plays Dave), Matthew Gray Gubler (who voices Simon), and actress Ariana Grande (who doesn’t appear in Chipwrecked but does add her voice to the concert that was part of the Red Carpet festivities).

Clips from the concert and clips from the movie are interspersed with Morgan and Cheyenne’s reporting and their interviews. Watching the KIDS FIRST! video coverage of the Red Carpet event is almost as much fun as being there, so do click and enjoy the video of KIDS FIRST! youth film critics Morgan and Cheyenne with the Chipmunks and friends.

For Cheyenne, the Chipmunks Red Carpet rounded out a full week that also had her representing KIDS FIRST! at the 2012 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards on March 31. The video is a high-energy few minutes of Cheyenne catching cast members of “Victorious!,” “A.N.T. Farm,” “America’s Got Talent,” “Big Time Rush” and the latest Wimpy Kid lead (Zachary Gordon) on the Red Carpet. Her charm gets them to open up and interact with her.

The video continues into the backstage after the Awards were presented, and some of the winners share with Cheyenne their excitement about the evening. Nickelodeon shares its coverage of the event, which was hosted by Will Smith, on its website.

Photo: KIDS FIRST! youth film critics Morgan Bertsch and Cheyenne Nguyen at the Red Carpet event for Twentieth Century Fox’s DVD and Blu-ray release of Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.

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‘Mirror Mirror’ Shines

Friday, April 6th, 2012

MirrorMirror.jpgRelativity Media gives us a new view of Snow White’s adventures in Mirror Mirror, released to theaters nationwide last Friday. In fact, the movie’s longer name – by which it was released in the United Kingdom – is Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White. To help differentiate it from the classic, the seven dwarfs have new names. Don’t look for Grumpy, Sneezy, Doc or any of the other familiar characters; Mirror Mirror introduces us to Half Pint, Chuckles and Grub, to name a few. Julia Roberts is well-cast as the evil queen, and Lily Collins (who played Collins Tuohy in The Blind Side) and Armie Hammer (whose most recent film role was in J. Edgar) give us an appealing Snow White and Prince Alcott. KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Anthony Aranda (age 9) finds Mirror Mirror “has a lot more action than the classic Snow White and there are a lot more cool parts.”

Mirror Mirror
Reviewed by Anthony Aranda
(See his full review on video.)

I am reviewing a really funny and family-friendly movie called Mirror Mirror. This movie is about Snow White and the seven dwarfs. I really like this movie because it has a lot more action than the classic Snow White and there are a lot more cool parts.  

This movie is all about a girl named Snow White whose evil stepmother mistreats her and the people who live in the kingdom. Snow White gets help from seven unusual dwarfs to take back her kingdom and help her people.    

Some of the main characters in the movie are Snow White, the seven dwarfs, the evil queen and Prince Alcott. My favorite character is Prince Alcott because he is a really funny character. He drinks a potion that gives him puppy love and he does some really funny things. When The Queen throws a book out the window, the prince runs down all the stairs to try and fetch it. It is really funny! 

My favorite part in the movie is when the evil queen gets help from black magic and two puppets on strings go to where the seven dwarfs live to try and hurt Snow White. These puppets are dancing around trying to get the dwarfs while Snow White is running to help them. Snow White gets a sword and cuts the strings and the puppets fall down. Another really cool part of the movie is when The Queen goes into her mirror. She walks right though it and comes out of the water into a place out in the middle of nowhere where she does her black magic. That is really cool.AnthonyAranda_190x250.jpg

I would recommend this movie for ages 5 and up because there are some sword-fighting scenes and a few parts that might scare little kids. Kids older than 5 would enjoy this movie especially if they know the classic Snow White story. Go out and see this movie in theaters now!

Photos: Mirror Mirror poster (top), Anthony Aranda (bottom)

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