Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood * Timely Message About Forgiveness and Redemption

November 19th, 2019

Two-time Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks portrays Mister Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. After a jaded magazine writer (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys) is assigned a profile of Fred Rogers, he overcomes his skepticism, learning about empathy, kindness, and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Selene W. comments, “It’s definitely A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when Tom Hanks portrays the iconic Mister Rogers.  The message is timely and needed now more than ever.  This movie is not what I expected. You learn about Mr. Rogers’ through his relationship with a man who didn’t want to be his friend or neighbor.” Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer adds, “I grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He seemed like the nicest man on the planet. Casting the nicest actor on the planet as Fred Rogers was brilliant. Mr. Hanks brings the deliberate-speaking teacher to life in a way I can’t describe.” See their full reviews below.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11 

It’s definitely A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood when Tom Hanks portrays the iconic Mister Rogers.  The message is timely and needed now more than ever.  This movie is not what I expected. You learn about Mr. Rogers’ through his relationship with a man who didn’t want to be his friend or neighbor.  It’s a message that we all need to hear.

Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers in TriStar Pictures’ A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is based on a true life story about the relationship that develops between Fred Rogers and a cynical reporter who is loath to interview him for a piece on American heroes.  In the movie, the reporter is Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) who gives an amazing performance.  Through his interactions with Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks), Vogel begins to understand that part of him is broken.  The healing process begins as their friendship develops and you see Fred Rogers teaching him to understand, accept and voice his emotions and feelings.  It is beautiful.  Tom Hanks is masterful in this role at bringing out the transformation of his friend.

In addition to Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys, the cast has other powerful performances, notably Chris Cooper who plays Lloyd’s dad, Jerry Vogel.  Christine Lahti, as Lloyd’s Editor Ellen, pushes him to work on the hero piece and adds a touching element to the movie as well. The film is directed by Marielle Heller and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster.  Music plays an important role in this movie and is by Nate Heller.  The scenes of Mr. Rogers playing the piano along with the behind-the-scenes of the television show during filming of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood are particularly moving. 

Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys star in TriStar Pictures’ A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

The message of this film is that anyone can change the world with words.  It’s a powerful message that we often forget.  Listen and think before you speak, as your words impact others.  Fred Rogers finds a positive way to help others express their feelings, which is not an easy thing to do, although he makes it look easy.  Forgiveness and redemption are another theme in this film.

I rate this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 18 and adults will love it as well.  The film opens in theaters November 22, 2019 so don’t miss it this Thanksgiving season!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. He seemed like the nicest man on the planet. Casting the nicest actor on the planet as Fred Rogers was brilliant. Mr. Hanks brings the deliberate-speaking teacher to life in a way I can’t describe.  I’m betting Tom Hanks will be nominated for many awards for this role. He becomes Fred Rogers in the film.

Kindness is so simple. This film is a beautiful and timely story of kindness triumphing over cynicism, based on the true story of a real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod. In the film his character is named Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and he is grumpy and not interested in an assigned puff-piece profile of Fred Rogers. Throughout the film, he works through his skepticism, and learns kindness, and decency from America’s most beloved neighbor.

Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers in TriStar Pictures’ A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. Photo by: Lacey Terrell

The real lesson is learned by Lloyd as he works through issues of fathers, his own (Chris Cooper) and his new role as a father.  The film is moving and brings forth many emotions – from grief to sadness to joy, and everything in between. Lloyd’s wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson) is the bridge between Lloyd’s family pain and his future as a better Dad.

Lloyd spoke to my heart and begs the audience to feel emotions and be kind, clean up family messes and listen to others when help is needed. I believe every person who sees this film will be moved. The depth of Fred Rogers reach is felt on a public subway. I have not been able to forget this scene since I screened the film.

I give this film 4 of 5 stars for its beautiful theme, set design and character development.  At times, it is slow, yet is parallels Mr. Rogers’ pace so I’m not sure if this was intentional or a flaw.  This film will appeal to ages 12 to 18, as well as adults. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opens in theaters on November 22, 2019. See it!

Ford v Ferrari * Pure Adrenaline Rush From Start to Finish

November 17th, 2019

American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “We all love a good underdog and this film is a classic underdog story. Ford V Ferrari isn’t just about the race at Le Mans, but more about the human struggles encountered to get there. Pride and jealousy constrict Miles and Shelby at times, but the rigid corporate system of Ford Motor Company poses a greater challenge. Ford V Ferrari is an expansive, mesmerizing real-life story that feels perfect for the cinematic medium.” Selene W. adds, “Ford v Ferrari is an emotionally charged fast-track to the world of automobile racing.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat as you learn about race car driver and American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and the amazingly fearless British race car driver and engineer Ken Miles, who build a revolutionary race car for the Ford Motor Company.” See their full reviews  below.

Ford V Ferrari
Benjamin Price, Kids First! Film Critic, Age 14

Ford V Ferrari is a pure adrenaline rush from start to finish. It’s an absolutely thrilling film that fires on all cylinders.

Christian Bale in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

Ferrari dominates the annual 24-hour race at Le Mans for much of the 1960s. Ford decides to throw their hat in the ring, in hopes that a victory at Le Mans will raise their struggling sales. The former racer turned car designer Carrol Shelby (Matt Damon) and his difficult, but passionate racer pal Ken Miles (Christian Bale) are both brought on to help Ford craft a car to get to the finish line.

Beneath the technical polish and gloss of Ford V Ferrari, the friendship between Shelby and Miles is the heart of the film. Christian Bale and Matt Damon are a large part of what makes this film work so well. This is their first movie together and yet, they interact with the ease of old friends. Their performances complement each other. You get really invested in this on-screen duo with an absurd amount of charm exuding from the screen.

Christian Bale and Matt Damon in Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

We all love a good underdog and this film is a classic underdog story. Ford V Ferrari isn’t just about the race at Le Mans, but more about the human struggles encountered to get there. Pride and jealousy constrict Miles and Shelby at times, but the rigid corporate system of Ford Motor Company poses a greater challenge. Ford V Ferrari is an expansive, mesmerizing real-life story that feels perfect for the cinematic medium. 

Ford V Ferrari puts you in the driver’s seat with the racers, but not in the way I was expecting. The stellar sound design and mixing are some of the best and extremely transportive. They give the racing sequences not just an immersive quality, but a transcendent one. James Mangold’s direction is excellent. He gives you sequences that put you on the edge of your seat and capture your gaze. More so, Mangold has a strong grasp on pacing. The film knows when to slow down and emphasize character and emotion and when to boost its engine and hightail it to the next scene. In a film this long, it’s remarkable that it feels as breezy as it does. Even if you know this story start to finish, the skill, technically and narrative in which it’s told make this ride one easily worth taking.

L to R: Matt Damon, James Mangold, and Christian Bale on the set of Twentieth Century Fox’s FORD V FERRARI.

I recommend Ford V Ferrari for ages 7 to 14 for language. Even if you’re not a race car fanatic, there’s a good chance you’ll love this film.  I happily give it 5 out of 5 stars. This is easily one of my favorites of the year. Ford V Ferrari zooms into theaters November 15, 2019.

Ford v Ferrari
By Selene Weiss, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11 

Ford v Ferrari is an emotionally charged fast-track to the world of automobile racing.  You’ll be on the edge of your seat as you learn about race car driver and American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and the amazingly fearless British race car driver and engineer Ken Miles, who build a revolutionary race car for the Ford Motor Company.  Together they strategize and compete to best the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the world’s oldest endurance race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The entire cast of this film is superb and their performances are hopefully award-winning.  The cast is lead by Matt Damon as Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale as Ken Miles.  Both actors are inspiring to watch; their interaction and relationship is gripping as they hurtle through space and time.  Each actor contributes to this magnificent story and fuels the emotional journey.  There are so many breakout performances in this film that they each deserve a Lap of Honour.

Ford v Ferrari is directed by James Mangold and casting is by Ronna Kress.  The production team enhanced this story with exquisite film editing, carefully chosen locations, excellent wardrobe, stunts and effects.  You really feel as if you are there in the 1960s, experiencing this time and mindset.  

There are so many messages in this film, including the value of teamwork, perseverance, loyalty, honor and questioning and knowing who you are.  On the race track lives depend on the pit crew and your support team in life is equally important to your ultimate direction.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults.  The film opens in theaters  November 15, 2019, so don’t miss it!

Charlie’s Angels * Loving Remake With Some Neat Callbacks

November 16th, 2019

Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska are working for the mysterious Charles Townsend, whose security and investigative agency has expanded internationally. With the world’s smartest, bravest, and most highly trained women all over the globe, there are now teams of Angels guided by multiple Bosleys taking on the toughest jobs everywhere. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “This film is a reboot of a very well-known franchise. Charlie’s Angels was originally a TV show in the 70s. While I knew very little about the franchise, my mom is a huge fan. From what I’ve gathered, this movie is a pretty loving remake, with some neat callbacks. This is definitely a film that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t fans. It is the perfect film for those who want a fun female-empowerment movie.” See her full review below.  

Charlie’s Angels
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Citic, Age 16

This film was immensely entertaining and a joy to watch. While I’m unable to judge this film as a reboot, I can judge this as a girl power film.

The story follows a trio of women known as Charlie’s Angels as they attempt to track down a dangerous piece of technology that can kill people with electric pulses.

Ella Balinska, Kristen Stewart and Naomi Scott star in Charlie’s Angels.

This film is a reboot of a very well-known franchise. Charlie’s Angels was originally a TV show in the 70s. While I knew very little about the franchise, my mom is a huge fan. From what I’ve gathered, this movie is a pretty loving remake, with some neat callbacks. This is definitely a film that can be enjoyed by people who aren’t fans. It is the perfect film for those who want a fun female-empowerment movie.

Kristen Stewart in Charlies Angels.

Speaking of which, this film is very much about the friendship between the three Angels – Jane, Sabina and Elena. Jane is played by Ella Balinska. Sabina is played by Kristen Stewart and Elena is played by Naomi Scott. The three have amazing chemistry, each with their own unique personality and characteristics. I love all three of them a lot. You really do buy that these women have become good friends and they work well together. Of course, the Angels aren’t the only amazing characters in this cast. Elizabeth Banks, who also wrote and directed this film, plays Bosley and she’s a really fun character. Elizabeth Banks plays a perfect mentor. There’s also Jonny Smith, who seems to be a throwaway character at first, but he is weirdly endearing. The actor, Chris Pang, is strangely charismatic and he ended up being one of my favorite characters in the film.

Elizabeth Banks in Charlie’s Angles.

The film consists of a lot of awesome action and espionage scenes. There’s some really impressive and honestly quite tense action segments and the espionage is really fun and clever. The gadgets they use are designed really well, in that they are both creative and stylish. Honestly this whole film has a really nice aesthetic, especially the house where the final fight takes place. There are all these bright colorful lights and glass walls with images projected onto them that look amazing.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It releases on November 15, 2019. Look for it.

Lady and the Tramp * Beautiful Re-telling of the Disney Animated Classic

November 12th, 2019

Lady and the Tramp tells the story of an upper-middle-class American cocker spaniel named Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who meets a street-smart, downtown stray Schnauzer called the Tramp (voiced by Justin Theroux), and the two embark on many romantic adventures including that iconic spaghetti smooch scene. Directed by Charlie Bean and written by Andrew Bujalski and Kari Granlund, and produced by Walt Disney Pictures, the film is a live-action adaptation of Walt Disney’s 1955 animated film of the same name, which was based on the Cosmopolitan magazine story of “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog” by Ward Greene. It is dedicated to Chris Reccardi, co-creator of the Modifyers, and a storyboard artist who died in May 2019. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C., comments, “The original film was the 15th animated Disney movie and the first on cinemascope. This 2019 remake is Disney’s first film in a new format called Univisium. I have never watched the original, but this new live-action version is absolutely worth seeing.” See her full review below.

Lady and the Tramp (2019)
By Zoe C. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Age 11

Lady and the Tramp (2019) is a beautiful re-telling of the Disney animated classic from 1955. Lady, a Cocker Spaniel loves the comfort of home and lives with a nice family, but after the arrival of a baby, she feels left out. Tramp, a Scottish Terrier, is a street dog who loves to be free and believes he knows humans (or at least he thinks he does). They are not loyal like dogs. The two meet when Tramp is running away from the dog catcher Elliot (Adrian Martinez).Tramp advises Lady of a terrible rule: when the baby moves in, the dog moves out.

When Lady’s owners leave the house, she is under the care of a family member, Aunt Sarah, who is not into dogs and Lady ends up in the street. Tramp saves her from a dangerous situation and both dogs develop a friendship. They embark on an adventure and, despite their differences, they get to know humans better and understand the value of home.

The original film was the 15th animated Disney movie and the first on cinemascope. This 2019 remake is Disney’s first film in a new format called Univisium. I have never watched the original, but this new live-action version is absolutely worth seeing. The characters are very well cast, both humans and dogs. The film was shot in Georgia and the locations are beautiful. The art direction and photography create a warm and romantic atmosphere and recreates the U.S. in the beginning of the 20th century.

My favorite scene is definitively the spaghetti scene. It is romantic. The way the restaurant owner and server treat Lady and Tramp with a special dinner and serenade is delightful. I can understand why is so iconic; it represents a genuine bond between two characters and how they come closer, despite their differences. It is also overwhelming how the humans, which are not owners, manifest their love for dogs.

The voice-over actors give great personalities to their characters and the animators make the scenes real and believable using CGI. Elliot (Adrian Martinez) is very determined as a dog catcher and Martinez captures the perfect tone to make this character unique. I also love Ivette Nicole Brown as Aunt Sarah. She plays a sort of villain character in a very realistic way as well.

I love the music from composer Joseph Trapanese, it suits nicely the film well and transports the audience into the era this takes place.

The message of the film is: dog’s love is unconditional and they all deserve a home. I give Lady and the Tramp 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18 and adults as well. Lady and the Tramp starts streaming on November 12, 2019 on Disney+.

Photos: © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Last Christmas * Entertaining Christmas Themed Musical With Thoughtful Performances

November 12th, 2019

Kate (Emilia Clarke) harumphs around London, a bundle of bad decisions accompanied by the jangle of bells on her shoes, another irritating consequence from her job as an elf in a year-round Christmas shop. Tom (Henry Golding) seems too good to be true when he walks into her life and starts to see through so many of Kate’s barriers. As London transforms into the most wonderful time of the year, nothing should work for these two. But sometimes, you gotta let the snow fall where it may, you gotta listen to your heart … and you gotta have faith. Starring Emilia Clarke (HBO’s Game of Thrones), Henry Golding (A Simple Favor, Crazy Rich Asians), Michelle Yeoh and Emma Thompson. Directed by Paul Feig (A Simple Favor, Spy, Bridesmaids).  Screenplay by Academy Award® winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Bridget Jones’s Baby) and playwright Bryony Kimmings. Featuring the music of George Michael, including the bittersweet holiday classic of the film’s title. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “For a film that hinges much of its story on a single Christmas song, I found myself unexpectedly moved by it. It has a touching story about doing good for others, which we’re all capable of, and not letting hardship keep you from reaching your full potential.” See his full review below.

Last Christmas
Benjamin Price, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Last Christmas is a Christmas tale with an out-of-place musical hook that works better than it should. For a film that hinges much of its story on a single Christmas song, I found myself unexpectedly moved by it. It has a touching story about doing good for others, which we’re all capable of, and not letting hardship keep you from reaching your full potential.

Kate (Emilia Clarke) finds her life at a standstill, mostly homeless and frequently drunk with a loss of ambition or drive. She is about to get fired from her job as an elf at a Christmas-themed store when she meets the jovial, yet mysterious Tom (Henry Golding), who helps usher her into a new era of her life. Kate begins to help those she has done wrong and view the world in a more positive light as the Christmas holiday draws near.

(from left) Kate (Emilia Clarke) and Tom (Henry Golding) in “Last Christmas,” directed by Paul Feig.

The film’s sound tracked is from the music catalog of singer George Michael. They serve as smooth transition between scenes, but at times feel tacked-on and gimmicky and don’t fit in with the rest of the film. Last Christmas has a third act that turns the movie on its head and, while the shift isn’t shockingly surprising, it’s well-executed and re-contextualizes much of what has come before.

Emilia Clarke gives a surprisingly layered performance as Kate. Her character is written fairly blandly, but Clark gives it depth when the screenplay doesn’t. Henry Golding plays Tom with exuberance and energy. His thoughtful approach to life makes him a nice foil to Kate’s blatant cynicism. Emma Thompson puts on a Slavic accent in a scene-stealing comedic performance as Kate’s painfully honest and worrisome mother. There are some moments in this film that are painfully reminiscent of other films in the rom-com lexicon, but there’s a consistent charm here throughout, more earnest than contrived. This charm is amplified by the likability of its two leads, Clarke and Golding.

I give Last Christmas 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18 due to sexual references and language. There’s nothing too scandalous, but it’s still worth noting. If you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll probably love this film and its holiday charm is hard to resist. In the end, we go to the movies to be entertained and in that respect; Last Christmas certainly gets the job done. This film comes out in theaters everywhere November 8, 2019. Look for it.

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