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Archive for the 'Feature film' Category

Spirited * A Fresh Take On Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol – Beautiful Visuals, Great Comedy

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

Each Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrell) selects one dark soul to be reformed by a visit from three spirits. But this season, he picked the wrong Scrooge. Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) turns the tables on his ghostly host until Present finds himself reexamining his own past, present and future. For the first time, “A Christmas Carol” is told from the perspective of the ghosts in this hilarious musical twist on the classic Dickens tale. From Director Sean Anders (“Daddy’s Home,” “Instant Family”), written by Sean Anders and John Morris, with original songs by Oscar winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (“La La Land”) and production numbers choreographed by Chloe Arnold (“The Late Late Show with James Corden”), this modern retelling is a sweet and spicy holiday treat.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Emma D. comments, “Spirited is a fresh new take on Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, paired with beautiful visuals and comedy.  The film is incredibly entertaining, but misses the mark a bit with the music and storyline.” See her full review below.

Spirited 
By Emma D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Spirited is a fresh new take on Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol, paired with beautiful visuals and comedy.  The film is incredibly entertaining, but misses the mark a bit in regards to the music and storyline.

Spirited follows the story of the Spirit of Christmas Present (Will Ferrel), on his mission to reform Clint Briggs (Ryan Reynolds) and his heartless ways. With the help of Past (Sunita Mani) and Future (Tracy Morgan), the spirits hatch a plan to teach Briggs about the error of his ways. Through a series of events, Briggs turns the tables on the Spirit of Christmas Present and together they re-examine their past in order to live the lives they always dreamed of.  

Spirited is a fun and upbeat film, but the music leaves much to be desired. Ferrel and Reynolds are excellent comedic actors and every scene that they are in together is super entertaining and funny. Although they are great actors, neither of them is particularly musically inclined, so unfortunately, many of their songs and musical numbers fall flat. However, one musical number that I really enjoyed was the “Good Afternoon” scene as it is filled with great choreography and energy, which makes it really fun to watch. 

The concept of the film is so clever and refreshing, but its downfall is that the plot has a lot of holes in it. There are a lot of plot-lines that are introduced, but never followed up on, which leaves the audience hanging with questions regarding the storyline. Plus, the consequences that Clint Briggs has to his “cancel culture” concept lack impact.

Spirited has a lot of jokes relating to current pop culture and news, which makes it lose its timeless quality, as many of the jokes may be funny today but will not make sense for future viewers. The visuals in the film are all beautiful, especially in the scenes with the Spirits and their office and also in the “transitions.”  

Spirited addresses the negative impacts of social media and finding yourself. The scenes regarding social media and cyberbullying are very impactful, especially for teenagers and younger audiences. Parents should be aware that the film has a lot of curse words and adult jokes, which may be inappropriate for younger viewers.

I give Spirited 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available now in select theaters and will be available on Apple TV+ beginning November 18, 2022.

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The Christmas Challenge * Perfect Holiday Romance Film – Humorous And Engaging Script – Great Performances

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

Podcast host Laura Ross and her longtime friend and producer Paul are challenged to re-examine their personal and professional relationships when a listener submits the daily “Christmas Challenge” that promotes togetherness to their ambitious “Modernly Independent” podcast.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “The Christmas Challenge is the perfect holiday romance film to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy. With a humorous and engaging script and great performances, you’ll love watching the dynamic between Laura and Paul evolve in this heartwarming film.” See his full review and interview below.

The Christmas Challenge
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 16

The Christmas Challenge is the perfect holiday romance film to curl up with a cup of hot cocoa and enjoy. With a humorous and engaging script and great performances, you’ll love watching the dynamic between Laura and Paul evolve in this heartwarming film.

The Christmas Challenge follows two enterprising media professionals. Podcast host Laura Ross (Jennica Schwartzman) and her close friend and producer Paul (Zack Gold) are challenged to re-examine their personal and professional relationships when well-wishing friends pose as listeners and submit the daily “Christmas Challenge” that promotes togetherness to their ambitious “Modernly Independent” podcast. And when corporate representative Michale (Galadriel Stineman) enters the foray to assess their podcast, matters grow even more complex.

The writing by Ryan Schwartzman is one of the best parts of the film. With its natural dialogue and banter between Laura and Paul and the well thought-out plot, The Christmas Challenge doesn’t miss a beat. Jennica Schwartzman steals the show as Laura; she captures the angst of a woman both desperate to be independent and desiring companionship with delicacy.

And you have to love Zack Gold; as he plays Paul, the “nice guy” trope — he’s 100% invested in winning over Laura at all times and that wishful glint in his eye adds so much to the film. Overall, a wonderfully made film!

The Christmas Challenge promotes togetherness and love. For those who are especially focused on their work and intent on being independent, this film is a reminder that it’s perfectly okay to: (a) succumb to your feelings and (b) spend time with those you love.

I give The Christmas Challenge 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch The Christmas Challenge on the Up Faith & Family streaming service and app plus several platforms including ITunes, Vudu and more.

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Devotion * An Epically Inspirational, Heartbreaking, Action-Packed War Movie Based On Events In The Korean War

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the inspirational true story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots who helped turn the tide in the most brutal battle in the Korean War: Jesse Brown, the first Black aviator in Navy history and his fellow fighter pilot and friend, Tom Hudner. Their heroic sacrifices and enduring friendship would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S., comments, “Devotion is an epically inspirational, heartbreaking and high stakes, action-packed war movie based on actual events. It’s an emotional roller coaster that will fly you high into the sky and then crash you down into the ground.” See her full review below.

Devotion
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) in Columbia Pictures’ DEVOTION.

Devotion is an epically inspirational, heartbreaking and high stakes, action-packed war movie based on actual events. It’s an emotional roller coaster that will fly you high into the sky and then crash you down into the ground.

Devotion is based on the inspiring true story of the first African American aviator in the U.S. Navy, Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) and his friendship with another aviator, Tom Hudner (Glen Powell). It follows them as they help change the course of the Korean War.

Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors) with Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) in Columbia Pictures’ DEVOTION.

This movie is based on the New York Times bestselling book of the same name, written by Adam Makos. The cinematography is profoundly marvelous. The scenes of the pilots flying are intense as you feel the pilots’ bravery and the dangerous situations they find themselves in. I highly recommend watching this movie on the biggest screen possible to appreciate the film’s full effects. This movie takes place in the 1950s and the sets, locations, props and costumes perfectly capture the era, making you feel as if you are transported back in time.

(L to R) Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors), Bill Koenig (Daren Kagasoff), Carol Mohring (Nick Hargrove), Pilot (Adam Makos), Marty Goode (Joe Jonas), Tom Hudner (Glen Powell) in Columbia Pictures’ DEVOTION.

Jonathan Majors (Jesse), Glen Powell (Tom) and Christina Jackson (Daisy) have the best performances. Jonathan Majors’ embodiment of Jesse is truly so realistic and believable. Glen Powell seems to have a knack for playing airmen, and once again executes his role wonderfully. Christina Jackson is such a strong mother and wife in this movie, and she and Jonathan Majors have so much chemistry that they really create a real family dynamic.

The message of Devotion is to never give up, even when the odds are against you. This movie has violence, war and death, as well as tobacco and alcohol consumption. It also has profanity.

I give Devotion 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It comes out in theaters November 23, 2022.

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Strange World * Highlights The Dynamics Of A Modern Family; Filled With Diverse Characters And Strong Messages

Thursday, December 1st, 2022

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-packed adventure Strange World introduces a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures. The voice cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Searcher Clade, a family man who finds himself out of his element on an unpredictable mission; Dennis Quaid as Searcher’s larger-than-life explorer father, Jaeger; Jaboukie Young-White as Searcher’s 16-year-old son, Ethan, who longs for adventure; Gabrielle Union as Meridian Clade, an accomplished pilot and Searcher’s partner in all things; and Lucy Liu as Callisto Mal, Avalonia’s fearless leader who spearheads the exploration into the strange world.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S., comments, “Strange World certainly is strange! This sci-fi adventure is full of surprises, highlights the dynamics of a modern family, and is filled with diverse characters and strong messages.” See her full review below.

Strange World
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Strange World certainly is strange! This sci-fi adventure is full of surprises, highlights the dynamics of a modern family, and is filled with diverse characters and strong messages.

Strange World follows the Clades – Jaeger and Searcher – legendary explorers of the city of Avalonia who could tackle any challenge and adventure. However, when Jaeger goes on a mission and doesn’t return, Searcher stops exploring the outside world and finds an energy source called ”pando” that greatly affects Avalonia. But when pando suddenly starts dying, Searcher must go on an important mission to fix the problem and explore the untraveled and “strange” lands.

My favorite part about this movie is the production quality. The world building of the “strange world” is so detailed – it’s phenomenal. The new and weird creatures that they discover look like they could be straight out of Dr. Seuss or Avatar, and they fit right in. All of the places they discover are so exotic. This movie also intentionally focuses on representing a diverse and inclusive set of characters and shows us what the world is actually like. 

My favorite voice performances are by Jake Gyllenhaal (Searcher), Gabrielle Union (Meridian) and Dennis Quaid (Jaeger). Jake Gyllenhaal is perfectly cast as Searcher, the protective and caring dad and husband. Gabrielle Union portrays her character, Meridian, as a wise and admirable role model. Dennis Quaid’s voice really fits the big and booming Jaeger Clade. 

Strange World © 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The first half of the storyline is strong. However, closer to the end, there is a big plot twist that younger kids may find confusing as it is a bit complex. 

The message of the movie is to remind parents not to put too many job and profession expectations on their kids and allow them to make their own choices. It also has environmental messages about respecting and caring for the Earth and its resources.

I give Strange World 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. This movie releases in theaters on November 23, 2022.

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The Fabelmans * Touching And Mesmerizing Film Recounting The Origins Of Director Steven Spielberg

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

The Fabelmans is a 2022 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and written and produced by Tony Kushner and Spielberg. It is a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Spielberg’s adolescence and first years as a director, told through an original story of the fictional Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker who explores how the power of films can help him see the truth about his dysfunctional family and those around him. The film features an ensemble cast that includes Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy, with Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch in supporting roles. It is dedicated to the memories of Spielberg’s real-life parents Arnold Spielberg and Leah Adler.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “The Fabelmans is a touching and mesmerizing film that celebrates the acclaimed director Steven Spielberg while recounting his origins as a filmmaker. The film is absolutely emotional; it’s mainly about family and deals with the vicissitudes of family interaction while paying homage to cinema.” See her full review below.

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The Fabelmans
By Zoë C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The Fabelmans is a touching and mesmerizing film that celebrates the acclaimed director Steven Spielberg while recounting his origins as a filmmaker. The film is absolutely emotional; it’s mainly about family and deals with the vicissitudes of family interaction while paying homage to cinema.

As a kid, Sam Fabelman learns an important lesson from his father, one of the basic principles of filmmaking: retinal persistence. Like magic, films are a simple succession of still images which gives the illusion of movement. When Sammy attends his first movie projection the event turns into a life changing experience. The story follows his life while he discovers his passion for movie making supported by his family: his dad Burt (Paul Dano), his mother Mitzi (Michelle Williams), his 3 sisters, and his uncle Ben (Seth Rogen). His father is an electrical engineer, his mother a concept piano player and the fusion of technicality with art certainly shaped his craft. The family’s dynamic was beautiful yet cloudy at times; a source material turned in melodrama, perfect for great storytelling.

I love the humanity that The Fabelmans displays.  And I loved the way the film showed and captured Sam’s life overall, in the sense that it didn’t just feel like you were watching a story. As the audience I could really understand and feel the emotions Sam was feeling. The core of the storyline are the characters and the relationships between them. Despite the Fabelmans are not a perfect family, they stand out in their unity and the bond between them. The relationship between Sam and his mom, masterfully performed by Michelle Williams, is mesmerizing to watch. There’s complicity that it is put to the test, generating wonderful conflict. Williams scenes are like study material for an actor. But every cast member is great at its craft in this film. The camera moves fluidly from the family dinners, to the action scenes contained in Sam’s early films through the corners of the houses where the family moved and the places that hide the deepest family secrets. Janusz Kaminski’s photography resembles the era and has the perfect warmth, and the score of John Williams stays in our hearts. The Fabelmans deserves a nomination on each major category in the upcoming Academy Awards: Best Film, Best Original Script, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score and Williams and Dana most probably will nod Best Actress and Best supporting actor respectively.

My favorite scenes are Sam experimenting and reproducing the train crash he watched in his first movie experience and Mitzi watching herself in his son family movie. My favorite quote: “Guilt is a waste of an emotion” which I consider profoundly meaningful of what this movie is telling its audience. The message of the film is to be able to find balance in adversity. Families are not perfect, but true bond should prevail.

The Fabelmans is PG 13 due to mature thematic elements and brief violence and drug use.

I give The Fabelmans 5 out of 5 starts and recommended for audiences 12 to 18 and adults. The Fabelmans opens in theaters November 23, 2022.

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