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Archive for January, 2020

Dolittle * Great CGI, Cinematography and Visual Effects

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude behind the high walls of his lush manor in 19th-century England. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he speaks to on a daily basis. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure. Dominic D. comments, “Wow! The long anticipation of Dolittle is well worth the wait! A big two thumbs up for director Stephen Gaghan, for knocking this action-packed, comical, fun-loving film out of the ball park!” Arjun N. adds, “Dolittle does little in terms of original storytelling, but this reboot offers colorful ambiance and magical performances. Anyone interested in big budget family entertainers is sure to get their money’s worth on a matinee.” Katherine S. has another take on it, “What a terrific movie!  The dialogue among the characters is so much fun and the cinematography, costumes and visual effects are so beautiful and well done.” Jude A. adds, “Dolittle is a roaring, barking and chirping fantasy adventure story with great humor and special effects…Unfortunately, even though the film is not very long (an hour and 41 minutes), some scenes seem very slow and the film feels a lot longer than it actually is. The movie is very comedic and has some laugh out loud moments, but sometimes the humor seems a little forced and unfunny.” And Sahiba K. wraps it with, “Unfortunately, Dolittle left me confused because its storyline is all over the place. There are too many plot elements to follow and they do not tie together cohesively in the end.” Their full reviews are below. You decide.

Dolittle
By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. John Dolittle in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

Wow! The long anticipation of Dolittle is well worth the wait! A big two thumbs up for director Stephen Gaghan, for knocking this action-packed, comical, fun-loving film out of the ball park!  The film, although perhaps a little lengthier for younger kids, keeps viewers on the edge of their seats while they take in all the adventure, suspense, laughs and emotion that this film offers. I left the theater with an appreciation of the quote, “It’s truly by helping others that you can help yourself!”

The film follows the life of quirky veterinarian Dr. John Dolittle, of Victorian England, who has a sure connection with animals. Dr. Dolittle becomes reclusive, hiding behind the walls of Dolittle Mansion following the death of his beloved wife Lily. His only companions since her death are his furred and feathered friends that the animation department has excelled in giving anthropomorphic qualities to.  Dolittle is quite content with his lifestyle, void of humans, until he has to make a decision when the very ill Queen of England calls on him to help save her from sickness. Dr. Dolittle appears to be the only person able to bring the Queen the secret antidote to reverse the symptoms of her sudden illness. The doctor, along with his humorous animal crew and new young, self-appointed assistant, set sail in search of the cure which will save the Queen from dying. They encounter several obstacles while on their journey, which adds to the suspense, adventure and comedy of the film.

(from left) Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) and Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

The star of film, Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. Dolittle plays his role well. He also is one of the film’s executive producers. Hats off to the very lengthy list of animators who bring Dolittle’s friends to life and make us laugh at each of their personalities. The animatronics are by far my favorite part of this movie. It was also super fun to try to identify the many voices behind Dr. Dolittle’s menagerie. I especially love the voice of Craig Robinson who plays Kevin, the squirrel with an attitude. The locations also deserve mentioning. Landscapes are lush, bright and so captivating, which adds such so much to this film.

The message in Dolittle is all about relationships. You have to have a sense of imagination to appreciate the connection between Dr. Dolittle and his animal friends, but the message is clear that no matter how diversified living things are, we can find a way to connect, communicate and appreciate one another.The film writers gathered together a variety of different characters that show that no matter what their limitations, they can interact with each other and build heartwarming friendships. This film allows us to open up our minds about differences and promotes positive interactions.

I give Dolittle 5 out of 5 stars and, if I could rate it higher, I would! I recommend it to ages 5 to 18. Dolittle is the perfect family film and adults will love it as much as kids. Dolittle opens January 17, 2020 in theaters. This is a film that you do not want to miss…mark your calendars!

Dolittle
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

(from left) Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) in “Dolittle.”

What a terrific movie!  The dialogue among the characters is so much fun and the cinematography, costumes and visual effects are so beautiful and well done.

Dolittle takes a new spin on the infamous tale of Dr. Dolittle, who is of course the doctor that speaks to animals. The story begins at Dolittle Manner, which is an estate provided to him by the Queen of England for serving as her veterinarian. Dolittle Manner is a sanctuary open to all animals until his wife passes away on an adventure and Dr. Dolittle closes it and isolates himself from people.  As the Queen falls ill, Dr. Dolittle is convinced to go on an adventure to find a cure to help save the Queen before it’s too late!  

(clockwise, from bot left) Ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani), monkeys Elliot and Elsie, parrot Polynesia (Emma Thompson), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and sugar glider Mini (Nick A. Fisher) in “Dolittle.”

The movie trailer does not do this movie justice as I was not overly excited to see movie before going to the screening. My feelings changed greatly after I watched the movie. The writing is very clever with the dialogue for the animals. Everything they say is witty and playful. I also love that the animal characters  aren’t stereotypical, as they all need a lit bit of fixing. There are some magnificent actors in Dolittle, such as Robert Downey Jr. (as Dr. Dolittle), Harry Collett (as Stubbins, Dr Dolittle’s self-appointed apprentice), Emma Thompson (as the parrot Polly and Dr. Dolittle’s advisor), Rami Malek (as the funny gorilla Chee-Chee), Octavia Spencer (as the enthusiastic duck Dab-Dab), Tom Holland (as the sight-challenged dog Jip), Craig Robinson (as the wise-cracking squirrel Kevin) and Selena Gomez (as the giraffe Betsy). My favorite character is Kevin since he made me laugh the most.

The messages of this movie are about perseverance and the importance of family and friends to help you overcome obstacles. Dolittle has no bad language, but it does have some mild violence and action scenes, primarily among the animals.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 14. Adults will also like this movie. This movie opens in theaters January 17, 2020. Check it out.

Dolittle
By Jude A., KIDS FIRST Film Critic, age 13

(from left) Polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) and gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

Dolittle is a roaring, barking and chirping fantasy adventure story with great humor and special effects. The film has amazing CGI and the animals look completely real. The movie also has very creative dialogue that fits each of the characters very well. The film has very vibrant colors and beautiful landscapes. Unfortunately, even though the film is not very long (an hour and 41 minutes), some scenes seem very slow and the film feels a lot longer than it actually is. The movie is very comedic and has some laugh out loud moments, but sometimes the humor seems a little forced and unfunny.

Dolittle follows the retired Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downy Jr.) after his wife passes away from a ship-wreck. An odd boy named Stubbons (Harry Colltett) seems to have the same animal talking abilities as Doctor Dolittle himself and becomes his apprentice. When the Queen of Buckingham Palace (Jessie Buckley) falls gravely ill, Doctor Dolittle, Stubbons and the rest of the animal gang embark on a journey to attain the cure for the Queen to preserve the land they live on and the animal’s sanctuary.

Antonio Banderas as Rassouli in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

It is difficult to cast people for this kind of film, because we’re dealing with lots of animals and I think the casting is amazing! The voice-overs for the animals really make a big difference because they add humor, drama and suspense. The dialogue is very creative and fits each animal very well, making them seem very real. For the most part, the dialogue is very entertaining and creative. However, some lines try to force the humor and come off as not humorous at all. Robert Downy Jr.’s performance is spot on, but his accent seems a little off and inconsistent throughout the film. It seems as if he is trying to be too exotic and it doesn’t work.

Dolittle fits the PG rating. It has some action and possibly scary creatures that could be frightening to younger viewers. The message of the film is about helping other people, even when it does not benefit your personally. It also points out that when something gets in your way of reaching your goal, don’t give up, figure out a new way to reach that goal. Be creative. Think outside the box.

Dolittle did not soar as high as the parrots do in the film so I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. It has amazing visuals and CGI, but forced jokes and slow scenes. I recommend this film for ages 8 to 18. Dolittle opens in theaters January 17, 2020. Look for it. 

Dolittle
By Sahiba K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

(from left) Lady Rose (Carmel Laniado) and Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

Unfortunately, Dolittle left me confused because its storyline is all over the place. There are too many plot elements to follow and they do not tie together cohesively in the end. Most of the characters have vague back-stories which are presented in ways that prevent any character from becoming fully developed.

The story follows the grief stricken Doctor Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.) who is mourning the death of his wife. He lives alone with his animal friends including Chee-Chee (Rami Malek), a gorilla and Yoshi (John Cena), a polar bear. When the Queen of England (Jessie Buckley) falls ill, she calls upon Dolittle for help. To save the Queen, he must embark on a perilous journey to find a mythical healing fruit.

Robert Downey Jr. has the quirkiness and personality to play an eccentric individual like Dolittle. However, his potential is overshadowed by his perplexing accent which feels forced and thus, his voice does not match his emotions or actions very well. Rami Malek plays my favorite character, Chee-Chee, and gives him a sweet, loveable personality. Unfortunately, due to the excess of poorly developed characters, Chee-Chee’s character arch seems irrelevant even though he is one of the better characters.

Robert Downey Jr. as Dr. John Dolittle in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

The graphics are well done in some aspects but not in others. The gorilla, polar bear and the parrot all look realistic and have features that add to their cuteness. Other animals such as the dragonfly and the ostrich do not look realistic, which disrupts the mood, making it cartoonish, and contributing to the chaos I felt when viewing the film. Moreover, the graphics in exciting scenes, such as those that take place on the ships, are noticeably done in CGI and thus the realistic aspect is not achieved.

The saving grace is the creative incorporation of the animals. I enjoyed the scenes where Dolittle uses his gift of animal communication to ask for help, whether to solve the mystery of the Queen’s illness or to run away from the antagonist.

The message of Dolittle is that the best way to help yourself is to help others. However, this message is stated by the narrator at the end and is otherwise loosely relevant to what happens throughout the film. I give Dolittle 2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. Check out Dolittle when it opens in theatres January 17, 2020.

Dolittle
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

Dolittle does little in terms of original storytelling, but this reboot offers colorful ambiance and magical performances. Anyone interested in big budget family entertainers is sure to get their money’s worth on a matinee.

(from left) Ostrich Plimpton (Kumail Nanjiani), duck Dab-Dab (Octavia Spencer), Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett), polar bear Yoshi (John Cena), gorilla Chee-Chee (Rami Malek) and parrot Polynesia (Emma Thompson) in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.


The reimagining of the Dr. Dolittle franchise follows the eccentric Dr. John Dolittle (Robert Downey Jr.), famed English doctor and veterinarian, who hermits himself away behind the high walls of Dolittle Manor with only his collection of exotic animals for company. When the young queen (Jessie Buckley) falls ill, her daughter Rose (Carmel Laniado) asks a reluctant Dolittle to set sail to a mythical island in search of a cure, regaining his humanity and courage and gaining a young, self-appointed apprentice Tommy Stubbins (Harry Collett).


Robert Downey Jr. brings his signature charisma and his posh British accent to fill the energetic void left by January releases. His conversations with his animals are seamless; keep in mind, he’s talking to larger-than-life CGI constructions. Regarding the big ensemble cast voicing the animals, they’re all great if a little bit reliant on star power. You wouldn’t know big list actors are voicing the animals without background research or watching the credits. However, there are a few noteworthy exceptions including Rami Malek’s Chichi, a paranoid gorilla, which is greatly characterized and developed. Emma Thompson brings her acerbic demeanor as Poly the parrot. I also enjoyed John Cena and Kumail Nanjiani, as Yoshi and Plimpton, the bickering and bantering polar bear and ostrich that serve as the film’s comic relief. Finally, the film has impressive child performances from Harry Collett, who previously acted on Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Carmel Laniado, both of whose screen presence holds well alongside Robert Downey Jr.

Octavia Spencer voices duck Dab-Dab in “Dolittle,” directed by Stephen Gaghan.

I enjoyed the special effects as they are truly impressive to look at, even a bit too flashy at times. The director Stephen Gaghan blueprints the film in an honest way. However, his writing is trope-ridden and uninspired, at times hodgepodging rather than creating. Don’t expect a developed plot, even if some good messages prevail.

The message of this film is about allowing friends to carry your back as Dolittle realizes his reclusiveness is unhealthy and decides to be better. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. The movie releases in theaters January 17, 2020, so check it out.

Underwater * Mixed Reviews by Our Reporters from Thrilled to Bored

Monday, January 13th, 2020

A crew of aquatic researchers work to get to safety after an earthquake devastates their subterranean laboratory. But the crew has more than the ocean seabed to fear. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments, “I like this movie because it is a very thrilling film.  It’s a mix of drama, comedy and horror.  The whole film is filled with jump scares and excitement that kept me on the edge of my seat.”  Calista B. adds, “Underwater is under whelming! Despite trying to be scary, the only emotions I felt from this film were frustration and boredom. There is really not much to this movie and, what I do have to say is not good. Also, Underwater is a lack luster title for a movie. It’s like calling a movie set in space “In Space.” Will C. kicks in with, “Underwater is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller with a message about our planet. It’s basically Alien, but under the sea. There’s lots of blood and death and also some funny moments to lighten the mood. Underwater also reminds me a lot of The Meg, another deep-sea monster movie. What it lacks in originality, it mostly makes up through pure entertainment.” Leandro R. wraps it up with, “Underwater is a suspense filled movie that made me jump out of my seat. This movie has action and some scary scenes as well. Also, the sound effects make the jump scares even more shocking. There is a lot of emotion in this movie. The acting is amazing and the special effects are great.” See their full reviews below.

Underwater
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 11

I like this movie because it is a very thrilling film.  It’s a mix of drama, comedy and horror.  The whole film is filled with jump scares and excitement that kept me on the edge of my seat.  

In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and trapped in a rapidly flooding structure, a crew of six stationed on an underwater research facility realize their only shot at survival lies in walking across the ocean floor to a distant abandoned rig. In addition to the physical challenges of the journey they quickly discover they’re being hunted by mythic, monstrous sea predators hellbent on killing them.

Underwater is about a drilling crew that lives in a facility all the way down in the Mariana Trench, which is located in the western Pacific Ocean.  The Mariana Trench is one of the deepest part of the ocean, basically like the Grand Canyon but in the ocean.  Suddenly the facility suffers a type of earthquake, which the crew thinks has happened.  Six survivors go through a difficult journey in order to get to the life pods and survive the catastrophe.  It happens that it was not an earthquake that destroyed the facility, it is a kind of sea creature that is too big and powerful for them to defeat.

My favorite part of Underwater is when the crew discovers a new life form.  It takes the crew and the audience by surprise.  The costumes are very creative.  They look like a heavy type of astronaut suit.  The graphics are incredible.  The underwater scenes look very realistic. A few scenes are too dark to figure out what is going on.  There is fowl language, blood and gore – perfect for horror fans.  The acting is perfect, especially Kristen Stewart (Nora) who keeps the audience in suspense. Vincent Cassel (the Captain) and T. J. Miller (crew member) are spectacular too.

Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel star in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

The moral of this story is to know our limits and respect other living beings’ habitats.  Humans are very curious to know more or learn more, to the point that we cross the line and trespass other living beings’ homes.  It’s good to have more knowledge, but it is also good to know our limits.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 12 to 18, plus older adults.  People with bad hearts or epilepsy should not watch this movie. Underwater opens in theaters January 10, 2020.

Underwater
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

Underwater is under whelming! Despite trying to be scary, the only emotions I felt from this film were frustration and boredom. There is really not much to this movie and, what I do have to say is not good. Also, Underwater is a lack luster title for a movie. It’s like calling a movie set in space “In Space.”

Jessica Henwick and Kristen Stewart star in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

The story follows a group of underwater researchers as they’re attacked by mysterious creatures. That is really it. The story is pretty simple, yet the movie somehow feels super long. Towards the end I was  begging for the credits to start rolling. However, that’s only where my problems start.

First, the film doesn’t establish anything. Barely a minute in, an explosion goes off and suddenly the main conflict is happening. Meanwhile you’re confused because you don’t know who anyone is, why they’re underwater or what their goal is. This is such a huge issue, because when the true danger arrives, you don’t care who lives or dies. You are not invested in these characters, so why you should care. The dialogue between the characters is also weak. If I had to guess why the film is like this, I’m going to assume the writers thought it would be scarier to throw you right into the action, but honestly it does the opposite. At first I thought the explosion scene was a dream, not only because it was so ridiculously sudden, but also because Norah, the main character, is just talking about dreaming for no particular reason.

L to R: Vincent Cassel, Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller, Kristen Stewart, and Mamoudou Athie star in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

That’s my biggest issue, but it’s certainly not the only problem. Another major issue is the “horror” in this horror movie. I hope you like jump scares, because that’s all you’ll get. I don’t like jump scares, not just because I’m jumpy, but also they’re incredibly cheap. They’re like the horror equivalent to tickling someone to make them laugh – it’s easy and simple but shouldn’t count.

While this could be considered a nitpick, this really bothered me and should be mentioned. When the crew members aren’t in these diving suits, they’re in nothing but their underwear. There is no reason for this and I don’t know why this is the case, other than the obvious excuse. But it’s really impractical. The research facility is filled with water, wouldn’t it be freezing?

I give this film 1 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Not a great start to the decade. It opens in theaters January 10, 2020.

Underwater
By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Underwater is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller with a message about our planet. It’s basically Alien, but under the sea. There’s lots of blood and death and also some funny moments to lighten the mood. Underwater also reminds me a lot of The Meg, another deep-sea monster movie. What it lacks in originality, it mostly makes up through pure entertainment.

John Gallagher Jr.

When a drilling station deep in the Pacific Ocean is damaged, a handful of survivors attempt a complicated plan that involves walking along the bottom of the ocean to escape pods. They quickly discover they are being hunted by an unknown creature from these unexplored depths.

The action starts very quickly, which makes it hard to care about the characters right away, but eventually there are some moments of character development. My favorite character, Paul (T.J. Miller) provides comic relief. I love how he carries around a stuffed bunny for comfort. I really like when the camera keeps turning to a first person perspective so it appears as if you’re looking through one of the character’s eyes. The best example of this is when Norah (Kristen Stewart) is looking around and suddenly we see two creepy eyes staring back at us through the darkness. As you would expect from a monster movie, the visual and sound effects are top notch. The lab sets are convincingly realistic and there’s some strong acting, especially from Vincent Cassel, who plays the captain.

Jessica Henwick stars in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

Parents should watch out for the language and violence in this movie, both of which made me wonder why it’s not rated R. I have never before seen a movie where people both implode and explode like the graphic, gross and disturbing deaths in this film. Parents might also want to know that several characters end up running around in their underwear for no particular reason. The message of this film is that when we don’t respect our planet, there are consequences. Emily, played by Jessica Hanwick, sums up this moral when she says, “We’ve drilled too deep. We’ve taken too much. Now [the ocean’s] taking back.”

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 17, as well as adults. You can see Underwater in theaters everywhere starting January 10, 2020.

Underwater
Leandro R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Underwater is a suspense filled movie that made me jump out of my seat. This movie has action and some scary scenes as well. Also, the sound effects make the jump scares even more shocking. There is a lot of emotion in this movie. The acting is amazing and the special effects are great.

Kristen Stewart and Vincent Cassel star in Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

The storyline is about a crew of aquatic researchers trying to get to safety after an earthquake like experience at their underwater laboratory. There is a blood thirsty sea monster they worry about that follows the six surviving workers as they travel through the ocean trenches. They are 5,000 miles from land and seven miles below the ocean surface.

The acting in this movie is very good. risten Stewart’s portrayal of Norah is excellent. She puts so much effort and emotion in this role. T.J Miller’s role as Paul is a wonderfully comedic performance. I really like how he diffuses a serious or depressing scene with a joke. I love how scary the sea monster is and how its made. The cinematography is amazing. The underwater camera shots look so real.

Director William Eubank and Kristen Stewart on the set of Twentieth Century Fox’s “Underwater”.

This movie contains some mild profanity and some scary scenes. There are also some intense and gory scenes. It is appropriately rated PG-13.

I recommend this movie for ages 13 to 18 and adults might like it also. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. You can find this movie in theaters beginning January 10, 2020 so go watch it!

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