Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for March, 2018

Isle Of Dogs: Incredibly Rich And Unique Stop-Motion Animation

Monday, March 26th, 2018

When, by executive decree, all the canine pets of Megasaki City are exiled to a vast garbage-dump called Trash Island, 12-year-old Atari sets off alone in a miniature Junior-Turbo Prop and flies across the river in search of his bodyguard-dog, Spots. There, with the assistance of a pack of newly-found mongrel friends, he begins an epic journey that will decide the fate and future of the entire Prefecture. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Clayton P. comments, “Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is a movie to be reckoned with. This incredibly unique piece of stop motion animation is totally different from the norm of today’s films.” Benjamin P. adds, “Wes Anderson’s direction is excellent. He thrives in stop-motion animation because he can meticulously craft each shot. His sometimes bizarre, yet charming style remains resonant, despite it being a change of pace from the stories he usually tells.” See their full reviews below.

Isle of Dogs
By Clayton P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs is a movie to be reckoned with. This incredibly unique piece of stop motion animation is totally different from the norm of today’s films. Written and directed by Wes Anderson, it stars the voices of Bryan Cranston as Chief, Edward Norton as Rex, Bill Murray as Boss, Liev Schreiber as Spots, Bob Balaban as King, Scarlett Johansson as Nutmeg and Jeff Goldblum as Duke.  It also stars Koyu Rankin as the young boy, Atari. It is the second animated film from Wes Anderson, after the wonderful Fantastic Mr. Fox.

In future Japan, where dogs are viewed as savage and disease ridden creatures, a young boy, Atari, searches for his dog, Spots. This dystopian world, created by his guardian, Mayor Kobayashi, disparages dogs but worships cats. Atari defies his guardian and along the way befriends some loyal, passionate pooches who help him on his fateful journey of finding his lost dog.

One thing I particularly adore about Wes Anderson’s filmmaking is his irreverent humor and creativity. It’s almost as if Anderson has a patent on an new genre of filmmaking, that’s entirely his own. During the making of this film, Anderson was influenced by his love for Japanese cinema and two of the most monumental Japanese directors – Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki. In an interview about his many influences for the film, he states “with Miyazaki you get nature and you get moments of peace, a kind of rhythm that is not in the American animation tradition…”. Later on, Anderson explains that during the scoring of the film he and his composer, Alexandre Desplat, had to rethink their approach to the soundtrack because the movie longed to be quiet. He later specifies that this aspect of the film also comes from Miyazaki.

The stop motion animation style pairs perfectly with the pure grittiness of its creativity. In most animated films you don’t hear the roughness or coarseness of the actors’ voices, but in Anderson’s film you do and it is the most lifelike.  Also, despite the humor, Anderson doesn’t sugar coat the seriousness of the story. His films are always truthful and cut to the heart of the matter.

I recommend Isle of Dogs for ages 12 to 18, due to its violence and sophisticated humor. Younger kids might not understand the ironic tone. I give it 5 out of 5 stars for bringing an incredibly unique vision to the mostly mundane animation of today.

Isle of Dogs
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

 

Isle of Dogs is a genius concept that only Wes Anderson could conjure up and makes for an enjoyable animated film with a quirky aesthetic.

Isle of Dogs takes place 20 years from now in a futuristic Japan. A disease spreading among dogs ravages Megasaki City and the mayor issues a decree that banishes all dogs to a vast, sickening wasteland called Trash Island. The film focuses the story on a pack of dogs who spend their days roaming, trying to stay alive among fierce competition. A young boy named Atari crashes onto the island one day in search of his dog and the pack decides to help him.

Wes Anderson’s direction is excellent. He thrives in stop-motion animation because he can meticulously craft each shot. His sometimes bizarre, yet charming style remains resonant, despite it being a change of pace from the stories he usually tells. Isle of Dogs is an homage to Japanese filmmaking, especially the films of Akira Kurosawa, and relies on Japanese language and culture to tell its story.

The film’s voice cast includes a range of famous actors, including longtime Wes Anderson partners Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton, as a pug oracle, as well as Yoko Ono as Assistant Scientist Yoko-ono and Jeff Goldblum as Duke, one of the dogs in the film’s showcase pack.

My favorite character is Chief (Bryan Cranston). He is a stray dog who goes through a moving transformation as he starts off dreading the idea of having a master. But through his adventure with Atari, Chief starts to learn what it is to care about people and open himself up to them. Cranston gives Chief a weariness that lets you know his character has been through a lot.

I recommend this film for ages 11 to 18, due to some violence involving dogs, some suggestive content and minor offensive language. Note that, despite animation and dogs as main characters, this is not a kids’ film. It’s really geared pre-teens to adults.

I give Isle of Dogs 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this film for Wes Anderson fans and those who like a good adventure featuring man’s best friend. Although this film misses the chance to develop really interesting ideas and characters, it is still fun and hilarious in all the right ways. Isle of Dogs opens in theaters March 23, 2018 so check it out.

Photos © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

 

Sherlock Gnomes: Frequently Clever, But Jumbled Story and Too Many Characters

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

After a string of garden gnome disappearances in London, Gnome & Juliet look to legendary detective Sherlock Gnomes to solve the case of their missing friends and family. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Sherlock Gnomes is a frequently clever animated film that has a few fun moments, yet suffers from a jumbled story and too many characters to fully engage you in the movie as a whole.” See his entire review below.

Sherlock Gnomes
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Sherlock Gnomes is a frequently clever animated film that has a few fun moments, yet suffers from a jumbled story and too many characters to fully engage you in the movie as a whole.

Sherlock Gnomes is a sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet and brings together garden gnome versions of the famous detective and the Shakespearean couple from the first installment. Gnomeo and Juliet move to a new garden in London that disappoints their entire faction of gnomes. Gnomeo and Juliet are appointed the new leaders to turn the garden into a beautiful wonderland for their little village. Meanwhile, several gardens have been erased of all signs of gnomekind and soon, Gnomeo and Juliet’s is too. The dynamic duo of the incredibly smart, but sometimes selfish detective and protector of London’s garden gnomes Sherlock Gnomes and his trusty sidekick Watson are on the case and intend to catch the culprit and track down the missing gnomes, with the help of Gnomeo and Juliet.

Unfortunately the collision of these literary duos doesn’t work very well. Their stories have very different characters and tones. The film makes clever references to Sherlock Holmes and his works that will be enjoyable for fans of the character’s inspiration, but the collaboration still feels forced. Gnomeo and Juliet go through a storyline that feels out of place and their conversations have a repetitive message. The characters feel less developed against the more engaging Sherlock Gnomes.

My favorite character is Sherlock Gnomes (Johnny Depp). He embodies the qualities of the literary detective and makes his portrayal of Sherlock his own, giving him a more fun and comedic manner. He also nails Sherlock’s complex relationship with Watson.

I recommend this film for ages 5 to 9 due to some crude humor. Younger kids will enjoy the film’s bright colors and caper elements and older kids and adults might enjoy some of the humor. However, this film lacks the vivid animation and nuance that offers the same wide appeal of other animated films. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars because the story is a bit confusing, although it has some characters and good laughs. It comes out in theaters on March 23, 2018 so check it out.

 

 

Pacific Rim: Uprising – Big Robots, Big Monsters, Amazing Visuals

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Jake Pentecost is a once-promising Jaeger pilot whose legendary father gave his life to secure humanity’s victory against the monstrous Kaiju. Jake has since abandoned his training only to become caught up in a criminal underworld. But when an even more unstoppable threat is unleashed to tear through cities and bring the world to its knees, Jake is given one last chance by his estranged sister, Mako Mori, to live up to his father’s legacy. Kamryn B. comments, “This action-packed film is pretty decent. I like that the plot continues from the last movie. The characters are as interesting as their story.” See her full review below.

Pacific Rim: Uprising
By Kamryn B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

This action-packed film is pretty decent. I like that the plot continues from the last movie. The characters are as interesting as their story. The one problem is the sequencing. Some scenes are pointless and are ordered in such a way that they don’t make sense. However, if you like fighting robots, you’ll love it.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is the sequel to Pacific Rim. It takes place ten years after the war, which took place in the first film, was won. Jake Pentecost (John Boyegas), a carefree, retired pilot, is living life in a messed-up world.  Through unwanted circumstances, he meets a 15-year old hacker named Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny). With common personalities and different pasts, they create a bond that no one can break. With this new bond, old friends of Jake’s and new friends of Amara’s collaborate to fight the Kaiju for what is left of humanity.

This film is directed and written by Steven S. DeKnight, known for producing the Netflix series Daredevil. DeKnight pulls the story together without losing your attention on the main crisis with the Kaiju. My hats off to the special effects team. The robot close-ups are so realistic, it seems like you can reach out and touch them. The robot fights are also extremely real. The intense music by Lorne Balfe makes the movie extremely engaging. It is also surprisingly comical. Jake Pentecost’s sarcastic tone makes you question whether the group is really living in a life or death situation or not.

My favorite character is Amara. She has a spark from beginning to end in the movie. Her ability to create her very own robot or Jaeger is amazing. Her curiosity and her attitude about doing the right thing is pleasant to see in an action movie. Seeing the connection between Jake and Amara develop through out the film is a favorite part. The message of this film is that “despite who your family is, who you think you are or what you’ve done in the past, you can still be a hero.”

I rate this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. It opens nationwide in theaters Friday, March 23, 2018 so look for it.

Photo credit: Universal Pictures

 

Guess How Much I Love you: An Enchanting Easter – Beautiful Animation, Adorable Storyline

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Enjoy this Easter special adventure based on the classic picture book that has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram and published by Walker Books. When Little Nutbrown Hare sees a pure white fawn shining and dancing in the moonlight his friends think he s making it up. They venture through the woody woods in the next valley, down the streamy stream and pass the rocky rocks to find her but as their doubt grows, she is right there hiding on the patches of white snow, thinking it s a big game of hide and seek. She promises to visit them on Easter Day making Easter that much more special for all. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carla P. comments, “This film has beautiful animation and an adorable storyline that I love.” Nathalia J. adds, “It’s so rare to find a truly quality children’s film such as this. I love how the storyline brings together so many themes including friendship, believing, togetherness and Easter. Wow! What an amazing combination!” Morgan B. wraps it up with, “Easter is on its way and this hare is perfect for the holiday season. The life lessons are about friendship and being kind to others. We see this in the kindness extended to the pure white fawn when they show her that they can be friends.” See their full reviews below.

Guess How Much I Love You: An Enchanting Easter
By Carla P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

The DVD Guess How Much I Love You: An Enchanting Easter is a great movie for the whole family. This film has beautiful animation and an adorable storyline that I love.

Guess How Much I Love You: An Enchanting Easter follows a group of forest animals. One, the Little Nutbrown Hare sees a pure white fawn that enchants him. He tells his father and his friends – the field mouse, the fox and the grey squirrel. They do not believe him at first but Little Nutbrown Hare convinces them to help find the white fawn.

The animation in this series is adorable. The characters and background are very colorful. In every scene, there is always a pop of color, whether it is a vibrant blue or a soft pink. The characters look just like the illustrations in the original book, which I love. It is remarkable how detailed the characters are. For example, the fox has orange fur that fades at the end. It looks like a watercolor painting.

If I was to pick my favorite character, it would be the field mouse or perhaps Little Nutbrown Hare’s father. I like the field mouse, because he is the only one who believes in Little Nutbrown Hare and what he saw. I also like Little Nutbrown Hare’s father, because he is so kind. He takes care of the mother bird’s eggs while she goes to get feathers for her nest. When the birds hatche, he takes them to where he kept warm during the storms until their mother cam back.

The message of this movie is to trust your friends. The fox and the grey squirrel did not believe Little Nutbrown Hare’s story about seeing a pure white fawn. The only one that really believes him is the field mouse. He keeps Little Nutbrown Hare’s hopes up when his friends did not believe him. I rate this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages five to seven. This is available on DVD so, look for it.

Guess How Much I Love You: An Enchanting Easter
By Nathalia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

Easter! I love Easter! This 30 minute fantastic, delightful and pure film is directed by Jo Boag. It’s so rare to find a truly quality children’s film such as this. I love how the storyline brings together so many themes including friendship, believing, togetherness and Easter. Wow! What an amazing combination! Get ready to head down a road filled with adventure.

The story follows Little Nutbrown Hare leading a journey to find a pure white fawn that he sees shining and dancing in the moonlight near his village. His friends think he’s making it up. They take a gamble endeavor through the woods in the next valley, down the flowing creek and past the rocks to find her. As their doubt grows, she is right there hiding on the patches of white snow. She instantly thinks it’s a big game of hide and seek. She promises to visit them on Easter Day, making Easter that much special for them all.

This film is based on the classic book that has sold worldwide, written by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram and published by Walker Books. The animation is astonishing from beginning to end. The characters are beautiful, colorful, appealing and attractive throughout the entire movie. This film is downright delightful, bringing so much joy for one to appreciate. I just love the animals, especially the cute baby birds! The music really supports the lovely characters and action.

My favorite part is when Little Nutbrown Hare and his friends save the pure white fawn from drowning in the stream. It shows how much he cares and adores her. Absolutely touching! This part in the film has many different actions happening at the same time. All of Little Nutbrown Hare’s friends find out the pure white fawn is real and not in Little Nutbrown Hare’s imagination. At this moment they are reminded the world is full of marvelous animals. My favorite characters are the pure white fawn and Little Nutbrown Hare, because they are both happy, intriguing, playable and friendly.

This film has a great message of friendship and love and the meaning behind them. True friendships are displayed in this film and we see the genuine love and understanding the characters have for each other. It absolutely calls you to action when they venture out to find pure white fawn. All the characters treat one another appropriately, helping help each other, saying nice things and being friendly to one another.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 11, as well as adults. This film is available now on DVD and Digital, so go check it out before Easter.

Guess How Much I Love You: An Enchanting Easter
By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

I love Guess How Much I Love You: An Enchanting Easter! It is a great addition for my collection of Easter movies because it is so cute!

Easter is on its way and this hare is perfect for the holiday season. The life lessons are about friendship and being kind to others. We see this in the kindness extended to the pure white fawn when they show her that they can be friends. The other life lessons are about teamwork and believing in your friends.

The animation is just breathtaking. It is so perfectly executed that it looks like a perfect little story book with live animals. The scenes with the snow are amazing because of the color mix. It is truly magical.

My favorite character is the pure white fawn. She is a new character that I will always remember. I love her personality. She has a sweet side, which she shows towards the end of the film and a funny, silly, playful side that she shows in the beginning. I am in love with her character’s voice which is so soft and sweet, making her the perfect fawn.  Her interaction with all the different animals shows that she fits right in and they all gain a new BFF.

Another thing that I like about this DVD are the voiceovers. They match the characters wonderfully with their soft tones, making sound a lot like young children. Each character has a small, adorable and squeaky voice.

All the animals are lovable and each one has a different personality. This makes me feel like I am meeting them for real. I want to jump into the screen and give them a big welcome hug. It also makes me want to jump through the TV and play in the meadow as they celebrate Easter.  This is a perfect way to get into the spirit of spring after a long, cold and rainy winter.

I recommend this DVD for kids age 4 to 13 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It is available now on DVD so look for it.

 

 

 

 

Tomb Raider (2018) – A Most Enjoyable Video Game Adaptation!

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination — a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn’t be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “…one of the more enjoyable video game adaptations. The acting and the direction provide the same sense of adventure and excitement as the video game. This is sure to be a must-see watch for fans of Lara Croft or anything adventure related.” Morgan B. adds, “Mysteries, stupendous graphics, a terrific story and action all make this one awesome film! I love the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Tomb Raider has just topped it. The ending had me breathless.” See their full reviews below.

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

Tomb Raider is one of the more enjoyable video game adaptations. The acting and the direction provide the same sense of adventure and excitement as the video game. This is sure to be a must-see watch for fans of Lara Croft or anything adventure related.

The story follows Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), an intelligent yet reckless thrill-seeker, who embarks on an adventure unlike any other, when she finds evidence of her father’s disappearance. Seeking to solve the mystery of Richard Croft (Dominic West), Lara enlists the help of Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a ship captain. However, their adventure lands up in the worst when their ship crashes to Yamatai. Lara soon finds herself in the hands of Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins), a rival archeologist who will do anything to unlock the tomb within Yamatai. Realizing the tomb will unleash global genocide, Lara must find a way to stop Vogel while discovering secrets about her father.

Alicia Vikander, as Lara Croft, is my favorite character and splendidly presents the character of Lara Croft and her struggle/rise to become the well-known “Tomb Raider.” Her acerbic wit and vulnerability add a relatable extension to the character. Dominic West, as Richard Croft, excellently delivers his love for Lara and adventure. His mystery adds to plot, which leaves you wanting to know more about it at every turn. Daniel Wu, as Lu Ren, is a capable and funny companion to Lara and he shows a caring need to help the poor. Walton Goggins, as Matthias Vogel, portrays a threatening, yet over the top performance as the main villain, and it works for the most part. His involvement in the Croft conspiracy is interesting as well.

Roar Uthaug incredibly directs the movie with a knowledge of the video games, resulting in a brisk pace from one scene to the next. My favorite scene is when Lara has to find a way out of a plane which is slowly falling off of a river bank. It is extremely intense and it reminded of me of fun, innovative levels from the Uncharted and Tomb Raider games. My problem with the movie is, despite a superb first half, the second half falls from an overreliance on CGI and over-the-top scenarios, often leading to unintentional comedy. It feels jarring when compared to such a first half.

The message of the movie is to always be hopeful, as this allows Lara to keep fighting, even in the toughest of times. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 because of its intense action. The movie releases in theaters on March 16, 2018 so check it out.

Tomb Raider
By Morgan B. Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Mysteries, stupendous graphics, a terrific story and action all make this one awesome film! I love the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Tomb Raider has just topped it. The ending had me breathless.

The astonishing graphics are crazy. The ancient tomb is amazing. Everything looks so realistic and very magical. I would love to travel through it and see the wonders inside. Another scene that has a lot of fantastic graphics is the one where Lara Croft and her new companion are caught in a humongous storm. The water looks stormy and crystal clear and I loved this scene because I felt cold and scared while watching it.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the kind of girl that you don’t want to mess with. After all, she raids tombs and runs after villains, and these happen to be her best qualities. Also she has a kindhearted, lovable side that wants her father back desperately after his mysterious disappearance seven years ago. She shows both sides of her personality and makes sure that she isn’t too nice or too mean. Lara Croft is also a good role model for girls who want to stand up for themselves and people who want to learn self-defense. These are the reasons why she is my favorite character. Yes, she knows how to shoot a bow and arrow. Watching all of the various fighting styles and action scenes Alicia Vikander is able to pull off is entertaining.

My favorite scene is when Lara Croft and Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) are trying to escape the tomb and the tomb collapses. I also loved the fact that Lara shows a bit of both sides in this scene because she fighting and also knows that a dreadful fate awaits her father.

The story line is easy to follow and a bit cliché, but worth watching due to the scenery and of course the treasure hunt. The treasure and the underground cave are amazing discoveries. Watch your step because each step is a risk. After all, you might right set off a booby trap or two. The end leads you to believe that there will be more Lara Croft stories in the future.

This is a great first film to reintroduce this powerful female adventure seeking, action figure. The 2001 Lara Croft is very self-assured, tough, smart and fearless.  In this movie she is very young and not sure of herself, but she is quick learner, although a bit naive. She has  room to grow until she becomes the Angelina Jolie version. 2018 she is still not sure of herself

Tomb Raider has a few messages. They include: standing up for yourself when you’re in danger, helping others when they are in need, being yourself and not being afraid to do the impossible.  Another message is the value of a good education which helps Lara solve puzzles throughout the tomb.

I give this film5 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Tomb Raider does have a lot of violence and intense action which is bit too much for younger kids. Tomb Raider comes out in theaters on March 16,  2018 so be sure to check it out.

Photo credit: © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.
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