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Archive for February, 2021

Llama Llama: Fun with Friends! * Jennifer Garner’s Distinctive Voice Brings Warmth To This Delightful Series

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

Join Llama Llama, Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat as they explore their friendly hometown and make childhood memories. Giana N. comments, “I used to read these books all the time, and I was both surprised and happy when I recognized the familiar storylines. The lessons that Llama Llama and his friends learn are something a viewer may need a refresher on, or they may even be something they want to teach someone else. Either way, this show has great reminders of what’s important about life.”

Katherine S. adds, “Llama Llama: Fun with Friends!, like so many of the other Llama Llama DVDs, teaches helpful life-lessons, like patience and discussing how you feel with others. The animation is simple and 2D, with a variety of adorable animals.” Ashleigh C. wraps it up with, “Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30) has a very distinctive and warm voice while portraying Mama Llama. While Llama Llama is voiced by Shayle Simons, whose voice is very young and natural sounding. The animation, especially of the characters, is very colorful and feels like the pages of a storybook awakening. Each episode consists of different plot lines and introduces new characters and scenes. You never know what to expect or what will happen next in each episode, making this show one of a kind.” See their full reviews below.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends
By Giana N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

The DVD Llama Llama: Fun With Friends is a collection of episodes from the animated children’s show, Llama Llama, on Netflix. In this DVD Llama Llama and his friends go on adventures and learn valuable lessons.

The stories in these episodes follow Llama Llama (Shayle Simons), and his friends having fun and learning along the way. Even though Llama Llama is obviously a llama, this show talks about issues that real kids deal with. Mama Llama (Jennifer Garner) is also a part of the activities with Llama Llama and his friends, encouraging him to have fun, be kind, and trust that everything will be okay.

In all the episodes, Llama Llama and his friends learn something new and viewers can learn along with them. My favorite episode is “Llama Llama Shopping Drama,” because it shows Llama Lama being impatient as his mother shops, which I am sure many kids can relate to. In this episode, Llama Llama learns that, in life, you need to be patient. Another thing I like about this show is that it includes the events that happen in the Llama Llama books, but as a TV episode. I used to read these books all the time, and I was both surprised and happy when I recognized the familiar storylines. The lessons that Llama Llama and his friends learn are something a viewer may need a refresher on, or they may even be something they want to teach someone else. Either way, this show has great reminders of what’s important about life.

The message of Llama Llama: Fun With Friends is that there is always something to learn. Whether it’s an educational or character development lesson, it can be helpful in knowing how you live your life.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends is an awesome DVD! I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 7. The DVD is available now so go check it out!

Llama Llama: Fun with Friends!
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Llama Llama: Fun with Friends!, like so many of the other Llama Llama DVDs, teaches helpful life-lessons, like patience and discussing how you feel with others. The animation is simple and 2D, with a variety of adorable animals.

This collection follows Llama Llama (Shayle Simons), a playful Llama and some of his adventures with his friends Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat. It has 165 hours of fun, with 15 episodes, each lasting around 11 minutes. Episodes include some about the seasons like Last Day of Summer, Spring Fever and Snow Show. Others cover a variety of experiences such as Happy Birthday Llama Llama, Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! and Llama Llama Shopping Drama.

This show is based on the beloved Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney. I admire how the creators of this show do so much with just a little help from the books. Kudos to the writers and to George Gabriel, who wrote the show’s theme song; it’s very catchy. This cast includes Jennifer Garner who voices Mama Llama and her soothing voice fits the role perfectly. My favorite episode is Happy Birthday Llama Llama because it shows how much friends care for one another. My favorite characters are Grandma (Kathleen Barr) and Grandpa Llama (David Orth/David Poole) because wherever they are, they bring fun along with them.

There are many positive messages throughout this DVD, including patience, making the most out of everything and problem solving and friendship.

I give Llama Llama: Fun with Friends! 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 9. This DVD is available now, so look for it.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends 
By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16 

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends makes the childhood stories we all know and love come to life in a spectacular and fun way. This DVD is a compilation of episodes from the animated series based on the children’s book Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.  

Each episode in this show is full of adventure, whether it’s looking for a missing tooth, losing a race, or just flying kites. Every episode, Llama Llama and his friends learn something new and so does the audience. 

Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30) has a very distinctive and warm voice while portraying Mama Llama. While Llama Llama is voiced by Shayle Simons, whose voice is very young and natural sounding. The animation, especially of the characters, is very colorful and feels like the pages of a storybook awakening. Each episode consists of different plot lines and introduces new characters and scenes. You never know what to expect or what will happen next in each episode, making this show one of a kind. Voice director and series casting by Doug Parker makes this entire show worth the watch! 

Even though every episode has a different message, the overall theme is like the words that Llama Llama’s many friends say: “Never say never! Don’t give up.” You don’t know how far you can go. This show promotes positive social behaviors, such as caring, helping one another and being there for your friends. 

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 2 to 8. You can find Llama Llama: Fun With Friends on DVD now. Look for it! 

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The Father * Beautiful, Moving Film Depicting Dementia In Its Raw, Brutal Essence

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “The Father cries out to its viewers to enjoy life while they have their senses and to show compassion toward those who have begun to lose (or have already lost) a clear view of the world. It’s a sobering portrait of mental illness and yet an empowering film for those coping with their individual struggles.” Heather S. adds, “The moral of this film is that love conquers all, even the impossible. With the decline of Anthony’s mental health, he always has family by his side. Anne always does what is best for her father, including finding the best caretaker in London. Once Anthony is in a home, his nurse has the patience and love to answer his questions, comfort him and put his needs first.” See their full reviews below.

The Father
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

A beautifully-made and moving film, The Father depicts dementia in its raw, brutal essence and will surely make an imprint on your soul.

The French-British film centers around aging Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an Englishman who “has his ways,” as his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) says. As Anthony develops dementia and his condition worsens, Anne finds it difficult to balance her life with caring for her father. The film traces how the two of them go about their lives together and how the disease progresses. The Father is told in a jumbled manner because our perspective of the film is as Anthony would see it:  All out of order. Anne’s husband Paul (Rufus Sewell) and another man who Anthony thinks is her husband, a woman, and several caretakers all appear and disappear throughout the film. Even the settings shift, and you’re never really sure where you are. Director Florian Zeller and his crew design both Anne and Anthony’s apartments to look relatively similar which enhances that perspective of disorientation.

Anthony Hopkins has always played cerebral roles, so this more emotional one is unique in his repertoire. He sheds tears, flies into fits of rage, and immerses himself in the character of a strong-willed man slowly losing his grip on what’s happening. The last scene is especially poignant and hard-hitting; no spoilers, though! Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Anne is one that many who have dealt with a relative suffering from a progressive mental illness will identify with. It’s incredibly realistic, and, at times, you forget that she’s an actress playing a character. Anne herself is layered, especially in how she copes with Anthony’s dementia; first keeping her emotions bundled up, escalating to emotional breakdowns, and eventually to some scary fantasies. Colman deals with these feelings beautifully, immersing herself much like Hopkins does. Director Florian Zeller isn’t actually a director by profession; he’s a playwright, and this film was adapted from his play Le Pére. He’s a master storyteller, and you couldn’t tell this is his first gig as a director. His attention to detail (especially with sets, something I’m sure he took from his career in playwriting), combined with his personal experiences (his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia when Zeller was 12) make this film an earnest yet unsettling project.

The Father cries out to its viewers to enjoy life while they have their senses and to show compassion toward those who have begun to lose (or have already lost) a clear view of the world. It’s a sobering portrait of mental illness and yet an empowering film for those coping with their individual struggles. There is some profanity, slight violence (Paul slaps Anthony), and Anthony and Anne’s father-daughter relationship gets a bit abusive at times.

I give The Father 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults; younger kids could watch the film if they feel comfortable with themes like mental illness. The Father releases on-demand on March 12, 2021.

The Father
By Heather Suarez, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

The Father is an excellent depiction of the reality for many elderly people. This film offers insight into the minds of those that suffer from dementia and how they think. We see how this illness affects not only the patient, but their loved ones.

The Father follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an elder suffering from dementia. The motion picture shows how his mind plays tricks on him. He forgets names easily and he sees his daughter differently, as in with a different face. He also imagines people are there that do not exist. All the while, his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) struggles to find her father the perfect caretaker.

This film really is an eye-opener to the reality of dementia. Not only is Anthony forgetful, but his attitude changes rapidly in the blink of an eye. In one scene, he is all happy and jazzy as he converses with a young woman, and then he is angry and demands that he doesn’t need a caretaker. He believes that he can outlive his own daughter and even talks about what he would say at her funeral. In another scene, he even forgets his name and calls out for his mother. This film is perfect for the loved ones of dementia patients. The movie offers the perspective, ideas, and confusion the victims go through. It also serves as a guide by showing how Anne deals with her father’s outbursts and how her love stands strong to always help him. Not once does she give up on her father, insisting he deserves the best care.

The moral of this film is that love conquers all, even the impossible. With the decline of Anthony’s mental health, he always has family by his side. Anne always does what is best for her father, including finding the best caretaker in London. Once Anthony is in a home, his nurse has the patience and love to answer his questions, comfort him and put his needs first. There are warnings that go along with its PG-13 rating. Mild profanity is sprinkled throughout the film, along with realistic depictions of mental illness.

I give The Father 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. It premieres on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu February 26, 2021.

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Minari * Earnest Portrayal of Immigrants -Intricate Storyline, Poignant Score and Outstanding Cinematography

Monday, February 15th, 2021

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.”  See his full review below.

Minari
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.

Steven Yeun appears in Minari by Lee Isaac Chung, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The name of the film, Minari, is another name for Korean watercress, which is key to the plotline. When the story begins the Yi family had immigrated to the U.S. from Korea years ago; Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Ye-Ri Han), parents to David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), are chicken sexers by profession. The family moves from California to the Ozarks for new opportunities. Specifically, Arkansas, where they are greeted by their new yet run-down mobile home and by Paul, an eccentric evangelist. As they settle into their new home, problems in the family begin to set in. In the name of bringing back a bit of the family spirit, Monica invites her mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn), to come and stay with them. The foul-mouthed, cards-playing, yet adorable halmeoni (grandma in Korean) arrives and totally shakes things up, bonding with the grandkids over growing minari, playing cards, and watching wrestling. When tragedy strikes, though, the family is put through a resilience test like never before.

Steven Yeun appears in Minari by Lee Isaac Chung, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Lee Isaac Chung took inspiration from his own childhood growing up on his parents’ plot of land to create this film; it’s personal, and it shows. This film is a “the summer when everything changed” type of story . Steven Yeun is, as always, masterful in encapsulating the minimal emotions and laconic speech of his character. Veteran Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn is my other favorite in this film; her character’s feisty-yet-lovable grandma persona truly fits. She’s an unwavering icon of the South Korean film industry and her experience shows. Also, the cinematography team for Minari, as well as the editing team, have worked meticulously to create a seamless viewing experience that accentuates emotions, waits for just long enough to switch scenes, and adds the perfect level of drama to every scene. Minari as a whole makes it feel like you’re peeking into the Yi family’s life—it’s breathtaking.

The Sundance Award-winning film Minari is a priceless portrait of resilience within family, of sticking together even through the hardest times, and of enjoying the smallest things in life. Minari has some mild language and there are certain religious elements that parents should watch out for.

I give Minari 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. Minari releases in theaters on February 12, 2021, and On-Demand February 26, 2021.

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Almost Paradise * Chilling and suspenseful, this show keeps you at the edge of your seat all the way through the credits!

Monday, February 15th, 2021

A former US DEA agent is forced into early retirement and runs a gift shop in the Philippines. Although he tries to leave his past behind him and lead a peaceful life, he is constantly being pulled back into a world of dangerous people and deadly situations. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Samantha B. comments, “

The chilling and suspenseful action-filled show Almost Paradise manages to keep the viewer at the edge of their seat and kept me there until the credits rolled. One thing I love about the show is how convincing the special effects are, especially the gory makeup. It doesn’t feel cheesy or unbelievable and actually shocked me the first time I watched it.” See her full review below.

Almost Paradise
Samantha B. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 11

The chilling and suspenseful action-filled show Almost Paradise manages to keep the viewer at the edge of their seat and kept me there until the credits rolled. One thing I love about the show is how convincing the special effects are, especially the gory makeup. It doesn’t feel cheesy or unbelievable and actually shocked me the first time I watched it.

This series revolves around a retired FBI agent who solves crimes. These crimes take place on an island where he lives. He solves crime cases while also battling stress attacks and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). These cases can vary from murder to drug dealing to sex trafficking.

I love all of the characters on this show, but my favorite has to be Alex Walker (Christian Kane.) Alex is a complex character and is written in a smart way that adds to the story. Another excellent actor is Arthur Acuña who plays Ernesto, one of the cops that assists Alex in solving cases. Arthur makes this character mysterious in a way that draws the viewer in. Almost Paradise does a lot of things well – the sets are eerie and pleasing to the eye, and they tell the story of what’s going on, while adding a creepy touch. I also really like the screenwriting. It makes the show feel natural and realistic and makes you believe what the actors are saying.  One of my favorite scenes is an exciting chase scene. Right when I was sure this scene would go one way, it unfolds in a totally different one.

The message of this show is the importance of justice, which is uplifting and inspiring. Every cop on this show has a strong sense of justice by risking their lives for others and showing empathy. Some things to look out for in this show are sexual jokes, adult themes, violence, blood/gore, and heavy emotional topics.

Overall, I give Almost Paradise 4 out of 5 stars. I loved this series. I highly recommend Almost Paradise for an age range of 11 to 18, plus adults. You can find Almost Paradise on YouTube, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.  

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things * Heart-Warming Teenage Love Story In A Time Loop

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Two teens live the same day repeatedly, enabling them to create the titular map. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is an American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film directed by Ian Samuels, from a screenplay by Lev Grossman, based upon his short story of the same name. It stars Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Jermaine Harris, Anna Mikami, Josh Hamilton, Cleo Fraser, and Jorja Fox.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S., comments, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a fun film with amazing stunts, a heart-warming teenage love story, a time loop and even a really cool 4-D cube drawing! The idea in this story of having infinite do-overs to create the perfect day is fascinating. Putting it all together, this film is a great combination of action, light romance, adventure, and comedy.” Mikella G. adds, “I really like The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, because it has an interesting story line that makes you think differently about life. It teaches viewers a very important life lesson, as well as making you feel something while you’re watching. It’s simple but complex, and overall just a really cute and enjoyable movie.” See their full reviews and interviews with talent below.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a fun film with amazing stunts, a heart-warming teenage love story, a time loop and even a really cool 4-D cube drawing! The idea in this story of having infinite do-overs to create the perfect day is fascinating. Putting it all together, this film is a great combination of action, light romance, adventure, and comedy.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things features Mark (Kyle Allen) who gets stuck in a time loop and is living the same day over and over again. Every night at midnight, he falls asleep and wakes up with the previous day starting over again. In the mist of the time loop, one day he meets a mysterious girl named Margaret (Kathryn Newton) who is stuck in the same time loop. They end up on an adventure all around the city finding the “tiny things” that make up that one perfect day, while trying to decide if and how to break the time loop.

I enjoyed watching Mark and Margaret’s friendship develop and all the wild things they do without suffering consequences since they are in the time loop, like drive a tractor down the street. My favorite part is when they completely trash a model home, knowing the time loop would put it back the way it was. Another part I love is when Mark shows his dad the tattoo he got. It’s funny because he shows it to his dad right before he goes back into the time loop so his dad won’t remember. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things has some really great stunts in it, too. One stunt I thought was cool was when Mark throws his water bottle at a closing door and makes it through!

The message of this film is that sometimes the most perfect things in life may be the smallest things. One great lesson Mark’s character shows is how to care about others. I loved seeing him remember all the ways he can help people in his town each day and spread kindness. A couple of things adults should look out for in this film include places with Margaret drinking and mild cursing.

I rate The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 years old. Adults will like it, too. Don’t forget to check out The Map of Tiny Perfect Things on Amazon Prime Video, February 12, 2021.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

I really like The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, because it has an interesting story line that makes you think differently about life. It teaches viewers a very important life lesson, as well as making you feel something while you’re watching. It’s simple but complex, and overall just a really cute and enjoyable movie. Plus, it’s a good length, not too long or short.

The storyline follows two characters, Mark (Kyle Allen) and Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who are basically trapped in time. The same day repeats over and over again, and they can’t ever die due to the fact that time has stopped. When Mark and Margaret finally meet each other, they go around the town looking for the “Tiny Perfect things,” hoping this will un-trap them from this time dimension. Throughout their time together, they discover new things about each other, and how special the little things in life really are.

I really enjoyed the film’s storylines of the two main characters. They have their own opinions on life. Also, the casting for this is terrific. Kyle Allen and Kathryn Newton are both believable as their characters and own their roles. Kathryn’s execution of Margaret is impeccable. She really makes the character stand out, and doesn’t hold back. We see all the different sides of the character. Margaret makes us look at things from a different perspective. Kyle also has great execution of Mark. You can really feel all of his frustration and anger. It’s almost as if we are there with him. They definitely locked me in while I was watching, and my thoughts never wandered. I also enjoyed the special effects, which are perfect for the film. Throughout the movie there are little things that they incorporate that really add to the dimension of the film. For instance, there are multiple scenes where they show us examples of tiny perfect things. This not only contributes to the lesson of the film, but also makes you realize the value of life, and how most of us are just going through the motions. It reminds us how special life really is.

The message of this film is to never take life for granted, and be grateful for the little things in life. You never know when you can encounter a drastic change, so always live life to the fullest while you can. Be aware that this film does have some profanity. However it’s pretty mild.

I give The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 21, as well as adults. You can watch The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Worldwide starting on February 12, 2021 on Amazon Prime.

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