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I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) * Sheds Light on Struggles of Poverty and Virtues of a Single Mom

Sunday, March 14th, 2021

When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off of the streets. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail L. comments, “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is a fantastic film that sheds a new light on the struggles of poverty and the virtues of being a single mother. Director, writer and star of the film, Kelley Kali, creates an excellent, heart-wrenching story that captures the turmoil and strife that people are currently facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Joshita B. adds, “This movie represents the struggle of many single parents, especially when juggling their financial responsibilities while trying to parent as well.  Right off the bat, I must mention that Kelley Kali’s emotionally driven character is so well acted that she honestly steals the show and my heart. By making the mother so likable, the audience can’t help but root for her!” See their full reviews below.

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)
By Abigail L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is a fantastic film that sheds a new light on the struggles of poverty and the virtues of being a single mother. Director, writer and star of the film, Kelley Kali, creates an excellent, heart-wrenching story that captures the turmoil and strife that people are currently facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film features Danny (Kelley Kali), a recently widowed mother who is struggling to make ends meet. She convinces her eight-year-old daughter, Wes (Wesley Moss), that they are camping while they live in a tent. After promising her daughter that they will have a home by the end of the day Danny skates around Los Angeles trying to find different ways to make enough money to secure an apartment.

My favorite part of this movie is the acting. Each character is distinguishable and genuine. The large variety of filming locations stands out as well. It showcases the marginalized communities in Los Angeles, a city that is often associated with glamor and success, which can also be tied back to Danny who tries to constantly make things look better than they truly are. Although Danny makes several poor decisions, it is difficult not to sympathize with her struggles. The direction of this film is especially admirable because of the emotion the directors, Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina, elicit from viewers as they watch Danny go around town pleading for help and toiling to keep her and her daughter’s head above water.

This movie addresses issues that are often neglected in overlooked communities. I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) successfully conveys the gravity of the difficult decisions people encounter when destitute. Although the subject matter is rather dark, the message is still inspiring and thought-provoking. Parents should know there is some mature content such as death, strong language, drug use, violence and blood.

I rate I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. This film is premiering at the SXSW 2021 Film Festival from March 17, 2021.

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)
By Joshitha Balamurugan, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), directed by Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina,is an incredibly enlightening film about hardship. Everything, from the cinematography to the heartfelt dialogue to the acting, is top tier. This film is well made and sheds light on an important topic.

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is about a widowed mother that convinces her daughter they’re camping to hide that they’re homeless. This movie represents the struggle of many single parents, especially when juggling their financial responsibilities while trying to parent as well. 

Right off the bat, I must mention that Kelley Kali’s emotionally driven character is so well acted that she honestly steals the show and my heart. By making the mother so likable, the audience can’t help but root for her! Also, the cinematography for the ocean scene is just breathtaking; the build-up for it is masterfully scripted so that when we see Kali scream underwater it hits us that much harder. Another thing worth mentioning is that the plot is very realistic – there is no magical element that whisks them away when life gets too tough to deal with.

The message of this film is that, no matter what happens, you have to put one foot in front of the other, because there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an option to give up. You should know that there is some profanity and sexual references in the film. So it is best suited for older teens and adults. In telling the story this way, the truthful message we take away sticks with us.

I rate I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 16 to 18, plus adults. This film premieres at the SXSW Film Festival on March 17, 2021, so catch it there.

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Stray * Brilliant Film About Three Beautiful Dogs Living on the Streets of Istanbul

Wednesday, March 10th, 2021

Stray explores what it means to live as a being without status or security, following three strays as they embark on inconspicuous journeys through Turkish society. Zeytin, fiercely independent, embarks on adventures through the city at night; Nazar, nurturing and protective, easily befriends the humans around her; while Kartal, a shy puppy living on the outskirts of a construction site, finds companions in the security guards who care for her. The strays’ disparate lives intersect when they each form intimate bonds with a group of young Syrians with whom they share the streets. 

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “Stray is a brilliant film about three beautiful dogs living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.  Director Elizabeth Lo gives a unique perspective that allows viewers to venture into dogs’ lives and learn a lot about the country of Turkey and the people there, as well. Through the eyes of the dogs we learn about their lives on the streets and the lives of others they interact with.” Joshitha B. adds, “The dog Zeytin is so adorable that no scene feels slow when this dog is in it. There is a particular scene which is incredibly impressive where Zeytin looks distraught and is nearly crying. These dogs have the right expression and demeanor, so credits go to Elizabeth Lo for directing in such a way that the dogs seem like actual actors.” See their full reviews below.

Stray
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Age 16

Stray is a brilliant film about three beautiful dogs living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.  Director Elizabeth Lo gives a unique perspective that allows viewers to venture into dogs’ lives and learn a lot about the country of Turkey and the people there, as well. Through the eyes of the dogs we learn about their lives on the streets and the lives of others they interact with.  We gain a better understanding of the people as we overhear conversations the citizens are having which tell us a lot about the personal lives of the people there and the living conditions. For both the dogs and some of the people, there is danger and the struggle to survive.  There are also touching moments. It is an unforgettable film that helps people understand a different part of the world, the people and animals that live there, and that they all have the same basic needs of food, shelter, and friendship. 


This documentary follows three dogs named Zeytin, Nazar and a puppy named Kartal. The camera follows the dogs at their level which is a very ingenious and a creative touch. As the camera rolls, we follow along and see how these dogs interact with other dogs and the humans they encounter. Not only do we get to experience a stray dog’s life, but the lives of a young group of boys also living on the streets. The dogs in Istanbul are allowed to roam around the city freely since the citizens fought to save them. We’re taken into these dogs’ lives and live it with them, seeing all the sights and sounds they see. 

One of my favorite scenes in Stray is when Zeytin is in the park and notices another dog approaching. You can tell from the beginning, when we first get to know Zeytin, that she is a sweet dog. She doesn’t seem to mind the other dogs she comes in contact with and is friendly towards them. Watching Zeytin and the other dogs in the park was very enjoyable. I just loved watching them run around and being very playful. It is a scene that could have been in any part of the world.  I also enjoyed watching the puppy, Kartal. The puppy’s expressions are very sweet and, the way people react to Kartal, it adds a nice touch to the film.

The message in this film is to step up for what you believe in. The citizens of Turkey made sure their voices were heard, so that dogs can freely roam, and are not to be held captive or destroyed. Every life is worth something. The dogs provide comfort to many people there. There are some warnings. Some scenes can be graphic that go with life on the streets. Some of the topics and language spoken by some of the people is also for older viewers.

I give Stray 5 out of 5 stars. I was glued to the screen and I am now a much bigger fan of documentaries after watching this film.  I plan to watch more in the future. I recommend this film to ages 13 to 20. Magnolia Pictures will release Stray in theaters and On Demand on March 5, 2021.

Stray
By Joshitha B.

Stray is a film with a unique concept that is very enlightening to watch from an outsider’s perspective. From the occasional pretty cinematography to the important issues this film highlights, Stray is an extremely well-executed documentary that I really enjoyed watching.  

Stray is a documentary following dogs in Istanbul and it really changes the narrative on how we view stray dogs by witnessing the daily lives of these uncontrollable creatures. This film invokes our empathy by documenting interactions between these stray dogs and humans in their community.

The film has lovely cinematography with plenty of pretty stills that catch your eye throughout the entire film. The aesthetic of this movie is really satisfying for the viewer. Since the main characters are dogs, there is little dialogue in the beginning, and yet the storytelling is very compelling.  The dog Zeytin is so adorable that no scene feels slow when this dog is in it. There is a particular scene which is incredibly impressive where Zeytin looks distraught and is nearly crying. These dogs have the right expression and demeanor, so credits go to Elizabeth Lo for directing in such a way that the dogs seem like actual actors.

The message of this film reflects on our own empathy for outsiders or “strays.” We all should do better to improve the lives of our furry friends globally.

I rate Stray 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Stray will be available on digital platforms March 5, 2021.

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Sonic Boom, Go Team Sonic! – Be Prepared for Numerous Wild Adventures

Friday, June 21st, 2019

It’s a Sonic you haven’t seen before — an ensemble comedy that pokes fun at action-adventure storytelling, but still manages to deliver plenty of adrenaline! Wherever he goes and whatever he’s up against, Sonic the Hedgehog is aided by his sidekick, Tails, and his friends Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks and, of course, attacked by his arch nemesis, Dr. Eggman. On this action-packed DVD, join Sonic and the gang as they accept a dare from Dr. Eggman. Tag along with Sonic and Knuckles as they enter a game show. And find out what happens when Sonic’s status as the town’s biggest hero is threatened. And so much more! “I like the graphics and the music is intense.  The voice-overs are so cool, especially because it’s the first time I hear Sonic and his friends talk.  They do not talk in the video game, rather than saying “Oh Yeah!”  Each episode is funny and fun to watch, because they are short, so it keeps your attention the whole time.”  Nathalia J. adds, “On this action-packed DVD, you get to tag along with Sonic the Hedgehog and his pals as they escape from the evil enemies, fight for justice, work together as a team, defeat evil and so much more.” See their full reviews below.

Sonic Boom, Go Team Sonic!
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

I love this DVD.  I love any show that has to do with my favorite childhood game characters.  In this case, the DVD is about Sonic, a super fast, blue hedgehog and his friends.

This DVD includes eight episodes and a bonus episode from Season 2, “If You Build it They Will Race“.  It also gives you a choice to watch the episodes in English or Spanish.  Each episode is approximately ten minutes with a total of 90 minutes of fun.  In every episode, Sonic and his friends -Tails, Knuckles, Amy and Sticks – come together to stop crimes against their number one enemy, Dr. Eggman.  Dr. Eggman is an evil scientist who wants to destroy Sonic and his crew.  In every episode something evil happens to Sonic and his friends, but they always manage to save the day.

My favorite episode is “Counter Productive” because it is about Sonic’s friend, Knuckles, fighting a giant robot.  This archaeologist named Charlie meets Knuckles and, from there on, Knuckles decides to help him with his work.  At one point, Knuckles becomes a bit annoying because, instead of helping Charlie, he interrupts his work by messing it up. Knuckles and Charlie do not get along, to the point that Charlie constructs a giant robot to fight big, red Knuckles.  Of course, I am not going to tell you who wins the fight, because you need to watch this cool DVD to find out.

I like the graphics and the music is intense.  The voice-overs are so cool, especially because it’s the first time I hear Sonic and his friends talk.  They do not talk in the video game, rather than saying “Oh Yeah!”  Each episode is funny and fun to watch, because they are short, so it keeps your attention the whole time.  I got to see a sneak peek of the first episode of Season 2.  I like how the bonus episode of Season 2 plays the theme song from the “Knight Rider” show.

The message of this DVD is “team work makes the dream work.”  When Sonic and his friends work as a team, they accomplish their mission by defeating the bad guy, Mr. Eggman.

I rate Sonic Boom, Go Team Sonic! 5 out of 5 stars, because I enjoyed watching Sonic and his friends in a cartoon show, besides playing the game. I recommend this for ages 7 to 18 because teenagers will also enjoy watching this DVD.  The DVD is available now so look for it.  Looking forward to watch Sonic Boom Season 2

Sonic Boom: Go Team Sonic
By Nathalia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Go Team Sonic! This DVD includes eight Sonic-Powered episodes that will take you on numerous wild adventures alongside Sonic the Hedgehog and his pals. This 90 minute DVD also includes a bonus episode. How fun is that!  On this action-packed DVD, you get to tag along with Sonic the Hedgehog and his pals as they escape from the evil enemies, fight for justice, work together as a team, defeat evil and so much more.

This DVD follows Sonic the hedgehog aided by his sidekick, Tails and his friends Knuckles, Amy and Sticks. Each episode focuses on a new wild adventure as the whole gang fights their evil arch nemesis, Dr. Eggman. As each action-packed episode goes along, you find out how Sonic’s status as the town’s biggest hero is threatened. Not only do you get to fight alongside the leaders, you get to find out what life is like being a hero.

The lead characters are Sonic the Hedgehog, his sidekick Amy, Tails, Knuckles and Dr. Eggman. My favorite character is, without-a-doubt, Amy because she’s very outspoken, brave, fearless and powerful. What I love most about Amy is the fact that she brings excitement to each episode, whether it’s through her ambition to fight, her unexpected plans or even the real truth (which always ends up coming out of Amy’s mouth).

My favorite episode on this DVD is Episode 4, “Fuzzy Puppy Buddies”. I enjoyed this episode more than others, because it has a surprising twist when one of Sonic’s pals becomes Fuzzy Puppy Buddies with their enemies. It brings so much suspense to the table.

There is no bad language in this DVD, no risky actions that younger kids might try to imitate. This film shares an important message about always helping a friend in need.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 16, as well adults. The DVD is available now so, make sure to check it out!

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Iron Man 3, The Most Intense And Driven Film In The Series So Far!

Monday, May 6th, 2013

IronMan3.jpg“Iron Man 3” is the newest edition in this exciting superhero series. Rated PG-13 for intense and somewhat violent scenes, this film proves that a sequel can more than live up to it’s predecessors. Age 15, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D. was extremely impressed with the action and says the “special effects, are outstanding and I absolutely love all of the different suits that Tony has created in this movie.” Equally impressed with the suits and special effects, 12-year-old KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B. notes “the way they move, attack, fight and look is wonderful” and tells us that the film is funny as well.

Iron Man 3

Reviewed by Keefer B.

See Keefer’s full video review here!

“Iron Man 3” is a blockbuster, serge forward, non-stop action movie with a few surprises, a couple disappointments and wallop of bigger-than-life, special effect-filled screens.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is back, and after fighting with the Avengers, faces a new threat, a terrorist named Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and a new foe Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce).We also see James Rhodes/Iron Patriot ( Don Cheadle) who helps Tony out in his time of crises. Not only is Tony facing the anxiety of keeping Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) safe, but also learns that it’s the man that makes the suit.

I love the special effects in this flick. The suits get better and better. The way they move, attach, fight and look is wonderful. Robert Downey Jr. continues his character development as Tony Stark and I love every minute he’s on screen. Gwyneth Paltrow is fantastic. She’s not just a damsel in distress. She saves Tony two different times and has a likable, lovable personality. The story is very engaging and the dialogue is great. The one thing I don’t like is the intellectual twist. I have mixed feelings about the turn of events in this film. My inner die-hard, comic book-loving side is disappointed, but my film critic side sees it as genius.

My favorite character is Harley (Ty Simpkins), a boy who befriends Tony and helps repair the Iron Man suit. Harley is bright, independent and a little too much like Tony. When you put the two together, you get non-stop laughter.

The moral of the story is: it’s not the suit that makes the man, it’s the man that makes the suit. Tony can’t sleep because he gets nightmares, so he spends all his time at night making more suits to protect himself and Pepper. The truth is, he saves Pepper without the suit.

My favorite scene is the final battle. The action is larger-than-life. The different suits, the way they fight, make you want to cheer. It gets you to the edge of your seat; it’s intense, fast and action-packed .

I recommend this to 11 year-olds and up. Bad language is low and the action not too intense for this age range. They will love the comedy. I give this 5 stars. Even if the twist is a little disappointing, it’s still amazing.

Also check out Raven D.’s full video review here!

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’42’ Inspirational, Educational and Humorous Story of An American Legend

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

42.jpg

Out in theaters on April 12 is the inspirational story of an American Legend, Jackie Robinson. This long-awaited story shows how the history-making signing of a black man with the Brooklyn Dodgers changed not only baseball but all sports – forever. It has received rave reviews from our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics who were lucky enough to have seen advance screenings. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven Devanney, age 15, says this film was more than just educational, but also “has a sense of humor, wit and a whole lot of inspiration.” She cautions that the PG-13 rating is due to “racial slurs and slanderous language that may be hard for [some] children to understand.”

“42”

Review by Raven Devanney

Click here to see Raven’s full video review!

“42” tells the story of the American legend Jackie Robinson, the first African-American major league baseball player. This film takes place in the 1940s when racism and segregation were very prominent, so Jackie has to overcome many challenges and deal with the doubt and judgment people have towards him. With the support of journalist Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), Rachel Robinson (Nicole Beharie) and Dodger’s owner Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), Jackie proves he has what it takes to make it.

I really love this film. Not only is “42” educational, but it also has a sense of humor, wit and a whole lot of inspiration. This film captures the hardships that not only Jackie and his family dealt with, but also the hatred that was shown towards the people that supported him. I really like the cinematography and the way the camera angles are able to capture the movement of the players and the unspoken communication between the team members. The costume and set design is also very well done and accurate for that time period.

My favorite character is Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) because he really shows emotion in a realistic way. Jackie is faced with challenge after challenge, but always overcomes, and Chadwick did a phenomenal job of displaying all that was going through his characters mind with nothing but a simple expression. Chadwick also captured Jackie’s spunk and defiance towards the norms. Jackie Robinson is such an inspirational person and character. At any given moment he could have given up, let down the people that looked up to him, believe all the hate that was thrown at him, but he didn’t, and that’s what makes him a hero. I believe Jackie is a character that every man, woman and child can look up to and find inspiration in.

My favorite scene is when Jackie plays one of his first games as a Dodger. The manager of the opposing team is very slanderous and vile towards Jackie. He calls out awful racial slurs while Jackie is out on the field, but Jackie knows if he did anything about it he would be the one who gets punished. Finally after the other Dodgers had enough, Eddie Stanky marched over to the opposing team and told the manager to sit down. He knows he is breaking the rules, but when he sees a team member of his being harped on he takes a chance and stands up of for him. This scene shows that the color of one’s skin doesn’t matter and that Eddie would have done that for any one of his teammates. It’s a wonderful example of equity and sportsmanship and it is very moving.

I give “42” 5 out of 5 stars because it is touching, funny, educational and inspirational. It’s rated PG-13 which I agree with because it does run a bit long and younger children may find it hard to sit through, but it also contains a lot of racial slurs and slanderous language that may be hard for children to understand. This film is so incredible, so head to your nearest theater when “42” hits the fields on April 12, 2013.

Go to kidsfirst.org for more reviews of the film, “42.”

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