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Archive for June, 2012

‘Miss Minoes’ an Art-house Treasure for Kids

Monday, June 11th, 2012

MissMinoes.jpgMiss Minoes, which becomes available today on DVD, was released to acclaim in the Netherlands in 2001. “It won their equivalent of an Oscar Best Picture and Best Actress” says Ed Arentz. The managing director of Music Box Films, the distribution company that has brought Miss Minoes to the United States, felt it was a classic when he first saw it but was able to acquire the film only recently. “It’s an example of the wonderful European kid/family films that largely go unseen here,” he says. Bringing it to the U.S. “was an effort on our part to reclaim this fairly recent classic.”

Based on the novel Minoes, the film is about a cat who turns into a young woman and befriends a struggling journalist, helping him gather information about a respected town leader who is, in actuality, not the good person he pretends to be. Arentz notes the author, Annie Schmidt, is so revered in the Netherlands that there is a statue to her in Amsterdam.

Arentz says he has watched the movie two or three times – notable for someone who says, “I rarely watch a movie more than once.”  Miss Minoes “has something of wider value than just for cat-nuts,” he adds, describing the lead performance by Carice van Houten as “Audrey Hepburn-esque as she clambers over rooftops in her green skirt and high heels.”

And all the cats … “I thought at first they were animatronics,” Arentz recalls. But they are real cats, highly trained. Although, he shares, “I saw out-takes where they didn’t hit their mark. It was pretty funny.” EdArentz.jpeg

The dubbing is another attribute Arentz feels was well-done. With British dubbing, the characters’ British accent adds an exotic aspect. “It’s a more storybook quality – not something that happens just down the street,” he says.

“The main challenge was creating a new digital version from the camera negative,” Arentz says. He notes that, in the decade since Miss Minoes was made, there have been a lot of changes in how films are presented. “We went back to the original camera negative with the producers, did an HD digital master and then created the DVDs.”

Arentz refers to Miss Minoes as a reclamation project, in a sense. “It’s part of our programming strategy to obtain ‘art-house’ films for kids – universal stories that happened to be produced in Europe,” he says. He expects it to be “one of those ‘sleeper’ cult films that parents and children discover” and that are passed along to the next generation.

Arentz also spoke with KIDS FIRST! as a guest on our Coming Attractions radio show.MissMinoes_CariceVanHoutenInTree.jpg

Released theatrically in some U.S. cities last Christmas season, Miss Minoes comes out today, June 12, on home video DVD and, simultaneously, is available on Internet downloads and cable Video on Demand.

Photos: Miss Minoes poster (top), Ed Arentz (middle), Carice van Houten as Miss Minoes (bottom)

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KIDS FIRST! Youth Film Critics Are Mad for ‘Madagascar 3’

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Madagascar3.jpgThe first Madagascar movie hit the screens in 2005, racked up a number of awards wins and nominations (including an ASCAP award for composer Hans Zimmer and a Kids Choice award for Chris Rock as the voice of Marty) and spawned two sequels and a TV series in seven short years. The latest from DreamWorks is Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, the the voices now indelibly associated with the main characters: Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Cedric the Entertainer.

KIDS FIRST! youth film critics share many reasons to head for the theaters once the movie is released on June 8:  Brianna Beaton (age 12) notes in her review, “There are several great messages in this film, one being that if you have a strong passion for something, fight for it and do it no matter what.” Cheyenne Nguyen (age eight) recommends it “for kids ages 4 to 99.” Julianna Noone (age 12) says, “The animation is fantastic in this film, and … the 3-D in this movie is exceptional.” And the word from Anthony Aranda (age 9) is, “I really hope they make another Madagascar.” Their full reviews are below, and you can catch them on video as well.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Reviewed by Brianna Beaton
See her full review on video.)

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is very hilarious, entertaining and lots of fun to watch. I love the 3-D animation, humor and songs Madagascar 3 has. The song clips and the graphics during the circus performance are outstanding. The film has a great story plot, is easy to follow and will definitely keep your attention.

Madagascar 3 is about four friends who are still trying to return to their Zoo in the Big Apple, New York City. They go thru Monte Carlo and attract the attention of Animal Control. While in Europe they hop on a train with some traveling circus animals to get back to their home once again. They go on a wild adventure trying to run from Animal Control and get back to the good ol’ US of A.

One of my favorite parts is when the friends make a sand version of their beloved New York. It’s such a great reproduction that it makes them homesick, which is the reason they all try to get back home in the first place. Another favorite part is when they are singing “Afro Circus.” It will have you singing right along with them. The film has lots of funny parts and will leave you feeling really good.

Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon share in directing this hilarious film, and have done an outstanding job! It stars the voices of some great talent: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and many more. DreamWorks Animation has done another great job with producing this film.Brianna.jpg

There are several great messages in this film, one being that if you have a strong passion for something, fight for it and do it no matter what. Also, go get what you want in life, don’t just wait for someone to give it to you. You can do it. To expect different results, sometimes you have to do something different.

Madagascar 3 is rated PG. I recommend it for ages 5 to 15 — I think it reaches out to young and older ages. Many parents will also enjoy this with their kids!
Overall, I give this film an overwhelming 5 out of 5 stars because it is funny, it has catchy music, and the messages it has are really great and you can learn a lot from them.
Madagascar 3 travels into theaters on June 8, so make sure to go see this hilarious film.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Reviewed by Cheyenne Nguyen
See her full review on video.)

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is funny, has great music and is an out-of-this-world 3-D feature.

This is the second sequel to the animated movie Madagascar. Alex the lion (voice-over by Ben Stiller), the zebra Marty (by Chris Rock), the hippo Gloria (by Jada Pinkett Smith), the giraffe Melman (by David Schwimmer) — these four main characters want to go home to their New York City Zoo. Where ever they go, trouble follows.

Going through a lot of trouble to get the penguins to help them to go home, Alex, the lion, becomes the most wanted creature in Europe. The four main characters join the circus to take them home to America. They make new circus friends: The jaguar Gia (voiced by Jessica Chastain), the sea lion Stefano (by Martin Short) and the Siberian tiger Vitaly (by Bryan Cranston). CheyenneNguyen.jpg

The music is epic. It ranges from classic rock to hip hop to pop. You will leave the movie singing the theme song. The costumes are so colorful and very pretty. The 3-D brings everything so close to you that you want to move away in case it hits you. The laser lights are awesome. The cast is perfectly matched with the characters. The only bad part is the stereotyping — it makes fun of Europeans and Texans.

The lessons are there’s no place like home, friendships and joint efforts.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for kids ages 4 to 99. I saw a lot of adults laughing hard.

This movie opens Friday June 8, 2012, in most theaters.

Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted
Reviewed by Julianna Noone
See her full review on video.)

What do you get when you take a traveling circus and add in zoo animals, penguins and some lemurs? You get another hit movie from DreamWorks Animation – Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.

This movie takes off where the last film left us, with Alex (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty (voiced by Chris Rock), Melman (voiced by David Schwimmer) and Gloria (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith) trying to get home to the Central Park Zoo. Written by Eric Darnell and Noah Baumbach and directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, this animated hit has a great message that it passes along in this film. In my opinion, the message of this film is that the journey is often more fulfilling than getting to your destination, particularly when you are with the ones you love. Or in other words, if you are with the ones you love then it doesn’t matter where you are, that place is home.

The four main characters start off in Africa trying to figure out how to meet up with the penguins and get back on track in getting back to the Central Park Zoo. They end up finding the penguins, but their journey is just getting started as they head off across Europe trying to not only get home, but to not be captured by the villainous Captain DuBois (voiced by Frances McDormand). They find the perfect cover in avoiding the Captain in joining a traveling circus. The addition of the circus allows for the introduction of many new characters, one of which is my favorite character, Stefano, who is a horn-blowing seal.

Stefano is a very nice, happy character, but admittedly is not very smart. This goofiness only adds to how cute he is. And while Stefano may not be that smart, it’s his brilliant idea that may save the circus and all his new friends who are trying to get back to their beloved zoo.Julianna.jpg

One of my favorite scenes is the Afro Circus scene, where Marty tries to blend in with the circus, donning a rainbow-colored wig and polka dots on his body. He performs the “Afro Circus” song that I am sure everyone has seen in the trailers. My other favorite scene is when King Julien (voiced by Sasha Baron Cohen) meets his true love, in the form of a giant, tricycle-riding bear.

The animation is fantastic in this film, and while 3-D doesn’t always work for me, the 3-D in this movie is exceptional, particularly in the climactic scenes toward the end of the movie.

I recommend this film for all ages, as adults will love the humor and storyline just as much as children will. Go see this animated hit in theaters on June 8.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
Reviewed by Anthony Aranda
See his full review on video.)Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is a really cool movie. This movie is amazing because of all the action and all the funny parts. I really enjoyed this movie because it is really animated and has a great storyline. I like how the movie has a bunch of characters that are really different and have such different personalities. That makes it really cool.Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most WantedThis movie is all about a lion and his friends who are in Africa and want to get home. So they travel to try to get back to New York. Their journey takes them through Europe, where they meet back up with the penguins. In Europe, animal control is after them the whole time they are there and end up following them even after they leave Europe.Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most WantedSome of the main characters in the movie are Alex, Marty, Gloria, Melman and the penguins. I liked all the characters because they were all great and some are funny and some are worried but they are all really great characters. If I had to choose a favorite I would pick Alex, the lion, because he is really funny, and when everyone in the circus is really sad he helps them to cheer up and become a big hit.AnthonyAranda_190x250.jpg

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most WantedMy favorite part in the movie is when the circus animals fly over the zoo to save Alex and his friends. This is really cool to me so when you see it you might like it. I also really like, at the end, where Marty sings a funny song dressed as a clown in polka dots and an afro. It is hilarious!

I would recommend this movie for all ages because all the parts are really funny and I think everyone would like it. This movie is really awesome and I really hope they make another Madagascar. Go out and see this movie in theaters on June 8.

Photos, top to bottom: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted poster, Brianna Beaton, Cheyenne Nguyen, Julianna Noone, Anthony Aranda

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Kids and Grandparents Is a Perfect Fit

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

GrandMagazine_MayJune2012450.jpgKIDS FIRST!’s partnership with Grand magazine – the first magazine for Boomer grandparents – has proved a natural fit. “One of the No. 1 things grandparents are looking for is things to do with [their] grandkids,” says the magazine’s editor and founder Christine Crosby, noting that participating in an activity with their grandkids ranks right up there with safety and security. Sharing experiences is what builds a bond, Crosby emphasizes, and the strength of KIDS FIRST! is its focus on “what’s going to give the child a positive entertainment experience.” With time at a premium, she points out, “Having someone who prescreens makes it better, so we don’t waste our time.”

Begun as a local magazine for grandparents in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area, Grand now has 100,000 readers through direct subscription and another 300,00-plus through disctribution of partner organizations, reaching grandparents all over the world. The idea of a magazine for grandparents was so unique when it launched in 2004 that the business article about it in a St. Petersburg paper was picked up by national services, and Crosby recalls her office was deluged with calls from people all over the country asking, “How do I get your magazine?” Babies R Us came in as a distribution partner, and the magazine went national with its second issue.

To reach even more readers, Grand initiated a “Grand Partners for Grandparents” program to connect with large-membership organizations that had an appropriate demographic. “We offered visibility in our digital edition and asked them to send the link to their members in their electronic newsletter and on their website,” Crosby says. Generations United, with its 800,000 members, is one of the many organizations Grand now partners with – and that KIDS FIRST, through its partnership with Grand, now reaches with its reviews of children’s entertainment.

The magazine evolved from a book series Crosby had been asked to do for the Florida Kinship Center at the University of South Florida on children being raised by their grandparents. Crosby, who had previously launched other family-related magazines, realized there was an unmet need for a magazine for grandparents. And a very hip audience it is, she notes. The audience has stayed with Grand as it transitioned from print to online-only, and Crosby is thrilled with the format as it allows the magazine to offer multi-media content that includes audio entertainment, videos and animation. The publication has also expanded to a radio show and an iPad app.

In all, Grand remains a content-driven publication, and KIDS FIRST! has been a valued partner since 2008 in its mission to serve grandparents. Says Crosby, “It was a perfect hook-up with Ranny, with [KIDS FIRST!’s] focus on children, and positive entertainment and edu-tainment for them.” 

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Summer at U of Hawaii Is Film Fest for Kids

Friday, June 1st, 2012

UniversityofHawaii_KFFF_small.jpgSummer programming at the University of Hawaii at Manoa includes what Ann Brandman, who is in charge of the university’s community programming, calls “a rare treat”: a film festival for kids. (Screening this year on Sundays, June 3, 10 and 24 and July 8 and 15 at 3 p.m. in the UH Manoa Art Auditorium.) And Brandman credits KIDS FIRST! for bringing it together.

It was an Internet search that first introduced her to KIDS FIRST! Looking specifically for children’s programming, she says she came upon KIDS FIRST! in 2007 and thought, “This looks great. Could it really be this great?” 

The thrill of that discovery is still evident as she enthusiastically describes, “It was all there – the media literacy; broad participation [that includes] filmmakers, distributors, juries, films, the kids themselves and child advocates; and the notion of having criteria so the materials are appropriate [for kids of given age groups]. It was all there in one great package.”

Each year, Brandman develops a program balanced among age groups; animation and live action; features, shorts and foreign films. “Kids don’t get much of a chance to experience foreign films,” she says, noting that “we’re an island in the middle of the Pacific” and that she feels it’s important to expose kids to other cultures and see how the lives of kids in other countries are similar and different from their own.

Brandman is particularly excited about two feature films screening at this year’s festival: Miss Minoes, which she describes as an adorable film from a great distributor (Music Box Films), and Quill: The Life of A Guide Dog, shown in Japanese with subtitles. “In Hawaii, we have a lot of Japanese visitors and [a large] Japanese community, so I’m really pleased to be able to show such a heartwarming Japanese film.”

KIDS FIRST! has also been a marketer’s dream come true, Brandman has found, as we provide images and film clips for use in putting together the media releases. “It makes all the difference in the world when you supply [the media] with the material,” she explains. High-resolution images accompany the press releases she sends; select clips accompany her pitches to TV. Brandman gets the word out also by sending flyers to schools as well as notifying those on the University’s mailing list and getting the KIDS FIRST! film festival listed in the local events calendars.

And kids, she points out, always make for a good story – so this year, she has been making sure the local media know that one of Hawaii’s own, 15-year-old Blake Hawes, is a KIDS FIRST! youth film critic. Brandman’s appreciation of the KIDS FIRST! youth film critic program also reflects her background as a museum curator and her interest in improving kids’ media literacy. “Kids are so in the thick of [media onslaught], anything that can help them be critical consumers of information [is valuable]. That’s another part of KIDS FIRST! that’s so important.”


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‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ Is New and Awesome

Friday, June 1st, 2012

SnowWhiteAndTheHuntsman.jpgA good story can be well-told different ways. Wicked made a big splash giving an alternative understanding of Dorothy’s and Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West. Japanese Noh theater includes plays in which an action is retold from the point of view of each character. In Universal Pictures’ release Snow White and the Huntsman – which KIDS FIRST! youth film critic Anthony Aranda (age 10) says is “awesome” – director Rupert Sanders and writers Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini revisit the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. For more than seven decades the story has had the Walt Disney stamp of a fun children’s animation (Disney released the classic animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937), but its previous roots are in the stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, which hold a more sinister atmosphere than today’s “fairy tale” versions. Snow White and the Huntsman recreates that strong atmosphere of evil vs. good with all the fury that today’s audiences are used to in tales of magic and the supernatural.

Snow White and the Huntsman
Reviewed by Anthony Aranda
(See his full review on video.)

Snow and White and the Huntsman is an awesome new movie. I think this movie is great because it has lots of action and a little romance.

This move is all about Snow White, who had a happy life until her mother died and then the king found a new wife who turns out to be an evil queen. She locks Snow White away and the kingdom is very unhappy.

The main characters are Snow White (played by Kristen Stewart), the seven dwarfs, The Huntsman (played by Chris Hemsworth), the king, and the evil queen (Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron). My favorite characters are Snow White and The Huntsman because Snow White does not want to be killed so she stands up for herself and The Huntsman tries to save her. My favorite part in the movie is when Snow White and The Huntsman are in the village and he leaves and a little while later there are flaming arrows that come at the wood buildings so the houses start to burn down. This scene has a lot of action and suspense.AnthonyAranda_190x250.jpg

I would recommend this movie for ages 10 and up because I’m 10 and I loved this movie. I think that younger children might not like it because it is kind of violent and would scare them. This movie comes out in theaters on June 1st.

Photos: Snow White and the Huntsman poster (top), Anthony Aranda (bottom)

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