Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Archive for May, 2020

Steve Michelson – From One Pass to Sustainable Tomorrows, Innovator Supreme!

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

We have the pleasure today to visit with Steve Michelson about “Making Media That Matters.” Steve Michelson is the Executive Producer for The Fund for Sustainable Tomorrows, a 501©3 non-profit specializing in supporting engagement campaigns around cause-related documentaries involving health, social justice, sustainability and the environment. 

Two current projects that he is leading are the film Phil’s Camino and the mission to change the standard of care around cancer treatment.  The Fund is also managing the engagement around the release of the film 16Bars about the reentry of returning citizens to society from our prison system. Steve’s on line course, in association with Ringling College in Sarasota Florida, for the next generation of documentarians will launch this year as Making Media That Matters.

Michelson has functioned as Executive Producer on many award-winning films including: In Our Own Hands – How Patients are Reinventing MedicineThe Third HarmonyScarred Lands and Wounded LivesNature’s Orchestra, Walking in Two Worlds, River of RenewalPower PathsBurning the FutureCrude ImpactOil on Ice and more.

From 2006-2019 Michelson was the Executive Producer at the Video Project, specializing in educational and institutional distribution of documentary films. His production studio operates out of his Ranch in Half Moon Bay, CA. called Lobitos Creek Ranch. It has been redesigned recently to accommodate retreats for organizations and groups that come to strategize on some of the challenging problems society faces.  

Steve Michelson, co-founder of OnePass, former Executive Producer at Video Project and more.

Michelson was co-founder and president of One Pass, San Francisco’s largest production and post-production studio from 1975-85, before starting his own company in 1986. He is a recipient of the Gilbert Award for outstanding contribution to Northern California’s film community. He has served four terms as a Governor with the National Academy for Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS). Steve is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he attended The Annenberg School of Communications and the Wharton School of Business.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Author’s Page – Amazon
World According to G

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Scoob! * Great Family Movie with Terrific Characters and an Amazing Mystery

Monday, May 18th, 2020

Scooby-Doo is the hero of his own story in “SCOOB!,” the first full-length, theatrical animated Scooby-Doo adventure, which reveals how he and his best friend Shaggy became two of the world’s most beloved crime busters. The story takes us back to where it all began, when a young Scooby and Shaggy first meet, and team up with Velma, Daphne, and Fred to launch Mystery Incorporated. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Zoinks, this movie is terrific! The storyline is creative and entertaining and there is wonderful character development that is unique to this movie versus the cartoon episodes we all grew up with.”  Tiana S. adds, “  SCOOB! is a hilarious, action-packed and adventurous animated movie based on the original Scooby Doo cartoon. This movie is a cool, updated version and includes cell phones and references to some of the current stores, such as IKEA and Wal-Mart.” Cadence G. wraps it up with, “I like SCOOB! because it has an amazing mystery and the characters are really cute. It’s cool that they have their own opinions about pretty much everything, yet are still good friends. This film is full of action and also has some touching scenes that that will make you feel emotional.” See their full reviews below.

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

Grab your Scooby Snacks and get ready for a Scoob-tasic adventure. Zoinks, this movie is terrific! The storyline is creative and entertaining and there is wonderful character development that is unique to this movie versus the cartoon episodes we all grew up with.  

Scoob! is about the never-before-heard origin of the Mystery Inc. gang and how Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby Doo (Frank Welker) met. After a montage of solving mysteries, we see the gang wanting to expand and we get to follow them on their biggest mystery yet. Only their friendship can save them. 

I LOVE The Scooby Doo Franchise! And Scoob! is no exception. I remember watching the show and wondering how the Mystery Inc. gang got together. And now, in Scoob! we finally learn the answer. The animation is super vivid and creative. Everywhere you look, there is an “Easter Egg.” For example, the names of streets and stores are names of people associated with Hanna-Barbera.  The cast includes children of some of the adult actors. The characters’ voices are cast to perfection.

Frank Welker has a fantastic snack-loving dog voice and has been the voice of Scooby Doo for nearly 20 years. Will Forte has a hilarious hippy voice; Amanda Seyfried (Daphne) has a magnificent, kind and caring tone in her voice; and Gina Rodriguez (Velma) has an excellent voice portraying wit, intelligence and quite a bit of sarcasm.  My favorite character is (SURPRISE) Scooby, because he is such a sweet dog and, as Frank Welker says, “When he talks, I’m not even sure I am listening to a dog talking like a human, or a human talking like a dog.” I agree.  But a close second is the villain of the movie (no spoiler here) because his name, his voice and his appearance are just perfect for a bad guy. 

The key message of this movie is about the power of friendship. This movie has mild bad language and some magic scenes that may be scary for a younger audience.

Jinkies, I give Scoob! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. Adults will love this as well. Scoob! is available online May 15, 2020. #SCOOBMOVIENIGHT

SCOOB! 
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

SCOOB! is a hilarious, action-packed and adventurous animated movie based on the original Scooby Doo cartoon. This movie is a cool, updated version and includes cell phones and references to some of the current stores, such as IKEA and Wal-Mart. There are so many funny scenes in this movie that the whole family will love.

In SCOOB!, the entire Mystery Inc. team from Scooby Doo returns to solve more mysteries. We learn how Shaggy, Scooby, Velma, Daphne and Fred originally met one Halloween night. The team then goes on several adventures while trying to solve mysteries. Their biggest mission is when Velma, Daphne and Fred find out that Shaggy and Scooby are missing, and they go on a quest to find their lost friends. They need to stop the villain, Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs), from capturing Scooby and using him to open up the gates so he can steal the treasure of the underworld.

The lead characters are Shaggy (Will Forte), Scooby (Frank Welker), Velma (Gina Rodriguez), Daphne (Amanda Seyfried) and Fred (Zac Efron). It was interesting to learn what role each of them had in the group. For example, Velma is the “brains” of the team. The costumes are amazing and spot on to the originals. Scooby even gets an upgrade and gets to wear a great superhero costume in the movie. There is a lot of great music from different eras and it takes place in Venice, California. It is really clever that the movie starts with Dr. Dre and Tupac’s song, “California Love.” The special effects are realistic and make you feel as if you are in the movie. One of the coolest parts of the movie is when other Hanna Barbara characters such as, Blue Falcon (Mark Wahlberg), Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemmons) show up to help save Shaggy and Scooby. A great surprise is when American Idol’s, Simon Cowell (Simon Cowell) appears in the movie. I love how current events are used in the movie, especially the joke they include about how Simon is responsible for giving the world Kelly Clarkson.

The message in SCOOB! is all about friendship. The cast uses the phrase “friendship saves the day” throughout the film. Anytime the Mystery Inc. team needs to solve a case, they do it together. This movie is PG and, even though there isn’t a lot for parents to look out for, there are two scenes that could be mistaken for inappropriate language.

SCOOB! is PAW-tastic and a film you definitely want to see. You may even find yourself dancing while watching it. I rate it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids 5 to 18. Adults will love it too. This movie is available on video on demand now, so grab your Scooby Snacks and order it today!

SCOOB!
By Cadence G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I like SCOOB! because it has an amazing mystery and the characters are really cute. It’s cool that they have their own opinions about pretty much everything, yet are still good friends. This film is full of action and also has some touching scenes that that will make you feel emotional.

This animated film is about a gang that meets on Halloween when they are young and they solve their first mystery. Then they start solving mysteries all the time. When they grow up, they try to find an investor to support their mystery-solving business. Simon Cowell (Simon Cowell) meets the crew in a diner and says he won’t give them any money if Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby-Doo (Frank Welker) are part of the business, since he believes a group is only as strong as its weakest link. Shaggy and Scooby go off bowling on their, but wind up getting chased by evil robots. They get transported to Blue Falcon’s (Mark Wahlberg) ship and meet Dynomutt (Ken Jeong) and Dee Dee Sykes (Kiersey Clemons). The group gets chased by the robots who are controlled by Dick Dastardly (Jason Isaacs)—a bad guy that wants to take Scooby and open the gate to the underworld. You’ll have to watch to see if Dick successfully opens the gate.

All the characters are so funny; each one has its own little personality. Fred (Zac Efron) isn’t the smartest guy, but he’s the cutest. Velma (Gina Rodriguez), on the other hand, is probably the smartest person ever. The group relies on each other to solve problems. To me, that’s pretty cool. My favorite part is when Shaggy and Scooby sing “Shallow” to Simon Cowell. It is so funny because they are definitely not good singers. But I love it because “Shallow” is my favorite song.

The message of the film is to trust your friends. Even when they mess up, you should have their back. It kind of reminds me that sometimes I mess up and I want my friends to support me still.

I give SCOOB! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 12. I also think adults will like this film—especially if they used to watch the animated shows when they were kids. SCOOB! is available now online, so go look for it!

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A remarkable woman! Halle Stanford, President, TV, The Jim Henson Company

Sunday, May 17th, 2020

What a wonderful role model for our young entertainment reporters! This week Katherine S. and Tiana S. spoke with Halle Stanford, a ten-time Emmy®-nominated television producer, who leads the Company’s development and production of all television, home entertainment, and digital media in animated and live-action formats establishing the company’s creative culture across all territories.

Stanford is currently executive producing the Netflix series The Dark Crystal:  Age of Resistance as well as The Dinosaur Train Movie for Universal Entertainment and PBS KIDS®. Her recent children’s programming executive producer credits include: the Netflix Original Word Party; the groundbreaking marine biology series Splash and Bubbles for PBS KIDS®; the NBCUniversal Kids/CBC animated series Dot., based on Randi Zuckerberg’s popular book; and the NBCUniversal/Hulu Original preschool show Doozers, inspired by the wildly popular characters from the classic series Fraggle Rock.  Stanford’s award-winning credits also include the Emmy®-nominated Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train, which currently air on PBS KIDS® in the U.S. and in multiple markets around the world, the live-action puppet series Me and My Monsters for the CBBC and Network Ten in Australia, the Lifetime live-action holiday special Jim Henson’s Turkey Hollow, as well as the Emmy®-nominated Sprout preschool series Pajanimals

Stanford joined The Jim Henson Company in 1993 and worked on beloved Muppet projects like Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets Tonight, and Bear in the Big Blue House, as well as the Sci-f cult classic Farscape. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degrees in Film and Theater from Wesleyan University, is a Cub Scout Leader, a proud mom to two sons (ages 8 and 21!) and is on an endless quest to enrich the lives of children around the globe. More at: https://g.co/kgs/7LwAmd


Interviewed by

Katherine S. and Tiana S.

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The Vast of Night * An Homage To The Twilight Zone That Is Just Not Eerie Enough

Friday, May 15th, 2020

In the twilight of the 1950s, on one fateful night in New Mexico, a young switchboard operator Fay and charismatic radio DJ Everett discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “Aside from the pacing and poor editing, the mystery of the frequency is ultimately confusing and unsatisfying. And as an homage to The Twilight Zone, it’s not eerie or unique enough and honestly it feels like a gimmick. The fact that the story takes place in the 50s rarely comes up other than the old technology, which is a bit disappointing to me, since I really like the 50s aesthetic.” See her full review below.

The Vast of Night
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Vast of Night was somewhat disappointing. The film has an interesting set up but it feels underdeveloped and a waste of potential.

The story is a very clear parody of shows such as The Twilight Zone, to the point where the story is framed as if it was an episode of The Twilight Zone. The plot follows two high schoolers named Everett and Fay, who run a radio show together in the 1950s. One night, Fay hears a strange frequency through the radio and she investigates it with Everett.

To start off, I want to talk about my biggest problem with this movie, which is the pace. There are many scenes in this movie that go on for way too long and, as a result, completely kill the atmosphere and investment. The worst of these is the scene near the beginning in which Fay first hears the frequency. She calls a bunch of other people to ask them about it, and this takes around ten minutes. There is no justifiable reason that this scene needs to be so long. It barely establishes anything and, at most, reestablishes the same thing. It’s not entertaining and is incredibly boring. But what makes this scene even more tedious is that, for ten minutes, there is not a single cut. It’s the same frame and same shot of Fay, for the entire ten minutes. I’m usually not one to talk about cinematography and editing, but this combination is a recipe for boredom. However, props to Sierra McCormick, the actress who plays Fay, for being able to pull this scene off. I’m sure this scene was difficult to do. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to save this major flaw. In actuality, this film is pretty short, but it feels like an eternity.

Aside from the pacing and poor editing, the mystery of the frequency is ultimately confusing and unsatisfying. And as an homage to The Twilight Zone, it’s not eerie or unique enough and honestly it feels like a gimmick. The fact that the story takes place in the 50s rarely comes up other than the old technology, which is a bit disappointing to me, since I really like the 50s aesthetic.

I give this film 2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It comes out May 15, 2020 and on Prime Video May 29, 2020. Look for it.

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Octonauts: Ocean Adventures * Cute Animated Characters Exploring and Protecting the Ocean

Sunday, May 10th, 2020

The Octonauts are a team of adventurers who explore the world s oceans, rescue aquatic creatures and protect their habitats – from the bustling eco-system along the Amazon River to the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench. Deploying a set of aquatic vehicles, Captain Barnacles, daredevil ex-pirate, Kwazii, medic Peso and the rest of the crew embark on missions around the globe before returning safely to their home base, the Octopod. On this exciting DVD, join the Octonauts as they journey to the Midnight Zone to rescue a bomber worm! Enjoy these adventures and more with the Octonauts! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Cadence G. comments, “This DVD has different episodes about specific animals that live in the ocean. The Octonauts include Captain Barnacles, ex-pirate Kwazii (a cat) and medic Peso (a penguin) that go on a bunch of adventures under the ocean.” Allison B. says, “I was absolutely thrilled with the stories told in the DVD Octonauts: Ocean Adventures. This series of tales is full of twists and turns that will keep you engaged throughout the six action packed episodes. You will have tons of fun and learn valuable lessons along with the Octonauts, Captain Barnacles, ex-pirate Kwazii and medic Peso.” Katherine S. adds, “I am a big fan of the Octonauts series and this DVD is one of my favorites. It never gets boring and kept me looking forward to the next episode. Octonauts: Ocean Adventures is about a team of under-the-sea adventurers. They explore, rescue and protect everything in the ocean. We follow them along many expeditions like cleaning the ocean and helping a lonely whale.” KIDS FIRST! Adult reviewer Eli B. concludes, “Octonauts Ocean Adventures is an exciting educational DVD that follows the adventures of a team of friends that explore the world’s oceans… The team is lead by Captain Barnacles, the bravest polar bear you will ever meet and always the first to rush in and help whenever there is a problem to be solved…From their underwater Octopod, they are always ready for excitement and the challenges that await them in the deep blue sea.” See their full reviews below about this charming DVD that will teach your preschoolers and early elementary viewers the ins and outs of marine life and oceans.

Octonauts: Ocean Adventures
By Cadence G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I like the Octonauts: Ocean Adventures because the animation is so cute and the characters are super funny. It can get a little repetitive for older kids when you watch more than a couple episodes, but I think little kids would want to watch all six episodes on the DVD. I really like how each episode shows the actual animal, and not just the animated one. It allows viewers to get a better idea of what the animals looks like in real life.

This DVD has different episodes about specific animals that live in the ocean. The Octonauts include Captain Barnacles, ex-pirate Kwazii (a cat) and medic Peso (a penguin) that go on a bunch of adventures under the ocean. In one episode, the Octonauts help two very competitive shrimp that are fighting, become best friends. In another one, a confident polar bear goes underwater with Kwazii and Peso to talk to little worms they meet and look for one worm that sank to the bottom of the ocean. Other characters, like an otter, help Kwazii search for parts after their ship crashes to the bottom of the ocean. It’s a very fun DVD because there is a lot of action and you always want to know what will happen next.

All of the characters have their own personality, such as the penguin, named Peso. Peso is very scared, but Kwazii (the cat) is not afraid of anything. I love how all of the characters are so different from one another. It reminds me of some of my friends who like different things than I do, or have a shy personality. Even though we are different, we still have fun together. My favorite part about this DVD is when Peso gets so scared of the huge “monster,” but it’s not quite a monster. You’ll have to watch the DVD to find out what the creature actually is. I also like the blobfish who always wants food—especially worms—but is so slow he often misses out on a snack. That character is probably the funniest part of the DVD.

The message of this show is: if you work together, you can even save people’s lives. It’s amazing what you can do when you work together. Even if you different from one another, you can still use the strengths of each person in the group to be successful.

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 9. This DVD is out now, so go look for it.

Octonauts: Ocean Adventures
By Allison B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

I was absolutely thrilled with the stories told in the DVD Octonauts: Ocean Adventures. This series of tales is full of twists and turns that will keep you engaged throughout the six action packed episodes. You will have tons of fun and learn valuable lessons along with the Octonauts, Captain Barnacles, ex-pirate Kwazii and medic Peso.

Octonauts: Ocean Adventures follows a team of underwater explorers that save ocean life and protect their habitats. The Octonauts help all animals and sea life ranging from the predatory mantis shrimp to the wiggly bomber worms. While doing this, the gang faces troubles such as transportation breaking down and fights between other animals. Even though the troubles seem tough, the Octonauts always manage to come through and learn skills to help them in life. 

In this DVD, we are introduced to six episodes: Mantis Shrimp, Kelp Monster Mystery, Bomber Worms, Loneliest Whale, Operation Cooperation, and Spinner Dolphins. Each episode tells a unique story. I truly enjoyed each episode and did not get bored with any of them. The fun ocean setting captivated me, since there are so many things that are unknown about the ocean habitat. I was happily surprised when I heard the voices of all the characters. Instead of having high, cartoonish voices, the Octonauts voices are deep, and some even have accents. I particularly liked Captain Barnacles’ English accent voiced by Ross Breen. That isn’t the only audible thing I enjoyed. I was very entertained by the music. It sets a tone and makes situations seem much more relaxed, dire or whatever the mood may be. The clever theme music composer Darren Hendly is to thank for the catchy intro. Lastly, I really appreciate the animation style in this show. It is funny and adorable, without giving a fake impression of how these animals truly look.

The message behind these episodes is that, even when there are problems that seem tough and unsolvable, you can count on teamwork and kindness to always help you out. If we all help each other out, the problems can be fixed and you can gain important lessons from them.

I give Octonauts: Ocean Adventures 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it to ages 5 to 12. This collection can be found on DVD and Digital now.

Octonauts: Ocean Adventures
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I am a big fan of the Octonauts series and this DVD is one of my favorites. It never gets boring and kept me looking forward to the next episode.

Octonauts: Ocean Adventures is about a team of under-the-sea adventurers. They explore, rescue and protect everything in the ocean. We follow them along many expeditions like cleaning the ocean and helping a lonely whale. Episodes include Mantis Shrimp, Operation Cooperation, Kelp Monster Mystery and more. The DVD runs about an hour, so it is the perfect amount of entertainment for a younger audience.

This is such an educational, yet fun DVD. I learned about animals that I had no idea even existed! Children will enjoy it, and so will others! It is great for the whole family to watch. The animation is simple, yet adorable, and the sea animals are darling. There are a lot of episodes in the Octonauts series and, just when you think that you have learned it all, NCircle Entertainment always throws more stuff at you to learn, and you’re having a blast doing it. The characters’ voices in Octonauts fit their personalities perfectly. Simon Greenall has a flawless, bold polar bear voice, Paul Panting plays a wonderful, gentle penguin and Bob Rackstraw voices a magnificent, dare-devil cat. My favorite episode is Bomber Worms because I learned about this animal for the first time and how interesting and unique they are.

There are many positive messages throughout the DVD including teamwork, friendship, being adventurous, and loving animals. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 through 9. This DVD is currently available.

Octonauts Ocean Adventures
By Eli B., KIDS FIRST! Adult reviewer

Octonauts Ocean Adventures is an exciting educational DVD that follows the adventures of a team of friends that explore the world’s oceans. It is comprised of six colorful and fun episodes including titles such as Kelp Monster Mystery, The Loneliest Whale and Operation Cooperation. Follow the crew in this action-packed series as they explore mysterious ocean life, learn about and rescue curious sea creatures and teach us how to protect their environments and habitats. The team is lead by Captain Barnacles, the bravest polar bear you will ever meet and always the first to rush in and help whenever there is a problem to be solved. Other characters include Kwazii – the daredevil cat, Dr. Shellington – the coolest marine biologist sea otter around, Dash dog – a sweet natured IT officer and Tweak – a bunny who’s ready to lend a helping hand. From their underwater Octopod, they are always ready for excitement and the challenges that await them in the deep blue sea. The DVD’s run time is 66 minutes and includes menu options such as episode selection and comes with a colorful booklet with information about The Octonauts and other shows from NCircle Entertainment. This series is highly recommended for any child that enjoys colorful characters, fun songs, adventure and learning about the ocean and its creatures. 

I give Octonauts Ocean Adventures 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 4 to 10. It’s available on DVD now, so check it out. Reviewed by Eli B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

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