Archive for January, 2018

Maze Runner: The Death Cure – Packed with Action Beginning to End

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

In the epic finale to The Maze Runner Saga, Thomas leads his group of escaped Gladers on their final and most dangerous mission yet. To save their friends, they must break into the legendary last city, a WCKD controlled labyrinth that may turn out to be the deadliest maze of all. Anyone who makes it out alive will get the answers to the questions the Gladers have been asking since they first arrived in the maze. Will Thomas and the crew make it out alive? Or will Ava Paige get her way? KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This film is full of action from beginning to end. During the production of this film in 2016, Dylan O’Brien was severely injured on set. Because of that, the film was delayed and is just now being released. I’m so sorry about Dylan’s accident and believe that the wait was worth it, as I love this movie.”  Tristan T. adds, “Based upon the novel, The Death Cure by James Dashner, The Maze Runner the Death Cure is the third and final film in the Maze Runner trilogy.  It is a very satisfying conclusion to the series and wraps up most questions for fans.” See their full reviews below.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

This film is full of action from beginning to end. During the production of this film in 2016, Dylan O’Brien was severely injured on set. Because of that, the film was delayed and is just now being released. I’m so sorry about Dylan’s accident and believe that the wait was worth it, as I love this movie.

This is the third and final installment of the Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas and his friends head to the last standing city to save their friend, Minho and take down the Government Association known as WCKD.

I’m quite a fan of the Maze Runner books, so I can vouch for the accuracy of this movie. Quite a bit of the story is different from the book. Even the plot of saving Minho isn’t in the book. He is with the group in the book. However, all the major events are still the same as both stories involve taking down WCKD.

This movie is fast moving and heart racing. In almost every scene something exciting is happening. The film barely gives you time to rest. I feel like this keeps you on edge and it works. During some scenes I tensed up, with my fists clenched. The action is actually very effectively exciting. There are tons of explosions, and fire and gunshots. And they are all so cool. The special effects are really impressive.

This film is a dystopian story. The reason the world ends in this story is an illness known as the “Flare” that turns people into zombie-like creatures. The makeup used for the creatures, known as Cranks, is outstanding. Here’s a shout out to the entire makeup department.

The acting is also really good. Dylan O’Brien, who plays Thomas and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays Newt, have incredible performances. I will not spoil what happens, but one specific performance from them had me in straight up tears.

Also, the city where most of the film takes place, known as Last City, has a very neat design. It looks intimidating, yet beautiful. It felt like Los Angeles, but darker. I’m curious if the director, Wes Ball, plans to do the prequels, as there are two prequels. I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It comes out in theaters January 26, 2018 so be sure to check it out.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure
By Tristan T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Based upon the novel, The Death Cure by James Dashner, The Maze Runner the Death Cure is the third and final film in the Maze Runner trilogy.  It is a very satisfying conclusion to the series and wraps up most questions for fans.  This film is very fun and entertaining.  The one thing that disappointed me was the length of time since the last film, The Maze Runner the Scorch Trials.  It came out September 2015, so you may need a little refresher course prior to watching the final film.

My favorite character is Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster.  I have cheered for Newt during the whole trilogy as he brings so much life to the entire film.  His character has depth and passion, but in a light-hearted way.  I find him very relatable and, without giving away any spoilers, his character will touch you deeply during this final film.

The bond of friendship is a strong theme throughout the trilogy, but nothing has been as powerful as it is in Maze Runner the Death Cure.  I love how the screenwriter, T.S. Nowlin, pushes each character to their limits, testing their abilities and gives viewers insight into their mindset and true vulnerabilities.

As in the previous two films, the cinematography is amazing.  While the backdrop is futuristic, you do not have the feeling that everything is overly CGI.  Even the fight scenes are pretty realistic.  I find it interesting that the whole film was shot in Cape Town, South Africa.

Maze Runner the Death Cure is rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi violence and action.  There is some language, but not much.  If you have been a fan of the Maze Runner series, Maze Runner the Death Cure will not disappoint.  With a running time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, it is a bit long, but there are no drag times. You’ll remain entertained the whole time.  I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It opens in theaters January 26, 2018 so look for it.

 

 

Forever My Girl: Beautiful Setting, Sappy Story

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

After being gone for a decade a country star returns home to the love he left behind. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror, Kimbirly O. comments, “The setting is beautiful, a fictitious city in the south where everyone knows each other. The southern charm is palpable and warm. I was hoping for a solid romantic story about young love. What was delivered is the very element of sap, much like what is broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, complete with a happy ending.” Abraham F. adds, “There are many plot holes such as when Liam Page goes to his hometown because his best friend dies in a drunk driving accident and their history is never mentioned. It just seems like a plot device.” See their full reviews below.

Forever My Girl
By Abraham F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Forever My Girl is a romance movie based on a book by Heidi McLaughlin, a New York Times bestselling author, but that doesn’t stop this movie from being one of the most atrocious movies I have ever seen. There are many plot holes such as when Liam Page goes to his hometown because his best friend dies in a drunk driving accident and their history is never mentioned. It just seems like a plot device. Another thing that bothered me is Liam’s relationship with his ex-fiancé’s brother (the brother of the girl who has jilted), yet when Liam returns they act like best friends.

The storyline is about Liam Page, a country singer that left his fiancé, Josie on their wedding day to go on tour. Eight years later, his friend dies in a car accident and Liam decides to go back home. He stays with his dad and everyone ignores him, because he left Josie at the altar. He finds out that Josie was pregnant when he left and he has a kid, so he decides to be the father he was meant to be, but faces criticism from Josie’s brother.

Two of the main characters are up and coming actors. Alex Roe who plays Liam Page was born in June, 1990 in London, England as Alexander Michael Roe-Brown. He known for his role as Even Walker on The 5th Wave. Jessica Rothe, who plays Josie is most famous for appearing in Happy Death Day and La La Land. Their portrayal of the characters in this film seem too fake and shallow. Roe didn’t even seem to know how to play guitar for his role and Rothe is almost invisible.

My favorite character is Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson), Liam and Josie’s 10-year-old girl. In one scene Liam brings her a teddy bear and she says, “I liked them when I was four.” That felt like something a kid would say at that age. This movie is her biggest role so far and she stands out from the other actors.

The message of this movie is that it’s not easy being a parent, but in the end it’s worth it. I recommend this for ages 12 to 18. There is some drinking, but otherwise, it’s pretty family friendly. I give this film 1 out of 5 stars. It opens in theaters January, 19 2018 so, go check it out.

Forever My Girl
By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

If you love a love story, especially in the vein of a Nicolas Sparks novel, this film is for you. The film is based on a novel written by a woman, Heidi McLaughlin and the screenplay is written and directed by a woman, Bethany Ashton Wolf.

Forever My Girl depicts a man who left his bride at the altar. This does not seem like a story any woman wants to tell. Given the marketing mentions Nicholas Sparks and seeking to attract his audiences, it tells me a lot about the studio’s lack of faith in the film.

I cannot lie, Forever My Girl did not set the bar high for a committed relationship, nor the reality of parenting. Liam (Alex Roe), the lead male character, left his beloved fiancé Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar to seek fame and fortune as a country singer. His success as a musician is colored with drug and alcohol abuse. After a decade on the road, a funeral in the quaint hometown of the country star brings him back in time to a life he led and seemed to love. The ease with which the lead actors fall back into rhythm with each other appears far-fetched, maximized by Liam learning he has an 8-year-old child he was never told of, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson), who is by far the star of this film. Her sweetness and snarky delivery of lines mix to deliver a fantastic performance by a child actor.

The setting is beautiful, a fictitious city in the south where everyone knows each other. The southern charm is palpable and warm. I was hoping for a solid romantic story about young love. What was delivered is the very element of sap, much like what is broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, complete with a happy ending.

I give this film 3 of 5 stars for the casting of rising stars, charming location and music. This film will appeal to tween and teen audiences, ages 10 to 18. I caution younger viewing due to drug and alcohol use and abuse. It opens in theaters January 19, 2018 so, check it out.

 

Napping Princess – Completely Engaging! Very creative and entertaining. Like the Fantastic Studio Ghibli films!

Friday, January 19th, 2018

In Napping Princess the year is 2020, three days before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics. While she should be studying for her exams, Kokone Morikawa is often dozing off, stuck between reality and a dream-world full of fantastic motorized contraptions. But after her father, a talented but mysterious mechanic, is arrested for stealing technology from a powerful corporation, it’s up to Kokone and her childhood friend Morio to save him. Together they realize that Kokone’s dream-world holds the answers to the mystery behind the stolen tech, and they embark on a journey that traverses dreams and reality, city and country, and past and present. Their mission uncovers a trail of clues to her father’s disappearance and ultimately a surprising revelation about Kokone’s family. Special Features: Interview with Kenji Kamiyama, Introduction at the Japanese Premiere, Greeting at Japanese Release, Okayama Scenery, Special Interviews with Cast, Special TV Program, Trailers and TV Spots. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This film is very creative and entertaining. It reminds me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, which I love and I found myself completely immersed in this movie.” See her full review below. 

Napping Princess
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

This film is very creative and entertaining. It reminds me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, which I love and I found myself completely immersed in this movie. 

The story centers around a girl named Kokone, who I think has narcolepsy. She often dozes off and dreams about a kingdom known as Heartland. Her father is arrested and accused of stealing technology from a famous company and Kokone and her old friend Morio track him down.

I really like the two main characters, Kokone and Morio. I appreciate their dynamic friendship and their personalities. I truly believe they have a bond that can’t be broken. Besides these two and Kokone’s dad, none of the other characters stand out that much. Of course, I have to talk about the animation. The animation is beautiful. I’ve always loved Japanese animation and this film is no different. I love the backgrounds of both the real world and Heartland. I love how the characters move. All of it is so appealing. And speaking of visual stuff, the outfits that the characters wear are amazing. If there was an award for best costume design in animation, this film would win it! 

The Heartland dream sequences are the best part of the movie. The dreams have their own story, separate to the story taking place in the real world. The dreams are my type of adventure. A kingdom with a combination of sci-fi and fantasy with lots of action? Perfect! It’s also really ingenious. Ancien’s magic tablet is one of the most original and imaginative inventions I’ve ever seen in fiction.

I also love the soundtrack. The background music has a pretty orchestral vibe. The music composer is Yoko Shimomura, a famous video game composer known for working on Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. She also composed one of my favorite video game songs, so I got pretty excited finding this out. 

The one thing that did bother me is that the movie is advertised as a sci-fi / fantasy movie. However, there isn’t that much fantasy. The movie has elements of fantasy, such as in the dream sequences, but it doesn’t feel as if it is an actual fantasy film. This bothered me just a bit. Also, certain things are left unexplained and that left me confused.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, due to some mild language. The film comes out on DVD January 30, 2018 so, check it out!

Napping Princess
By Dariana A., KIDS FIRST Film Critics, age 12

The Napping Princess is a prodigious film. It brings you into a world of fantasy and adventure. This movie is what everyone thinks about when they are kids but adds a cool twist. It is the type of film that has you so immersed in it, that it makes you want to be in the movie. The film is originally in Japanese, but the translation into English is so impressive that I couldn’t believe it was originally in Japanese.

The story takes place in the year 2020, with Kokone (Mitsuki Takahata) dreaming about a world called Heartland. Then, Kokone’s dad gets kidnapped for stealing technological ideas and Kokone and her friend Morio (Shinnosuke Mitsushima) must work together to save him. On their adventure, they find out that Kokone’s Heartland holds the answers to saving her dad.

The Napping Princess is such an amazing movie. It has a plot that keeps you wanting more. The animation has the classic anime vibe to it. The only negative thing is that some of the words in the film are in Japanese, so it’s a little hard to understand because they only have subtitles for some of the words. Even though the dialogue was originally in Japanese, the characters’ mouths are still very in sync with the words they say. This story is about a kid’s dream morphing into reality. It is such an imaginative story that with such a creative idea as its basis. My favorite character is Joi (Rie Kugimiya). Joi is Kotone’s stuffed animal that comes to life in her dreams and is just so cute. My favorite scene is when one of the machines sprouts wings. I like it because it reminds me of a Red Bull commercial.

The message of this film is that things aren’t always what they seem and, if you pay attention, the truth will come through. I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars because it has an awesome plot which I love and classic anime animation. I recommend this film for ages 7 to 14. It really is a very marvelous film and it is available now on DVD so go check it out. 

 

The Commuter – Fun Thriller With Excellent Acting And Camerawork

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is forced to uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on the train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes a deadly plan is unfolding, and he is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for everyone on the train. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The acting and camerawork provide a tense feel to this movie, like many Hitchcock films. This is sure to please Liam Neeson fans.” See his full review below.

The Commuter
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Commuter is a fun thriller, even if it does get a little too over-the-top for its own good. The acting and camerawork provide a tense feel to this movie, like many Hitchcock films. This is sure to please Liam Neeson fans.

The story follows insurance salesman Michael (Liam Neeson), who is caught in a criminal conspiracy on his daily commute. Michael meets the enigmatic Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who will give him a large sum of money if he finds a passenger with evidence against her. This must be done before a certain train stop. This leads to a frenetic chase to find the passenger, as elements of the conspiracy are revealed. Michael happens to be an ex-cop and will do anything to protect this passenger, but this comes with consequences.

Liam Neeson, as Michael, excellently presents his frantic need to find the passenger because every wrong move can result in an innocent passenger getting caught in the crossfire. He is spectacular in the fast-paced action and stunts. Vera Farmiga as Joanna, is my favorite character because of the intense threat and urgency she provides with her performance. It is also interesting to find out more about her conspiracy. Patrick Wilson, as Alex, is an incredible helper to Michael, but you can tell he has some secrets he’s not sharing. Jonathan Banks, as Walt, presents a friend to Michael who commutes with him every day, while also helping him out.

Jaume Collet-Sera wonderfully directs this film with a rapid pace and you feel you are a part of the train. My favorite scene is a one-shot fight scene on board the train, because of its impressive camera work. I also like how intense it is, due to the crowded environment. My only problem with this film is that, while the main story is extremely interesting, there are many over-the-top scenarios, which turn the movie into unintentional comedy. Also, some of the filming and editing feels rushed in places.

The message of the movie is that doing the right thing will never be easy, but could result in the lives of many being saved. Despite his good intentions, Michael is put into one risky situation after another and he always must risk his life. However, he saves many through his selfless acts. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, because of its intense action and language. The movie releases in theaters on January 12, 2018, so check it out.

 

Insidious: The Last Key – Amazing Plot, Brilliant Performances, Very Scary Movie

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Brilliant parapsychologist Elise Rainier receives a disturbing phone call from a man who claims that his house is haunted. Even more disturbing is the address – 413 Apple Tree Lane in Five Keys, NM – the home where Elise grew up as a child. Accompanied by her two investigative partners, Rainier travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear – the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kamryn B. comments, “Insidious: The Last Key has an amazing plot, making you question what is really going on. The film made me jump a lot, but it does have some humor that made me smile, which doesn’t normally happen during a horror film.” See her full review below.

Insidious: The Last Key
By Kamryn B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

This is the scariest movie I have ever seen! It had me jumping out of my seat the whole time.

Insidious: The Last Key has an amazing plot, making you question what is really going on. The film made me jump a lot, but it does have some humor that made me smile, which doesn’t normally happen during a horror film. I like how the story behind the main character is melancholy, making the audience have to pay more attention to the relevance of her childhood and her current problem.

The story follows Elise Rainier, a real-life ghost buster and her haunted childhood house. The film travels back to her childhood when she realized she has a gift of seeing spirits and demons. Her mother tries to love Elise and her gift, while her father doesn’t want anything to do with her. With her gifts she opens a door, allowing an evil spirit into the world. She comes across this spirit again 57 years later, when a man is having supernatural experiences in the same house that she grew up in. When she arrives, things are worse than when she was a child.

Elise Rainer is played by Lin Shaye who makes her characters’ experiences seem very real. Elise’s gang includes  Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson). Elise’s brother, who suffered equally as a child, is Christan Rainer (Bruce Davison).

My favorite part is when Elise finds out that her nieces survived and that her brother Christian accepts her for the person she is, including her talents. I like this part because it applies to the real world and reminds us to accept others for who they are and not to be afraid of their differences. Another message is that people’s unique features have a purpose.

I give this 4 out of 5 stars. The special effects with the demons walking or crawling is so terrifyingly real, especially the Key Face’s hand. I recommend it for ages 14 to 18 as well as adults, especially if they enjoy horror films. This film opens in theaters January 5, 2018 so, check it out.

Insidious: The Last Key
By Alejandra Garcia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

This mystery/thriller film had me at the edge of my seat with all of its spooky scenes and the horror vibe it gives off by just looking at the title. Scary movies aren’t my cup of tea, but this one is the exception. Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth movie in the Insidious horror franchise, which focuses on both paranormal investigator and psychic Elise Rainier as well as her sidekicks. Looking back at the first film released in 2018, it appears that Insidious: The Last Key is a combination of the old and new films that have been seen in the series. I like when the creators behind a movie series do this, because it makes all of the films have similar traits and  maintains a unique essence to the series with the same message. It incorporates traits that make it stand out. Although the next film in the paranormal series brings back some of the crew that worked in the first films, this film has included a newcomer behind the camera.

The storyline is about both paranormal investigator and psychic parapsychologist named Elise Rainier who receives a disturbing phone call from a man claiming his house is haunted. She becomes more disturbed when she sees the address, which is the same home where Elise grew up and first experienced paranormal and haunted activity. She heads over to fix this situation along with her two investigative partners. She travels to Five Keys to confront and destroy her greatest fear, the demon that she accidentally set free years earlier.

My favorite scene is when Elise frees the demon that was trapped in the basement when she was younger. In the scene, she gets called down to the basement by this spirit and follows, because she is curious about what she might find. In the scene, she is very frustrated, because she notices that she is the only one that heard the spirit and wants to know why. She gets to the basement and finds a hidden red door and unlocks the spirit that is trapped behind it. Now, the whole process of her following the spirit’s steps to find it is very creepy, but it gets even creepier when the spirit escapes and starts haunting the whole family. That’s when all the breathtaking special effects combine to make sure the audience gets scared to death. I like this scene because it is the one that shocked me the most and set the standard for the rest of the movie. From that point on, I knew that I was going to leave the theater frightened, because if the movie started with that scene, I could just imagine how spooky and scary the rest of the scenes were going to be.

The important message for the audience is one of the most essential concepts in life: to have courage and forgiveness towards others. In this film, Elise notices that the demons feed on hate and revenge and she, along with her companions, realize that they could beat the bad forces by not feeding into those things, by being forgiving and showing compassion and understanding with the people around them. By changing their lifestyle and the way they treat others, they could turn the haunted vibes down and into something positive.

I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. This film is playing in theaters now so be sure to check it out.

 

 

 

 

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