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Archive for May, 2021

Cruella * A Very Audacious Take For A Disney Movie – Bold, Strong, Raw And Filled With Creativity

Friday, May 28th, 2021

Before she becomes Cruella de Vil? Teenaged Estella has a dream. She wishes to become a fashion designer, having been gifted with talent, innovation, and ambition all in equal measures. But life seems intent on making sure her dreams never come true. Having wound up penniless and orphaned in London at 12, four years later Estella runs wild through the city streets with her best friends and partners-in-(petty)-crime, Horace and Jasper, two amateur thieves. When a chance encounter vaults Estella into the world of the young rich and famous, she begins to question the existence she’s built for herself in London and wonders whether she might be destined for more after all. When an up-and-coming rock star commissions Estella to design him a signature piece, she begins to feel as though she has truly arrived. But what is the cost of keeping up with the fast crowd- and is it a price Estella is willing to pay?

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “Cruella, the film,is a very audacious take for a Disney movie. It is bold, strong, raw, and at the same time flourishing with creativity and joyful to watch. The acting is superb and all aspects of production—costumes, locations, art and design—are on point. Last but not least, the soundtrack is definitively one to remember.” Tiana S. adds, “The message of this film is that sometimes the worst memories are the ones that have the greatest impact on your life. In this film, Estella experiences different events in her life that would break the typical person, but it led to her experiencing some of the greater moments of her life, such as meeting Jasper and Horace or having a chance make clothing.” See their full reviews and interview below.

Cruella
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Cruella, the film,is a very audacious take for a Disney movie. It is bold, strong, raw, and at the same time flourishing with creativity and joyful to watch. The acting is superb and all aspects of production—costumes, locations, art and design—are on point. Last but not least, the soundtrack is definitively one to remember.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This origin story tells how the well-known villain from the original book and subsequent animated movie The Hundred and One Dalmatians becomes Cruella. Sadly, it takes bullying, cruelty and hate to turn a wonderful character to evil. In Cruella we see a young Estella (Tipper Steifert-Cleveland) surviving as an orphan, struggling to create a family with two boys she meets on the street, along with the noble company of two dogs that are humans’ best friends. This is one of the aspects I love about Cruella: despite that Cruella de Vil is well known for animal cruelty, this movie honors dogs by having two canines, Buddy and Blink, as important cast members.

Tipper Steifert-Cleveland’s performance is the perfect predecessor to the stunning grown-up Estella (Emma Stone) to shine in a multi-layered character. We see how 12-year-old Estella is bullied at school which is one of the most important messages of the movie to its younger audience, showing how people that surround you can hurt you when your appearance doesn’t match what they see as “normal.” As Estella, Emma Stone is full of creativity and ideals and an absolute survivor. She’s a hard worker who’s determined to make her dreams come to life. We see her cleaning floors and toilets at the iconic fashion store Liberty of London, pursuing a career in fashion design—but society sabotages her plans.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Baroness (Emma Thompson) is despicable and charming at the same time. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser play Jasper and Horace, respectively; little thieves that show unconditional love to Estella and are literally partners in crime. John the Valet (Mark Strong), besides being perfectly cast, should have had more presence in the storyline since he could have brought more humanity and hope to the film. My favorite part? The music, brilliantly composed by Nicholas Britell to match the narration and the era. And the visuals and cinematography are just stunning.

The story of Cruella is fascinating, but my only issue is how long the storytelling takes, including scenes that could have been edited out. At times, there are a couple instances of self-explanatory dialogue related to the turning point in the story: the world is cruel, making Estella become the meanest villain in response. Ultimately, the message of the film is that environment, nature and nurture play a decisive role in one’s being and in our role in society.

I give Cruella 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids 13 to 18, plus adults. There are some mildly violent scenes and themes that can be inappropriate for the very young. Cruella opens May 28, 2021 in theaters and on digital platforms.

Cruella
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

Cruella is an all-new, live-action feature film that is fashion-forward and villainous! The fashion and soundtrack really help drive the film. The camerawork is astonishing and connects you to the protagonist’s journey.

Based on the novel The One Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith, Cruella takes you on the journey of how the most fashionable villain goes from being a mischievous, rebellious and fashionable young girl (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) to becoming Cruella De Vil (Emma Stone). After suffering a great loss, Estella meets two young homeless thieves, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and they instantly become family. Estella uses her fashion sense to design costumes to allow them to run scams to survive. Then, she gets the job of a lifetime, creating outfits for the chic, terrifying fashion legend, the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson). After a revelation connecting the Baroness to a horrific event from her childhood, Estella seeks revenge and gets a chance to let out her inner “Cruella.”

The main characters in this film are Estella/Cruella de Vil, the Baroness von Hellman, Jasper, Horace, Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and Mark Strong (John the Valet). Cruella is narrated by none other than Cruella herself and is set in 1970s London during the punk rock revolution. The camera techniques used are sensational; at times they make you feel like you are walking with the characters. The party scenes stay true to the red, black and white color pallet Cruella is known to wear. My favorite part is when the rebellious Cruella goes to a black and white ball wearing an all-white outfit and drops a match on it. The dress burns up and reveals a red dress underneath. It is also remarkable how costume designer, Jenny Beavan up-cycled materials, such as trash, and uses the infamous Dalmatian pattern, to create Cruella’s outfits.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action CRUELLA.

The message of this film is that sometimes the worst memories are the ones that have the greatest impact on your life. In this film, Estella experiences different events in her life that would break the typical person, but it led to her experiencing some of the greater moments of her life, such as meeting Jasper and Horace or having a chance make clothing. The only parent warning I have is a short scene where Estella is drinking.

I rate Cruella 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18; adults are sure to love it too. Cruella releases simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on Friday, May 28, 2021.

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A Quiet Place Part II * A Screaming Delight with Surprising Twists and Major Intensity

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “As much as Emily Blunt and John Krasinski have to be incredibly silent, A Quiet Place Part II is a screaming delight with surprising twists and major intensity. Just when you think you can’t get enough of these mind-boggling jump scares, the film provides new creative plot lines that make you jump left and right. The film does lack a major conclusion, which doesn’t really give viewers closure, and it leaves you with the thought, “Wait, the movie’s over?”  Samantha B. adds, “One of the best things about A Quiet Place Part II is the talent! I believe every actor and actress featured in this amazing film deserves a standing ovation. My favorite actress is Emily Blunt who is excellent in her role as Evelyn Abbott, bringing layers to her character and displaying her character’s growth as the movie progresses.” See their full reviews below.

A Quiet Place Part II
By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

As much as Emily Blunt and John Krasinski have to be incredibly silent, A Quiet Place Part II is a screaming delight with surprising twists and major intensity. Just when you think you can’t get enough of these mind-boggling jump scares, the film provides new creative plot lines that make you jump left and right. The film does lack a major conclusion, which doesn’t really give viewers closure, and it leaves you with the thought, “Wait, the movie’s over?”

As you can guess, A Quiet Place Pat II picks up after the events of A Quiet Place. The film follows the Abbott family after they leave their previously destroyed home. When they discover a nearby outlander named Emmett (Cillian Murphy), they attempt to work with him so they can face the challenges outside their known world to survive the day. This sequel broadens the universe in ways that we could have never known in the first movie. 

When it comes to a horror film, of course you need plenty of monsters. The increased amount of screen time the aliens have in A Quiet Place Part II is immensely more than the first movie. The visual effects department stepped up their game, really improving the CGI with plenty of detail, and making the aliens look a lot more realistic. With the number of aliens being amped up, of course the amount of action is too. The film includes as much action as you could possibly have in a 90 minute runtime. 

The one word that describes A Quiet Place Part II is – intense. The sequel adapts its genre from horror to more of a thriller, with an emphasis on thrills. Certain parts of the film can be very extreme and make your heart pump out of your chest. It might seem scary on the outside, but on the inside, it demonstrates themes of family and friendship. It also expresses the importance of trust, and how you should bestow it upon new people in your life.

Topping an outstanding first movie is an almost impossible task, but director John Krasinski proves it to be possible by making A Quiet Place Part II superior to the first movie. Without a doubt A Quiet Place Part II is dialed up 100% from the first movie, improving the alien screen time and CGI that the debut movie lacked. Therefore, I give A Quiet Place Part II 5 out of 5 stars and recommend the film for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. You can find A Quiet Place Part II in your local theater on May 28, 2021.

A Quiet Place Part II
By Samantha B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

A Quiet Place Part II returns to the Abbott family minus Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) who dies in the first movie trying to save his family from aliens attempting to take over the world. It appears the aliens have returned to the Abbott’s small town where, once again, any noise will lead to certain death. But there is hope after the discovery of an old friend in hiding.

This outstanding horror film sequel by John Krasinski exemplifies how cinematography and lighting can make a film ten times better. This is especially clear in one of my favorite scenes in which Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) is standing in her flooding nursery, with paper falling off the walls, and dim red lights wrapped around her soaked dress.  The camera angles really make this scene much more majestic and tragic. Also, the cinematography captures the CGI figures perfectly. It is terrifying and chilling how realistic these creatures look, drawing the audience into this truly unique film.

L-r, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Evelyn (Emily Blunt) brave the unknown in “A Quiet Place Part II.”

One of the best things about A Quiet Place Part II is the talent! I believe every actor and actress featured in this amazing film deserves a standing ovation. My favorite actress is Emily Blunt who is excellent in her role as Evelyn Abbott, bringing layers to her character and displaying her character’s growth as the movie progresses. Also, the CGI used to create the antagonizing creatures truly stands out. It feels as if the creatures are there with the actors during the shoot, which is both terrifying and impressive at the same time.

The main messages of A Quiet Place Part II are to have bravery and perseverance. Examples of those qualities can be seen when protagonist Regan Abbott (Millicent Simmonds) goes off on her own, leaving her mother and two brothers behind in search of an island rumored to have other survivors. Some things to be aware of in A Quiet Place Part II are gore, jump scares and some other instances of horror that would not be appropriate for a younger audience.

I give A Quiet Place Part II 5 out of 5 stars. I loved it! I would recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. You can find A Quiet Place Part II at your local movie theater starting on May 28, 2021.

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P!nk: All I Know So Far * Each And Every Second Is Enjoyable

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

This documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at P!NK as she balances family and life on the road, leading up to her first Wembley Stadium performance on 2019’s “Beautiful Trauma” world tour. The film follows P!nk as she balances being a performer with her role as a mother, wife and boss. It mixes footage from the road, behind the scenes interviews, and personal material. On the tour, P!nk played 156 shows in 18 countries. The film is produced by Michael Gracey and Isabella Parish, with Luminaries, Silent House and Lefty Paw Print.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Hazel A. comments, “I was intrigued by P!nk: All I Know So Far and enjoyed each and every second of it, from its realistic aspect to the behind-the-scenes showing them working on the performances. We see that P!nk loves her family just as much as she loves performing and how she makes time for both. Each and every part of this documentary is amazing.” Nathalia J. adds, “This film shows the true meaning of kindness. What I took away from watching it is: you are perfectly perfect just the way you are. You may appear “weird” and “not normal” to others, but do not let them define who you truly are.” See their full reviews below.

P!nk: All I Know So Far
By Hazel A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

I was intrigued by P!nk: All I Know So Far and enjoyed each and every second of it, from its realistic aspect to the behind-the-scenes showing them working on the performances. We see that P!nk loves her family just as much as she loves performing and how she makes time for both. Each and every part of this documentary is amazing.

This documentary gives the audience an inside peek into the life of P!nk as a performer and  a mom, while counting down to one of the biggest moments in her life – her 2019 Wembley Stadium performance. This film gives you a taste of all the hard work that P!nk and her team put into every performance. Plus, it shows how she balances her profession with being a mother of two and being absolutely great at both.

The beginning of P!nk: All I Know So Far pulled me in immediately as it gave me the feeling that I was about to see something incredible. And, I was one hundred percent right; I love everything about this documentary. I loved seeing the honest and hardworking P!nk on screen. She conveys how hard being the boss can be, especially as a woman in this industry. In P!nk’s case, her team respects her and is committed to perfecting their performance as they practice dance moves and rework blocking to make things easier on P!nk.

This film shows you that Pink is just as human as the rest of us. She may be a singer with many hits, but at the end of the day, she is back with her family doing what most people do. She wants to be a great mom and that’s the main reason she brings her kids on tour with her. Seeing how much P!nk loves her family brings a calm and heartwarming aspect to the film.

Pink stars in P!NK: ALL I KNOW SO FAR Photo: Andrew Macpherson © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

I learned a lot about P!nk that I didn’t know before and that helped me understand her better. I love seeing P!nk give advice to her younger self as well as to her kids. I found myself learning some things to use in my own life. My favorite thing was, “Lead by example, work hard.” She does both as she participates in this beautiful but overwhelming business, while absolutely killing it. You might find yourself learning new things about the pop-star P!nk and you will be inspired by what is on screen.

This film really shows audiences how much hard work P!nk puts into her art. We usually only see the final product of P!nk being on stage. This shows the ups and downs she goes through as a performer and how she deals with everything thrown at her. 

I give P!nk: All I Know So Far 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults.  P!nk: All I Know So Far can be streamed on Amazon Prime now.

P!nk: All I Know So Far
By Nathalia J, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

P!nk: All I Know So Far, a new Amazon concert documentary on the singer, by Michael Gracey (The Greatest Showman) highlights the daily struggles and fortunate moments through the eyes of Pink, showcasing how she balances being a wife, woman, Grammy-award winning singer and above all, a mother. 

The documentary shows Pink during the summer of 2019 as she travels throughout Europe on her “Beautiful Trauma” world visit with her kids and spouse, Carey Hart, a previously proficient motocross competitor. The opening minutes effectively compare two sides of the artist –  the brave entertainer swinging on a chandelier-like structure over a swarmed stadium in a dark sparkle leotard and the active mother taking her family from one city to the next.

Carey Hart and Pink star in P!NK: ALL I KNOW SO FAR Photo: Andrew Macpherson © 2021 Amazon Content Services LLC

Beginning in Amsterdam, Pink talks about the road bumps of life on the road and the new struggles with being a mother of two children. She is not only hoping for a wonderful experience on tour for her fans, but also for the moment of a lifetime for her kids. “The only way I can justify dragging my family all over the world is that we are making memories together,” she says. It’s truly wonderful to see how passionate and dedicated she is in bringing out her best with every performance. However, it’s sad to see how much pressure she is put under and how tough she is on herself. 

P!nk: All I Know So Far reveals show rehearsals, bike rides through different cities and unplanned moments. These scenes highlight her family’s dynamics, showing her open communication with her kids, and showing Pink’s parenting style. Pink works hard to foster an inclusive nurturing environment; she wants her children to stay quirky and fun, and she encourages them to be nothing but themselves. P!nk: All I Know So Far doesn’t ever get as raw as promised. The film spends far more time telling rather than showing, and uses lots of explanatory narration. I found that a bit distracting and it didn’t hold my interest as much as when we actually got to peek behind the scenes of her life. After all, this is a film, not a short story or novel.  My favorite parts are the moments when Pink is hanging out with all her background dancers and seeing their connection with Pink’s oldest daughter, Willow and her youngest son, Jameson.  Of course, getting to see her practice all her stunts and almost flying through the air is exhilarating. She has so much love for everyone she associates herself with and who supports her. One moment that is extremely heartfelt, is when Pink reads messages from her fans. One woman that shared her story and battles told how Pink’s music and ‘I don’t care’ attitude has influenced her and ultimately saved her. 

This film shows the true meaning of kindness. What I took away from watching it is: you are perfectly perfect just the way you are. You may appear “weird” and “not normal” to others, but do not let them define who you truly are. 

I give P!nk: All I Know So Far 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. It’s available now on Amazon Prime Video.

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1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything * Captures A Year That Baby Boomers And Gen Xers Lived Through

Friday, May 21st, 2021

In a tumultuous era, 1971 would be a year of musical innovation and rebirth. Fueled by the political and cultural upheaval of the time, fresh talent exploded onto the scene, stars reached new heights, and boundaries expanded like never before. Watch 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, now on Apple TV+. This eight-part docuseries will take you back to the birth of the most original artists and songs that we still listen to 50 years later, including never-before-seen footage of The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed, and more.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything is about resilience and inspiration, or rather inspiration through resilience. As these incredible musicians weathered the tempest that was the titular year, they funneled their energy toward releasing uplifting and rousing music that would echo with the general populace; they truly seized the opportunity. And I feel that it’s a great parallel to 2020 and now 2021.” See his full review below.

1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything is a beautiful docuseries capturing the reality of a year that Baby Boomers and members of Generation X lived through.  In this series, the blooming of unique soundtracks in a turbulent time is captured gracefully, using archival footage and interviews plus voiceovers from influential and iconic figures of the ‘70s.

The eight-part docuseries focuses on the musicians and soundtracks that shaped the culture and politics of 1971; featured artists include The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, The Who, Joni Mitchell, Lou Reed… and even Ravi Shankar. 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything goes to great depth (each episode lasts from 40 to 60 minutes) to illustrate how these musical icons were influenced by the changing tides of history, including the Vietnam War, and how they used their work to inspire hope and change in their not-always-beautiful world. From politically-tinted songs to dreams of unity, the show runs the gamut of songs and emotions. It’s truly a beautifully-executed series, though it tends to drag about three quarters of the way into each episode.

The series comes from a filmmaking team that includes figures from documentaries like the Academy Award-winning ‘Amy,’ and so you know it’s going to be an awesome piece of work. Asif Kapadia is the show’s series director and serves as executive producer along with James Gay-Rees, David Joseph, and Universal Music Group’s Adam Barker. And this undertaking truly is a team effort; the production team has meticulously picked snippets of interviews, radio broadcasts, film from the recording booth and performances, and more, all from 1971, and pieced them together to tell a beautiful, intricate story. As you watch more and more of the show, you begin to get sucked into the world that is being portrayed on screen, a surefire sign that the minds behind 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything did lots of things right! Despite the show dragging a bit here and there, your eyes will surely be glued to the screen whenever you watch the series.

1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything is about resilience and inspiration, or rather inspiration through resilience. As these incredible musicians weathered the tempest that was the titular year, they funneled their energy toward releasing uplifting and rousing music that would echo with the general populace; they truly seized the opportunity. And I feel that it’s a great parallel to 2020 and now 2021; certainly, music has played a major part in getting us through the pandemic, and who knows? Maybe 40 years down the road, we’ll see a film about 2020: The Year That Music Changed Everything… Again.

I give 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything 4.5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything releases May 21, 2021, on Apple TV+!

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The Dark Hobby * A Compelling Documentary Exposing the Ugly Truth of the Aquarium Hobby

Friday, May 21st, 2021

The Dark Hobby is an exposé of the devastation to species and reefs caused by the aquarium trade. This adventurous saga follows a band of Hawaiian Elders, conservationists and scientists who stop at nothing to protect marine wildlife. They file a lawsuit against the State of Hawai’i to halt the collection of reef creatures, a fight that goes all the way to the Supreme Court. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Dominic D., comments, “The Dark Hobby, a compelling new documentary film, exposes the ugly truth behind a hobby practiced by so many people globally – the aquarium hobbyist. This film sheds light on the secrets of wildlife trafficking through the corrupt commercial extraction of our most precious species occupying the world’s coral reefs.” See his full review below.

The Dark Hobby (2021)
By Dominic D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

How can we fix what we don’t know is broken?  How can we make change for something if we can’t see what is wrong?  The answer is simple…we can’t unless we are aware that a problem exists. Hidden under the surface of our oceans within some of the riches habitats on the globe, there IS a problem and we must take immediate action to save our natural world before it disappears. The Dark Hobby, a compelling new documentary film, exposes the ugly truth behind a hobby practiced by so many people globally – the aquarium hobbyist. This film sheds light on the secrets of wildlife trafficking through the corrupt commercial extraction of our most precious species occupying the world’s coral reefs.

Aquariums are certainly beautiful and enjoyable for humans, but they come at a huge cost to other living things involved in this “hobby” industry. The Dark Hobby highlights some alarming statistics within this captive industry that are sure to shock those that admire these artificial habitats. The film takes us to Hawaii’s Kona Coast where Robert Wintner, the film’s executive producer and long time marine activist, educates us on the dismal journey of marine life from capture to captivity. Several other activists and research scientists offer additional evidence on this ever so cruel hobby. Plucked from their natural habitat, 99% of marine wildlife die within the first year of captivity – only to be replaced following their death. The continuous demand to replace aquarium life drives many “aquarium collectors” into the business, causing great devastation to marine ecosystems. The Dark Hobby refers to fish keeping as a “global travesty demanding the world’s attention” and this film is sure to change minds.

The Dark Hobby takes us underwater to some of the richest marine habitats in the world. This exclusive footage is outstanding and beautifully captured by the film’s cinematographers. The Hawaiian ecosystems shown in this documentary are so diversified and viewers get a firsthand look at what could be lost if we continue to allow wildlife to be stolen.  The scenes with including Native Hawaiians speaking out to save their culture are especially powerful and a great addition to the film.

The message in The Dark Hobby is about the need to open our eyes and think critically about all that is involved in human entertainment.  Humanity can be driven at times by greed and selfishness, which can cloud reality.  Humans are taking away marine life’s most prized possession – their freedom – and this film gives us the information and education we need to speak out about giving that freedom back.

I give The Dark Hobby 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. Adults, especially animal activists, will also love this documentary. The Dark Hobby makes its debut May 21, 2021 on a variety of digital platforms. Please spread the word, it’s critical that this film’s message be heard.

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