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Earth to Echo Brings Back the Sci-Fi Feel of the 80s

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

For those of use who hold a special place in our hearts for the sci-fi films of our youth such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, this film may seem like a blast from the past, only with new and fun twists. The story follows a group of kids who embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry Orz comments, “This movie brings the old sci-fi feel of the 80s back to life. It has the same style, which is my favorite.” See Gerry’s full review and interviews with cast and creators below.

Earth to Echo
Reviewed by Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

This is an adventure Hollywood has been waiting for. This is not just another story about helping an alien to get to its home planet, Earth to Echo is an emotional and fun adventure that many kids will love and cherish for generations.

The story has a little sprinkle of romance, displays a true friendship, thrills when they discover Echo, and, of course, will pump you up with adrenaline. If you are the type of person that likes action – this film has plenty of it since there are also BAD guys chasing after them.

The adventure starts when four young kids have to move out of their homes because a highway project is going to demolish them. On their last day together, they follow maps that randomly appeared on their phones. What they find is greater than any of them anticipated. Now, if you want all the juicy details – you have to watch the film.

This movie brings the old sci-fi feel of the 80s back to life. It has the same style, which is my favorite. It relates a lot to the legendary film, E.T and I see Echo as a sort of E.T. Jr. character. However, the story starts rather abruptly. It feels like there is no well-defined beginning. Otherwise this is great adventure that kids will love and perhaps even look for their own Echo’s in the neighborhoods.

The directing, I think, is very unique since it seems as if the movie is shot from the kid’s prospective. There is a lot of complexity around this type of technique but I believe the end result is well worth the time and the effort that was put into the movie.

My favorite scene is when they are escaping BAD guys. The thing they find, which they name Echo is in danger because of those bad guys. They are about to crash into a truck, but Echo takes the truck apart in midair and puts it back together behind them! The special effects are amazing and it also shows that Echo is very protective of her friends.

I recommend this movie for ages 6 to 18. Younger kids may not understand the full complexity of the film. I also give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Earth to Echo
By Kendyl P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Video review here.

Earth to Echo is a mind blowing movie. If you are a fan of movies like E.T. or discovering aliens from space, this movie is perfect for you. Earth to Echo is about a group of friends, Tuck (Astro), Alex (Teo Halm), Munch (Resse Heartwig) and Emma (Ella Wahlesedt) who are forced to move because of the construction of a big freeway near their houses. Before they move, their cell phones start acting up. It turns out to be a map and they follow it. It leads them to an alien that is trying to get back home but can’t go. It’s up to Tuck, Munch, Alex and Emma to save the day.

My favorite character is Alex because he is very helpful and cool. He sticks by the alien’s side and he really cares about him. He is like the alien’s best friend. My favorite part is when small parts of the space ship fly in from all over the neighborhood to form a really large spaceship and the main part of the ship is in Alex’s backyard. I really enjoyed watching that.

The actors, Astro, Teo Halm, Resse Heartwig and Ella Wahlesedt do a great job expressing different emotions in the film. The message of this film is “true friendships can last a lifetime.” The friendship the boys have continues long after they go their separate ways.

This is a great film. I recommend this film for kids age 9 to 16 and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Earth to Echo
By Kayla P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
Video review here

Earth to Echo is a fantastic family movie to watch this summer. This film is about three boys, Tuck, Alex and Munch who have a very close friendship. Unfortunately, their homes are being demolished because there are plans to build a major highway right through the middle of their community. As the boys prepare to pack up and leave their community, their cell phones began receiving strange pictures, which they learn is a map. The boys decide to follow the map and discover a robot named Echo. After communicating with Echo, the boys learn he is trying to build a key to unlock his space ship to go home. While the boys are helping Echo, they learn the real reason why their homes are being demolished. They may be able to save the community from being destroyed.

Tuck and his friends are told to stop trying to help Echo. They learn that by helping Echo they are also helping the families in their community. The message of the film is “do the right thing.” You might face some opposition by some people, but you still have to do the right thing that will benefit all people.

My favorite scene is when Tuck, Alex and Munch discover Echo. At first they think he is a beeping machine. Every time Echo beeps Munch starts running for his life and acts crazy. He is my favorite character because he brings a lot of the humor to this film.

The actors are spectacular. They make the film come alive and make you feel like you are on the journey with them. Earth to Echo is the perfect summertime movie for the entire family.  I recommend this film for kids ages 7 through 18. I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. Earth to Echo will be in theaters July 2, 2014, don’t miss it.

Divergent – When Outcasts Have to Hide to Protect Themselves

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Divergent.jpgBased on the young adult novel by the same name, this PG-13 rated film follows the life of Tris who lives in a world divided by factions based on virtues. Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D, age 16, commented, “I really like this film. I went into it not knowing anything about the book trilogy so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was pleased with the outcome.” For her full review, read below or click on the link to her video review.

Reviewed by Raven D., age 16, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic
Video review here.
Cast interviews here.

Based on the wildly successful novel by Veronica Roth, “Divergent” tells the story of teens struggling to find their place in post-war Chicago. Society is separated by factions based on personality traits and virtues in attempts to keep the peace and encourage the population to participate equally in maintaining a functioning community. When a person turns 16, she takes a test to determine what faction best suits her characteristics to help her decide whether she should stay in her home faction or move elsewhere. Tris, played by Shailene Woodley, is a modest girl from Abnegation, but her entire life is turned upside down when the test reveals something about her she didn’t know was possible. She is a Divergent, which means she does not fit into any category, therefore cannot be controlled and is a threat to the system. With the advice of an older faction member, she is warned not to tell a soul or her life will be at risk. Young Tris then decides to leave her home of Abnegation and transfer to Dauntless, a fiery group of individuals that show no fear and protect the people. There, she has to learn to fit in and test herself physically and mentally, all the while guarding a dark secret.

I really like this film. I went into it not knowing anything about the book trilogy so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was pleased with the outcome. The visuals are interesting because even though this film is set in the future and it features some advanced technology, everything is kept quite simple looking. There are, however, some flaws with the visuals and effects because at times it is very apparent that green screen is in use. The soundtrack is absolutely incredible. It features a variety of artist that I really enjoy and I’ve already downloaded music from the film because it is something I actually listen to on a daily basis which isn’t the case with me for most motion picture soundtracks.

My favorite character is surprisingly not one of the leads, but a supporting role. I like the character Will, played by Ben Lloyd-Hughes, who is a boy Tris meets during her training in Dauntless. Will is a sweet, kind-hearted person who is always very supportive of Tris and her friend Christina, played by Zoe Kravitz. He is very level headed and is someone you can always count on. I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Lloyd-Hughes and I think he is perfect for the role of Will. The rest of the cast works very well together. Shailene Woodley does a great job portraying her emotions and showing Tris’s character development. She goes through quite a lot over the course of the film and Shailene is really able to embody Tris and show how she transforms from a timid, modest Abnegation, to a fearless young woman who is not defined by anyone or anything. The only problem I have with the casting is that Four, played by Theo James, is supposed to be 18 in the book series. However in the film, he appears to be in his mid 20’s, since Theo is 29 years old. He does a wonderful job playing his character, but it makes the romance between him and Tris really uncomfortable.

My favorite scene in the film is when Tris and the rest of the new members of Dauntless are heading back from playing a capture the flag like war game. They each strap up to a high-speed full body zip line that goes rocketing through the empty city. I think this scene is visually appealing even though it is very short and has really no importance to the film. The CGI and landscape in this scene is just well done.

Since I have not read this trilogy, I was a little let down with certain aspects of the film. In “Divergent” the film, the whole movie is mainly Tris training in Dauntless and it feels like the plot takes far too long to develop. The last 15-20 minutes of the film is where the action and the conflict begins to happen and then the movie is over. I found out that this is how the first book is written as well, but as someone who has very little prior knowledge of the series, it seems a bit odd. The second thing that threw me off was that it seems as if quite a bit of the dialogue is taken directly from the book. This is something that fans of the book will love since the films stays so true to the novel. However, from my point of view, a lot of the dialogue does not translate very well to the screen and appears a bit cheesy and forced at times. Like I said, this is really only an issue for me since I have not read the series nor was I a fan prior to watching the film. Overall, I was entertained despite these points.

I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 or for anyone who has read the novel. The movie gets a bit violent during training scenes and towards the end but is nothing too bad and if you’ve read the books you know what to expect. Overall I give Divergent 4 out of 5 stars because it is entertaining and I’m already eager for the next installment in the series. Plus I and all my friends that saw the film have been quoting the movie non-stop and making “Divergent” references in almost every conversation, so it clearly left its mark on us! Be sure to check out “Divergent” in theaters on March 21st.

A Beloved 60s-Era Cartoon Finds New Life In 3D Animation

Monday, March 17th, 2014

00Mr.Peabody.jpgMr. Peabody, an icon of my childhood, is a business titan, inventor, scientist, gourmand, two-time Olympic medalist and genius – who also happens to be a dog.  In this feature film, Mr. Peabody and his adopted boy Sherman hurtle back in time in his WABAC machine to to experience world-changing events first-hand and interact with some of the greatest characters of all time. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O., age 11 says, “I love how they take twenty five-minute shows that had old, colored 2-D animation and turn it into modern 3D animation with the use of modern technology.” Jeremy B., age 7, adds, “(This) is a great movie!  The characters scripts are funny and the 3D animation is incredible.” And Haley P., age 11, sums it up, “I like this movie because there is back-to-back on-going adventure.” Their full reviews are below.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Reviewed by Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Full video review available here.
Talent interviews here.

I saw the trailers and I expected it to be more concentrated on time travel and not have much of a story line. Well there is. A fantastic one at that! “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a wonderful story about a dog who adopts a boy.

The film also has lots of animated things to love – like history, comedy, romance, suspense and so much more. To make it even better – characters come to live thanks to the brilliant voice-over actors such as Ty Burrel and Max Charles.

The film starts when a young puppy is growing up in different shelters. From a very early age he shows everyone how very special he is. He is intelligent, athletic and smooth. He wins many prizes, but his greatest adventure happens when he adopts a boy. Together they go through multiple adventures and troubles but able to stay together.

I love so much about this film. The film itself is fantastic! I love how they take twenty five-minute shows that had old, colored 2-D animation and turn it into modern 3D animation with the use of modern technology.

My favorite scene is when they show the story of how Mr. Peabody adopts Sherman. They show points throughout Sherman’s little life of great moments, like his first step in 1709.  Then it shows how he finds Sherman. That is definitely a sweet and loving part!

This movie has a bit of violence in it, therefore I recommend it to ages 5-18. I also believe that adults who admired this cartoon kids, will love this new version of these beloved characters. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Reviewed by Haley P. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11
Video review available here.

The movie “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is absolutely fantastic!  This movie is about an exceptionally smart dog that adopts a boy because, when he was a kid, no one would adopt him. Mr. Peabody makes a time machine called the WABAC so Sherman can learn all about history. They travel to different time periods all over the world. However, when Sherman tries to impress his classmate, Penny, to prove he is no different from her, things go terribly wrong because he shows Penny the WABAC.

I like this movie because there is back-to-back on-going adventure.  Sherman and Penny almost kill themselves while in Italy when Penny tricks him into taking Leonardo Da Vincci’s flying machine without permission.  They soar through the air but eventually crash after Sherman loses confidence in himself about flying the machine.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman also have to save Penny in Egypt before she marries King Tut. The wildest scene is when they all end up in the middle of the Trojan War!  It is a disaster waiting to happen. I love the way this movie mixes history with fun such as when Sherman takes Penny back in time to prove to Penny that George Washington did tell him he didn’t really chopped down the cherry tree.  It’s like getting a fun history lesson without having to be bored in school.

All the characters are great! Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell), Sherman (Max Charles), Penny (Ariel Winter) are my favorites because they play their part exactly like what you would see in real life. The animation is outstanding and the 3D special effects make everything pop right out which keeps you drawn into the movie.

The moral of this story is no matter who your parents are listening will keep you out of trouble. This movie is perfect for ages 5 through18. Both boys and girls will enjoy it because it is animated, adventurous and best of all, in 3D. I give it five out of five dazzling stars!  Mr. Peabody and Sherman will be released in theaters on March 7, 2014.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman 3D
Reviewed by Jeremy B.KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 7
Video review available here.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman 3D” is a great movie!  The characters scripts are funny and the 3D animation is incredible. The images pop right off the screen and I loved it.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a film about a Nobel Prize-winning dog named Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) who adopts a human boy named Sherman (Max Charles). Together they travel to different time periods to learn about important historical events.  When Sherman uses the time machine without permission he accidentally rips a hole in the space/time continuum.  Mr. Peabody and Sherman must team up to fix the hole.

This movie is so exciting.  I really like all the adventures that the characters go on.  They travel to amazing time periods such as Ancient Egypt, Italy during the 1500’s and Troy during the Trojan War. It has a lot of educational facts throughout.  Even the jokes are based upon facts from the different time periods.  While I found the jokes to be really funny, I think that young children might not understand them. Older children and adults that know a lot about history will understand more of the jokes and find them hilarious.

Along with being educational, this film is also very adventurous. My favorite part is when Mr. Peabody and Sherman travel to Troy and fight in the Trojan War.  It is so funny to see little Sherman fighting with the huge Greek warriors. I loved the animation and the special effects with the Trojan horse. At one point it looks like the horse is rolling straight toward you and is going to squish you. I loved that!

I also love the message in this film.  It shows that families can come in all different sizes and varieties. It teaches us that it if someone’s family is different than yours, it is not right to treat them badly or tease them.  Sherman experiences being bullied by a classmate because his family is different. This happens a lot in the real world, but in the end it is important to learn that it doesn’t matter what others think.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars.  It is adventurous, funny and educational.  I recommend this film for kids ages 9 and up.  Mr. Peabody talks really fast and uses big words which might be difficult for some younger kids to follow and understand.

No Matter What You Look Like, You Can Always Be a Hero

Monday, May 6th, 2013


Journey down under and meet a whole new breed of hero in "Koala Kid," a laugh-filled, action-packed animated adventure with a rare white koala bear who just wants to fit in. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Canela R likes this movie "because it has a funny story and at the same time, action and suspense is thrown in with lots of twists and turns."

Koala Kid by Canela R

See Canela’s full video review here!

“Koala Kid” is a animated film about a white Koala who doesn’t he think he fits in with his community of gray Koalas and comes to believe that he has special talents which he thinks can prove to everyone that he belongs. He does this by going on a miraculous journey to defeat an evil crocodile named Bog.

The Koala Kid’s name is Johnny and he’s voiced by Rob Schneider. As his journey continues he meets Miranda, a gray Koala (Yvonne Strahvoski), Hamish the Tasmanian Devil (Bret McKenzie) and his Monkey Photographer Lokie (Charlie Bewley). They battle with their wits and through action with Bog the villainous Crocodile (Alan Cumming, the Bad Guy from Spy Kids!) and his chief henchman, Blacktooth the Dingo (Tim Curry).

There is one moment that seems to capture the humor and suspense of this movie perfectly. When Bog the evil Croc is sleeping, the tiny wombats take Snorkles into the pond and capture Bog with a net. When Bog awakes, he shrugs them off of him as if it is nothing. I didn’t want to laugh because the Wombats are so cute, but it is funny.

I really like the animation in this film because it feels as if you’re really in the hot outback with all these fun characters.

The colorfulness adds to the fun I experienced. There is also one song in the movie which continues the colorfulness and had both me AND my mom tapping our feet, “Do You Come From a Land Down Under.” I think I’m still tapping my feet.

I think the message of this movie is no matter what you look like, you can always become a hero.

If you like adventurous cartoons as much as I do, then “Koala Kid” is the movie for you. I recommend this to kids ages six to sixteen because as much as it is a lifelong lesson that you can always use. There are some suspenseful moments that could be scary to the younger ones.

I rate this movie five out of five stars because it’s hilarious and colorful which speaks to the mind of kids and teens.

Koala Kid is available now on DVD.

Check out KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O’s Koala Kid interview here!

Parental Guidance Spans The Generations

Monday, December 31st, 2012

pg.jpgParental Guidance, rated PG, is truly a film for the whole family. A hilarious vision of how families relate to one another, kids, parents and grandparents. Starring the fabulous talents of Bette Midler and Billy Crystal, this film has a long range appeal.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 8-year-old Morgan Bertsch, says this story has an important moral: “if everyone works together things will come out all right” and Victoria Burns, 14-year-old KIDS FIRST! Film Critic says that people will like this film because they “can relate to the differences between parents and grandparents.”

Our very own Cheyenne Nguyen, 9-year old KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, was able to interview some of the talent on this film. Click here to see her wonderful video interviews!

Parental Guidance
Reviewed by Victoria Burns
Click here to see Victoria’s full video review!

This is an experience! It was interesting to see different styles of parenting, from generation to generation. This movie gives an unusual perspective on parenting, whether it be by using a smart house, or screaming at teachers; this movie is enlightening.

When I stepped in the theater to see the movie, I did not know what to expect. It is hilarious! I can relate to the strange transition from what parents would let a children do and grandparents that let children do anything. This movie follows the Simmons family who believe in a more, “I’ll let you consider the consequences and make the right choice” type of parenting; and the parents that never get to have time alone together. So when the inventor father: Phil Simmons (Tom Everett Scott) is nominated for an award out of state, he and his wife Alice (Marisa Tomei) decide to take this trip for some much needed alone time. They call Phil’s parents to watch them, but they are away on vacation; Alice dreads to ask her judgmental parents, but they say yes. Let the games begin.

Meet Artie Decker (Billy Crystal) a newly fired baseball announcer and his wife Diane (Bette Midler), a retired weather girl. These grandparents’ main goal is to make their grandchildren love them, and to no longer be the “other grandparents.” They are being entrusted to care for three children: Harper (Bailee Madison), 12 going on 50 and an aspiring violinist; Turner (Joshua Rush), a shy boy with a stutter; and Barker (Kyle Harrison Breitkopf), the youngest with a hard time making real friends, so he has an imaginary one. This is a new type of environment for Artie and Diane, who try their best to do a good job, but cannot because their daughter will not release her hold and go with her husband. We see how Diane and Artie form a relationship with their grandchildren, and Artie and Alice rekindle theirs also.

Personally, I would probably only watch this movie once because these types of movies are entertaining but become tiring quickly. I think that children and most adults would enjoy it because of the comedy aspect. This movie also is not too long so younger children will not get restless. I recommend this movie for ages six and up because they can relate to the differences between parents and grandparents. I give this movie four and a half stars out of five because I do not usually favor quirky family comedies. This is a good movie and a great movie to watch with your family. Victoria Burns, age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.

Parental Guidance
Reviewed by Morgan Bertsch
Click here to see Morgan’s full video review!

The preview of this movie was very cute. It is a story about a mom and dad who want to go on a vacation together. The question is, who will watch the three children. They decide to ask the grandparents. The favorite grandparents are busy and cannot come so they have to call the other grandparents. “RI” is a new house that is all computerized and the dad’s project. The technology is very confusing to the grandparents. It is a very cool house that everyone will want to own.

Marisa Tomei is a mother, trying to juggle a family and a job. She is trying to do the best job she can but there are many choices of how to raise your children. Tom Everett Scott plays dad, who just wants his wife to be proud of him and misses spending time with her alone. The kids are adorable. I love the kangaroo. Barker has a strong grip and doesn’t want his mother to leave. This will have you laughing. Harper is an amazing violist and the perfect big sister. Turner has issues but learns to overcome them. The old grandparents do not always understand the way their daughter is raising her children. They do not follow her rules. When they find out they are not the favorites they decide it is time to take action and make the children love them. Even I know sugar makes kids crazy. Cake any one?

My favorite scene was when they play kick the can. Playing in the rain is always fun; add a game and it is funtastic. My favorite character was the grandmother because Bette Midler stood up for her granddaughter. She was funny and even had a scene with her famous singing voice. The grandfather, Billy Crystal, would be great to hang out with because he loves baseball and so do I. He believes in this movie so much that he also signed on as a producer.

The moral is, if everyone works together things will come out all right. Sometimes it takes a little time to understand someone else’s ways. All ages will love this movie from the young 5 to the elder 105. It is about different ages all trying to understand each other, learn from each other and getting to place of being a happy family. I give this movie 5 twinkling stars. It was cute, funny and made for everyone. Morgan Bertsch, age 8, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.

Want more? Click here for video reviews of Parental Guidance from Cheyenne Nguyen and Julia Chestnut!

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