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Archive for July, 2013

“Turbo” – A Movie for Younger Kids with Wit and Heart

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

213094.jpgFrom the makers of “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda,” “Turbo” is a high-velocity 3D comedy about an underdog snail who kicks into overdrive when he miraculously attains the power of super-speed. But after making fast friends with a crew of streetwise, tricked-out es-car-goes, Turbo learns that no one succeeds on their own. So he puts his heart and shell on the line to help his pals achieve their dreams, before Turbo-charging his own impossible dream: winning the Indy 500. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Cassandra Hsiao (age 15) comments, “Although initially skeptical, I changed my mind for the better because of the movie’s amusing wit and heart.” Stacy Belizaire (age 10) adds, “I love the movie ‘Turbo!’ It is really fun and must have been an awesome movie to act in.” Check out their full reviews below and see the difference between a 15-year-old and a 10-year-old’s perspective.

By Cassandra Hsiao, age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Video review available here.

Geared towards kids under the age of 10, “Turbo” will be sure to have kids delighted and cheering the snails on. However, the excitement merely lingers for a short while, just like the exhaust trail from a racecar speeding by.

For a movie about racing snails, “Turbo” isn’t half as bad as I thought it would be. Although initially skeptical, I changed my mind for the better because of the movie’s amusing wit and heart. A normal garden snail named Theo has big dreams of being the fastest racer in the world.  His brother, Chet, sees Theo’s dream as nonsense and a distraction to their work in the garden. One day, a freak accident involving Nitrous Oxide changes Theo to Turbo. Suddenly this snail has the abilities of a car – headlights, a stereo, and of course, unparalleled speed powers! A Mexican taco seller, who shares the same dreams as Turbo, enters the snail in the Indy 500. On his journey to the greatest car race in the world, Turbo befriends a gang of smooth cool snails (you’ll never look at snails the same way again) and meets his rival, the menacing racer, world-renowned Guy Gagne.

The plot is straightforward and simple, mixed in with heart-warming feel-good morals typical of underdog family-friendly animated genres. “Dream big!” the film seems to shout at every turn.  I could have done without highlighting the message quite so much. Although “Turbo” starts off slow, it gradually begins to pick up speed. The filmmakers also could have included more brother bonding moments between Turbo and Chet.

The voice-overs are solid, especially Ryan Reynolds’ Turbo and Paul Giamatti’s Chet. The snail gang is hilarious, voiced by Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Kurtwood Smith, Snoop Dogg and Samuel L. Jackson. Unlike Blue Sky Studio’s “Epic” that came out earlier this year, DreamWorks hired big names not because of their celebrity status, but because their voices actually fit the slick, suave characters.

At its best, “Turbo” is a heart-pounding inspiring flick, perfect to keep kids entertained. “Turbo” isn’t going to make its way into my evergreen library but certainly this family-friendly film will grab the kids’ attention long enough to give parents a much needed summer break.  The 3D is impressive! I felt like I was really racing alongside the snails. The film offers a snails-eye view, an interesting perspective especially while racing. “Turbo” can’t be compared to Pixar’s movies, but even so, it’s a rip-roaring adventure. Enter the race and catch “Turbo” in theaters, July 17!

By Stacy-Love Belizaire, age 10, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.
Stacy’s video review, with her older sister is available here

I love the movie “Turbo!” It is really fun and must have been an awesome movie to act in. This movie is an animated film about super-speed snail racing and features the voices of many different actors. Turbo is a lonely garden snail who is about to gain super speed powers and will race in the “Indy 500” which is meant for cars but, his amigo Tito didn’t take “no” for an answer.

This is a fast-action movie where Turbo, who watches a speed race every night and idolizes Guy Gangnè who is the national champion racer. Turbo memorizes every line he says as well as the commercial for the drink: Adrenolade. One day, when he is working in the garden, a “big red” tomato falls on the other side of the garden where the lawn is being mowed. Turbo is so slow that he imagines he is the racer racing for the “big red” tomato. He does not make it to the tomato but he still goes on his own journey in the rain all alone. This is when everything starts to happen and Turbo receives his powers by a racing car’s kind of gas.

The main characters are Turbo the snail (Ryan Reynolds), Tito (Michael Pena), Chet  (Paul Giammati), White Shadow (Michael Bell), Whiplash (Samuel L. Jackson), Smoove Mov (Snoop Dogg), Burn (Maya Rudolph) and  Skid Mark (Ben Swartz). All these characters are great but my favorite and the one that stands out the most is Chet because he was pretty annoying and he is the one that puts most of the negativity into the movie.  I thought it was really cool how the writer did that.

My favorite part is near the end where after Turbo loses all of his powers and then tries racing again at Dos Bros Tacos for everyone to see. All of a sudden, when it is almost time to race he gets all of his powers back in an amazing magical moment and it is really nice and cool. Turbo is really happy that he gains back his powers and speed.

I recommend the movie to all ages for anyone who loves action-filled adventures and having fun. I also found this movie very cool and safe for children to watch. It has very funny characters and scenes. The moral of this story is that even though you are a small snail and have big dreams, you can do anything you set your mind to.

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Entertaining Coming of Age Film, “The Way, Way Back”

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

TheWayWayBack_1.jpgIf you need a break from all the comic-based films this summer, check this movie out. It’s a coming-of-age film about a teenager on summer break trying to find a place where he belongs. We see the awkwardness of adolescence in this film starring Steve Carell, AnnaSophia Robb and Toni Collette. Our KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D. (age 15) wasn’t a huge fan of the film, preferring more heady stuff but says ” it is entertaining for the time that you’re in the theater.” See her full review below.

The Way Way Back
Reviewed by Raven D.
Video review available here:

“The Way Way Back” tells the story of Duncan, played by Liam James, who is an awkward teen dealing with his mom’s boyfriend, Trent, played by Steve Carell. Trent and Duncan don’t exactly see eye to eye on most things and when the two of them are forced to spend the entire summer together, things get a bit complicated. Duncan decides to get away from his family by getting a job at the local amusement park, Water Wizz. There, he becomes friends with the manager Owen, played by Sam Rockwell, and Duncan begins to find himself with the help of his new friend.

I personally do not like this movie very much. I feel like it has nothing to special about it and the acting seems very forced, the lines are cheesy and the plot is unoriginal. All of the scenes were long with very few cuts in them which did make it feel more realistic, but it also makes the film to drawn out and boring. This film is an hour and 43 minutes and it could have been a 60 minute film. I am also bothered by the fact that there is hardly any music in this film, so when there is silence it is awkward in a non comical way.

My favorite character is Owen because I feel like Sam Rockwell is one of the only people who did their character justice. I even feel that Steve Carell is very monotonous and fake in this film, and I think he is usually a great actor. However I do like the character Owen for more than just that reason. He is very sweet to Duncan because he sees that he is having a hard time and he teaches him how to stand on his own. I also like Duncan, played by Liam James, because his character was generally very quiet and  bland in a way, and Liam does a good job portraying his character.

My favorite scene would have to be when Duncan is working his first day at Water Wizz. There is a bunch of teens break dancing in the park and Owen is supposed to break it up. Since he is such a slacker he gives Duncan this task and it is hilarious to watch him try to get the people to listen to him. It really shows how awkward he is and even though he is uncomfortable doing this task, he still does it to help out a friend.

I recommend this film for ages 13+ because there is quite a bit of mild profanities, inappropriate humor and drug usage. Overall I give “The Way Way Back’ 3 out of 5 stars because it is entertaining for the time that you’re in the theater, but it isn’t memorable or something I would see again.

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World War Z Takes A Fresh Approach To The Idea Of “Zombies”

Monday, July 29th, 2013

WWZ_1.jpgThis highly anticipated film produced by and starring Brad Pitt was a hit with our KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Raven D who found thought the zombie theme was becoming a bit redundant but enjoyed it’s fresh approach. Here full review follows.

World War Z
by Raven D.
Video review here.

In World War Z, a zombie pandemic has broken out and is consuming a large majority of the world’s population. But these zombies are like no other. Their goal isn’t to eat people, but it is to spread the virus to as many sustainable hosts as possible. Because of the rapid growth of the infected, the fate of the humans looks grim. Former United Nations employee Gerry Lane, played by Brad Pitt, is recruited to accompany scientists on a dangerous journey to find the source of the pandemic in order to create a cure. Since all it takes is one infected host to destroy entire cities, every second is a life or death situation for Gerry. Will he be able to change the fate of the human race, or will time run out?

I am actually very impressed with this film. Zombie movies seem to be such a big thing right now and they’ve honestly become a bit redundant. “World War Z” however brings a very fresh approach to the idea of “zombies” which really made this film. I think the special effects and 3D are very well done in this movie. I want to give huge props to the makeup department in this film because the zombie makeup is incredible. The way the prosthetics truly make the actors look sick and completely out of it is great. I also really enjoy the original music composed by Marco Beltrami. It has a very modern feel to it and is actually something I would listen to. It keeps a consistent melody through the film, making the scenes flow, while also fitting the mood of each individual scene very well.

My favorite scene would have to be when Gerry is in Jerusalem and the zombies attack. This is the scene when they all pile on top of each other to get over the walls. I think it is very visually impressive to see the detail of all those bodies scrambling over one another. It’s also a very suspenseful scene and it really shows that all it takes is one or two zombies to infect and wipe out an entire thriving community. Within minutes the whole city is infected and it is a very fast paced, memorable scene.

My favorite character is Segen played by Daniella Kertesz. She is a soldier stationed as a guard in Jerusalem who partners up with Gerry after the city is attacked. The two of them make an incredible team and I loved to watch their trust in each other grow since they saved each other’s lives. Daniella Kertesz is an incredible actress and her talent really shines through in this role. She can bring so much emotion to the screen with only her facial expressions which is something every great actor should possess.

I recommend this film to everyone ages 13+ because it definitely surpassed my expectations and is very well made, but it does have very intense and graphic situations not suitable for younger audiences. Overall I give “World War Z” 4.5 out of 5 stars, so be sure to check it out in a theater near you!

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“A Place at the Table” will truly open your eyes to the harsh realities of a food insecure nation.

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

PlaceAtTheTable_1.jpg“A Place at the Table” completely transformed my paradigm of America. When I hear the words “hunger” and “starvation,” images of ravenous, malnourished, dying children in Africa instantly pop into my head. However, this poignant, simple, and impacting documentary showed me that “hunger” could be sitting right next to me in school. This 84-minute documentary details with moving austerity how and why even in America, the world’s richest nation, children are going hungry.

Featuring Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges, the founder of the End Hunger Network, “A Place at the Table” follows people, all from different towns and cultural backgrounds, who are food insecure. In other words, they have no idea when and how their next meal is going to come in. 50 million people in America are food insecure. This not only stunts physical development but mental development as well. Take Rosie, a fifth-grader growing up in rural Colorado. She tries to focus in school, but hunger pains cause her to zone out or to imagine her friends and teachers as fruits. Her dream is that one day, her kids can do what they want to do and what they need to do without going hungry.

Another instance is Barbie, a single working mother with two kids. Her toddler son mumbles and has an attention-deficit symptom. This is because of the lack of food for Barbie and her family when he was born. The lasting effects of hunger in a child’s first years impact a child much more deeply in the brain than the body. It’s an emotional moment to see Barbie break down into tears in front of her kids, exhausted of the intense struggle to make ends meet.

The documentary grippingly touches on so many different issues. It clears up myths and breaks stereotypes. A false paradigm that America blindly looks through is that hunger doesn’t exist because children struggle with obesity.  However, obesity, hunger, and being food insecure go hand-in-hand. Because of a low income, families on a very limited budget shop for the cheapest foods in store – chips, cookies, and ice cream. Produce is simply too expensive.

Hunger exists not because there is not enough food. Hunger exists because it isn’t a big enough issue on the political agenda. The documentary is packed with real statistics and visuals that are not just standard, cold numbers, but the toll of hunger is shown in the glimpses of families scrambling to break the cycle of poverty.  This film calls out to audiences to end hunger in America by alerting politicians and the government. “It’s just appalling,” says actor Jeff Bridges. “You know if another country was doing this to our kids we would be at war. It’s just insane and it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“A Place at the Table” will truly open your eyes to the harsh realities of a food insecure nation. I am determineHeadshot.Cassandra.jpgd to push forward in this fight of ending hunger, and I believe our nation can rise out of the pit we’ve buried ourselves in. America’s youth has a passion and an unbendable will to fight for what’s right, and if pointed in the right direction, I believe that the American Dream of prosperity can come true. The only thing standing between now and the extinction of hunger is the hurdle of ignorance, clouding youths’ and the government’s minds. Share this documentary with friends and family – I recommend this for all ages. If we act with urgency and boldness, perhaps one day, everyone will have a place at the table.
Reviewed by Cassandra Hsiao, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

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“The Lone Ranger” – Fantastic To Its Core!

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

213089.jpgThis film, based on the iconic 1950s TV series gives the Native American warrior Tonto, played by Johnny Depp, top billing. “The Lone Ranger” tells the story of lawman John Reid and how he transforms into the Wild West legend known as the Lone Ranger. When justice is threatened by Butch Cavendish, John (Armie Hammer) teams up with Native American Warrior Tonto to save the day. The story is told by an elderly Tonto years after the Lone Ranger’s reign and begs the question, “Is the legend just a fable? Or, did this crusader of justice really roam the Wild West?” Our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics viewed it last week and, all of them loved it. “This movie is fantastic to its core!” claims Gerry O, age 11. “It is funny, entertaining, and very thrilling,” remarks Raven D, age 16. See their full reviews below.

The Lone Ranger
By Gerry O, age 11
Video review available here.

I already had an idea what this movie would be like, cowboys fighting each other. Based on all the stories about Lone Ranger, I also anticipated one of the characters would be the Indian, Tonto. I was right! This film is worth waiting for – amazing adventure, action, romance. It is funny and has the most gorgeous horse ever!

At first I thought this movie was about a cowboy and Indian fighting bad guys, I was very wrong! It starts off so nicely and ends so action packed!

The adventure begins when it’s 1930 and there’s an old western amusement park. A child is walking around dressed like the Lone Ranger and he goes to this exhibit where he finds Tonto the Indian. Tonto tells this boy about the story of the Lone Ranger who was being held captive in a train. The criminal escapes and a man helps Tonto escape as well. The train crashes but they and the passengers don’t get hurt. This man joins his brother to look for the criminal. The brother and everyone else in the group die but the man, whose name is John, lives. Tonto escapes jail and finds John and what’s called a spirit horse. The two men and the horse go on many adventures and run into many problems (that the horse usually ends up fixing!) as they search for the criminal. Along the way, they get a little surprise!

The movie is immaculate. The actors are great! I mean who doesn’t like Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp?! The cinematography is stupendous! Everything is just fantastic! There’s really nothing to complain about in this movie.

My favorite scene is when Tonto finds all the dead rangers. He digs up little graves and tries to take what he can from them. Thinking all of them are dead he goes to John and he tries to take something and then John wakes up. Tonto is all surprised and just knocks him out and starts putting sand back on him.  The house saves John in this situation, but you have to watch the film to see the most hilarious scene of all.

Since this movie has quite a lot of action and quite a bit of violence as well, I recommend it for ages 12 and up. This movie is fantastic to its core so I give it 5 out 5 stars plus a few more if possible. This movie will be available in theaters everywhere July 3rd

The Lone Ranger
Reviewed by Raven D, age 16
Watch Raven’s video review here.

“The Lone Ranger” tells the story of lawman John Reid and how he transforms into the Wild West legend known as the Lone Ranger. When the justice is threatened by Butch Cavendish, John, played by Armie Hammer, teams up with Native American Warrior Tonto, played by Johnny Depp to save the day. The story is told by an elderly Tonto years after the Lone Ranger’s reign, so is the legend just a fable? Or, did this crusader of justice really roam the Wild West?

I enjoy this film a lot. I feel that the costumes, set and film location stay very true to the style of old westerns while also keeping the visuals interesting and giving it a modern quality. I really like all of the scenery shots, especially in the desert. The arches and wildlife views make good transitions and I enjoy the artistic vibe it brings to the screen. I love the makeup and prosthetics that were used on Johnny Depp when he plays the elderly version of Tonto. It is so realistic and incredible that I could hardly even tell it was Johnny Depp! I also really love that Silver, the Lone Rangers trusty steed, does the craziest things throughout the film. At the most random times Silver will just be in a tree, on a roof, wearing a hat…and nobody questions it. It brings a sense of playfulness and lightens the mood and seriousness of the film.

My favorite character is Tonto because Johnny Depp does an excellent job portraying this character. He says the funniest things and makes very comical remarks throughout the film, which I really enjoy. I did think this would be a serious film, but it was actually quite humorous and light-hearted and Tonto has a big part in that. Tonto has a dead bird that he wears on his head and he always tries to feed it which was hilarious to watch!

I recommend this film for ages 13 and up because of violence that typically goes along with westerns. I think “The Lone Ranger” is funny, entertaining, and very thrilling. I give it 4 out of 5 stars so be sure to check out the “Lone Ranger.”

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