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Archive for December, 2014

Penguins of Madagascar – A Wonderful Animated Film to Share with Your Younger Kids

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Here’s a super cute animated film that you can feel comfortable taking your younger kids to. The story follows a super spy team – the hilarious, covert birds of the global espionage biz – Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. These elitists of the elite join forces with a chic undercover organization, The North Wind. Led by handsome and husky Agent Classified, they set out to stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, from destroying the world as we know it. KIDS FIRST! Critics Haley P. comments, “The movie Penguins of Madagascar is hilarious!  It is the funniest movie I have seen in a long time.” Brianna B. adds, “Besides the message of revenge not being good, I also like the message that everyone is a valuable member of a team.” And, Samantha A. had this to say, “You may have already seen the penguins in DreamWorks original movie Madagascar but now you are seeing them in their own movie comedy.” See their full reviews below.

Penguins of Madagascar

Reviewed by Haley P., KIDS FIRST! Critics, Age 12

The movie Penguins of Madagascar is hilarious!  It is the funniest movie I have seen in a long time.
This animated movie, in 3D as well as 2D, is about three penguins that grow up together, find another penguin that hatches from an egg and they all become best friends. They go on all their adventures together as a team. The youngest one, Private, tries his best to become an important part of the team.  An evil villain named David captures them for revenge.  He’s jealous because he used to be the main attraction in zoos until the penguins come along and stole his glory!  The penguins are rescued by a new elite team called the North Wind who claim they are the best at rescuing helpless animals.

There are so many funny scenes in this movie that it’s hard to pick a favorite.  I love when Kawalski’s (Chris Miller) status report says that they are in Ireland when they really are in Shanghai.  Another funny moment is when Classified (Benedict Comberbach) tries to explain his teams’ purpose and Skipper (Tom McGrath) keeps interrupting him by chomping on Cheesy Dibbles every time he speaks.  Also, when the villain reveals himself, expecting the penguins to be shocked, they don’t even know who he is. I can go on and on with funny moments but really, you have to watch the movie to see what else will tickle your funny bone.

My favorite character is Private (Christopher Knights) because he is cute and he finds his purpose in the end which makes him an important part of the team.  The other characters are equally fantastic. The writers have created a wonderful comedy script and I think this movie will keep you laughing.  The moral of the story is that your appearance on the outside shouldn’t matter, it’s who you are on the inside that counts, baby!

This movie is a good fit for ages 8 through 18. Boys, girls and even adults will enjoy this movie because it has a lot of “adult” humor. My parents laughed more than us kids!  I rate this movie a five out of five “dazzling” stars! The Penguins of Madagascar is in theaters now so, go check it out.

Penguins of Madagascar
Reviewed by Brianna B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This animation is hilarious and has great cinematography. Seeing this film in 3D definitely adds to the excitement of the story line.

Skipper, (Tom McGrath, Voice) and his gang are up against, Dave (John Malkovich, Voice) who is an octopus that has his sights set on revenge. He believes the penguins have stolen his publicity and fame by being so cute. He plans to make Skipper and every other penguin pay for it being tossed out of every zoo. Dave plans to turn the penguins into monsters and release them in the streets of New York.

This film has great comedy with funny remarks. It’s funny from the very beginning. I like it when famous actors are referred to in the script. For example, Nicholas Cage is mentioned when talking to one of the octopi. It has great animation and the 3D aspect makes the characters seem as if they are coming right at you and you are a part of the action. This animated story travels to France, Hong Kong, Ireland and other places. The authenticity of the locations looks very believable. The voice actors have natural comedy to them. I like how sometimes the sound track plays but the characters don’t hear it. It is unheard by everyone except the audience.

My favorite character is Eva, (Annet Mahendru, Voice) who is an Owl. She controls her emotions and is the complete opposite of the penguins. She carries herself well and brings another personality to the film. My favorite scene is at the very beginning when the baby penguins chases the egg. It’s funny to watch the egg going everywhere as it  takes the Penguins to unknown territory.

Besides the message of revenge not being good, I also like the message that everyone is a valuable member of a team. It doesn’t matter how smart or how small the part is, everyone matters.

I recommended this film for ages 7 to 15. Both girls and boys will enjoy and love it. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. The comedy is great and it comes with a meaningful message.

The Penguins of Madagascar is in theaters now, so please check it out.

Penguins of Madagascar

By Samantha A., KIDS FIRST! Critics, age 11

Penguins of Madagascar
is an animated movie about a group of penguins (Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private) that go on globetrotting adventures. Their adventures take them to Antarctica, the Desert, Venice, Shanghai and New York City. In this movie, the Penguins meet an elite team called “The North Wind” led by a husky handsome dog, Agent Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch) and together, they must fight the evil Dr. Octavius Brine (John Malkovich)

You may have already seen the penguins in DreamWorks original movie Madagascar but now you are seeing them in their own movie comedy. You may not think it, but this movie does have a few very good messages. For example, don’t let anyone underestimate you and your true power and also, always speak up and be heard.

This movie is action packed. Sometimes I wasn’t sure if it was a good or a bad thing because it feels like it jumps from place to place. Sometimes that is good because, once the action REALLY gets going, it feels just right how everything goes so fast. One of the reasons I like this movie is because, even though it is action packed and funny, it also had sad parts. I like that because even though the penguins are supposed to be adventurous and strong, it is nice seeing their more sympathetic side.

Something I like (and always have liked) about the penguins is that they all have simple personality traits that define who they are. For example, Kowalski has his big brain. They are each so different but together they are a very cool team.
I commend the directors of this movie, Simon J. Smith and Eric Darnell, for a great job.   Other than things moving a bit too fast, everything else is simply great.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars because it is a great film and I recommend it for 6 to 13 year olds because it is funny and most little kids will understand the topic but there are some jokes that kids might not understand. This movie is great and
I loved it and so will you!

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KIDS FIRST! 2014 Holiday Gift Guide -The Best DVDs for Kids and Families for 2014

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

HolidayGiftGuide.jpgAs you head out for your holiday shopping this weekend, you are looking for the perfect gift for that niece, nephew, sister-in-law and of course, your own kids and family members. You know what the people closest to you want and need but those relatives who you don’t see that often are a bit of a challenge. We have compiled a collection of DVDs, Feature Films and E-Books that we think make great holiday gifts for your loved ones. Those that our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics have watched and reviewed have a link to their video reviews which gives you the benefit of the kids’ point of view.  Since kids are the audience for these films, it makes sense to listen to what other kids think about them. More film reviews are available at www.kidsfirst.org. Happy holidays, Ranny Levy, KIDS FIRST!

Dawn of Planet of the Apes
A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species. MSRP: 39.99; Age Recommendation:  12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

Harry Potter™ Hogwarts Collection
This collectible box set is sure to please fans who can now access all the Harry Potter films and exclusive behind-the-scenes content conveniently in one place. Included are all eight Harry Potter™ films, plus a whopping 45+ hours of previously released bonus material that contains the complete eight-part documentary series “Creating the World of Harry Potter.” MSRP: $249.99; Age Recommendation: 8-15 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

The Maze Runner
Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape. MSRP: $39.99: Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:

X-men: Days of Future Past
The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future. MSRP:  39.99; Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review


Earth to Echo
After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help. Starring Teo Halm, Astro and Reese Hartwig. Rated PG for some action, peril and mild language. MSRP: 39.99; Age Recommendation: 8-15 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Ernest & Celestine
Deep below snowy, cobblestone streets, tucked away in networks of winding tunnels, lives a tiny mouse named Celestine. Unlike her fellow mice, Celestine is an artist and a dreamer, and has a hard time fitting in. When she nearly ends up as breakfast for a grumpy bear named Ernest, the two become fast friends and embark on an adventure that will put a smile on your face and make your heart glow.  MSRP: $34.95; Age Recommendation:  5-18

Frozen Sing-Along DVD
Experience Frozen, the hit musical comedy from Walt Disney Animation Studios, like never before in a new to DVD, full-length Sing-Along Edition! Follow the lyrics with a bouncing Frozen snowflake. Join Anna as she sets off on an epic journey – teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff and a snowman named Olaf – to find her sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. It’s pure enchantment – and full of fun for the whole family! Includes the making-of featurette “Breaking the Ice”, the Sing Along Version of the Film, the Original Theatrical Version of the Film, and “Get a Horse!” Mickey Mouse Short. MSRP: $29.99. Age Recommendation: 4-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The quest through Middle-earth continues in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug when the epic fantasy adventure is released as an Extended Edition on Blu-ray 3D™ and Blu-ray™. This extended cut of the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy includes 25 minutes of extra film footage that extends individual scenes,  more than nine hours of new bonus features. Both Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray include Digital HD copies of the Extended Edition. MSRP: $54.98 & $35.99. Age Recommendation: 12-18
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

How to Train Your Dragon 2
It’s been five years since Hiccup and Toothless successfully united dragons and vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid, Snotlout and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island’s new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons. MSRP: $24.96; Age Recommendation: 8-12 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

MALEFICENT explores the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villain from the classic SLEEPING BEAUTY and the elements of her betrayal that ultimately turn her pure heart to stone. Driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect the moors over which she presides, Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the human king’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love and the human kingdom that holds her legacy. Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and is forced to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever. MSRP: $36.99. Age Recommendation: 10-18.
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition
Fall under the glorious spell of Disney’s Ultimate Princess Fairy Tale! The magic is real as you experience all the pageantry and power with incredible high-definition picture and thrilling, soaring sound! Beauty, wonder and adventure spin together in a grand legend that transcends time as Maleficent, one of animation’s most spectacular villains, sends the kingdom’s beloved Princess Aurora into an enchanted sleep. In a majestic story that awakens all your senses, Good Fairies arm brave Prince Phillip to defeat a fearsome fire-breathing dragon and rescue Aurora. But success in battle may not be enough, for the only way to awaken the Princess is with True Love’s kiss! MSRP: $36.99. Age Recommendation: 4-18


The Fault in our Stars
Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. MRSP:  29.99. Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Step inside the imaginative story book world of the highly popular French novel La Mécanique du Cœur (The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart) and beguiled by the wildly inventive adventures of Jack and Miss Acacia as they leap from page to the screen. Directed by Mathias Malzieu and Stéphane Berla, this is a visually opulent animated fairy tale set in an exciting period full of fabulous inventions, enchanting music and marvelous adventures. This superbly animated movie brings to life a unique tale of love and the acceptance of others through an awe-inspiring cinematic adventure filled with whimsical characters, stunning CG animation and unforgettable musical numbers. MSRP: $16.97; Age Recommendation: 8-15

Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series
All 45 wacky episodes, plus the Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special, have been meticulously re-mastered from the original film elements. Mecka-lecka hi, Mecka-hiney ho!  Pee-wee’s Playhouse is an educational, artistic and entertaining show that teaches kids strong ‘life lessons.’  With its innovative production design and Reubens’ rich original characters and humor, Pee-wee’s Playhouse is a magical place that sparks creativity and imagination—and brings joy to children and adults alike. Parents and grown-ups have always enjoyed the show’s many double entendres. Pee-wee’s Playhouse: Seasons 1 and 2 in a high-definition 4-DVD set. MSRP $149.99; Age recommendation: 5-18

Rio 2
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids in RIO 2, after they’re hurtled from that magical city to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets the most fearsome adversary of all – his father-in-law. All our favorite RIO characters are back, and they’re joined by Oscar® nominee Andy Garcia, Grammy® winner Bruno Mars, Tony® winner Kristin Chenoweth and Oscar/Emmy ® /Tony winner Rita Moreno. RIO 2 also features new Brazilian artists and original music by Janelle Monae and Wondaland. MSRP: $24.99; Age Recommendation: 5-12 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:


Littlest Pet Shop: Passport to Fashion
Blythe Baxter has two amazing gifts – she can talk to animals and can create amazing fashion!  Together with her pet friends- Zoe the spaniel, Pepper the skunk, Sunil the mongoose, Russell the hedgehog, Penny the panda, Vinnie the gecko and Minka the monkey, Blythe is determined to make her dream of a career in fashion come true. Join Blythe and her animal friends as they visit exotic cities such as Paris, Rio and Shanghai and learn that true friends will support you no matter what! MSRP $14.93 DVD; Age Recommendation: 5-8

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Keys of Friendship  
This DVD includes “Rarity Takes Manhattan,” “Pinkie Apple Pie,” “It Ain’t Easy Being Breezies,” “Twilight’s Kingdom, Part 1,” and “Twilight’s Kingdom, Part 2.” A fun sing-along is included as a bonus feature. Since her arrival in Ponyville, Twilight Sparkle has learned the true meaning and value of friendship. With her very best friends — Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, Fluttershy and, of course, Spike — Twilight goes on the greatest of adventures and comes back with even more lessons. All of this has earned Twilight her wings and the crown of a Princess and now you can learn what Princess Twilight Sparkle has learned and take with you The Keys Of Friendship. MSRP $14.97 DVD; Recommended age: 4-12
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Spooktacular Pony Tales   
Features six episodes and a sing-along. Every pony loves Halloween… the candy, the pumpkins, the costumes, the friends! Join your favorite residents of Ponyville — Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Rarity, Applejack, Pinkie Pie and, of course, Spike — as they take on some of the spookiest adventures Equestria’s ever seen! Time to gather around and hold on tight, because these six exciting tales are a chillingly good romp. The DVD comes with pumpkin carving stencils and a color Halloween poster perfect for seasonal decorating. MSRP $14.97 DVD; Recommended age: 4-12
KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Planes: Fire & Rescue Blu-ray
In this heart-pumping, laugh-filled follow-up to last year’s smash hit “PLANES,” world famous racer Dusty Crophopper joins an elite fire and rescue unit and learns what it takes to be a true hero. Featuring non-stop action, memorable characters and never-before-seen bonus features, “PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE” is this fall’s must-own animated family film! Bonus features include the all-new exclusive short “Vitaminamulch: Air Spectacular;” the mock-umentary “Welcome to Piston Peak;” and more. MSRP: $39.99. Age Recommendation: 2-12 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Veggie Tales: Celery Night Fever
Bruce Onion (voice of Terry Crews) is a nefarious real-estate developer who plans to turn the serene, green Celery Park into a parking lot.  His unsavory scheme spurs Laura Carrot and Junior Asparagus to enact a bold plan: reuniting the long-lost ’70s band The Groovy Brothers to play at a fund-raising concert. The problem is, The Groovy Brothers haven’t spoken to each other in decades, and the members have little interest in getting back together.  Their long-simmering feud spills over to affect Laura and Junior.  It’s not just Celery Park that’s in jeopardy – if best friends can’t learn to forgive each other and accept each other’s faults, the veggies might lose their cherished community gathering spot. MSRP: $14.97; Recommended age: 5-10.


10 Movie Romance & Family Collection
Stuff your stockings with love this holiday season with ten films overflowing with the hope of the season. For family movie marathons or snuggly date nights, each of these stories spread a little Christmas magic, reconnecting family and friends as well as rekindling long-lost loves. In the end, you’ll hold your loved ones a little tighter, find your heart a little brighter, and spread the true meaning of the holiday season. Includes 10 best-selling movies: Christmas in Canaan, Merry-In-Laws, 12 Days of Christmas, A Christmas Proposal, Holiday Baggage, Annie Claus, Holiday Engagement, Christmas Pageant, Moonlight & Mistletoe, Most Wonderful Time of the Year. MSRP: $29.93. Age Recommendation: 8-18

A Belle for Christmas

Dean Cain of Lois & Clark and The Dog Who Saved Christmas stars as Glenn Barrows, a recent widower doing his best to raise his young kids Elliot and Phoebe who really miss their mom. When the Barrows adopt an adorable puppy named Belle during the holiday season, it seems that their healing may have begun. But will Glenn’s dog-hating, gold-digging new girlfriend spoil their newfound happiness, or can Elliot and Phoebe pull off a daring Christmas Eve rescue of their beloved new pet? Haylie Duff costars in this heartwarming comedy about family, friendship, and a four-legged holiday miracle. DVD SRP: $19.98; Age Recommendation: 7-18

The Christmas Ornament
Newly widowed Kathy plans to skip out on decking the halls and trimming the tree this Christmas, trying to avoid anything that will bring back memories of her late husband. The only Christmas tradition she will observe is baking cookies for her friends, a passion since she was a child. When Kathy meets handsome Christmas tree shop owner Tim, their undeniable chemistry – along with an ornament Tim gives her that symbolizes hope – helps Kathy open up to the joys of the season again. With the support of her best friend Jenna Kathy begins to embrace the hopeful message of the ornament. Although Kathy wants to take a chance on Tim, she struggles to find the balance between preserving the memory of her husband and moving on with her own future. MSRP: $14.93; Age Recommendation: 10-18

Octonauts: Very Vegimal Christmas
On this very merry DVD, join the Octonauts as they celebrate the holidays! The Vegimals’ plans for a Christmas feast aboard the Octopod are interrupted when the Octonauts become entangled in a gigantic blob of sea snot! The holiday excitement continues when the Octonauts travel to Professor Inkling’s childhood home, an undersea mountain, but soon discover that a rockslide has endangered the local creatures, including Inkling’s nephew, Squirt!  Can the Octonauts rescue the creatures and save Christmas in time?
MSRP: $9.99; Age Recommendation: 5-8

Nine Lives of Christmas
Fireman Zachary Stone is a confirmed bachelor who doesn’t believe in love or commitment. When a stray, tabby cat named Ambrose shows up at his door, Zachary takes him in and slowly starts to see that a little companionship might not be so bad. Zachary’s commitment to solitude is further challenged when he meets Marilee who teaches Zachary how to care for his new feline roommate. With Christmas rapidly approaching, Marilee’s sister Jaclyn convinces her to add romance to her nose-to-the-grindstone life of work and school, while fire chief Sam encourages Zachary to understand the importance of love, marriage and having someone special with whom to share the holidays. MSRP: $14.93; Age Recommendation: 10-18

A Royal Christmas
As the only daughter of an expert tailor in Philadelphia, Emily Corrigan is a kindhearted young woman proud of her blue-collar background. She is a devoted seamstress at the family business and madly in love with her doting European boyfriend, Leo. As their first Christmas together approaches, Leo drops a bombshell on his unsuspecting girlfriend: he is actually Prince Leopold, heir to the throne of Cordinia, a small sovereign country. Emily is in shock and they fly to Cordinia to announce their engagement and spend the holidays with Leo’s disapproving mother, Queen Isadora. Less than enthusiastic about her son’s relationship with a commoner, Isadora makes Emily feel anything but welcome at their grand castle. Attempting to stay true to herself in a world where she clearly doesn’t belong, Emily wonders if love is enough to keep her newly royal relationship from falling apart before Christmas morning. MSRP: $14.93. Age Recommendation: 10-18.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Celebrate the magic of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer in the golden-packaged 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition. Newly produced bonus features teach fans how to draw Rudolph, Hermey and Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster; present video sing-alongs of the musical holiday favorites Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Holly Jolly Christmas; and offer a video version of a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer pop-up book.  MSRP: 17.99; Age Recommendation: 2-18

Signed,  Sealed,  Delivered Christmas
Based on the highly successful Hallmark series Signed, Sealed, Delivered created by Touched By An Angel’s Martha Williamson, follows the four postal workers turned detectives in their next mystery as they track down the original recipient of a Christmas card from the past. MSRP:  $14.93

Saving Santa: Adventures of a Time-Traveling Elf
Bernard, a low-ranking elf dreams of joining Santa’s elite team of inventors, who make the magic of Christmas possible. But when one of Bernards inventions reveals the secret location of the North Pole to a billionaire scoundrel Santa and Christmas are in jeopardy leaving Bernard to time travel to rescue Santa in time to save Christmas. Voices of Martin Freeman, Tim Curry, Tim Conway and Ashley Tisdale. MSRP: 19.98; Age Recommendation: 5 – 12

The Snowman (special anniversary edition)
An Academy Award Nominee (Best Animated Short Film, 1982), this delightful animation weaves a spell of magical enchantment as a young boy’s snowman comes to life and escorts him on a magical flying visit to the North Pole. Absolutely superlative family enjoyment that Includes the original introduction by author Raymond Briggs. Bonus features include The Story of the SnowmanTM and an alternate introduction from David Bowie. MSRP:  $9.99; Age Recommendation: 4 – 18.

A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! Holiday Show

Join DJ Lance Rock, Brobee, Foofa, Muno, Plex and Toodee as they dance, sing and decorate the tree to prepare for the arrival of Santa Claus! Filmed live at New York City’s The Beacon Theatre, celebrate the season with the colorful cast of characters singing their hits, including “It’s Wintertime,” “Every Snowflake’s Different, Just Like You” and a holiday version of everyone’s favorite “Party in my Tummy!” Includes special appearances by superstar Leslie Hall and the one and only Santa Claus! MSRP: $12.99. Age Recommendation: 2 – 8

A Very Merry Mix Up

Shop owner Alice Chapman (Alicia Witt) is nervous to meet her future in-laws at Christmas, especially because she is arriving ahead of her new fiancé, Will Mitchum (Scott Gibson). Alice’s trip becomes more stressful when her luggage is lost and her phone is damaged, leaving her no way to find Will’s family! As fate would have it, she meets her future brother-in-law, Matt Mitchum (Mark Wiebe), at baggage claim and is happy to get a ride home with him. As Alice meets Matt’s doting family, mom Penny (Susan Hogan), dad Joe (Richard Fitzpatrick) and Grandpa Charles (Lawrence Dane), she falls in love with their festive holiday traditions and warm welcome to their home. And when unexpected romance comes calling as Christmas approaches, Alice must decide if her “Merry Mix-Up” will actually turn out to be her destiny. MSRP: $14.93; Age Recommendation: 10-18


Son of God
Now, the larger-than-life story of The New Testament gets a larger-than life treatment in the stand-alone feature SON OF GOD. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score from Oscar-winner Hans Zimmer. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado portrays Jesus as the film spans from his humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection. It marks the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since Passion of the Christ, released ten years ago. MSRP: $25.99; Age Recommendation: 12 – 18

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review

Black Nativity
Struggling to pay the bills, single mom Naima (Jennifer Hudson) sends her teenage son Langston (Jacob Latimore) to live with his estranged grandparents, Reverend Cornell and Aretha Cobbs (Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett) in New York City. At first Langston resents their strict household, but with the help of new friends – and a little divine intervention – he embarks on an inspirational journey of self-discovery that brings the whole family together. MSRP: $14.99; Age Recommendation: 12-18 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic review:


25 Days of a Tropical Christmas
25 Days of a Tropical Christmas is a celebration of the holiday season incorporating beautiful illustrations with a variation of a classic melody. Similar to the 12 days of Christmas but extended with a tropical theme, this is a fun and entertaining read with beautiful beach- themed illustrations. Written by D.G. Stern and Illustrated by Susan Lane. MSRP: $1.99; Age Recommendation: 5-12


Dec. 19

Business tycoon and mayoral candidate Benjamin Stacks launches a campaign to take in Annie, a young girl who has been living with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan since her parents left her as a baby. Starring Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Rose Byrne. Rating: PG

BIG HERO 6 (In 3D)
November 7
From Walt Disney Animation Studios, the team behind “Frozen” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” comes “Big Hero 6,” an action-packed comedy-adventure about the special bond that develops between Baymax (voice of Scott Adsit), a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada (voice of Ryan Potter). When a devastating event befalls the city of San Fransokyo and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his close friends adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago (voice of Jamie Chung), neatnik Wasabi (voice of Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (voice of Genesis Rodriguez) and fanboy Fred (voice of T.J. Miller). Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called “Big Hero 6.” Starring: Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Damon Wayans Jr., T.J. Miller, Alan Tudyk, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, Daniel Henney, with Ryan Potter as Hiro Hamada and Scott Adsit as Baymax. Not yet rated.


Nov. 14
A talented young musician on the brink of super stardom struggles with the pressure of her new-found success. Starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Minnie Driver, Danny Glover, Aisha Hinds. Rating: PG-13

Dec. 19
The Company of Thorin has reached Smaug’s lair; but can Bilbo and the Dwarves reclaim Erebor and the treasure? And, if so, can they hold on to it? Starring Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman and Richar Armitage. Not yet rated.

December 25th

Into the Woods is a modern twist on several of the beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, intertwining the plots of a few choice stories and exploring the consequences of the characters’ wishes and quests. This humorous and heartfelt musical follows the classic tales of Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone), and Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy)—all tied together by an original story involving a baker and his wife (James Corden & Emily Blunt), their wish to begin a family and their interaction with the witch (Meryl Streep) who has put a curse on them.  Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski and Johnny Depp.

Dec. 19
Larry spans the globe, while embarking on an epic quest to save the magic before it is gone forever. Starring Robin Williams, Dan Stevens, Ben Stiller. Not yet rated.

Nov. 18
Super spy teams aren’t born…they’re hatched. Discover the secrets of the greatest and most hilarious covert birds in the global espionage biz: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. These elitists of the elite are joining forces with a chic undercover organization, The North Wind. Led by handsome and husky Agent Classified (we could tell you his name, but then…you know). Together, they must stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine, from destroying the world as we know it. Stars: Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Benedict Cumberbatch.

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Black Nativity: Extended Musical Edition – A Truly Inspirational Film and A Joy to Watch

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

blacknativity.ED.jpgThis is truly an inspirational film and a joy to watch. Read and watch our review by Brianna Hope Beaton below.

Langston, played by Jacob Latimore, has to spend the Christmas holiday in New York City with his grandparents, Reverend Cornell Cobbs played by Forest Whitaker and Aretha Cobbs  played by Angela Bassett, who he doesn’t really know. While there, he has to go by their rules. He wants to get back home to his mother Naima played by Jennifer Hudson. He goes through some things and discovers the true meaning of faith, family and forgiveness.

This adaptation of Langston Hughes’ play is wonderful. I really like the storyline with its great messages and its attention to detail, even down to the Cobb’s family brownstone in Harlem. The acting is powerful and intense and, of course, I love the music. Executive music director, Ralph Saadiq shows his musical talent and has created great songs that tell the story in such a way that both the young and old can listen to and enjoy. I especially like the choir scene.

I recommend this film for ages 12 – 17. Of course, I think the whole family will enjoy this movie. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. It’s truly a musical event to be enjoyed during the holiday season.

Black Nativity: Extended Musical Edition is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

Check out Samantha’s interview with Jacob Latimore, star of Black Nativity below.

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#GivingTuesday Is Past But We Still Need Your Help

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Dear Friends of KIDS FIRST!Thank you so much for your continued support of KIDS FIRST! and our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics. This year, we started a new fund campaignon #GivingTuesday, asking for your support. Our goal is to raise $10,000 by the end of this year. Please consider making a contribution. No amount is too big or too small. Even $10, the price of a movie ticket, will make a difference. You can easily make a donation online at our fundraise.com page.

This year marks a record number of film reviews by our youth reporters and a record number of people reached by our coverage. Thanks to our media partners –  Huffington Post, Workingmother,com, GRANDmagazine.com, Voice America Kids Network, Kidzworld.com, Kidsville News, SoCal City Kids and 48 additional national, regional and local publications both print and online – our coverage reaches more than 7 million every month! That’s a lot.

Our hard-working youth reporters are appearing on the red carpet at premieres interviewing celebrities and talking about the films. They attend press screenings, press junkets and work alongside seasoned entertainment reporters where they hold their own!

We have posted more than 1100 videotaped film reviews and celebrity interviews on our KIDS FIRST! YouTube Channel which gets more than 13,000 views monthly!

#GivingTuesday is past but we still need your help!
As you consider your charitable year-end giving today, we hope that you will help support KIDS FIRST! We depend on donations from our supporters to raise 15% of our annual operating budget every year. A tax-deductible contribution from you will support our 2014-15 annual fund drive.

Your donation helps supports the following programs:

  • KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, training, coaching editing and management of our awesome team.
  • KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Boot Camp, scholarships for low income kids.
  • KIDS FIRST! Film Festival, curating a collection of independent, youth produced and studio films for our network of film festival venues.
  • Development of a new app for our KIDS FIRST! reviews.

Your support helps make these programs happen! KIDS FIRST! is unique in that it is the only non-profit media evaluation and assessment program that focuses on reviews by kids of media made for kids.

Help keep the lights on!

Every dollar makes a difference. Your 100% tax-deductible contribution ensures that KIDS FIRST! will thrive for many years to come. It’s easy to contribute, simply click through here to donate at fundraise.com. You may use any major credit card to donate online, or, if you prefer, you can mail us a check.

Thanks from everyone at KIDS FIRST!

Ranny Levy

Founder and President

ps. Don’t forget to check with your employer to see if they have a matching gift program to increase the value of your donation.

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