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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil * Magnificent Performances, Beautiful Art Direction, Wandering Script

Friday, October 18th, 2019

Maleficent and her goddaughter Aurora begin to question the complex family ties that bind them as they are pulled in different directions by impending nuptials, unexpected allies, and dark new forces at play. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is totally intriguing because of how unpredictable the storyline is. The writers applied their creativity and the CGI brings it all to life. The visuals along with the emotional impact made watching this film an exciting experience.” Benjamin P. adds, “The film doesn’t give Angelina Jolie much to do this time around and I was surprised at the scarce amount of dialogue she is given. Jolie is magnetic onscreen and the film should have utilized her powerful presence more.” Jordan M. chimes in with, “This movie successfully switches between the happy and dark sides of the ongoing feud with the mythical creatures and the humans. Also, the amount of effort and detail that went into the art direction and special effects pays off to make the film even better.” Zoe C. comments, “The story flows very nicely; it is like watching how a great fairy tale comes to life in the big screen, but Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t take us beyond the impact of the first movie.” Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult reviewer concludes with, “I give this film 3 of 5 stars for its lack of character development and a shifting storyline. The casting is exemplary, especially the humorous takes when Maleficent is made to be more human. Costumes, hair and makeup are stunning. Make no mistake; some of the scenes will be scary to younger children. There is a lot of CGI violence and many off-screen deaths.” See their full reviews below.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

In 2014, when I was 6, I cried so emotionally at a movie for the first time during one of the climactic scenes of Maleficent. That origin story made a great point showing where this classic villain came from. Now, at 11, I am sure there is evil in this world, and that it can be found where is not expected.

Elle Fanning is Aurora, Angelina Jolie is Maleficent and Sam Riley is Diaval in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, a new sequel to the live-action film, the story starts with Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Princess Aurora (Elle Fanning) having a happily ever after godmother-goddaughter relationship. But when Aurora decides to marry Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), Maleficent’s instincts trigger a war. Will Aurora marry the Prince and find true love?

Angelina Jolie is again the perfect Maleficent: she is sarcastic and funny, wise, sensitive and evil. She portrays all these different qualities so well. Another performance I enjoyed is Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Conall, a male fairy from the Dark Fay. He shows the beauty of being a true leader in a very subtle tone, and it is an original character from the traditional Disney film. Michelle Pfieffer is very charming as Queen Ingrith, and the dinner scene where she is confronted by Maleficent shows a very interesting encounter from two powerful actresses.

The visuals in the film are beautiful:  The costumes are stunning and the whole movie is so beautiful to watch. We see the splendor of castles and the reign of the humans. The Dark Fay is this obscure underground place that despite its dreary appearance becomes a place for truth. The music from Geoff Zanelli enhances the scenes transporting us to this mythical place.

Elle Fanning is Aurora in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

The story flows very nicely; it is like watching how a great fairy tale comes to life in the big screen, but Maleficent: Mistress of Evil doesn’t take us beyond the impact of the first movie. It is very well done and reiterates there’s no black or white but areas of gray. The message of this film is that love does not always end well.

I give Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 16. It releases in theatres on October 18, 2019.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is totally intriguing because of how unpredictable the storyline is. The writers applied their creativity and the CGI brings it all to life. The visuals along with the emotional impact made watching this film an exciting experience.

This film is the sequel to Maleficent (2014). It is best to watch Maleficent first and then watch Maleficent: Mistress of Evil to have a better understanding. This series is based on the story of Sleeping Beauty and the writers add their own twists, so you might be unfamiliar with the plot even if you know the plot of Sleeping Beauty. The story starts off with Prince Philip’s proposal to Aurora. Their marriage will unite two kingdoms, the Moors and Ulstead. The problem is that the queens of the kingdoms are not on good terms so the marriage does not happen smoothly.

Angelina Jolie plays the powerful and bold Maleficent. Angelina Jolie is perfectly cast for this role with her strong cheekbones and how she commands all the attention. Through subtle changes in her eyes and facial expressions she shows a lot of emotion. Elle Fanning plays sweet and innocent Aurora. Fanning is a wonderful actor as well who can be soft and tough at the same time.

Harris Dickinson is Prince Phillip, Elle Fanning is Aurora, Robert Lindsay is King John and Michelle Pfeiffer is Queen Ingrith in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL

The CGI of the fairies and creatures is very realistic. They are colorful and the habitat that they live in is pleasing to look at as well. I especially love the CGI for Maleficent’s wings. They move as one with Angelina Jolie and also help convey her emotions. Maleficent goes through many costume changes and they are all stunning, even though they have a limited number of colors to work with. The costumes highlight her power and confidence. The costumes for Aurora are very flowery and emphasize her innocence. The costumes for Aurora are also symbolic later on in the film.

I simply cannot choose a favorite part of the film. There are so many parts where I cried and laughed. I don’t want to spoil anything so all I can say is that I love the scenes where Maleficent gets to use her strong wings.

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent, Sam Riley is Diaval, Jenn Murray is Gerda, Harris Dickinson is Prince Phillip, Elle Fanning is Aurora, Robert Lindsay is King John and Michelle Pfeiffer is Queen Ingrith in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL.

There are multiple prominent messages and even more underlying messages that can be found in this film. One of the main messages is about looking past appearances to communicate with others. Many of the humans judge the creatures based on what they look like. They stereotype and assume the actions of these creatures, which creates unnecessary apprehension. This can also be applied to our world today, so it is wonderful that the film brings awareness to this problem.

I love the crazy ride that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has brought me on and you will love it too! I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. Even Disney adult fans will enjoy this. Be sure to watch when it comes out in theaters on October 18, 2019.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
By Benjamin Price, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil explores the world of its archetypal big-bad title character—the witch from the iconic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty—but fans who met her in Disney’s 2014 live action film will be disappointed with the overstuffed plot and uneven tone in this film.

Michelle Pfeiffer is Queen Ingrith and David Gyasi is Percival in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) protects the Moors, a place inhabited by a vast array of magical creatures from fairies to humanoid trees. Her daughter Aurora (Elle Fanning) accepts a marriage proposal from Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), prompting talks of peace and unity between the Moors and Phillip’s kingdom. Maleficent wearily meets her daughter’s in-laws, King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). The already tense evening escalates when King John becomes cursed and Maleficent is believed to be at fault. She flees, but Aurora refuses to go with her. Maleficent goes on a journey of self-discovery and must restore order between humankind and her kind.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is so steadfast in the gritty approach it takes to its fairy tale world; it often undermines the magic that makes these stories so enduringly popular. When it comes to fairy tales, realism and gloom is not what has kept them in the public consciousness for centuries.

Maleficent does have some high points. The costume and production design are phenomenal, further suspending you in this world. There are some pretty awe-inspiring shots from Maleficent’s point of view as she soars through the sky. There are also some interesting ideas about family and parenting here; far more interesting than the exploits of the tribe of fellow fairies Maleficent meets. If any of the individual ideas presented were given room to breathe and develop, the film would be much better for it. Instead, there’s a lack of focus that clouds much of the runtime and it’s clear the film doesn’t quite know what it wants to accomplish. They pack too many characters and subplots into one film.

Michelle Pfeiffer is Queen Ingrith and Jenn Murray is Gerda in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL.

One of the costs is screen-time for Maleficent. The film doesn’t give Angelina Jolie much to do this time around and I was surprised at the scarce amount of dialogue she is given. When she’s training herself to smile or going verbally head-to-head with Queen Ingrith, Jolie shines. Jolie is magnetic onscreen and the film should have utilized her powerful presence more. One consolation though is Michelle Pfeiffer delving into the role of a villain. Her passive-aggressive manner mixes well with a jaded, nihilistic worldview and she’s a lot of fun to watch.

I recommend Maleficent: Mistress of Evil for ages 11 to 17 due to mass fantasy violence. For a film about peace and togetherness, it’s pretty violent and pushes the envelope on its PG rating. I give it 1.5 out of 5 stars. The film comes out in theaters October 18, 2019.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil 
By Jordan Millar, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

https://abc13.com/entertainment/sandy-kenyon-reviews-maleficent-mistress-of-evil/5628944/

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a very emotional and fantastical movie with a unique take on the classic fairytale of Sleeping Beauty. Since I saw the first live-action Maleficent movie and the original Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I was really eager to see how the second Maleficent would compare to those, and this sequel does them justice. I am glad that we get to know more about Maleficent, the “villain” of the story. 

Michelle Pfeiffer is Queen Ingrith and David Gyasi is Percival in Disney’s live-action MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL.

This movie successfully switches between the happy and dark sides of the ongoing feud with the mythical creatures and the humans. Also, the amount of effort and detail that went into the art direction and special effects pays off to make the film even better. From the sets to the mysterious woodland creatures, everything is colorful, vibrant and beautifully detailed, which makes it feel like you are in another world. 

It is fun to see Angelina Jolie play Maleficent again because she provides the perfect balance of strength and sweetness. The movie also introduces us to many new characters, such as Prince Phillip’s evil mother, Queen Ingrith, and the Dark Fey, a group of winged creatures similar to Maleficent. 

Angelina Jolie is Maleficent in Disney’s MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil spends a lot of time on the execution of the Queen’s plot to take down Maleficent and other magical creatures, but never really explains how the Queen is able to get the information she needs to fulfill her plan. Some parts of the plot needed to be developed more but seemed rushed to get to the epic battle scene. Also, because there is so much going on with the battle plot, there isn’t really an opportunity to find out a lot more about Maleficent. The first film was all about Maleficent, which is what made it so great. In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, her character is more on the sidelines up until the end. 

The moral of this movie is that anyone can be good or bad and not to judge a book by its cover, because villains can come in many different forms.

The film has a lot of beautiful visuals and lighthearted magic, but there are also some very dark scenes. I rate this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, as well as adults. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil hits theaters on Friday October 18, 2019 so check it out.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
By Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is the great bad queen! As you may recall, Maleficent is the evil queen from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. As her character came to life, it is a dark reminder of how electric this actress is, and how good it is to be bad! 

Jolie rocked this role in 2014’s Maleficent, a film re-imagined from the character’s point-of-view. It was dark and scary, and the costumes reminded me of Halloween.

This film centers on a clash between Maleficent and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), Mother of Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson), a human royal from a nearby kingdom who wants to marry Aurora (Elle Fanning), Maleficent’s human goddaughter. 

While Aurora is Queen of the Moors and she and Prince Phillip both prefer peace to violence; their hope of building a bridge between the human kingdom and the magical creatures that live on the moors is not to be.

What should have been a celebratory engagement dinner becomes a waged war. Queen Ingrith’s disrespect begins with her meal choice and escalates to providing iron cutlery, which equates to death to faeries. Throughout the verbal barbs which ensue, there are references to racist and current political regimes, including the current U.S. border crisis.

Maleficent is injured and saved by another winged creature. She awakes to learn she is not the single of her kind. In fact, the story gets a bit disjointed as a back story is revealed to explain the change of venue, and introduces hundreds of winged creatures from all over the planet.

As Maleficent’s new tribe decides to fight, Queen Ingrith is preparing for war far below the royal castle walls. The intricate detail to new characters and warfare means the fight is ahead and the architect is revealed. In the beginning, we are lead to believe Maleficent is evil, dark and scary – oh contraire! Maleficent has scary powers, but the true villain is yet to be divulged.   

The costumes are beautiful, especially the makeup on Angelina Jolie, which is spectacular. The story moves about a lot. In fact, I feel it harms character development. It’s Disney so, of course, there is a cute furry animal that will become plush merchandising gold.

I give this film 3 of 5 stars for its lack of character development and a shifting storyline. The casting is exemplary, especially the humorous takes when Maleficent is made to be more human. Costumes, hair and makeup are stunning. This film will appeal to ages 9 to 18, and introduces elements of Sleeping Beauty. Make no mistake; some of the scenes will be scary to younger children. There is a lot of CGI violence and many off-screen deaths. It opens in theaters October 18, 2019 so check it out.

Tall Girl * Coming-Of-Age Story Dealing With Insecurity, Relationships, High School ++

Thursday, October 17th, 2019

Tall Girl is the 2019 Netflix original comedy about Jodi, the tallest girl in her school, who has never quite felt comfortable in her own statuesque skin. All of that changes when she falls for the handsome (and equally tall) foreign exchange student Stig who, of course, gets Jodi’s quirky, best, male friend Dunkleman and his hippie mom as a host family. As a result, Jodi gets embroiled in a surprising love triangle, which helps her realize she’s far more than her insecurities about her height have led her to believe. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail Zoe L. comments, “Netflix’s new movie Tall Girl is a wonderful coming-of-age story that touched my heart. It is really a perfect teen movie, as it deals with insecurity, friendships, relationships, high school, bullying and finding the confidence to believe in oneself.” See her full review below.

Tall Girl
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Netflix’s new movie Tall Girl is a wonderful coming-of-age story that touched my heart. It is really a perfect teen movie, as it deals with insecurity, friendships, relationships, high school, bullying and finding the confidence to believe in oneself.

What I particularly like about the film is that it has a great positive message that, even if you can’t change something about yourself, you should embrace your uniqueness since that is what makes you special. For instance, the main character Jodi, played by the amazingly multi-talented Ava Michelle, is very tall at 6 foot 1 inch, and has been bullied her whole life because of it.  Kids tease Jodi in school with comments like, “How’s the weather up there?,” which naturally hurts her feelings. However, one day, a tall and handsome foreign exchange student Stig (Luke Eisner) comes to her high school and takes an interest in Jodi. This relationship along with her best friend Dunkleman (Griffin Gluck) and her beauty queen sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter) help Jodi find the confidence to believe in and truly accept herself.

My favorite scene is when Jodi and Stig sing the song “Stand Tall” together. It is an original song that Luke Eisner wrote with his band Viola about his father fighting cancer. The song incorporates perfectly into this movie with new lyrics by both Luke and Ava that they recorded in a bathroom. There is also a lot of humor in the movie. Specifically, Dunkleman is very funny and does impressions of Kevin Hart and other people.

The talent is off the charts in this movie.  Luke Eisner is incredibly handsome and has the smoothness of a young George Clooney. His Swedish is authentic and I just can’t get his gorgeous voice out of my head now. Ava Michelle’s voice is wonderful too; together they harmonize on a couple of songs that I just love listening to. Ava is also a great pianist. I also found Griffin’s humor hysterical and, after interviewing him with other actors from the cast, I could immediately see that he has stellar improv chops. Sabrina Carpenter perfectly captures a high school beauty queen. I don’t think there’s anything that Sabrina Carpenter cannot do!

What sticks out in mind about this movie is that it is of the utmost importance to believe in yourself. The movie also reminds us to never trade your integrity by just hanging out with the popular crowd.

This film has several fantastic, timeless moral messages including “accepting and believing in yourself and don’t compromise your integrity.” It’s perfect for teen audiences. I believe both boys and girls will like this movie and I recommend it for ages 10 to 18 as there is some kissing in it. I give Tall Girl 4.5 out of 5 stars and can’t wait to see it again! It premieres on Netflix on September 13, 2019. Look for it.

The Addams Family * Thoroughly Hilarious Watch. Excellent Voice Actors. Funny Script!

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Members of the mysterious and spooky Addams family — Gomez, Morticia, Pugsley, Wednesday, Uncle Fester and Grandma — are readily preparing for a visit from their even creepier relatives. But trouble soon arises when shady TV personality Margaux Needler realizes that the Addams’ eerie hilltop mansion is standing in the way of her dream to sell all the houses in the neighborhood. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The Addams Family is a thoroughly hilarious watch for families. Even adults can have fun as the film boasts humor for all ages. Excellent voice acting and consistently funny script impress. It truly has something for everyone. However, the animation does leave a bit more to be desired; as I felt elements lack refinement and detail, especially compared to current animation.” See his full review below.

The Addams Family
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The Addams Family is a thoroughly hilarious watch for families. Even adults can have fun as the film boasts humor for all ages. Excellent voice acting and consistently funny script impress. It truly has something for everyone.

(L to R) Charlize Theron as the voice of Morticia Addams, Conrad Vernon as the voice of Lurch, Oscar Isaac as the voice of Gomez Addams, Nick Kroll as the voice of Uncle Fester, and Finn Wolfhard as the voice of Pugsley in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The story follows the iconic family in their first animated adventure. Being the kookiest family on the block, several homeowners lend massive disgust for their unconventional ways, teaming up to bring them down. Amidst this is a funny and iconic tale about what it means to be a good neighbor.

The Addams family cast all boast great performances. Oscar Isaac, as Gomez, presents his patriarchal side and his interactions with Pugsley provide great humor. Likewise, Charlize Theron, as Morticia, who cares greatly for Wednesday. Pugsley and Wednesday, played respectively by Finn Wolfhard and Chloe Grace Moretz, are a lot of fun to watch together as they do not get along. Wednesday is my favorite character because her over-analytical self is always enjoyable to watch. Also, Snoop Dogg’s cameo is well worth price of admission; it’s truly unexpected and works.

Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, known for films such as Shrek 2, aptly direct this film. However, the animation does leave a bit more to be desired; as I felt elements lack refinement and detail, especially compared to current animation. My favorite scene is when Lurch, a creature alike Frankenstein, sings. It’s truly hilarious and works amidst his roster of piano playing. The film loses traction once, focusing on the homeowners who lack the characterization of the Addams. Also, Pugsley feels rather undeveloped when compared to Wednesday. I feel that more time could have been devoted to characterizing him.

Charlize Theron as the voice of Morticia Addams (left) and Oscar Isaac as the voice of Gomez Addams (right) in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The message of this film is about accepting others for who they are and learning to resolve differences. Even though The Addams Family is played for outlandish humor, the film realizes the importance of this message and hopes for everyone to accept one another. I give The Addams Family 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 due to its macabre humor. The movie releases in theaters on October 11, 2019, so check it out.

The Addams Family is a thoroughly hilarious watch for families. Even adults can have fun as the film boasts humor for all ages. Excellent voice acting and consistently funny script impress. It truly has something for everyone.

The story follows the iconic family in their first animated adventure. Being the kookiest family on the block, several homeowners lend massive disgust for their unconventional ways, teaming up to bring them down. Amidst this is a funny and iconic tale about what it means to be a good neighbor.

The Addams family cast all boast great performances. Oscar Isaac, as Gomez, presents his patriarchal side and his interactions with Pugsley provide great humor. Likewise, Charlize Theron, as Morticia, who cares greatly for Wednesday. Pugsley and Wednesday, played respectively by Finn Wolfhard and Chloe Grace Moretz, are a lot of fun to watch together as they do not get along. Wednesday is my favorite character because her over-analytical self is always enjoyable to watch. Also, Snoop Dogg’s cameo is well worth price of admission; it’s truly unexpected and works.

Charlize Theron as the voice of Morticia Addams (left) and Oscar Isaac as the voice of Gomez Addams (right) in THE ADDAMS FAMILY, directed by Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon, known for films such as Shrek 2, aptly direct this film. However, the animation does leave a bit more to be desired, as I felt elements lack refinement and detail, especially compared to current animation. My favorite scene is when Lurch, a creature alike Frankenstein, sings. It’s truly hilarious and works amidst his roster of piano playing. The film loses traction once, focusing on the homeowners who lack the characterization of the Addams. Also, Pugsley feels rather undeveloped when compared to Wednesday. I feel that more time could have been devoted to characterizing him.

The message of this film is about accepting others for who they are and learning to resolve differences. Even though The Addams Family is played for outlandish humor, the film realizes the importance of this message and hopes for everyone to accept one another. I give The Addams Family 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 due to its macabre humor. The movie releases in theaters on October 11, 2019, so check it out.

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

Friday, September 27th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Downton Abbey * Elegant, Well Narrated, Exquisite Performances

Friday, September 20th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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