Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for May, 2012

2012 KIDS FIRST! Best Awards Winners Announced

Monday, May 21st, 2012

KF_BestAwards_forwebsite.jpgIndies and even student-produced films take their bows alongside major studio releases as KIDS FIRST! honors the films of 2011 that achieved the double goal of excellence in filmmaking and value in social messaging. Among the KIDS FIRST! Best Awards winners announced today are Paramount Home Entertaiment’s Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (first, second and third place, respectively, in the 8-12 age group), and Walt Disney Company’s Prom, Front Porch Entertainment’s Who Is Simon Miller? and NBC’s Game Time: Tackling the Past (first, second and third place, respectively, in the 12-18 age group).

All films that screen at KIDS FIRST! film festivals are eligible for the KIDS FIRST! Best Awards. Entries are pared down to to the top 300, from which the final winners are, ultimately, selected by our senior jury, comprised of child development specialists, media professionals and film programmers. Visit kidsfirst.org/filmfestival/2011/Best2011Winners to see the complete list of this year’s winners. Shorts, foreign films, documentaries, student productions in different age categories and TV shows are among the other programming that is honored by KIDS FIRST! for its quality and value as not only entertainment for children but offering pro-social benefits as well. The more than 30 categories may include some special awards that vary from year to year. Check out the winners of previous years and see what the filmmakers say about the award.

While KIDS FIRST! is pleased to honor these filmmakers for providing quality entertainment, the filmmakers regularly turn credit back to KIDS FIRST!: “I believe it is crucial that quality programming be available for today’s children and the support and encouragement you give producers to provide such programming is invaluable. I thank you so much for your help!” says Pamela Pedder, screenwriter of I CAN Fairytales’ Dinosaur Adventure series.

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‘Battleship’ Takes Action

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Battleship.jpgThose of us able to remember strategy games of the pre-Internet era might recall the two-person contest “Battleship.” Following in the steps of the hugely successful franchise created from an amusement park ride (Pirates of the Caribbean), Erich and Jon Hoeber crafted a screenplay whose roots lie in a child’s game. While kids can be wowed by the movie’s special effects, adults might find additional entertainment in catching the hints throughout Battleship that hark to the game. Director Peter Berg, who also helmed Hancock, can be seen in front of the cameras for a small, unnamed part as JPJ 2nd Gunner. With just a word of caution about the movie’s violence, KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Anthony Aranda (age 9) gives it enthusiastic approval and says, “I think kids age 10 and up would love this movie … because it has so much action.”

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

This movie was awesome. I love it because it has a ton of action, lots of funny parts, and suspense.

The main characters in the movie are Alex Hopper (played by Taylor Kitsch), Sam (Brooklyn Decker), Cora (Rihanna) and Yugi (Tadanobu Asano). My favorite character is Alex Hopper because he is really funny and brave. He wants revenge on the aliens attacking them because they hurt his brother.

This movie is about Alex Hopper, who joins the Navy because he needs to get his life together. Yugi, the captain in the Navy, doesn’t really like Alex because he thinks Alex won’t be any help to them. Alex goes out on a destroyer to look for other boats and they come across a large mass in the water. That’s where they find the aliens and then start fighting for their lives.  AnthonyAranda_190x250.jpg

My favorite part in the movie is when Alex Hopper tries to get a burrito for a girl he likes named Sam. The kitchen is closed, so he goes through a lot of trouble to get her this burrito. It’s really funny because he falls down a few times and then gets chased by police who tazer him. It is hilarious!

I would recommend this movie for ages 10 and up because there is violence in the movie and is rated PG-13. I think kids 10 and up would love this movie, though, because it has so much action.

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

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‘Dark Shadows’ Lights Up the Screen

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

DarkShadows.jpgThe 1960s soap opera “Dark Shadows” has been reincarnated with the deft hand and somewhat twisted humor of master storyteller and acclaimed filmmaker Tim Burton. His signature gloom perfectly suits the storyline. KIDS FIRST! youth film critic and host of the weekly Coming Attractions radio show Raven Devanney (age 14) rates the film on a scale of one to five, and gives it a six!

Ratings that good make it a probable shoe-in for next year’s KIDS FIRST! Best Awards. This year’s awards, for film and TV shows of 2011, are being considered at this very moment. Winners will be announced here in the KIDS FIRST! newsletter next week, but do take a gander at all the deserving shows that were nominated, listed by age-appropriateness on the KIDS FIRST! website.

Dark Shadows
Reviewed by Raven Devanney
(See her full review on video and more about the film on the
Dark Shadows page on the KIDS FIRST! website.)

Dark Shadows is a hilarious movie about a man named Barnabas Collins, who is cursed by an evil witch when he refuses to give her his love. Turned into a vampire, Barnabas is locked away in a coffin for two centuries. Now, freed by unsuspecting construction workers, Barnabas finds that his home town of Collinsport has drastically changed. He must learn to fit into the ’70s while protecting his family, restoring Collinsport to its former glory and ridding himself of the evil witch, Angelique, who cursed him to be a creature forced to hide in dark shadows.

I absolutely loved this movie. Johnny Depp, who plays Barnabas Collins, does fantastic! Johnny is one of my all-time favorite actors and when he teams up with director Tim Burton, you know it’s a film worth seeing. The cinematography was great because of the gloominess that you will often find in Tim Burton’s films, but they found a flawless way to throw in the bright colors of the ’70s. The special effects were great, too, especially in the end when Angelique’s skin starts to crack; she really looks as if she is made out of porcelain. Something that did bother me about the visuals was that the blood in the film looked ’way too fake considering that it is a vampire movie. RavenDevanney_180x250_1.jpg

My favorite character would have to be that daughter of the Collins family played by Chloe Moretz, Carolyn Stoddard. One, she is my favorite young actress; two, she plays a moody, melodramatic, angst-y teenager perfectly. The acting in this film is priceless because there is a lot of overacting, but not in a cheesy way; it is done very purposefully and it gives a wonderful, comedic feel to dramatic situations.

I suggest this film for ages 13 and up because of sexual situations, mild drug use and language. On a scale of 1-5, I would give this film 6 stars because it far surpassed my expectations! Be sure to see Dark Shadows in a theater near you with all of your friends!!

Photos: Dark Shadows poster (top), Raven Devanney (bottom)

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‘First Position’ – For the Love of Dance

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

FirstPosition.jpgAudiences at the Dallas International and Portland International film festivals gave First Position filmmaker Bess Kargman a first place in the audience awards, as did the staff at the San Francisco Docfest. In her review, below, KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Julia Chestnut (age 11) shares many reasons why people connect with this film and how it inspired her.

First Position
Reviewed by Julia Chestnut
(See more about the film on the
First Position page on the KIDS FIRST! website.)

I think the IFC film First Position is great. It is an award-winning documentary that is inspiring and captivating.

The actors play themselves as the film shows the audience what a life of ballet is all about. Each of the six dancers is completely dedicated to their sport as they prepare for a chance to enter one of the world’s most prestigious ballet competitions, the Youth America Grand Prix.

The six young and very gifted dancers all want a contract to go to the Youth America Grand Prix. They work hard to become one of the very best young dancers in the world. They work through bloody feet, horrible injuries and relentless exhaustion. The dancers are Aran Bell, Gaya Yemini, Michaela Deprince, Miko Fogarty, Rebecca Houseknecht and Joan Zamora.
Aran Bell has been dancing since he was four years old. He loves dancing and doesn’t care what other people think. He puts aside the pain and dances through it. Gaya, an adorable dancer from Israel, was inspired by Aran’s graceful dancing. She can really make dancing come alive! Michaela is incredible as she dances through excruciating pain in the finals. She is so inspiring to watch and graceful as a swan. The entire audience is cheering for her. Miko is willing to give up everything to dance. She doesn’t have much time for school, friends or outside activities. Rebecca is known as “Barbie.” She is extremely flexible and beautiful, like Barbie. Joan’s family lives in Columbia while he dances his heart out in another country. His passion and motivation is inspiring to watch.JuliaChestnut.JPG

My favorite part is when Michaela dances through so much pain in her Achilles tendons. Despite the pain, she is flawless as she floats across the stage. I love feeling like I was living their hard-working life right along with them.

First Position is a great movie for people who love dancing and for people who are dedicated to any sport. The incredible talent will inspire you to try anything! If you want to find out who advances to the finals and wins a scholarship or $50,000 contract, find this movie at a theater near you.

Photos: First Position poster (top), Julia Chestnut (bottom)

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Superheroes Rate Super Well as KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critics Review ‘The Avengers’

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Avengers.jpg“Bam!” “Ka-Pow!” “Bonk!” – as they say in comic books. While that’s not really what the superheroes of The Avengers have to say (they are much more articulate), their actions are fairly true to their comic book roots. KIDS FIRST! youth film critics Julianna Noone (age 12) and Talia Rashba (age 11) each give the film a full 5 out of 5 stars, and are quite articulate themselves on their reasons for the top rating.

“This action-packed and comedy-filled film is a movie that not only will appeal to comic fans but all movie-goers, as it has a great storyline and strong cast to support it,” says Julianna. And Talia is equally enthusiastic: “This movie is absolutely fantastic! It is packed with a ton of action and humor and will transport you into an amazing supernatural world where it is all about the good guys fighting the bad.”

The Avengers
Reviewed by Julianna Noone

Looking for a hero? Well, look no further, because The Avengers is in theaters everywhere! This action-packed and comedy-filled film is a movie that not only will appeal to comic book fans but all movie-goers, as it has a great storyline and a strong cast to support it. This movie will attract all demographics and has already set many box office records.

The basis of this movie is the world is under threat from another world, Chitauri, and there is a need for more than just all the world’s defenses to save it. The world needs the “Avenger Initiative”, which is a plan put together by S.H.I.E.L.D., an international peace-keeping agency, which calls for S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring together some of the world’s greatest heroes: Iron Man/Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr; Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth; Captain America/Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans; The Hulk/Dr. Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo; Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff , played by Scarlett Johansson; and Hawkeye/Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner. Nick Fury, played by the always intense Samuel L. Jackson, leads the S.H.I.E.L.D. agency. There is a great supporting cast as well, that rounds out a star-studded cast.

Now, I have watched all of the individual movie releases of The Hulk (both movies), Thor, Captain America and both Iron Man movies and loved them all, but, as most, was concerned whether they would work together to create a great movie. Well, they have done that and more, with a storyline that allows the main characters to, at times, shine on their own but at other times pairs them up perfectly to bring great balance to the story.

 Josh Whedon, the director and co-writer, and Zach Penn, co-writer, do a great job in blending the action sequences in with very well-timed comedic moments. I also love how they bring so many different levels of conflict into the movie. There is brother vs. brother, between Thor and his evil brother Loki (played brilliantly by Tom Hiddleston), the film’s antagonist. There is internal conflict each of the main characters has with themselves, as we watch Dr. Banner trying to control his inner demons. And there is the overall conflict of our world vs. the other world, called Chitauri.

There is also the conflict between the heroes themselves, which leads to many of the funniest parts of the film. Two of my favorite scenes are these parts of the movie. First, when the heroes first come together on the S.H.I.E.L.D. aircraft, they are discussing the devastation that Loki has brought to Earth. Thor jumps to Loki’s defense and states, “He’s my brother,” to which the Black Widow responds, “He has killed 80 people in two days.” Thor responds, “He’s adopted!” and it’s one of the many laugh-out-loud moments. Julianna.jpg

My favorite character(s) would be the Avengers as a whole, as they each have their own unique and likable traits. I love the special effects, particularly the touch screen computers that float in the air, and the use of CGI in this film as it was worked into the live-action sequences. The CGI Hulk was especially well done and was much more human-like in this film and funny as well.

This movie is great for all ages and I rate it 5 out of 5 stars. It’s a must-see movie for comic book and non-comic book fans, and I think many will see it more than once, as I know I plan to.

The Avengers
Reviewed by Talia Rashba
(See her full review on video.)

This movie was absolutely fantastic! It is packed with a ton of action and humor and will transport you into an amazing supernatural world where it is all about the good guys fighting the bad.

The story is about a group of famous superheroes that come together to defeat the evil Loki, who has stolen a powerful energy cube that he intends to use to take over the world. The superheroes include Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Each one has a unique and special supernatural power that they use to help them do their job. At first, the superheroes fight about being a team, but, eventually, they work together to complete the mission.

The Avengers could have ended up being a typical superhero movie, but it isn’t. Because there are so many heroes, it is much more creative and entertaining. The Avengers is packed with fabulous actors. Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man. Just like he was in the Iron Man movie, he thinks he is better than everyone else, but luckily, he is really quite funny so you end up liking him a lot. Captain America (Chris Evans) is strong and serious, and he is always ready to get the job done. Actor Mark Ruffalo plays the ferocious green form known as the Incredible Hulk. He really stands out and takes over the scenes he is in. Superhero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has some of the most incredible battle scenes. And Black Widow, portrayed by the beautiful Scarlett Johansson, is the one who convinces the others to put aside their differences and work with each other.

An interesting fact is that actor Lou Ferrigno, who has played The Hulk in almost every film since 1978, is actually the Hulk’s voice in the movie. TaliaRashbaCU.jpg

The Avengers is written and directed by Joss Whedon, who does an amazing job. He makes sure that there is a lot of humor in the movie and that the action scenes really grab your attention. The special effects were incredible. The superheroes change from their everyday selves into their supernatural selves in an interesting and fun way. The fight scenes and explosions are unbelievable. Also, there is a really neat headquarters for the agency that you just have to see for yourself!

Even though it is rated PG-13, I think kids ages 11, as well as all adults, will love this movie, especially if action is their thing. I am giving this film a 5 out of 5 stars and recommending that you see it right away!

Photos: The Avengers poster (top), Julianne Noone (middle), Talia Rashba (bottom)

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