Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for September, 2019

Abominable * Heartwarming Watch for Families. Excellent Voice Acting and Breathtaking Visuals

Friday, September 27th, 2019

After discovering a Yeti on the roof of her apartment building, teenage Yi and her two friends embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family. But to do so, they must stay one step ahead of a wealthy financier and a determined zoologist who want to capture the beast for their own gain. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Abominable is a heartwarming watch for families. Excellent voice acting and breathtaking visuals are the show-stealers. It truly has something for everyone.” Benjamin P. adds, “Abominable is electrifying to watch when it finds its own cinematic voice and personality, but it doesn’t ever fully escape from some predictable moments that keep it from reaching the potential glimpsed in its best scenes.” Ivey H. wraps it up with, “Abominable is a great animated film, fun for the whole family! It is very heartfelt. I really love its beautifully animated scenes, especially those with violin playing laced in. This film mixes both fantasy and adventure. The feel of the movie is soothing and delivers positive vibes.” See their full reviews below.

Abominable
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Abominable is a heartwarming watch for families. Excellent voice acting and breathtaking visuals are the show-stealers. It truly has something for everyone.

Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Peng (Albert Tsai), Everest and Yi (Chloe Bennet) in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.

The story follows teenager Yi (Chloe Bennet) as she encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building. She and her good friends, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai), name him “Everest” and embark on a quest to bring the magical creature home. But they will have to stay one-step ahead of Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy man intent on capturing a Yeti, and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) to help Everest.

Chloe Bennet is great as Yi, with her voice work providing emotion and wit. I especially enjoyed her dynamic with Everest as the two start to relate with one another. This is really the film’s heart and best elements. Tenzing Norgray Trainor and Albert Tsai, as Jin and Peng, are great companions and provide effective voice work. Peng is always hilarious, providing comic relief, while Jin comes to his own in his effective character arc that captures the spirit of being brave. Eddie Izzard, as Burnish, utilizes his comedic charm and blunt accent to great degree. Sarah Paulson, as Dr. Zara, is also a formidable threat as there is more than meets the eye with her.

Yi (Chloe Bennet) and Everest in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.

Jill Culton revitalizes DreamWorks Animation with a nice blend of adventure and comedy, which has engaging narrative choices. Some scenes are realized so beautifully; especially the one involving Coldplay’s Fix You. My favorite scene is Jin’s trip to Everest, as it captures his arc effectively and features a great sense of humor. However, the film loses steam by the end and drags quite a bit. You will feel the 90 minute runtime as the group sequesters. Also, I feel that complex themes dealing with loss and grief are sidelined by the amount of humor. And, it is a children’s movie after all, so I appreciate the effort to explore this territory.

The message of this film is in knowing when to reach out to others. Yi tries to accept others in her life by empathetically communicating. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. The movie releases in theaters on September 27, 2019, so check it out.

Abominable
By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Abominable is electrifying to watch when it finds its own cinematic voice and personality, but it doesn’t ever fully escape from some predictable moments that keep it from reaching the potential glimpsed in its best scenes.

(from left) – Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Peng (Albert Tsai) and Yi (Chloe Bennet) with Everest in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.

Co-produced by DreamWorks Animation and Chinese production company Pearl Studio, Abominable is set in China and follows Yi, a girl mourning the death of her father. She does numerous odd jobs to afford the trip she plans to take in her father’s memory. One day, up on the roof of her apartment building where she sneaks off to play her violin, she finds an escaped yeti that she names Everest. How he got there and what he’s capable of remain a mystery, but Yi makes it her mission to return Everest to his home and his family and protect him from the dangers on the way there.

The craftsmanship and detail of the animation is impeccable. Some of Abominable’s best moments are strengthened by the lush animation. A field of yellow flowers turns into a tidal wave, a chase over the rooftops of a vibrant, colorful China and clouds morphing into aquatic creatures that our characters ride towards a picturesque skyline. This film has plenty of imagery that will stick with you after the credits roll. Abominable has one visually engrossing setpiece after another.

I also love how integral music is in Abominable. Playing the violin is how Yi connects with her father after he’s gone and expresses what she’s feeling with every single note. The violin factors heavily into the score and is flawlessly graceful. Over the course of the film, Yi realizes her ability to do great things through her music and it’s an important facet of her development onscreen.

(from left) Yi (Chloe Bennet) and Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.

I wish the care and precision that go into the visuals and music were evident in the movie’s story. Abominable is at least the third family film about yetis within 18 months, coming after Missing Link and Smallfoot and it feels a tad derivative from the get-go. A mythical creature and human form a close friendship and imposing forces threaten to tear them apart. The formula works, sure, but Abominable rarely makes any changes to the basic blueprint or subverts expectations of where it’s headed.

I recommend Abominable for ages 4 to 15 due to scenes of mild peril and give it 3 out of 5 stars. This film will probably appeal to both young and old, but is geared more towards younger children. Abominable certainly has strokes of greatness, but you’ve seen this story told before. If you enjoy the film, stay through the credits for some fun photos. Abominable opens in theaters September 27, 2019.

Abominable
By Ivey H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Abominable is a great animated film, fun for the whole family! It is very heartfelt. I really love its beautifully animated scenes, especially those with violin playing laced in. This film mixes both fantasy and adventure. The feel of the movie is soothing and delivers positive vibes. 

(from left) Yi (Chloe Bennet), Peng (Albert Tsai) and Everest in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.

The plot is very deep, creative and well-thought-out.  The story follows a rare never-before-seen Yeti who escapes a mean zoologist and wealthy art collector. The art collector wants to display the Yeti to the world and yet the zoologist has her own plans. What will become of this lovable creature?

The Yeti escapes and finds his way to the rooftop of a young woman named Yi. She is an independent misfit going through a difficult time. Yi is played by Chloe Bennet who does an excellent job with the voice over and with the emotions of this young character. Yi lost her dad and she keeps herself busy in order to not think of her loss. When she discovers the Yeti, her life is forever changed. Yi decides to help the Yeti named “Everest” (Joseph Izzo) get back to his home. Even the neighbors get caught up into the commotion and accidentally end up on this journey with Yi. 

(from left) – Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor), Yi (Chloe Bennet) and Peng (Albert Tsai) with Everest in DreamWorks Animation and Pearl Studio’s “Abominable,” written and directed by Jill Culton.

Yi’s family is so cute! I love the character Nai Nai played by Tsai Chin. It reminds me of my nanna and she is so comical. Peng is played well by Albert Tsai, creating a character so obsessed with social media and his phone, just like so many of us kids today.  There is a lot of great comedic timing from the actors and there are many beautiful scenes throughout. A couple of my favorite scenes happen when they face obstacles escaping the bad guys—especially, the fields of yellow flowers that turn into a tidal wave, and the tree that has amazing pink flowers and lights that bloom.  It’s a wonderful, magical scene with the violin playing along. There are beautiful historical sites and scenes depicted of real places in China. The colors are so bright and vibrant that you stay on the edge of your seat. The director and writer Jill Culton has created phenomenal animation that blew me away. 

I give Abominable 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. You should go to the big screen and check this out! It is playing in theaters now.

Yo-Kai Watch, Season 1, Volume 2 * The Invisible Spirit-Like Entities, Yo-Kai Are At It Again

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Nate is a just a regular boy struggling to be above average at school. One day when he receives the Yo-kai Watch, he gets the chance to see and communicate with these mischievous Yo-kai. With the Yo-kai Watch on his wrist, Nate starts to form friendships with them and learn of the things that make life so complicated. There’s just one problem… they’re everywhere and they love to cause mischief! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “I like this DVD because this animation kind of looks like Pokemon.  This show is a combination of anime cartoons and Pokemon like characters, except that a watch is used instead of the red, white and black ball. And instead of Pokemon, the creatures (or spirits in this case) are named Yo-kai.” Jordan M. comments, ” I really like how the show balances an adventurous aspect with humor. Throughout the show, both the mischievous Yo-kai and the main characters are constantly saying and doing funny things that will keep audiences laughing. “Elizabeth T. adds, “The show offers examples of kindness and consideration of others, particularly when dealing with clashing personalities, and there are legitimate examples of love shown, particularly for those closest to young people such as their parents, siblings, and friends.” See their full reviews below.

Yo-Kai Watch, Season 1, Volume 2
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

I like this DVD because this animation kind of looks like Pokemon.  This show is a combination of anime cartoons and Pokemon like characters, except that a watch is used instead of the red, white and black ball. And instead of Pokemon, the creatures (or spirits in this case) are named Yo-kai.

The Yo-kai Watch DVD includes two disks of Season 1, Volume 2, episodes.  Each disk is approximately 145 minutes long, for a total of 290 minutes.  That’s a lot of cartoons!  Each disk has a variety of different episodes, that are not necessarily in order. For example, disk 1 has episodes 3, 4, 5, 6, 2, 3 and 4, which was a little confusing to me. 

The storyline on this DVD is about a kid named Nate, who is an average boy that struggles to be popular at school.  His parents are somewhat fun, but to him they are also rather weird.  He has a special watch with different Yo-Kai’s, which are invisible spirit-like entities responsible for annoying situations that make Nate’s life to not be the same.  One particular Yo-kai is his best friend. His name is Whisper and he teaches Nate about all the different types of Yo-kai  and what they are capable of doing.

The theme song is catchy and appropriate for this show.  The animation is very neat; the colors are bright and the background is colorful and well drawn.  The episodes are kind of confusing because they don’t follow a sequence.  It’s a mix of different situations. There are also two other story lines. One is about the great (Dog) escape, the other is about two Yo-Kai brothers in the city trying to learn how to live in the city.

My favorite episode of all is Spring Break Present. This episode is about a package that Whispers gives Nate as a Spring Break present.  Inside the package is a card for Nate to use as a Yo-Kai repellent, so he can take a break from all the trouble that these spirits are causing him. The whole episode is really funny; that’s why it’s my favorite.  

I give this DVD 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 15.  The Yo-Kai Watch DVD is available now.  If you are an anime fan, you might really enjoy this DVD, so look for it!

Yo-Kai Watch: Season 1, Volume 2
By Jordan Millar, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

The hilarious and clever show Yo-Kai Watch, directed by Mark Risley, is incredibly animated and whimsical. It is filled with a variety of different characters that kids really get to know.

The episodes follow the wild adventures of a young boy named Nate (Johnny Yong Bosch) who receives the mysterious Yo-kai watch from the ghostly Yo-kai named Whisper, who is Nate’s butler and best friend. This means that Nate is granted the power to see the Yo-kai, which are mischievous invisible beings from another dimension, that cause problems everyday.

In this volume, it is up to Nate and Whisper to summon the Yo-kai they have befriended to defeat the troublesome ones and save the day. There are tons of new Yo-kai to be stopped, such as Dazzabel, who makes people become obsessed with being fashionable, and Babblong, who makes people tell long and boring stories. This volume is filled with fun characters that everyone will love.

I really like how the show balances an adventurous aspect with humor. Throughout the show, both the mischievous Yo-kai and the main characters are constantly saying and doing funny things that will keep audiences laughing.

My favorite character is Whisper because he’s endearing and clever and is knowledgeable about all things Yo-kai, plus he is the trusted sidekick that everyone wants to have. Also, I enjoy how in each episode, there is a new Yo-kai to be defeated, each with its own personality and appearance, which keeps the show very entertaining and unique. You never know what is going to happen next. Visually, the show is very detailed with vivid anime style animation and has great character development, which really contributes to the episodes. Fans of anime will love the look of this show.

Yo-kai Watch: Season 1, Volume 2 has many quirky, funny and imaginative elements that make it enjoyable. It has great entertainment value.

I rate this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, but it is also perfect for the entire family. You can find it on digital DVD now so look for it.  

Yo-Kai Watch, Season 1, Volume 2
By Jennifer V, KIDS FIRST! Reviewer

The Yo-kai are invisible spirit-like entities that take many forms and are liable for your daily troubles. Nathan Adams (Nate), is a normal boy who one day receives the Yo-kai watch and is able to see the Yo-kai. These mischievous entities show up unexpectedly and you never know what is going to happen. This series has good production quality and the story lines flow well. It captures the audience’s attention with catchy music, bright colors and true-to-life adventure mixed with imaginative themes.

The series highlights the ability to problem-solve as Nate and his Yo-kai have to discover a way out of silly and chaotic situations. Some of the jokes are more grown up and the story lines are more suited for more mature kids. For example, the Yo-kai talk about being hot, as in attractive. An older child would enjoy this series due to its catchy theme songs and familiar story lines. The story-lines flow well, are easy to follow and draw you in. When Nate is overcome by handsomeness, his classmates respond as normal teenagers would and tell him that he is creeping them out. The material is accurate and is suitable for its target audience. The series uses vocabulary that is more suitable for teens with words such as narcissist and sketchy. It’s visually appealing with lots of bright colors, the music is catchy. The DVD cover design is appealing, showcasing the main characters and listing several of the episodes. The series is high in entertainment value and does invite the viewer to question, probe and problem-solve. For example, in The Legend of Dandoodle, Nate is overcome by handsomeness and his Yo-kai must find a way to help.

The message is to be careful what you wish for. Although the Yo-kai Watch allows you to see the Yo-kai, once they are in your life, things can be chaotic.  Yo-Kai Watch Season 1, Volume 2 is a highly entertaining DVD series, totaling 290 minutes of fantastical adventure. The menu offers the option to play all episodes or watch them individually. Each episode has a run time of 20-22 minutes of non-stop action. I recommend it for ages 12 to 18 and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. This available now so, check it out.

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2 * So Many Things To Learn – Walking On Clouds, Staying Balanced, Being Creative…

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Enjoy the second volume of the third season of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! The award-winning television show follows the adventures of 6-year-old best friends, Sally and Nick, as they’re whisked off on amazing voyages of scientific discovery with The Cat in the Hat. Thanks to the Thinga-ma-jigger and our friends, exploring has never been more exciting! In this volume set, kids will learn about their five senses, what it’s like to walk on clouds, why keeping it simple is sometimes the best solution, how to make things more aerodynamic, and much more! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “There are so many things to learn in The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2, like walking on clouds, staying balanced, being creative and more! All of the made-up words are so imaginative, like thingamajiger, jigamawhizzer, pedalmadoodle and dipsey-doodler. Martin Short has the perfect voice to play The Cat. My favorite episode is Enough is Enough because it shows how to be a helpful friend.” Selene W. adds, “I love The Cat in the Hat, because he always makes me laugh with his weird made-up jokes and words.  He also tries to fix things, but always ends up ruining things and creating more problems.” Beatrice N. wraps it up with, “The theme song is fun and catchy and tells about all the adventures they will have! The Cat in The Hat is voiced by the hilarious comedic actor Martin Short. The Cat in the Hat is always up for an adventure and can’t stop himself from making silly jokes.” See their full reviews below.

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2
By Katherine Schell, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The Cat in The Hat sure does know a lot about that.  I absolutely love The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2. It has such cute and adorable characters and really vibrant animation.

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2 is about two best friends named Sally and Nick going on exciting adventures with the Cat in The Hat, Fish and, of course, Thing 1 and Thing 2.  There are 20 episodes covering nearly four hours and include Curious Minds, Bubble Trouble, Batteries Not Included and Cause and Effect

There are so many things to learn in The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2, like walking on clouds, staying balanced, being creative and more! All of the made-up words are so imaginative, like thingamajiger, jigamawhizzer, pedalmadoodle and dipsey-doodler. Martin Short has the perfect voice to play The Cat. My favorite episode is Enough is Enough because it shows how to be a helpful friend.

There are many positive messages throughout the DVD including teaching kids to be curious, the value of friendship, and that learning is fun. The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2 has no bad language and treats everyone appropriately.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars.  I recommend this DVD for ages 3 to 8 and adults might also enjoy watching this with their kids. This DVD is currently available so look for it.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3 Volume 2
By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Let’s go, go, go on an adventure with The Cat in the Hat  and friends!  Season 3, Volume 2 DVD which includes 20 episodes and almost 4 hours of learning and entertainment.  I love The Cat in the Hat, because he always makes me laugh with his weird made-up jokes and words.  He also tries to fix things, but always ends up ruining things and creating more problems.

This series focuses on scientific discovery and kids have so much fun watching the shows that they forget they are really learning a great deal about the world around us.  Stories include:  Snow Difference, Bubble Trouble, Good Vibrations and Curious Minds, which reflect the messages of the series.  My favorite episode is All Sorts of Things, which teaches that there are different ways to sort and categorize the things that belong to Nick, Sally and The Cat in the Hat. 

The Cat in the Hat Season 3, Volume 2 has many great actors and stars the one and only Martin Short who plays the role of the Cat, Alexa Torrington who voices Sally and Jacob Ewaniuk who plays the role of Nick. The animation, as always, are wacky and colorful under the guidance of Art Director Kay Pluto and I especially enjoyed the scenes in Bubble Trouble.  The original theme song by David Schweitzer is catchy and memorable.  You may watch this in both English and Spanish.

The message of this DVD is about problem solving in different ways and it promotes creativity and curious minds. I rate this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 4 to 10. It is available now, so look for it.

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2
By Beatrice N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

It’s the Cat in the Hat! All of your favorite adventures start like that! Dr. Seuss’ most loveable Cat is back with his two friends, Sally and Nick. These two friends are only six years old, so of course they have many questions that only the Cat can answer by taking them to his imaginative worlds. And that’s just what he does in this new DVD, which has 20 exciting episodes, The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About That! Season 3, Volume 2.

At the beginning of each episode Sally and Nick are playing with their friend Fish when they run into a problem. Whenever things look their bleakest the Cat pops up and tells them about a place they can visit that will help them solve their problem. You’re probably thinking the Cat can’t possibly help these two kids out of these tricky situations all on his own. You’re absolutely correct. In fact, he has two helpers: Thing One and Thing Two. Thing One and Thing Two are twin brothers and, even though they are silly and crazy, they are always a big help to the Cat. The Cat in the Hat Knows a lot About That is an educational show that teaches you something, while the Cat is trying to help Sally and Nick solve their problem, in each new episode.

The episodes always begin in Sally and Nick’s backyard, but once the Cat shows up in his plane, The Thingamajigger, who knows the places they will go! The theme song is fun and catchy and tells about all the adventures they will have! The Cat in The Hat is voiced by the hilarious comedic actor Martin Short. Sally is played by Alexa Torrington. Nick is played by Jacob Ewaniuk. The Fish is played by Rob Tinkler. The Cat in the Hat is always up for an adventure and can’t stop himself from making silly jokes. Fish is way too smart and sassy for his own good, and Sally is a little girl who is always ready to go as long as she has her BFF Nick, a fun-loving and witty boy, along for the ride.

The message of this show is to always use your imagination and it will get you out of any tricky situation. Be a child while you still can, always have fun and be ready for any adventure!

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommended it for ages 2 to 9 years old. It is available on DVD now.

Downton Abbey * Elegant, Well Narrated, Exquisite Performances

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Downton Abbey is a 2019 British historical period drama film that acts as a continuation of the British television series of the same name. The film is written by Julian Fellowes, creator and executive producer of the television series, and directed by Michael Engler. Much of the original cast returns. The film, set in 1927, depicts an official state visit by the King and Queen to the Crawley family’s English country house in the Yorkshire countryside. As the Royal staff descend on Downton an assassin has also arrived and attempts to kill the monarch. The family and servants are pitted against the royal entourage, including the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting who has fallen out with the Crawleys, especially the Dowager Countess, over an inheritance issue. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “This is probably one of my all time favorite movies! Downton Abbey stands alone as a film and it doesn’t matter if you watched the TV series or if you are totally new to the story. It is elegant, well narrated and the performances are fascinating.” Selene W. adds, “The majesty of Downton Abbey is its own character in the film and there is gorgeous footage of the estate.  The entire cast is talented and noteworthy, but I particularly enjoyed the sarcasm of Violet Crawley, played by the indomitable Maggie Smith, as she is “an expert in every matter.” Morgan B. wraps it up with, “All the way from TV to new movie comes Downton Abbey, a place of joy and mystery as well as love and honor. As a fan of the show I am so glad to see they made a movie and let us know how everything ends.” See their full reviews below.

Downton Abbey
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

This is probably one of my all time favorite movies! Downton Abbey stands alone as a film and it doesn’t matter if you watched the TV series or if you are totally new to the story. I have not seen the TV series and enjoyed very much this long format installment. It is elegant, well narrated and the performances are fascinating. From the beginning you are transported to early in the 20th century – the clock, the train, the letters. Very elaborate and detailed art direction combines with beautiful cinematography that makes this so pleasant to watch.

Michelle Dockery stars as Lady Mary Talbot and Matthew Goode as Henry Talbot in DOWNTON ABBEY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

This is the story of the Crawley Family, a wealthy family that own a state in the countryside in England, and all the employees that live with them. They are exited to receive the visit of the Queen and King of England, but their efforts to serve and all preparations are sabotaged by the monarchy protocol that insists the royals will bring their own servitude. During this very expected visit, all the people in Downton Abbey, from upstairs to downstairs, get involved in a series of events that ends up changing their lives.

We see the devotion and commitment every character has for this royal visit, which I found inspiring. Everyone is determined to perform their duties exceptionally well.  I loved the performances by Hugh Bonneville (as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Tuppence Middleton (as Lucy) and especially Maggie Smith (as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham). She is charming and funny.

Jim Carter stars as Charles Carson in DOWNTON ABBEY. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

The cinematography (Ben Smithard) and the sets (Donal Woods) revive the splendor of an era that I can’t believe existed not long ago. I love the costumes; they are rich and elaborate. John Lunn has composed beautiful music that is touching and intriguing at the same time and is a perfect fit for the movie. It is very classy.

The message of this film is that we all have to be true to ourselves and do what is important, for the passion of what matters. There are some jokes that I did not understand or are more suitable for grown ups, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this very classic story.

I give Downtown Abbey it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 16+, because there are some mildly intense scenes. It opens in theaters September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Downton Abbey
By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11  


Looking for royal intrigue and aristocratic shenanigans?  Then, Downton Abbey is your cup of tea. 

This film is the continuing story of the Crawley Family who are the wealthy owners of Downton Abbey. The story unfolds as the entire family and their staff are in an uproar at the approaching visit of King George V and Queen Mary.  Their upcoming visit is a great honor, but also a challenge when the family and estate need to economize. There is much intrigue and maneuvering over wealth and power from inheritance disputes as well as currying royal favor.  Downton Abbey’s staff are in a fracas when the royal staff invade and take charge of the upcoming visit and there is much plotting below the stairs as well.  

(l-r.) Elizabeth McGovern stars as Lady Grantham, Harry Hadden-Paton as Lord Hexham, Laura Carmichael as Lady Hexham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham and Michael Fox as Andy in DOWNTON ABBEY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

The majesty of Downton Abbey is its own character in the film and there is gorgeous footage of the estate.  The entire cast is talented and noteworthy, but I particularly enjoyed the sarcasm of Violet Crawley, played by the indomitable Maggie Smith, as she is “an expert in every matter.”  Violet’s verbal jousting with Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) is my favorite storyline in this film.  The movie is directed by Michael Engler and the screenplay is written by Julian Fellowes. One can’t forget the majesty created by cinematographer Ben Smithard and production designer Donal Woods. Anna Robbins is the costume designer for the film and exquisite style takes on a role of its own.

The message of this film is about the importance of family and its continuity and traditions. The movie offers a glimpse into the past and the family’s efforts to maintain their traditions into the future.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 through 18, plus adults. Parents need to be aware that there is some mature content. Downton Abbey opens in theaters September 20, 2019. Look for it as you will be utterly delighted. 

Downton Abbey
By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

All the way from TV to new movie comes Downton Abbey, a place of joy and mystery as well as love and honor. As a fan of the show I am so glad to see they made a movie and let us know how everything ends.  

(l-r.) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady Hexham, Maggie Smith as The Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham, Allen Leech as Tom Branson and Elizabeth McGovern as Lady Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY, a Focus Features release. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Focus Features

One of the things that Downton Abbey is known for is the costumes. Each one sparkles from head to toe and they all simply terrific. Each costume and actor looks elegant and yet, very simple at the same time. That in turns reveals their true personalities in the end.

All the characters are very unique and they all share one thing in common, a love for the place they live, Downton. Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), who can be very as stubborn at times, is the best person to call when it comes to needing a smart and witty person. I love that she can turn any situation into a funny one, in literally ten seconds flat.

Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) is the middle sister in family. She is very compassionate in times of need. This is one the many reasons why she is such a great assist to her family and the people around her. Robert Crawley or the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) owns Downton and wears his title to the fullest extent. He is not only a great father, but also a great man and a very helpful person in general.

Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) is my personal pick of choice, when it comes to whom to have as your friend at Downton. She is the heart and soul of this magnificent place and, when it comes to keeping things running, that is exactly what she does. Not only does she help around the house, but she also gives the best advice, which is exactly why I pick Lady Mary to the new leader of Downton.

My favorite scene is when the Queen of England is being served dinner by the House of Downton for the first time ever. This scene shows a lot about the people who work there and also a lot about the Queen herself.

One issue I have with Downton Abby  is that it reveals too many details about what happened to the Crawleys as their life had moved on. I hoped that they would keep some of it secret, so that we could wonder about it for just a while longer. Maybe they could have made a sequel to this movie, if they hadn’t answered so much. I recommend this for ages 12 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It opens September 20, 2019 in theatres.  

Ad Astra * A Roller Coaster Of Emotions That Takes Movie-Going Beyond The Usual Thrill

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “This movie is not only a great story, Ad Astra is a roller coaster of emotions and a ride that makes the movie going experience beyond the usual thrill. It’s totally immersive and I enjoy that, and I recommend to experience it in IMAX for best results.” Calista B. adds, “This film is nothing like what I anticipated and I mean that in a good way. I had a lot of fun discussing the themes of this movie.” Katherine S. chimes in with, “Are you ready for a thrilling movie experience?  Ad Astra delivers this and more with terrific acting, great cinematography and amazing sound.” Madison W. wraps it up with, “Ad Astra has a very strange and artistic viewpoint of space. This film is personally not really my taste in film, but there are definitely moments that catch my eye. The way the visual effects pull this film together is completely mind blowing. They create the look of space and planets being realistic as if they are right in front of you.” See their full reviews below.

Ad Astra
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I feel transported to the moon and Neptune! This movie is not only a great story, Ad Astra is a roller coaster of emotions and a ride that makes the movie-going experience beyond the usual thrill. It’s totally immersive and I enjoy that, and I recommend to experience it in IMAX for best results.

Ad Astra

It put me at the edge of my seat and is so exiting. The pace, in general, is slow. But there are a lot of action peaks that certainly shake your emotions. The visuals are stunning and the acting overwhelming. Probably, what I enjoyed the most is that in this futuristic voyage, where imagination floats, the human condition remains grounded. 

In Ad Astra, astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) joins a mission in which he will be sent to outer space to find his father, who disappeared 30 years ago and is associated with a threat to humanity. Roy’s journey is also personal –  they have a dysfunctional father / son relationship, but share a strong bond for the love for outer space.

Ad Astra

The car chase on the moon, when space pirates attack, is one of my favorite scenes. It is original and out of this world, literally. I also love the scenes when Roy is floating out of the spaceship.

The cinematography (Hoyte Van Hoytema) and visual effects are the most remarkable technical aspects of the film. The movie has a heart and Brad Pitt’s performance makes us remember that, despite all advances in technology and stunning visuals, the core will be always humankind. There are a lot of close ups and drama, and the journey is not only beyond the frontiers of Earth, but inside of our souls. I did not find some secondary characters’ interactions as important as they should be. The music composed by Max Richter is very atmospheric and keeps us suspended.

Ad Astra is very unique because of the story; it’s not like any film you have seen in the past. I definitively recommend seeing this film if you love space, or maybe just want to see something different. One thing that I really liked is how futuristic it is, in a near future that is not that far from us.

I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18+. Finally, the message of this film is there’s no greater journey than knowing ourselves. Ad Astra opens in theaters nationwide September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Ad Astra
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This film is nothing like what I anticipated and I mean that in a good way. I had a lot of fun discussing the themes of this movie.

Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

The movie follows Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) as he’s tasked with finding his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) in hopes of stopping a series of electrical surges that threaten the world.

Now, while the whole cast is pretty fantastic, a good majority of the film revolves around Roy McBride. There are a lot of scenes where he’s by himself while narrating. And these are probably the most interesting scenes in the movie. And it’s not just because of the acting. The film is filled with voice over narration from Roy and these narrations are very interesting to think about. Since Roy is essentially prohibited from emoting, the narration sort of acts as his solution to that. I think that works really well, especially since, when he actually does emote, even slightly, it hits you really hard.

L to R: Donald Sutherland, Brad Pitt and Sean Blakemore star in “Ad Astra”.

Speaking of the narration, that, along with the incredible ambient music gives the tone a very eerie, atmospheric vibe which fits the feeling of isolation in the vastness of space and the monotone acting. There’s also a lot of ideas in this film that are really creative and worthy of discussion. For example, in this movie there are commercial flights to the moon. So when Roy actually gets to the moon, you can see recognizable restaurants in the background, implying the moon is essentially a travel location. This is such a neat idea and something I really wish was expanded upon. Not only that, but this film has some really thought-provoking themes relating to legacies, searching for something greater and repressing your emotions. For most of the film, people see Roy in relation to who his father was. And these scenes, along with some spoiler-y moments, led me and my mom to have an entire discussion about how certain people will never be able to fully escape the legacy of their ancestors, as their ancestor and that ancestor’s name will always weigh on them. Not just that, but the way space is used as a metaphor for taking what you have in life for granted is intriguing.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It comes out September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Ad Astra
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Are you ready for a thrilling movie experience?  Ad Astra delivers this and more with terrific acting, great cinematography and amazing sound. 

Brad Pitt, Ad Astra

The film’s title draws its name from the Latin phrase “ad astra” and means “to the stars.”   This science fiction movie is about an astronaut named Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who goes into space to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who was also an astronaut.  When his father went to work on something called the Lima Project, he went missing and died, or so Roy thinks. He is called in and told that his father might be alive and is sent across the solar system to find him.

Ad Astra is so intense – almost too intense for me. The amazing performances from Brad Pitt, as Roy McBride, and Tommy Lee Jones, as Roy’s father, are so believable and they made want to both love and hate the characters by the end of the movie.  The special effects are realistic, and the sound is astonishing, as you can hear every move made. My favorite character is Roy because of his perseverance.

Ad Astra

The message of the movie is: if something is hard, work through it. The intensity of the movie comes from some profanity, bloody images, dead bodies and violence (including some murderous actions). Obviously, these scenes include risky things that kids might try to do.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, as kids any younger might get scared (like me!). Adults will also like this movie. This movie opens in theaters September 20, 2019.

Ad Astra
By Madison Whitman, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Brad Pitt, Ad Astra

Ad Astra has a very strange and artistic viewpoint of space. This film is personally not really my taste in film, but there are definitely moments that catch my eye. The way the visual effects pull this film together is completely mind blowing. They create the look of space and planets being realistic as if they are right in front of you. 

Ad Astra tells the story of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who works for Spacecom. Roy sets out on an expedition across the solar system to find his father and his dad’s doomed expedition in order to solve a mystery that is threatening the universe. 

Ad Astra

I would like to acknowledge Brad Pitt’s acting. Brad Pitt plays a major role in this film and, boy, he pulls it off outstandingly! You can definitely tell that he brings his all to bringing the concept to life.  However, the ending could have been a little bit more put together. I was a little confused throughout the whole movie and the ending did throw me off more than other parts.   Also, they could have given more information on a few characters—some randomly appear and leave which leaves you wondering what happened to them.

Ad Astra delivers a very inspiring message:  Never give up hope and keep fighting for what you love no matter what someone or the world tells you.

Ad Astra has some blood and gore, though there is hardly any profanity, except for one word and one gesture. I give Ad Astra 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 and adults would enjoy it. All in all, I recommend you check this film out.  Ad Astra is in theatres September 20, 2019.

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