Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Downton Abbey * Elegant, Well Narrated, Exquisite Performances

September 20th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ad Astra * A Roller Coaster Of Emotions That Takes Movie-Going Beyond The Usual Thrill

September 18th, 2019

Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “This movie is not only a great story, Ad Astra is a roller coaster of emotions and a ride that makes the movie going experience beyond the usual thrill. It’s totally immersive and I enjoy that, and I recommend to experience it in IMAX for best results.” Calista B. adds, “This film is nothing like what I anticipated and I mean that in a good way. I had a lot of fun discussing the themes of this movie.” Katherine S. chimes in with, “Are you ready for a thrilling movie experience?  Ad Astra delivers this and more with terrific acting, great cinematography and amazing sound.” Madison W. wraps it up with, “Ad Astra has a very strange and artistic viewpoint of space. This film is personally not really my taste in film, but there are definitely moments that catch my eye. The way the visual effects pull this film together is completely mind blowing. They create the look of space and planets being realistic as if they are right in front of you.” See their full reviews below.

Ad Astra
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I feel transported to the moon and Neptune! This movie is not only a great story, Ad Astra is a roller coaster of emotions and a ride that makes the movie-going experience beyond the usual thrill. It’s totally immersive and I enjoy that, and I recommend to experience it in IMAX for best results.

Ad Astra

It put me at the edge of my seat and is so exiting. The pace, in general, is slow. But there are a lot of action peaks that certainly shake your emotions. The visuals are stunning and the acting overwhelming. Probably, what I enjoyed the most is that in this futuristic voyage, where imagination floats, the human condition remains grounded. 

In Ad Astra, astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) joins a mission in which he will be sent to outer space to find his father, who disappeared 30 years ago and is associated with a threat to humanity. Roy’s journey is also personal –  they have a dysfunctional father / son relationship, but share a strong bond for the love for outer space.

Ad Astra

The car chase on the moon, when space pirates attack, is one of my favorite scenes. It is original and out of this world, literally. I also love the scenes when Roy is floating out of the spaceship.

The cinematography (Hoyte Van Hoytema) and visual effects are the most remarkable technical aspects of the film. The movie has a heart and Brad Pitt’s performance makes us remember that, despite all advances in technology and stunning visuals, the core will be always humankind. There are a lot of close ups and drama, and the journey is not only beyond the frontiers of Earth, but inside of our souls. I did not find some secondary characters’ interactions as important as they should be. The music composed by Max Richter is very atmospheric and keeps us suspended.

Ad Astra is very unique because of the story; it’s not like any film you have seen in the past. I definitively recommend seeing this film if you love space, or maybe just want to see something different. One thing that I really liked is how futuristic it is, in a near future that is not that far from us.

I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18+. Finally, the message of this film is there’s no greater journey than knowing ourselves. Ad Astra opens in theaters nationwide September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Ad Astra
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This film is nothing like what I anticipated and I mean that in a good way. I had a lot of fun discussing the themes of this movie.

Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

The movie follows Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) as he’s tasked with finding his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) in hopes of stopping a series of electrical surges that threaten the world.

Now, while the whole cast is pretty fantastic, a good majority of the film revolves around Roy McBride. There are a lot of scenes where he’s by himself while narrating. And these are probably the most interesting scenes in the movie. And it’s not just because of the acting. The film is filled with voice over narration from Roy and these narrations are very interesting to think about. Since Roy is essentially prohibited from emoting, the narration sort of acts as his solution to that. I think that works really well, especially since, when he actually does emote, even slightly, it hits you really hard.

L to R: Donald Sutherland, Brad Pitt and Sean Blakemore star in “Ad Astra”.

Speaking of the narration, that, along with the incredible ambient music gives the tone a very eerie, atmospheric vibe which fits the feeling of isolation in the vastness of space and the monotone acting. There’s also a lot of ideas in this film that are really creative and worthy of discussion. For example, in this movie there are commercial flights to the moon. So when Roy actually gets to the moon, you can see recognizable restaurants in the background, implying the moon is essentially a travel location. This is such a neat idea and something I really wish was expanded upon. Not only that, but this film has some really thought-provoking themes relating to legacies, searching for something greater and repressing your emotions. For most of the film, people see Roy in relation to who his father was. And these scenes, along with some spoiler-y moments, led me and my mom to have an entire discussion about how certain people will never be able to fully escape the legacy of their ancestors, as their ancestor and that ancestor’s name will always weigh on them. Not just that, but the way space is used as a metaphor for taking what you have in life for granted is intriguing.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It comes out September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Ad Astra
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Are you ready for a thrilling movie experience?  Ad Astra delivers this and more with terrific acting, great cinematography and amazing sound. 

Brad Pitt, Ad Astra

The film’s title draws its name from the Latin phrase “ad astra” and means “to the stars.”   This science fiction movie is about an astronaut named Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who goes into space to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who was also an astronaut.  When his father went to work on something called the Lima Project, he went missing and died, or so Roy thinks. He is called in and told that his father might be alive and is sent across the solar system to find him.

Ad Astra is so intense – almost too intense for me. The amazing performances from Brad Pitt, as Roy McBride, and Tommy Lee Jones, as Roy’s father, are so believable and they made want to both love and hate the characters by the end of the movie.  The special effects are realistic, and the sound is astonishing, as you can hear every move made. My favorite character is Roy because of his perseverance.

Ad Astra

The message of the movie is: if something is hard, work through it. The intensity of the movie comes from some profanity, bloody images, dead bodies and violence (including some murderous actions). Obviously, these scenes include risky things that kids might try to do.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, as kids any younger might get scared (like me!). Adults will also like this movie. This movie opens in theaters September 20, 2019.

Ad Astra
By Madison Whitman, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Brad Pitt, Ad Astra

Ad Astra has a very strange and artistic viewpoint of space. This film is personally not really my taste in film, but there are definitely moments that catch my eye. The way the visual effects pull this film together is completely mind blowing. They create the look of space and planets being realistic as if they are right in front of you. 

Ad Astra tells the story of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who works for Spacecom. Roy sets out on an expedition across the solar system to find his father and his dad’s doomed expedition in order to solve a mystery that is threatening the universe. 

Ad Astra

I would like to acknowledge Brad Pitt’s acting. Brad Pitt plays a major role in this film and, boy, he pulls it off outstandingly! You can definitely tell that he brings his all to bringing the concept to life.  However, the ending could have been a little bit more put together. I was a little confused throughout the whole movie and the ending did throw me off more than other parts.   Also, they could have given more information on a few characters—some randomly appear and leave which leaves you wondering what happened to them.

Ad Astra delivers a very inspiring message:  Never give up hope and keep fighting for what you love no matter what someone or the world tells you.

Ad Astra has some blood and gore, though there is hardly any profanity, except for one word and one gesture. I give Ad Astra 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 and adults would enjoy it. All in all, I recommend you check this film out.  Ad Astra is in theatres September 20, 2019.

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

September 13th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jungle Bunch * A Wacky Animated Film That Will Have You Laughing!

September 12th, 2019

Get ready for the wildest ride of your life! Maurice may look like a penguin – but he’s a real tiger inside! Raised by a tigress, he’s the clumsiest Kung-Fu master ever. Along with his friends, The Jungle Bunch, he intends to maintain order and justice in the jungle, as his mother did before him. But when Igor, an evil koala, decides to destroy the jungle once and for all with the help of his army of silly baboons, Maurice faces his biggest challenge yet! Your family will go bananas for The Jungle Bunch, a fresh and funny adventure that’s full of laughs and memorable characters! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Will C. comments, “The Jungle Bunch is a wacky animated movie with talking animals that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but still entertains. Based on a popular French kids’ series, this film has lots of action and some laughs. My favorite part of the movie is when an exploding mushroom captures the entire Jungle Bunch. In order to get out, they throw a pebble which starts a chain reaction to set them free.” Ivey H. adds, “This is a cute film about a group of animals, called the Jungle Bunch, that protect and watch out for the jungle. They put out forest fires, fight bad guys, save animals and help the community. I really enjoyed the bright colors and scenes from the jungle.” Elle S. wraps it up with, “The film draws me in for many reasons. It’s nice to see how each animal is portrayed by voice over, characteristics and challenges. Igor, the wicked koala, is small but forceful with throwing mushroom grenades that burst into big, bright fireworks exploding across the screen. I appreciate the teamwork between the animals.” See their full reviews below.

The Jungle Bunch
By Will C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The Jungle Bunch is a wacky animated movie with talking animals that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but still entertains. Based on a popular French kids’ series, this film has lots of action and some laughs.

The Jungle Bunch begins by introducing us to a civilized nation of animals where an evil koala tries to throw mushroom bombs at everyone. The Champs are saviors of the jungle –  a tiger, sloth, rhino and porcupine. The tiger raises a penguin as her own, which in turn raises a fish as his own child. Maurice the tiger-penguin joins up with a gorilla and a bat, among others, to save everyone from Igor the koala mastermind.

While the animation isn’t quite the level viewers are used to from Disney and Pixar, it’s still quite colorful and interesting to watch. The jungle setting is especially well done with convincingly animated tropical plants. The writers probably tried to squeeze too much plot into this film by including the origin story, but I was still able to follow it well enough. My favorite part of the movie is when an exploding mushroom captures the entire Jungle Bunch. In order to get out, they throw a pebble which starts a chain reaction to set them free.

The message of this film is that you should be kind and brave. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but there’s a sad ending for one character that might be upsetting for little kids. Parents should also know that there’s quite a bit of action with explosions and cartoon violence.

I rate this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for children ages 5 to 8. It’s available now on DVD so, look for it.

The Jungle Bunch
By Ivey H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

This is a cute film about a group of animals, called the Jungle Bunch, that protect and watch out for the jungle. They put out forest fires, fight bad guys, save animals and help the community. I really enjoyed the bright colors and scenes from the jungle.

The jungle bunch includes a penguin named Maurice, a gorilla named Miguel, Gilbert the Tarsier, Bat Batricia and a few other odd creatures. In this story, Maurice is the hero and leader of Jungle Bunch. He is a penguin that was raised by a tigress. He struggles with being the leader and trying to live up to the standards of his mother. The characters are well developed and funny. They make lot of contraptions and inventions to help save the jungle, including a butt cream for a bird’s bottom, which really cracked me up.

The villain in the story is the koala Igor. He wants to destroy the jungle, because he feels excluded from the bunch. He wants to take over and become the leader. The Jungle Bunch thinks he is too controlling. He plans to use mushrooms as explosives to blow up the jungle for revenge and payback. The Jungle Bunch must stop him from destroying their homes. Igor has a clock that is a crab as his alarm clock. He hits his crab’s claws together to make a tick tock sound.  This is a really funny part of the movie.

My favorite part is when they play the song “Eye of the Tiger” when Maurice is feeling down. This helps raise Maurice’s spirit to become confident and put his “tiger stripes” back on.  It is really cute when the fish and penguin want to be tigers and they paint themselves with stripes.

Maurice is voiced by Philippe Bozo. I like his voice and attitude. It’s perfect! The Gorilla is voiced by Pascal Casanova, who also portrays his character quite well. In fact, I’m quite fond of all the voice-over work in this film. I give director David Alaux credit for putting together such a terrific cast.

The moral of the story addresses the unlikely friendships between different species in the jungle who work together as a team and stick with each other during hard times, helping their community save their homes.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 15 as well as adults. It is available on DVD now, so look for it.

The Jungle Bunch
By Elle S., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

The Jungle Bunch is a movie of champions. “You don’t have to wear stripes in order to be strong like a tiger.” We follow the lives of different creatures, both heroic and evil, to see how they respond when devastation hits their habitat.

The battle is on between Natasha, the tiger and former leader of the champs. She stands for justice and equality and won’t stop protecting and serving her home. Igor, a wicked koala, wants revenge and power. He’s relentless when it comes to commanding all the animals of the jungle for his own benefit. They fight for the future of the jungle and who is in control is tested at ultimate lengths. Natacha has rescued and raised Maurice, a strong willed penguin with a tiger spirit. He follows in the footsteps of his mother as he teams with a group of animals to protect and serve.

This film offers positive outlooks when it comes to equality, problem solving and finding hope during hopeless situations. The overall production quality is great. The imagery and sound quality is sure to keep children engaged. Only a couple of scenes go on a little longer than needed. For the most part, the film maintains a positive flow.

Children that love animals, fireworks explosions, monkey butt jokes and rescue missions will absolutely enjoy this. It is recommended that you enjoy the film in its entirety as there is a special bonus clip that is sure to please. There are multiple scenes using freeze framing, bold bright animation and music that fit well with the flow of the film. The film takes place in a jungle, so I loved hearing the birds squawking, animals hooting and other sounds of nature.

The film draws me in for many reasons. It’s nice to see how each animal is portrayed by voice over, characteristics and challenges. Igor, the wicked koala, is small but forceful with throwing mushroom grenades that burst into big, bright fireworks exploding across the screen. I appreciate the teamwork between the animals.

There is a menu that offers the film to be played in its entirety or to select certain scenes. A trailer clip, audio, and subtitles are also available to select. The most impactful message I got from the film promotes equality and justice. I really enjoyed that Natasha, the tiger, loved and raised Maurice, a penguin like her own. That equality and unconditional love is passed down to Maurice when he raises his goldfish, Jr. The moral and love for the community doesn’t change regardless of the animal or upbringing. This is a positive message for audiences. The message is that you don’t have to have stripes in order to have the tiger spirit.

I rate this film 4 out of 5 stars for its wildness, comedy, production and impactful socially-positive messages throughout. I recommend it for ages 5 to 12. The content is appropriate and user friendly with its jokes and imagery. Reviewed by Elle S., KIDS FIRST! Juror.

Rueful Warrior * New Sci-Fi Short With More Fight Scenes Than You Can Count

September 12th, 2019

Rueful Warrior is a thought-provoking film which focuses on the futility of war and underlines the absurdity of violence and combat. In this film, our heroine – alien soldier Yalalia – finds herself caught up in a conflict of moral and physical standings against a group of soldiers from Earth. Her integrity is tested to the limit as she desperately attempts to maintain peace at all costs. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brad M. comments, “Rueful Warrior is a new sci-fi short film packed with action. It has more fight scenes and punches thrown than you will be able to count. If you like exciting futuristic productions, you will love this new short film!” See his full review below

Rueful Warrior
By Brad Martin, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Rueful Warrior is a new sci-fi short film packed with action. It has more fight scenes and punches thrown than you will be able to count. If you like exciting futuristic productions, you will love this new short film!

Yalalia (Michelle Fahrenheim) is sent to Earth from a faraway planet in order to save her people. Her civilization is lacking a vital resource – water. The alien soldier is immediately assumed to be hostile and attacked by Earth’s protectors.

Director Mark Owen giving instructions to his two female leads. Rueful Warrior. Credit: © Samuel Dore
Director Mark Owen giving instructions to his two female leads. Rueful Warrior. Credit: © Samuel Dore

There are a multitude of entertaining aspects to Rueful Warrior, but the best is the fight choreography. Joe Golby, the fight choreographer, has truly created a realistic, yet intriguing sequence of brawling. I enjoyed the variety of styles used in this short film, but would have liked more of a story. At times, I felt as if I was watching more of a fight than a movie.

The main character, Yalalia, helps keep the audience’s eyes glued to the screen with her convincing acting. The manner in which she reacts to the attacks of Earth’s soldiers is everything one I could have wanted from her character. Yalalia’s costume is a spectacular work of art. The similarities between her alien culture and the human culture show how different, yet similar opposing sides of conflict can be. The director, Mark Owen, had a powerful vision for the film in creating a strong female protagonist. I appreciated the way he portrays her character, compared to the other actors. The others could have had better story arcs. It would be interesting to see one of Earth’s soldiers question the other’s decision to attack Yalalia. This might add another layer to the already dramatic conflict.

Actress Michelle Fahrenheim (Yalalia) and director Mark Owen, Rueful Warrior, Credit: © Samuel Dore
Actress Michelle Fahrenheim (Yalalia) and director Mark Owen, Rueful Warrior, Credit: © Samuel Dore

I love the way the short film ends with a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower, “I hate war, as only a soldier who has lived can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” This helps enforce the main message of the film that society needs to work together. When we fight among ourselves, it leads to pain and suffering for both sides. Parents should be advised about the violence in this film.

I give Rueful Warrior 4 out of 5 stars and recommend for kids 10 through 18. Make sure to check out this short film at the Portobello Film Festival September 13, 2019 or at the Show Low Film Festival October 17 through 20, 2019. 

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