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Despicable Me 4 * Great animation! Full Of Slapstick Comedy Plus New And Old Characters

Thursday, July 4th, 2024

In the first Despicable Me movie in seven years, Gru, the world’s favorite supervillain-turned-Anti-Villain League-agent, returns for an exciting, bold new era of Minions mayhem in Illumination’s Despicable Me 4. Gru, Lucy, Margo, Edith, and Agnes welcome a new member to the family, Gru Jr., who is intent on tormenting his dad. Gru faces a new nemesis in Maxime Le Mal and his femme fatale girlfriend Valentina and the family is forced to go on the run. 

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calee N. comments, “Get ready to raise your glasses and say, “Kanpai” (cheers) in celebration as the Gru family returns in Despicable Me 4! The familiar and lovable characters are back, bringing with them a hilarious and entertaining storyline that definitely had me laughing out loud.” Katherine S. adds, “I enjoyed Despicable Me 4! It’s full of slapstick comedy plus new and old characters. The animation is so high quality it’s despicable.” Ari P. adds, “My favorite characters in this film are the Minions and Poppy Prescott (Joey King). The Minions have always been energetic and filled with slapstick comedy, and they have never failed to make me laugh.” Emma O. adds, “One thing I love about Despicable Me 4 is … the Minions. They’re consistent as the main protagonists in the Gru family.  They offer constant on-screen antics, and their silly behavior kept me laughing.”  Kendall B. wraps it up with, “My favorite part of this film is the last scene where Gru and Maxime have a karaoke competition and perform it at the local jail. In this scene there are nods to all the past movies including the Despicable Me and Minions films. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a great Easter egg that plays tribute to the previous films.” See their full reviews and Calee’s interview with Miranda Cosgrove and Joey King below.

Despicable Me 4
By Calee N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Get ready to raise your glasses and say, “Kanpai” (cheers) in celebration as the Gru family returns in Despicable Me 4! The familiar and lovable characters are back, bringing with them a hilarious and entertaining storyline that definitely had me laughing out loud. 

The storyline follows Gru (Steve Carell) when he fails to capture his old nemesis, Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) and his family is forced into the witness protection program. But, portraying the role of the average next-door neighbor is no easy task for Gru, his wife Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and their adopted daughters Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Madison Polan).  The introduction of the want-to-be villain, Poppy (Joey King), sparks Gru’s desire for mischievous adventures, setting the stage for comical chaos with the assistance of his minions.

This is a fun animated film filled with compassion and comedy. Created by Illumination Entertainment, the frantic visual disorder seized my attention and took me on a wild ride filled with glee. The fantastic voice acting makes all the characters likable. Joey King, with her lisp and evil laugh, makes Poppy so menacing and likable. The screenplay by Ken Daurio and Mike White feels familiar and fresh at the same time. Gru’s loving relationship with his wife Lucy, baby boy, and adopted daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes remains heart-warming. The introduction of villains Maxime Le Ma, Valentina (Sofia Vergara), and Poppy keep Gru from living a dull life as an anti-villain.  One of my favorite scenes is the attempted theft of the honey badger. 

The film’s message reminds us to stay true to ourselves and to remember that family is essential to our happiness. By embracing his true nature, Gru is able to release the pressures of being an anti-villain and pursue his dreams.

Despicable Me 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18 and adults. It opens in theaters on July 3, 2024.

Despicable Me 4
By Ari P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The hilarious super-dad is back! Gru and his family return in the hilarious Despicable Me 4. This movie is action-packed, funny, and shows how important family truly is. It stars many well-known actors, including Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Will Ferrell, and Sofía Vergara.

This comedic film starts with Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) doing their best to raise Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), Agnes (Madison Polan), and the newest member of the family, Gru Jr. (Tara Strong) The family thinks their life has finally gone back to normal, until they find out that Gru’s arch-nemeses Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) and Valentina (Sofía Vergara) escaped prison and are out for revenge against Gru, which means he and his family must go into hiding. While staying undercover, each family member encounters different people and different struggles. The Minions are as crazy and shenanigan-filled as ever, but also as caring and protective of the family, no matter the cost.

My favorite characters in this film are the Minions and Poppy Prescott (Joey King). The Minions have always been energetic and filled with slapstick comedy, and they have never failed to make me laugh. I love how the director, Chris Renaud, makes sure the Minions are still the same funny, chaotic characters as they have been since the beginning of the Despicable Me series. I love Poppy because of how passionate she is about becoming a super-villainess. She is also so clever and lovable, which adds to her character. Another part of this film I enjoyed was the creativity of the new villains, Maxime Le Mal and Valentina. The writers, Ken Daurio and Mike White, created two incredible characters with loads of personality, imagination, and evil. The music is especially enjoyable in the movie. For example, there is a song in the beginning of the film called “Double Life” by Pharrell Williams, which is so fun and upbeat. The energy from this song matches the energy of the movie.

The film’s message is to never give up and persevere through every situation. Gru always has and always will care about his family. Whenever his family is in trouble, he will always be there to save them.

Despicable Me 4 gets 4 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. It releases in theaters on July 3, 2024.

Despicable Me 4
Emma O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12


What a fun film Despicable Me 4 is. I love this film! It was great entertainment from start to finish and made me laugh the entire time. 

Gru and the minions return in this fourth installment, providing humor and entertainment at every turn.  Gru is challenged by high school rival, Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) and his female sidekick Valentina (Sofia Vergara) and they’re forced to flee to a safe house.   As the family takes on new identities, Gru takes the opportunity to bond with his son.   More plots emerge as the family struggles with new identities and a neighbor, Poppy (Joey King), knows Gru’s identity.  

Very entertaining. I will go see it again with friends. The animation and the writing are paired perfectly. Every character has their own story line and each of their own individual journeys contributes to the plot.  They are all connected, which makes the film that much more entertaining.  One thing I love about Despicable Me 4 is … the Minions. They’re consistent as the main protagonists in the Gru family.  They offer constant on-screen antics, and their silly behavior kept me laughing.  Whether on a bus, in a vending machine, or in training as the Mega Minions, their attempt to help always creates drama and messes things up.  I enjoyed the character of Poppy, who wears braces and has a lisp, which is hysterical.  Maybe we will see her in future films. The background music and sound effects enhance the entire film. The sounds in the grocery store scene are great – with screams and pounding footsteps running through the aisles.  At other times we hear the roaring of engines, lazar sounds from the Mega Minion, and tires screeching behind the opening music as they drive up into the California hills.  This film is great in so many ways.

The film’s messages are about bonding with your family, finding a happy place, being true to oneself and protecting your loved ones. Be aware that there are some naughty Minions. Some humor is a bit inappropriate for kids, yet this humor may keep parents engaged.  My mom laughed at some of the “adult jokes” and had to explain them to me.

Despicable Me 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages to 5 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters July 3, 2024. Go check it out.

Despicable Me 4
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

I enjoyed Despicable Me 4! It’s full of slapstick comedy plus new and old characters. The animation is so high quality it’s despicable.  

In the sixth installment of the Despicable Me franchise, Gru (Steve Carell), Lucy (Kristen Wiig), and the girls welcome a new member to their family, Gru Jr. (Tara Strong), who is set on tormenting his dad. And now, because of a new villain named Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell) and his girlfriend (Sofía Vergara), Gru’s family is forced to go into hiding and adopt new identities. Will they take Maxime down or will their cover be blown? Watch to find out! 

This movie is really cute, but there is just a lot going on at once. There are several different subplots and a lot of new characters that are crammed into this 94-minute movie, so some scenes feel a bit random and out of place. Nonetheless, this is a great family movie. Its humor is geared more towards younger audiences, but that being said, I and a lot of adults laughed throughout the entire movie. I adore all of the characters in the franchise dearly, but my favorite is Agnes, voiced by Madison Polan. She is so sweet and lovable and always wants to do the right thing. I also really love the performances from Steve Carell as Gru, Kristen Wiig as Lucy, Miranda Cosgrove as Margo, and Dana Gaier as Edith. Pierre Coffin, as always, is so impressive when voicing the minions (yes, all of them). Will Ferrell as Maxime and Sofía Vergara as Valentina, Maxime’s girlfriend, are hilarious and really fit their roles.

The film’s messages, similar to the previous installments, focus on the importance of family and doing the right thing. Be forewarned that there are some risky behaviors portrayed in this movie that young children shouldn’t try to replicate. 

Despicable Me 4 gets 4 of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. People who enjoyed the previous Despicable Me movies will definitely want to see this one. It comes out in theaters on July 3, 2024.

Despicable Me 4
By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Bringing back my favorite yellow-friends, Despicable Me 4 is hilarious, original, and chaotic in the best way. It hits the screen with all the energy expected from the first scene to the last.

Following the prison escape of his arch nemesis Maxime Le Mal (Will Ferrell), ex-villain Gru (Steve Carell) is forced to move into hiding with his wife, Lucy (Kristen Wiig), his three daughters, and his new baby son, Gru Jr. (Tara Strong) After assuming new identities the craziness never fails to follow Gru’s family as they meet new neighbors, explore their new lives, and hide from Maxime and his fashionable girlfriend Valentina (Sofía Vergara). And of course, the minions have their own adventures as well.

Despicable Me 4 flows so smoothly despite all the plot lines going throughout the film. Many subplots are developed and, by the end, they all tie together quite nicely. It’s a perfect way to give viewers lots to enjoy without leaving them hanging. The only thing that doesn’t have enough attention is the character of Maxime Le Mal — part of his character is his obsession with cockroaches and he has a whole army of them, but apart from talking to them a bit as his evil army, they don’t help execute his master plans. This made me wonder what they were intended for exactly. Besides this, every character is wonderful to watch and I particularly enjoyed Poppy. Voiced by Joey King, Poppy has been born into an uptight family in the town of Mayflower and dreams of becoming an evil villain. I love how she is introduced as kind of a mystery until her intentions are revealed. I enjoyed seeing how dedicated she is to achieve her dreams. The side plot of the minions is not paid a lot of attention to but that never stops the minions from stealing the spotlight. We find five minions with superpowers and the writers have some hilarious situations these minions get into which, of course, all tie back to saving their beloved master, Gru. My favorite part of this film is the last scene where Gru and Maxime have a karaoke competition and perform it at the local jail. In this scene there are nods to all the past movies including the Despicable Me and Minions films. I won’t spoil it, but it’s a great Easter egg that plays tribute to the previous films.

The film’s theme is that nothing is more important than family. Gru struggles to bond with his son and he never stops trying because Gru Jr. is so important to him. Throughout the film Gru is always putting his family first and he never stops fighting for them.

Despicable Me 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters July 3, 2024.

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Wondla * Eye-Popping Animation With Everything, From Flying Whales To Enormous Man-Eating Butterflies

Friday, June 28th, 2024

Eva is a typical teen: curious, enthusiastic, and spirited. The only difference … she’s being raised alone by a robot caretaker, Muthr, in a state-of-the-art underground bunker. On her 16th birthday, an attack on her sanctuary forces her onto the Earth’s surface, and it’s not what she expected. The planet is inhabited by aliens, covered with otherworldly fauna, and there are no other humans to be found. In fact, it’s no longer called Earth — it’s called Orbona. Otto, a lovable giant waterbear with whom Eva shares telepathic powers, Rovender, a cantankerous alien with a troubled past, and Muthr join Eva as she embarks on a quest to find humans, her home and her true destiny.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kinsley H. comments, “I really had fun watching this show! WondLa is a sci-fi fantasy filled with thrills and adventure. It has eye-popping animation that had me on the edge of my seat. The animation made me feel like I had walked into a whole new world. The setting has everything, from flying whales to enormous man-eating butterflies.” See her full review and interview with the show’s star, Jeanine Mason, below.

WondLa
By Kinsley H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I really had fun watching this show! WondLa is a sci-fi fantasy filled with thrills and adventure. It has eye-popping animation that is very entertaining. The characters are diverse and unexpected.

This television series is based on the book, “The Search for WondLa,” by Tony DiTerlizzi. It tells the story of Eva (Jeanine Mason), a courageous and lively teenager, who has spent her life in bunker training for her first moment above ground. The only family that she has known is Muther (Teri Hatcher), a very cautious robot, that teaches her about Earth and how to protect herself. Eva soon gets the surprise of her life when she learns that everything she has been taught is no longer true.

WondLa had me on the edge of my seat. The animation made me feel like I had walked into a whole new world. The setting has everything, from flying whales to enormous man-eating butterflies. It depicts an Earth that has been transformed into Orbona, a world filled with the unexpected. The backgrounds are detailed and colorful. It is impossible to see everything in just one viewing. My favorite character is Eva’s Omnipod (D.C. Douglas). Omni is the most humorous character. I love that, even though his tone does not change, he can still make you laugh with his short and witty statements. The characters are either adorable or terrifying. Otto (Brad Garrett) is a gigantic, water bear-like creature. He is a kind and loyal friend that is constantly helping Eva get out of tough situations. On the other hand, there is Besteel (Chike Okonkwo), a scary and towering villain with sharp teeth and a hunched back. I screamed when this character was first introduced. I could not wait to see what new character Eva would meet next.

The film’s message is about friendship. Eva spent the first years of her life wishing to meet humans just like her, so that she could finally have a family. Each episode proves that friends can take any shape or form. WondLa celebrates differences! Parents should be aware that the show does have some violence and dangerous activities.

I give WondLa 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12. The first seven episodes of WondLapremiere globally on June 28, 2024 on Apple TV+.

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Thelma * Filled With Action, Jokes And Emotion That Gives A New Perspective On Technology And The World We Live In

Friday, June 21st, 2024

The feature directorial debut of Josh Margolin, Thelma is a poignant action-comedy that gives veteran Oscar® nominee June Squibb her first leading role on-screen and features the final performance of trailblazing actor Richard Roundtree. Squibb plays Thelma Post, a feisty 93-year-old grandmother who gets conned by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson and sets out on a treacherous quest across Los Angeles, accompanied by an aging friend and his motorized scooter, to reclaim what was taken from her. Inspired by a real-life experience of Margolin’s own grandmother, Thelma puts a clever spin on movies like Mission: Impossible, shining the spotlight on an elderly grandmother as an unlikely action hero. With infectious humor, Margolin employs the familiar tropes of the action genre in hilarious, age-appropriate ways to tackle aging with agency. In the first leading film role of her 70-year career, Squibb portrays the strong-willed Thelma with grit and determination, demonstrating that she is more than capable of taking care of business – despite what her daughter Gail, son-in-law or grandson might believe.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ella S. comments, “I love the movie Thelma! It has the perfect combination of action, jokes and emotion that makes it balanced and complete. Thelma taught me many valuable lessons and gives my generation a new perspective on technology and the world we live in.” See her full review below.  

Thelma
By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

I love the movie Thelma! It has the perfect combination of action, jokes and emotion that makes it balanced and complete. Thelma taught me many valuable lessons and gives my generation a new perspective on technology and the world we live in.

Thelma (June Squibb) is a 93-year-old, widowed woman who is easily scammed due to her hilarious lack of computer knowledge. Michael (Aidan Fiske) and Harvey (Malcom McDowell) call Thelma and impersonate her grandson, Danny (Fred Hechinger), pretending he has gotten into a car accident, Thelma wires $10,000 to an unknown source with no hesitation. When Danny returns home safe and Thelma realizes she has been tricked, she and her friend Ben (Richard Roundtree) steal a scooter from a nursing home and take off on a journey to get their revenge.

I am impressed with the execution of the character development in Thelma, particularly that of Danny. The film begins by depicting him as a caring but irresponsible individual who has good intentions but struggles with organization. However, Thelma’s sudden disappearance serves as a wake-up call, motivating Danny to take initiative, starting by renewing his driver’s license, which his parents (Parker Posey, Clark Gregg) have been reminding him to do. Thelma indirectly influences Danny’s growth by making him step up in a time of crisis.

Thelma also undergoes an improvement when she finally tracks down her scammers. She originally set out to seek revenge but, once she sees that Harvey and Michael are alone and struggling for money, she finds herself sympathizing with them. She gains a sense of perspective when listening to their story and, though she still takes back her money, she leaves them $500, displaying the shift in her focus from revenge to justice. I love that even though Thelma is based on heavier themes such as aging, death, and the flaws of technology, there is plenty of room for humor! My favorite moments in the film are when Thelma and Ben run away with their bright red scooter, angering the staff of the nursing home; and again when Thelma steals a gun without knowing how to use it. Considering that Thelma does not actually hurt anyone, the look on Harvey’s face when she accidentally shoots the wall is priceless. Watching Thelma attempt to learn about computers and pop-up advertisements is equally entertaining.

Thelma taught me many things. I learned to always consider multiple sides of a story before making decisions, and I learned that perspective can change everything. It also reminded me that sometimes people that seem the most fragile actually turn out to be the most capable — so don’t underestimate anyone. That grandma who makes amazing snickerdoodles might turn out to be quite a skilled motorcyclist. Be aware that Thelma contains smoking and mild gun violence although there are no injuries, casualties or bloody scenes.

I give Thelma 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Thelma releases to theaters on June 21, 2024.

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Inside Out 2 * Makes You Think And Discover A Bit Of Yourself

Friday, June 14th, 2024

The little voices inside Riley’s head know her inside and out—but everything changes when Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” introduces a new Emotion: Anxiety. Inside Out 2 returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley just as headquarters is undergoing a sudden demolition to make room for something entirely unexpected: new Emotions! Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust, who have long been running a successful operation by all accounts, aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety shows up. And it looks like she’s not alone. Maya Hawke lends her voice to Anxiety, alongside Amy Poehler as Joy, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, Lewis Black as Anger, Tony Hale as Fear, and Liza Lapira as Disgust.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. dives into the teenage mind: “The teenage mind has a lot of emotion, which we explore in Inside Out 2! From taking rides down your river of consciousness to discovering your deep dark secrets, Inside Out 2 makes you think and discover a bit of yourself.”  Neo M. is head over heels: “I absolutely love the film Inside Out 2 with its vibrant, imaginative worlds, hilarious and unique characters, and engaging storyline.”  Keila V. loves the animation: “The animation in this film is fantastic and the characters look stupendous.” Clara T. appreciates the familiar: “I enjoy that, even though there are a lot of new things and feelings, you can still see all the original ones. I also like the humor and the small details, like when Riley wakes up as a teenager and she has a pimple.” Katherine S. reflects on the message: “Inside Out 2 has many deep messages, like embracing every part of yourself and remembering that it’s okay to feel all sorts of different emotions. Its goal is to de-stigmatize anxiety and other emotions because they are normal and really common.” See their full reviews below.

Inside Out 2
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of freshly minted teenager Riley just as a new Emotion shows up unexpectedly. Much to Joy’s surprise, Anxiety isn’t the type who will take a back seat either. Featuring the voices of Amy Poehler as Joy and Maya Hawke as Anxiety.

The teenage mind has a lot of emotion, which we explore in Inside Out 2! From taking rides down your river of consciousness to discovering your deep dark secrets, Inside Out 2 makes you think and discover a bit of yourself.

Inside Out 2 is a time skip to the first establishment. It continues to follow Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Tony Hale), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Liza Lapria), who are Riley’s (Kensington Tallman) original emotions. As Riley enters her “teenage years” new emotions are introduced such as Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), Envy (Ayo Edebiri) and Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser). When Riley gets accepted to Hockey Camp, Anxiety and new emotions try to take over her core beliefs. It’s up to Joy and her group to find a way to get Riley back to the way she was.

This film is much deeper compared to the first film. This explores the concept of growing up and the more complex emotions that can “take over” other feelings. Anxiety, as the villain, is genius in the sense that most people see it that way. Anxiety tends to overpower joy as metaphorically shown in this film.

In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Envy may be small, but she sure knows what she wants. She’s perpetually jealous of everything everyone else has, and she’s not afraid to pine over it. Envy’s wishful thinking and fascination with the newest, coolest thing pulls her attention in all directions and longs for what Riley doesn’t have. Featuring Ayo Edebiri as the voice of Envy. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

My favorite aspect of Inside Out 2 is the little hints of the mind they added. I love that they now have beliefs that create the “self,” the river of consciousness which changes floating items based on your thoughts and, even the vault of secrets. This film runs 1 hour and 36 minutes and is worth the watch for new and prior fans!

The film’s message is to be true to yourself and, while you should prepare for the future, don’t let that stop you from experiencing the present. In the film, Anxiety works on always preparing Riley for the future which means her destroying who Riley is and should be. Riley begins to “suffer the consequences” of that action which takes a toll on her. While there is nothing to look out for in Inside Out 2, it is a much deeper-minded film so it can get viewers thinking deeper or experiencing certain emotions.

Inside Out 2 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch it in theaters June 14, 2024.

Inside Out 2
By Neo M, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) aren’t sure how to feel when Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) shows up unexpectedly. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, © 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I absolutely love the film Inside Out 2 with its vibrant, imaginative worlds, hilarious and unique characters, and engaging storyline. I felt a deep connection to each character. Every scene captivated me with its colorful animation and the hilarious chaos carries throughout the film. 

The main character, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), is now officially a teenager and the film begins with a brief recap of Riley’s life over the past couple of years. We are introduced to four new emotions: Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), and Ennui (Adele E). It seems like an ordinary day at headquarters until everyone realizes that demolition is happening – quite symbolic – and a new emotion, Anxiety, has arrived with the intention to dominate and conquer. Anxiety introduces the other new emotions and takes over with the ultimate goal to eliminate Riley’s sense of self and create a new one. Then chaos erupts!

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley, where Emotions like Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser) take turns driving—or throwing themselves upon—the console as Riley experiences all the feelings. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen.© 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

One of my favorite parts in the film is when Joy and Sadness go down to the belief system. The visuals are so clear and beautiful. I really like the visual imagery throughout the film, with characters navigating worlds like the back of the mind, or the stream of consciousness. I also love the idea of the good memories being “planted” when released into the water, creating a stem to Riley’s sense of self. This film also had me uncontrollably laughing. For example, the moment when a button labeled “PUBERTY” starts beeping, waking up the emotions in the middle of the night. It is hilarious to see how the emotions react to Riley’s changes. This film is very relatable, especially for my age group, because it makes tons of jokes about going through the teenage years.  My absolute favorite moments are related to the character development that emotions like Joy and her counterpart, Sadness, go through. Seeing all the emotions come together and realize that they each play a part in Riley’s sense of self also strikes home.

The film’s message is that all emotions shape us into who we are. For example, we need to experience sadness in our lives in order to feel joy. The film expresses the positive message that all emotions are necessary and are part of connecting to who we are.

Inside Out 2
gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Inside Out 2 in theaters, June 14, 2024. 

Inside Out 2 
By Keila V., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) are awakened to an alarming reality: everything is changing now that Riley is 13. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen. © 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I really enjoyed Inside Out 2. It is a thrilling film about a young girl becoming a teenager and I could relate to the many new emotions she is experiencing. This movie is perfect to watch with someone the age of the protagonist.

The story follows a girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) who is just entering puberty and needs to make room for new emotions as she becomes an adolescent. Riley’s headquarters (which is where all her emotions stay) gets demolished so that it can make room for her new “sophisticated” emotions, including: Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Boredom (Adele Exarchopoulos), Envy (Ayo Edebiri) and Nostalgia (June Squibb). In one of the scenes Anxiety tells Joy that Riley needs more sophisticated emotions and pushes aside our classic five being: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Tony Hale) and my personal favorite Disgust (Liza Lapira).

The animation in this film is fantastic and the characters look stupendous. In one scene when Joy’s emotion changes and she gets frustrated, by the help of animation, she looks as if she is about to explode and cry at the same time.

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley, where headquarters expands to make room for new Emotions. Pictured from L-R: Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser), Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke), Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira), Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale) and Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith). Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

There are no special effects, but there are many visual effects that match the storyline perfectly. When Joy, Fear, Anger and Disgust get trapped inside of a safe a small character named Pouchie (James Austin Johnson) appears and that animation looks different than the other characters, he sort of looks like a cartoon from the 80s. My favorite scene is when the five emotions first meet – Anxiety, Boredom, Envy, Nostalgia and Embarrassment. The interaction between Anxiety and Joy is a bit strange since Joy thinks these are intruders to headquarters and Anxiety is crazy when it comes to meeting new people. I mean, “Emotions!” Another one of my favorite scenes in this hilarious film is when Riley meets the popular girls. This is one of my favorite scenes because of how funny and awkward it is when Riley goes to meet these girls. To see what happens next, you must watch the movie! I know that you will love it just as much as I did! 

The film’s message is that it is okay to experience a variety of emotions and not just feel happy or sad. Another message is about how starting to become adolescents brings about different feelings than we had in our childhood, so, we need to understand why we feel this way and accept these feelings.

Inside Out 2 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It opens in theaters June 14, 2024.

Inside Out 2
By Clara T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

In Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2,” Riley’s Sense of Self is made up of all of her beliefs, each of which can be heard with the pluck of a string. Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) and Joy (voice of Amy Poehler) deliver key memories to this formative land. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I really love the movie Inside Out 2. I enjoy that, even though there are a lot of new things and feelings, you can still see all the original ones. I also like the humor and the small details, like when Riley wakes up as a teenager and she has a pimple.

The story follows Riley (Kensington Tallman), who is 13 years old, so she just became a teenager. She discovers new emotions that she doesn’t understand and they are much stronger than the emotions she had when she was younger. The new emotions are Envy (Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (Maya Hawke), Embarrassment (Paul Walter Houser), and Ennui (Adele Exarchopoulos). They join her original emotions in what could maybe be called a disaster. A lot of things are happening throughout the story and, at one point, Anxiety even takes over Riley. At the end, all of Riley´s emotions are somewhat balanced.

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley just as new Emotions show up. Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser), Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke), Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri) and Ennui (voice of Adèle Exarchopoulos) are ready to take a turn at the console. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

Inside out 2 is one of Pixar’s newest animated films. It is directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen. The new feelings Riley gets are because she has become a teenager and they represent her coming of age. Anxiety, an important role in this movie, is voiced by Maya Hawke. Riley attends hockey camp and hopes to impress the high school hockey coach. When she goes there, she realizes that the high school team’s hockey captain will be there and she wants to make a good impression. However, she starts to ignore her friends since she knows they will be transferring schools and thinks it’s more important to make friends and connections with people she will be going to high school with. She starts to think this because of her new feeling, Anxiety, who fears what will happen in the future.

The film’s message is to observe and know your feelings, without letting one emotion control you entirely. When Riley becomes a teenager and discovers her new and stronger emotions, she learns to “hug” her emotions and embrace all of her feelings.

Inside Out 2 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It premieres in theaters June 14, 2024. Look for it.

Inside Out 2
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley just as a new Emotion shows up unexpectedly. And Anxiety, voiced by Maya Hawke, isn’t the type of Emotion who will take a back seat either. Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen. © 2023 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I love Inside Out 2! This masterfully made movie is a sequel to the 2015 film Inside Out that dives deeper into the emotional and mental changes children have as they become teenagers. It has amazing storytelling, numerous powerful messages and so much emotional depth. 

This movie follows Riley (Kensington Tallman) as she enters her teenage years in the summer before she starts high school. As she hits puberty, her mind headquarters undergoes an unexpected change to make room for new emotions, like Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser), Boredom (Adele Exarchopoulos), Envy (Ayo Edebiri) and Anxiety (Maya Hawke). These new emotions challenge not only Riley’s emotions but also her friendships and sense of self.   

Disney and Pixar’s “Inside Out 2” returns to the mind of newly minted teenager Riley, where her Emotions Anger (voice of Lewis Black), Fear (voice of Tony Hale), Joy (voice of Amy Poehler), Sadness (voice of Phyllis Smith) and Disgust (voice of Liza Lapira) must make room for new Emotions, including Envy (voice of Ayo Edebiri), Anxiety (voice of Maya Hawke) and Embarrassment (voice of Paul Walter Hauser). Directed by Kelsey Mann and produced by Mark Nielsen, “Inside Out 2” releases only in theaters June 14, 2024. © 2024 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

I believe people of all ages will enjoy Inside Out 2. This film was made nearly a decade after the original movie, and with a purpose, it seems. I feel that the creators of this movie waited this long to make this sequel so that all of the original viewers would be older. I was only six or seven when I saw the original Inside Out. And now, I’m sixteen and my mind is so much more complex than the five core emotions featured in the original movie, which Inside Out 2 addresses and is why the timing of this release is so perfect. This movie really masters the more complex emotions that come as we age. Anyone in their teenage years or adulthood will be able to relate to this movie because of these new emotions. Younger children will definitely like this movie, but they may not understand it as deeply as an older person will. I love the new characters. As in the original movie, these performances blew my mind. The strongest performances come from Amy Poehler as Joy, Maya Hawke as Anxiety, and Kensington Tallman as Riley. Kensington, Grace Lu (as Grace) and Sumayyah Nuriddin-Green (as Bree) have so much chemistry and truly seem like they are best friends. My favorite performance is from Adele Exarchopoulos, who plays Ennui (boredom) and, even though she doesn’t have that many lines, she’s hilarious.

Inside Out 2 has many deep messages, like embracing every part of yourself and remembering that it’s okay to feel all sorts of different emotions. Its goal is to de-stigmatize anxiety and other emotions because they are normal and really common. 

Inside Out 2 gets 5 of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. People who enjoyed the original Inside Out movie will definitely enjoy this one. It comes out in theaters on June 14, 2024.

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The Keeper of The Five Kingdoms * Compelling With Lots Of Magic And Mythical Characters Such As Sorcerers, Talking Lizards, And Trolls

Thursday, June 13th, 2024

When Patsy Lee discovers an ancient relic box, she has no idea that it will transport her, her grandfather, and her friends to a mystical world of vampires, goblin witches, talking turtles, and an evil sorceress who will stop at nothing to get the box. Their only chance of returning home is to stop her before she finds the key to the 5 Kingdoms and destroys the entire world. Directed by former child actor Zack Ward (Scut Farkus) from A Christmas Story.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Avalynn G. comments, “The film The Keeper of the Five Kingdoms has a ton of magic and mythical characters such as sorcerers, talking lizards, and trolls. This film is very cultural. I love its focus on Chinese culture.” Ryan M. adds, “If you like a youth-aimed action movie coupled with some ancient Chinese magic and funny situations, you will definitely like The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms. It is light, has no violence and is funny.” Gloria J. wraps it up with, “I found The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms appealing due to its rich incorporation of Chinese culture, which brings authenticity and educational value as seen with the traditional elements like the Chinese leopard water, traditional attire, and the artifacts in the grandfather’s store. The fantasy and adventure aspects, such as the magical land with a Chinese dragon and creative escapes like the car transformation, create an engaging, imaginative world.” See their full reviews below.

The Keeper of The Five Kingdoms
By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

The film The Keeper of the Five Kingdoms has a ton of magic and mythical characters such as sorcerers, talking lizards, and trolls. The film takes place in a forest and that setting definitely fits the characters and scenes. The costumes also stand out as they fit the story so well.

The storyline follows a girl named Patsy Lee (Michelle Mao), her friend squirrel (Anna Harr), her brother Hopper (Matthew Sato) and her grandfather Chuck Lee (James Hong). One day they all get sucked into a portal in a stone and are transported to a magical kingdom where they face a lot of obstacles – in order for them to go back home they have to defeat the evil sorcerer.

This film is very cultural. I love its focus on Chinese culture. The costumes are outstanding, especially Allura’s outfit before she turns into a troll – it’s very detailed and beautiful. I like this film although it isn’t really my style. The acting seems too unnatural; sometimes it’s very overly dramatic and, in some scenes, you can tell there is a green screen behind them. Other than that the production is great! My favorite part is when Patsy gives the lizard the box with the bad magic stone. Then, the lizard puts the entire family in a gigantic hole in the ground, and starts dancing wildly above them. The way he dances is really funny.  I love the relationship between the grandfather, Patsy, and Hopper. They always have each other’s back. You can tell that they love each other.

The film’s message is about friendship and a reminder that our family always has our back, no matter what. Hopper always has Patsy’s back like when the bad guys try to force Hopper to give them the box and threaten his sister. Hopper protects his sister first and foremost.

I give Keeper of the Five Kingdoms 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it ages 8 to 12. This film releases on VOD and streaming June 18, 2024. 

The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms
By Ryan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

If you like a youth-aimed action movie coupled with some ancient Chinese magic and funny situations, you will definitely like The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms. It is light, has no violence and is funny.

The story follows a queen named Lord Kuang (Bai Ling) who wants a box that contains magic. She sends two servants, Mr. Rat (Dante Basco) and Mr. Chicken (Dave Sheridan), some kids Patsy (Michelle Mao), Squirrel (Anna Harr) and Hopper (Matt Sato), plus a Chinese uncle named Chuck (James Hong) to find the box which leads them to an amazing adventure.

I commend the director, Zack Ward, for his work here. There are a lot of comical situations, like when Pasty’s mom is trying to make Grandpa Chuck say that something was leopard pee. However, the animatronic and green screen work sometimes lack synchronization with the puppets’ mouths, and some hair fades onto the green screen,  like when they get out of the deep hole. Some actors could have been a bit more convincing, like when they are falling, the only person that looks convincing is Hopper.

The film’s message is that love is a very strong power. I give The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12. This movie releases on VOD and streaming on June 18, 2024.

The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms
By Gloria J., KIDS FIRST!

I found The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms appealing due to its rich incorporation of Chinese culture, which brings authenticity and educational value as seen with the traditional elements like the Chinese leopard water, traditional attire, and the artifacts in the grandfather’s store. The fantasy and adventure aspects, such as the magical land with a Chinese dragon and creative escapes like the car transformation, create an engaging, imaginative world. The film also delves into complex family dynamics, particularly the reconciliation between Patsy and her grandfather. The moral lessons, like the queen’s redemption through Patsy’s love spell, provide meaningful themes about forgiveness and transformation. However, the complex plot, numerous characters and rapid scene changes can be overwhelming, and the fast-paced narrative leads to a lack of depth at times. While the reliance on familiar fantasy tropes can feel predictable, the cultural richness and emotional arcs make it a compelling watch. Children will enjoy its exciting fantasy elements, like the magical portals, the Chinese dragon, mythical creatures and spells, and young characters like Patsy, which offer a sense of thrill and connection. 

The film begins with a slave informing his master of finding a key to her freedom. Two men from the mythical world are sent to hunt for a treasure box with the key; they evade police using magic and communicate with the master through Chinese characters on a scroll. Patsy accidentally picks up a mystical box, which leads to a series of events where her friend, Harper, is taken hostage and will only be released on the condition that she gives the box back, thus leading them to travel to a magical land. There they encounter mythical creatures, solve ancient puzzles, and ultimately confront an evil queen, who is redeemed by Patsy’s love spell, helping them return home.

The Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms offers a captivating blend of fantasy escapades and cultural exploration that are delightful. From mesmerizing magical portals to mythical creatures, the visuals are breathtaking. What sets this film apart is its rich cultural tapestry, with traditional Chinese music, clothing, artifacts, and beliefs seamlessly woven into the narrative. Viewers are not only entertained but also enlightened as they embark on a journey of cultural appreciation and understanding. The themes of family, friendship, and forgiveness resonate deeply, as characters like Patsy and her friends, with her grandfather’s guidance, navigate challenges and ultimately find redemption through love and empathy. Through its intricate plot and dynamic characters, it encourages viewers to question, probe, and problem-solve, fostering critical thinking skills and igniting curiosity. The program strikes a perfect balance between educational value and entertainment, leaving audiences both enchanted and inspired.

The film bursts with cultural richness, although pacing issues, awkward scene transitions, and a complex plot affect its impact. It takes you on a wild ride and what really brings the story to life is the intelligent use of traditional Chinese music, artifacts and beliefs, magical portals and dragons. You feel as if you’re stepping into another world! The film keeps things exciting with thrilling adventures and relatable young characters like Patsy. The reconciliation between Patsy and her grandfather adds emotional depth. The writer’s mix of magic, adventure, and family drama is excellent. The storyline strikes a balance between fantasy, adventure and cultural education, providing an enriching experience for young people.Stunning visuals bring this film to life. The attention to details such as the majority of the cast being of Chinese descent, Joe’s traditional clothing, and the grandfather’s shop contribute to cultural authenticity. The mystical world set is well portrayed with its creatures, the queen’s soldiers, the talking tortoise, invisible bridges, and the architecture of the castle. The skilled direction captures all of this – in both animated and live-action scenes there are clear, detailed visuals and high production values.

The film supports inquiry and investigation, and the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. For example, the incorporation of cultural elements encourages viewers to explore and learn about an unfamiliar culture, which fosters curiosity and understanding. Additionally, the fantastical elements, such as magical portals and mythical creatures, invite viewers to question and probe the boundaries of reality, stimulating their imaginations and creativity. The complex plot and character dynamics provide opportunities to analyze motivations and consequences, promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The film offers a blend of educational value and entertainment that encourages viewers to engage with the content on multiple levels.

The film’s message revolves around themes of family, friendship, cultural appreciation, and the power of love and forgiveness. The film emphasizes the importance of reconciliation and understanding within families, as seen in Patsy’s reconciliation with her grandfather. The cultural elements of the film promote appreciation and respect for different cultures. The redemption of the evil queen highlights the transformative power of love and forgiveness, suggesting that understanding and empathy can lead to positive change.

I give The Keepers Of The 5 Kingdoms 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults.  This film releases on VOD and streaming June 18, 2024. 

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