Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Help KIDS FIRST! Expand Its Training and Audience

August 5th, 2019

Never did we imagine that …

* Tom Hanks would photo-bomb one of our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics at the press junket of Toy Story 4 during her red carpet prep. 

* Morgan Freeman would choose one of our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics as his one and only interview at the premiere of his film The LEGO Movie.  

* Oprah Winfrey would select one of our KIDS FIRST! reporters to interview her on the red carpet of The Hundred-Foot Journey.  

* 100,000+ listeners would tune in weekly to our radio show on Voice America and IheartRadio to hear reviews of films and TV shows.     

…when we created KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, a project of the 30-year-old Coalition for Quality Children’s Media (CQCM), a 501-c-3 non-profit.  

Zoe C. and Lin Manuel-Miranda

Help us raise $15,000

to expand KIDS FIRST!’s training and educational opportunities for kids, both nationally and around the world.  (Yes, we’ve had requests to jump borders with KIDS FIRST!) There is no charge for a child to participate as a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic and every kid is a volunteer. However, KIDS FIRST! provides coaches, editors, technical personnel and equipment to help our youth reporters develop their skills, talents, dreams and goals. Additionally, we need to expand opportunities to reach a larger audience of kids and families. All those things take money and that’s what we need help in funding.

At the heart of KIDS FIRST! is our commitment to putting kids, ages 8 to 21, front and center reviewing films, TV shows, DVDs and digital media geared for a youth and family market. Rather than having adults tell kids (and parents) what to see, hear and read, KIDS FIRST! invites kids to tell other kids what is, and is not, important, excellent, interesting, engaging and worth spending your own money on. An important part of our coaching is teaching our reporters how to think critically about the information they receive via media.

You know the importance of learning to recognize excellence. You know the importance of communicating excellence. And you know the fundamental significance of being taken seriously and recognized as a contributor in the entertainment world. We give kids a voice! KIDS FIRST! trains kids to stand side by side with seasoned entertainment reporters and become accomplished critics, interviewers and influencers among their peers.  

We would never have gotten to where we are without the help of kind people like you. Today I am asking you to help us amp up our training and publicity opportunities so we can help kids tell other kids how to choose media that enhances, not detracts from their lives. Our reporters speak honestly about the films, TV shows and digital media they view and we make sure that their reviews reach millions of kids and families every month.  Donate at: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/helpkidsfirstexpandtrainingandaudience

Know That: 100% of your donation supports our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics training and implementation.

Be a part of the future. KIDS FIRST! Film Critics are unique and a first in examining entertainment from a youth point of view. When the kids win, everyone wins! Smarter kids make smarter consumers. To inspire you, take a look at what some of our reporters and their parents say about KIDS FIRST!  And below that, what the industry leader have to say about us.

I found KIDS FIRST! by online research and never imagined it was going to be a total life-changing experience for my daughter. After a whole year, KIDS FIRST! is not just a way of living for us and is a great experience for all the other kids that are part of this organization. As a media member, I understand the hard work required to be a film journalist and to work in the entertainment industry. I’m grateful that Ranny gave us such a warm welcome. We share our love for films and she encourages us everyday to be better. Mariana Medina Cannella, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic parent

Thank you doesn’t even begin to describe how thankful Nathalia and I are. What an amazing experience KIDS FIRST! has been for us. I highly recommend KIDS FIRST! to others interested in becoming a film critics. My daughter Nathalia’s written and oral communication has developed and continues to evolve, with help from the KIDS FIRST! staff. Their training program has provided Nathalia the necessary tools to help her articulate her views, share and exchange her impressions and have fun while learning. 

More about what KIDS FIRST! parents think about their child’s involvement with KIDS FIRST!

Of course, we could not do all that we do without the support of the industry professionals. All the major studios support our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics through invitations to press screenings, press junkets, red carpets and other special events including Disney, Fox, Universal, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate, Paramount plus NCircle Entertainment, Shout! Factory and Wow Now Entertainment. Most studio employees are not allowed to give KIDS FIRST! a letter of support, but some have which you can see below as well as the terrific PR people who represent the studios.

“I like working with the KIDS FIRST! reporters. I have worked with them for some time- they do their research, are pleasant to be around and conduct good interviews. I hope to see KIDS FIRST! continue to grow and look forward to working with them again.” Alan Meier, Paramount Home Entertainment

The KIDS FIRST! team does an outstanding job with promoting our content through all of their online platforms, banner ads and social media outreach.  I am very pleased with the lift in monthly impressions that NCircle receives as a result of the focused effort from KIDS FIRST! Mary Flynn, VP Sales, Content and Acquisitions, NCircle Entertainment

“We absolutely love working with KIDS FIRST! and their youth reporters. They are always reliable and professional and also steal the show (in a good way!) at our junkets and events. The entire KIDS FIRST! team has been a joy to work with for years, and it is so important to us to be able to engage directly with our audience for these films. Plus, they have reporters all over the country!” – Mandy Rodgers, VP, Client Services – Think Jam 

“KIDS FIRST! is an organization I wish I knew about sooner! Each young reporter astonishes me in the best way! They are all wildly intelligent, impressively polite, timely, and fun to be around! Kids and teens deserve more credit and KIDS FIRST! has made me excited for the future. I know each reporter will go far in any industry they desire!” – Megan McRae, Family Publicity, TeamClick

See what other Media Professionals have to say about KIDS FIRST!

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – An Effortless Blend of High-Octane Action and Charismatic Leads

August 3rd, 2019

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a fun Fast & Furious spinoff with the series’ effortless blend of high-octane action and charismatic leads. Fans of the beloved series and action movies in general must check this out. It has something for everyone.” Brad M. adds, “This new film is so action-packed it rarely has a dull moment. If you are looking for an entertaining night full of laughter, this is the movie to watch.” Kendall M. wraps it up with, “From the special effects to its storyline, you would want to miss this. This movie is an action-packed, thrilling and comedic film makes you wonder what’s coming next.” See their full reviews below.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a fun Fast & Furious spinoff with the series’ effortless blend of high-octane action and charismatic leads. Fans of the beloved series and action movies in general must check this out. It has something for everyone.

(from left) Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” directed by David Leitch.

The film follows series’ favorites, lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the lawless Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as the two “frenemies” must team up to stop the cybernetically modified super-soldier Brixton Lore (Idris Elba). Amid all this carnage are even some family reunions involving Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) and Hobbs’ own Samoan relatives.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, are the main highlight here, with the two as polar opposites of one another. Still, the actors work well together and their bickering and bantering is buoyed by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce’s script. The pair even impress in action scenes with Johnson’s hard hitting knockdowns and Statham’s suave martial arts. Vanessa Kirby, as Hattie Shaw, gives the duo a run for their money. She proves capable in the many action scenes and holds many quips with Hobbs. Their flirtatious banter and Deckard’s awkward reactions are some of the film’s funniest. Unfortunately, her contributions to the plot are very loosely strung, but her character is delightful to watch. Same goes for Idris Elba, as Brixton Lore, who owns up to his character’s craziness. Elba really has a way with things, making even the most clichéd characters engaging. There are multiple surprising big-list cameos, which I can not spoil. All really add to the movie’s layers of self-awareness and comedy, and make the movie much more engaging to watch.

David Leitch, as the director, brings new life to the franchise, providing more variety in action, from fisticuffs to shootouts to over-the-top car chases. The veteran director of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, he really knows how to make each sequence engaging and unique. The finale in Samoa is one such example. My favorite scene is the “pick a door” fight scene in Lore’s compound. Impressive choreography and well-timed comic relief from Johnson and Statham elevate this scene. Unfortunately, at two hours, the movie is a bit too long and some sequences towards the end feel like filler and really drag. On top of that, the marketing for this film really spoils some of the best action beats and comedic moments. It’s a shame that a poor marketing campaign ends up hurting some of the film’s surprises. Thankfully, they hide some things, like those surprise cameos.

The message of this film is in the franchise’s core values about family. Hobbs’s choice to reconnect with his family, despite past disagreements, proves this. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, due to intense action sequences, suggestive references and language. The movie releases in theaters on August 2, 2019, so check it out.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
By Brad Martin, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a hilarious new spin-off movie for the Fast & Furious franchise. This new film is so action-packed it rarely has a dull moment. If you are looking for an entertaining night full of laughter, this is the movie to watch.

(from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” directed by David Leitch.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) form an unexpected partnership while attempting to save the world from a deadly bio-weapon. The cyber-genetically-enhanced criminal Brixton (Idris Elba) will stop at nothing to ensure the evolution of humanity through this deadly bio-threat. The two heroes must settle their long-standing rivalry in order to save the human race.

The all-star cast came together to make an incredible film. The banter between Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw is super amusing and had viewers erupting with laughter. Jason Statham was born to play the role of Deckard Shaw. He is an extremely convincing actor who gave me everything I wanted and more from his character. The plot of the film is intriguing for the first half of the movie, but I found the second half to be more slow and dull. A small problem I encountered while watching the film was believing the villain. Every time he seems to get knocked down, he stands right back up, without a scratch on his genetically-engineered body. It would be more realistic to see him become progressively more damaged throughout the movie while fighting this action-filled war. On a separate note, the special and visual effects are dazzling and bring life to this action film. The fight scenes are brilliantly crafted as well. I was happy to see this movie and it definitely has the opportunity to create a sequel.  They use the last chunk of the film to set the basis for a future film.  

(from left) Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” directed by David Leitch.

The message displayed in this film is about the importance of teamwork. When people bicker amongst each other, it is unproductive, but if they work together they can accomplish the seemingly impossible. This message carries over into our lives for how we get along with people in our own community. Parents should be aware that this movie has a fair amount of violence and foul language.

I give Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw 3 out 5 stars and recommend for ages 13 through 18. Make sure to check out this film when it storms into theaters August 2, 2019. Movie fans, you won’t want to miss it!

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Kendall, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a spot-on well produced and directed film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. From the special effects to its storyline, you would want to miss this. This movie is an action-packed, thrilling and comedic film makes you wonder what’s coming next.

Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” directed by David Leitch.

The storyline is about two rivals, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who are forced to team up to defeat the emerging threat of Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cyber-genetically-enhanced terrorist, armed with a deadly virus. This virus can potentially destroy planet Earth and all of humanity. Hobbs and Shaw must work through their differences to save the world once again.

Some things that really stand out in this film are the production, the screenplay and the editing. Big ups to director David Leitch and screenwriter Chris Morgan for making that happen. It is truly thrilling and amazing to watch and enjoy. Of course, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Idris Elba give us excellent performances as well. I should also point out Vanessa Kirby who plays Hattie and Helen Mirren who plays Queenie as their performances need mention too.

(center) Idris Elba as Brixton Lorr in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” directed by David Leitch.

The message of the movies is that “no matter what differences you have with people, you still have to work together to make the world a better place.” If we focus on being mad at each other, we are not making the world better, we’re making it just angry and sad. So, I resonate with the message. You should know that there is quite a lot of profanity and some rude humor.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. Make sure you check it out when it opens in theaters August 2, 2019.

KIDS FIRST! Needs Your Help

July 29th, 2019

We have launched our annual crowd-funding campaign with a goal of $15,000 to support our KIDS FIRST! Film Critic program. I want to share with you something amazing. We raised 25% of our goal in the first 5 days and the majority of the donors are our youth reporters themselves, as well as their parents.  

One young reporter donated from funds earned by dog sitting. That shows you how much they appreciate being a KIDS FIRST! reporter.

However, we still have $10,000 more to raise and today, we are writing to ask you to make a donation of any amount to help cover the cost of our coaches, editors, technical personnel and equipment.

To inspire you, take a look at what some of our reporters and their parents say about KIDS FIRST!  And below that, what the industry leader have to say about us.

I’ve had an amazing experience with KID FIRST! so far. I absolutely love it! I remember when I first joined. I was nervous, but everyone was super welcoming. Ranny is extremely kind to everyone. I also love that it doesn’t take up school time; so there’s always time for movies, interviews, radio shows and school. Actually, being part of KIDS FIRST! helps me develop my critical skills in a different way from my regular classes. I love the feeling of being part of something that is helpful and inspiring for other kids. Doing interviews, meeting amazing people I admire and reviewing films is fun and also a challenge. All my KIDS FIRST! peers have different personalities and we are all free to be ourselves. KIDS FIRST! has a special place in my heart. Zoe Cannella, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

I found KIDS FIRST! by online research and never imagined it was going to be a total life-changing experience for my daughter. After a whole year, KIDS FIRST! is not just a way of living for us and is a great experience for all the other kids that are part of this organization. As a media member, I understand the hard work required to be a film journalist and to work in the entertainment industry. I’m grateful that Ranny gave us such a warm welcome. We share our love for films and she encourages us everyday to be better. Mariana Medina Cannella, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic parent

Thank you doesn’t even begin to describe how thankful Nathalia and I are. What an amazing experience KIDS FIRST! has been for us. I highly recommend KIDS FIRST! to others interested in becoming a film critics. My daughter Nathalia’s written and oral communication has developed and continues to evolve, with help from the KIDS FIRST! staff. Their training program has provided Nathalia the necessary tools to help her articulate her views, share and exchange her impressions and have fun while learning. Thank you Ranny – How do you do it all!? You are truly a Superhero. You are simply AMAZING! We have truly learned so much from you. Thank you for the prompt responses via email, text and phone. You are always a phone call away! Thank you for making it all happen for my daughter. Connie Chavarria & Nathalia Jackson 

I want to give KIDS FIRST! a shout out, as it’s been four years now that our daughter, Abigail has been a KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. We see tremendous growth in Abigail’s reporting, particularly in being more articulate and poised. Some of her highlights – which are many – include interviewing numerous talented people like Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Kevin Hart, Zooey Deschanel, Weird Al Yankovic, Bella Thorne and many others. Attending red carpets and press junkets have been exciting and often, being the only kid reporter among top reporters is pretty cool! Reviewing, reporting and being invited on the set of shows like Disney Channel’s T.O.T.S., Just Roll With It and other productions have made Abigail feel she has contributed positively to this world. It has also been really incredible to see Abigail’s reviews published in the Huffington Post and other places. As any parent, we love when our child is happy and feel good about who they are. KIDS FIRST! has been like an extended family for us and has given Abigail something very special personally and professionally in her heart. Thank you Ranny for all you do and for giving kids a voice in this world where kids’ voices matter and can make a difference! Fondly, David Lewis, Parent 

Of course, we could not do all that we do without the support of the industry professionals. All the major studios support our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics through invitations to press screenings, press junkets, red carpets and other special events including Disney, Fox, Universal, Paramount, Sony, Lionsgate, Paramount plus NCircle Entertainment, Shout! Factory and Wow Now Entertainment. Most studio employees are not allowed to give KIDS FIRST! a letter of support, but some have which you can see below as well as the terrific PR people who represent the studios.

“I like working with the KIDS FIRST! reporters. I have worked with them for some time- they do their research, are pleasant to be around and conduct good interviews. I hope to see KIDS FIRST! continue to grow and look forward to working with them again.” Alan Meier, Paramount Home Entertainment

“KIDS FIRST! is an organization I wish I knew about sooner! Each young reporter astonishes me in the best way! They are all wildly intelligent, impressively polite, timely, and fun to be around! Kids and teens deserve more credit and KIDS FIRST! has made me excited for the future. I know each reporter will go far in any industry they desire!” – Megan McRae, Family Publicity, TeamClick

The KIDS FIRST! team does an outstanding job with promoting our content through all of their online platforms, banner ads and social media outreach.  I am very pleased with the lift in monthly impressions that NCircle receives as a result of the focused effort from KIDS FIRST! Mary Flynn, VP Sales, Content and Acquisitions, NCircle Entertainment

“We absolutely love working with KIDS FIRST! and their youth reporters. They are always reliable and professional and also steal the show (in a good way!) at our junkets and events. The entire KIDS FIRST! team has been a joy to work with for years, and it is so important to us to be able to engage directly with our audience for these films. Plus, they have reporters all over the country!” – Mandy Rodgers, VP, Client Services – Think Jam 

“We love the KIDS FIRST! Film Critics. We have worked with them for many years – and greatly admire their professionalism. We love meeting the kid reporters and seeing how hard they work. They always deliver coverage time and are always respectful of the campaign’s needs. We look forward to seeing them grow!” -Jamie Falkowitz-Tancredi, Falkowitz PR

KIDS FIRST! is an important voice and influencer to kids and parents for youth and family programming and an essential ingredient in our efforts to effectively  target  content to family & kids audiences. Andy Siditsky, CMO, Air Bud Entertainment

“I have worked with KIDS FIRST! for several years and I would honestly say that their youth reporters are some of the hardest workers in the business. They give honest reviews, from the prospective of a tween or teen, and are always respectful of the work. All of our studio clients are thrilled to read and watch their reviews.” Ariana Swan – Co-Founder of Boutique Publicity

“I have worked with KIDS FIRST! for several years now, and I would honestly say that their youth reporters are some of the hardest workers in the business. They give fresh and honest reviews, from the prospective of a tween or teen, and are always respectful of the work. All of our music clients are thrilled to read and watch their reviews. The radio interviews are always thoughtful and fun as well!” Beth Blenz-Clucas, Sugar Mountain PR

The Lion King – A Work Of Art That Lives Up To The Original In A New Way

July 20th, 2019

Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brad M. comments, “There are a multitude of dazzling aspects in The Lion King, but the most stunning is the heavy and effective use of CGI. From the beginning to the end of the film, the computer-generated imagery creates animals that are incredibly realistic and authentic.” Elle C. adds, “This CGI masterpiece brings a new twist to the story visually, as well as musically. The opening scene sets the tone for the whole movie, bridging the original animation with this new live action take, into one beautiful panoramic view of the film’s setting.” Zoe C. adds, “There are stunning visuals, a powerful story of betrayal, coming of age, re-birth and the circle of life. The idea of what it really means to be a king and all the original sentiment is intact. I love all the animals and think it is really impressive how they filmed this movie.” Calista B. wraps it up with, “There’s no denying that the original Lion King from 1994 is a classic. Gorgeous animation, amazing story and absolutely timeless music… How can you remake something that’s already so timeless? Well to me, the end result is okay at best.” See their full reviews below.

The Lion King
By Brad M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The Lion King is a hilarious and entertaining new Disney movie! This work of art lives up to the original animated version of The Lion King in a new and engrossing way. If you are a fan of Disney or just love movies in general, you will be infatuated by this new incredible film.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter as Nala and Donald Glover as Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This movie follows heir to the throne, Simba, as he learns about ruling his Kingdom in the heart of the African savanna. The king of the lions, Mufasa, wants nothing more than peace in the savanna and to protect his son. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. Mufasa’s diabolical brother, Scar, is hungry for power and blood. This hairy beast will stop for nothing in order to obtain the throne. Simba and his new-found friends must act fast to put an end to his malicious uncle’s plans.

There are a multitude of dazzling aspects in The Lion King, but the most stunning is the heavy and effective use of CGI. From the beginning to the end of the film, the computer-generated imagery creates animals that are incredibly realistic and authentic. This new lively take on a classic story is incredibly refreshing and engaging. Another factor I immensely enjoyed was the voice acting. Billy Eicher, who plays Timon and Seth Rogen, who plays Pumbaa, are absolutely hilarious. Every other line spoken from their mouths had me dying of laughter. Chiwetel Ejiofor, the actor who plays Scar, is perfect for his role. He left the audience completely despising his character, which is perfect for a villain the caliber of Scar. The only moment in the film that is slightly disappointing is the song Hakuna Matata. I think it is too different from the original version and not as intriguing. On a separate note, the writers wrote a touching and adorable script. I was delighted by the father-son relationship between Simba and Mufasa. The interactions and playful nature seen through their characters is heart-warming.

The Lion King reveals that bravery is an important attribute, but is only effective when executed in a selfless manner. This underlying message is valuable for our everyday lives. Parents should be aware that this film has a fair amount of violence.

I give The Lion King 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend to kids ages 8 through 18. Make sure to check out this film when it pounces into theaters July 17, 2019. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

The Lion King
By Elle Cohen, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The live-action adaption of The Lion King is bound to be a Disney classic. This CGI masterpiece brings a new twist to the story visually, as well as musically. The opening scene sets the tone for the whole movie, bridging the original animation with this new live action take, into one beautiful panoramic view of the film’s setting. The entire film looks so realistic that it’s almost like a nature documentary.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of Florence Kasumba, Eric André and Keegan-Michael Key as the hyenas, and Chiwetal Ejiofor as Scar, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The well-known storyline hasn’t changed much:  Mufasa (James Earl Jones) is the head of his pride and the King of “all that the light touches” in the African Serengeti. His son, Simba, (the younger, JD McCrary and mature, Donald Glover) is brave, but mischievous. Simba’s Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is bitter and angry that Simba is the heir to his brother’s throne. In order to get Mufasa and Simba out of the way, Scar manipulates the hyenas into joining forces. He then arranges an “accident” to kill Mufasa and take over the kingdom. Scar blames Simba for Mufasa’s death, and Simba runs away—but it’s Mufasa’s love and wisdom that brings Simba back to assume the throne. 

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of John Oliver as Zazu, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019…© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


The intense and serious aspects, and the comedic scenes, come together to create a beautiful balance. James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa, bringing the comforting and strong tone we expect from the leader of the pride. His touching relationship with his son is the centerpiece of this film. Meanwhile, Ejiofor’s, Scar, performs “Be Prepared” as a powerful villainous anthem, interpreting the character as  very complicated and intense. Florence Kasumba’s turn as Shenzi is also a fierce and threatening leader of her pack of hyenas.

The comedic acting is brilliantly funny.  The comedy duo of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumba, are the highlights of the movie. Their playful banter brings  a sharp wit to some of the most intense scenes in the film.

While hyenas Keegan Micheal Key and Eric Andre’s dysfunctional comedy shone a spotlight on the hyena crew, John Oliver’s Zazu was a funny take on Mufasa’s right hand bird.

The real star of the show is the incredible CGI animation that brings these animals to life. Their expressions and movements are so realistic and animal-like, but the personification of these seemingly wild animals seems so natural. Cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel of The Right Stuff, and Jon Favreau, director of The Jungle Book, make sure the entire movie was visually stunning.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of James Earl Jones as Mufasa, and JD McCrary as Young Simba, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 29, 2019…© 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The songs from the original movie feature heavily, and while they are performed and produced in a more pop-oriented way, the score is more sweeping and orchestral. Classics like “ Can You Feel the Love Tonight?,” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” are  performed by pop stars Beyonce and Donald Glover, and produced by Pharrel Williams. Hans Zimmer provides a dramatic score, that works with the feeling of the new film.

The message in this film is that we may doubt ourselves, but it’s important to remember who we are, and that our friends and family can help remind us.  There are some violent and intense scenes, so I wouldn’t recommend it for very young viewers.  But kids from ages 6-18 would enjoy it, as well as adults. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars, because Disney has created a brand new, can’t-miss classic. The Lion King will be released on July 19 in theaters nationwide.

The Lion King
By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

There’s no denying that the original Lion King from 1994 is a classic. Gorgeous animation, amazing story and absolutely timeless music. So making a remake was understandably going to be tricky.  How can you remake something that’s already so timeless? Well to me, the end result is okay at best.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voice of John Kani as Rafiki, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I almost feel like I don’t need to explain the plot as it’s the same story as the original. There are barely any changes and, even then, the changes are very minor. So if you’ve seen The Lion KIng (1994)  then you’ve seen The Lion King (2019). However there’s one major change that in my eyes makes the remake suffer significantly and that’s the graphics.

I should preface this by saying I do prefer animation to CGI “realistic graphics” because I feel animation just looks better. But my main concern is that realistic graphics ruin the storytelling greatly. The Lion King is a very emotional story. And when you have such an emotional story you need to connect and feel for the characters. The original was able to pull this off perfectly with fantastically detailed facial expressions. Unfortunately, because of the realistic graphics, the characters in The Lion King (2019) show little to no emotion. This kills basically every important scene, as I didn’t feel invested in it. I kept thinking to myself –These lions do not look interested in what’s happening. The realism also has another consequence: I could not tell the difference between the lions at times. At times I thought is that Nala or Simba’s Mom? Because the original is animated, they can differentiate the lions through things like their fur color, eyes and facial structure. The CGI remake does not have this ability.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of JD McCrary as Young Simba, and James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It also felt like the creators tried cutting down on the more “animated” scenes. The Mufasa ghost scene doesn’t have Mufasa’s spirit appear; instead they just have his voice come from the clouds and sometimes lightning will strike to form his face. I feel seeing his full appearance is more powerful.

The songs suffer as well. “Be Prepared” is severely cut down which is disappointing, because it’s a favorite song from the movie. The “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” segment in the original has all this crazy choreography that integrated the various animals in unique ways that can only be done in animation. In the remake they just run around. I was actually somewhat bored, if it wasn’t for John Oliver as Zazu.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars and  recommend it for ages 5 to 18. The Lion King (2019) comes out July 19, 2019.

The Lion King
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

I love this film! There are stunning visuals, a powerful story of betrayal, coming of age, re-birth and the circle of life. The idea of what it really means to be a king and all the original sentiment is intact. I love all the animals and think it is really impressive how they filmed this movie.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of JD McCrary as Young Simba, Billy Eichner as Timon and Seth Rogen as Pumbaa, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The story of The Lion King is about a little cub named Simba who is going to become king. One day, a wild stampede puts Simba’s life in danger and his father, Mudasa, dies after he rescues him. Mudasa’s evil brother Scar makes Simba believe it is his fault and forces him to abandon the kingdom. Simba carries guilt and feelings of not being brave when he runs away, leaving everyone, including his best friend Nala behind. He goes to a new land where he meets Timon and Pumba and they become the best of friends. His life is good, but lacks purpose. From there, Simba’s friend Nala comes to find help and meets Simba after so many years. Scar’s reign is despicable and all the animals are trying to stop Scar’s evil plans. Simba needs to become the king he was meant to be.

I love the comedy in this film. I also love how, in one scene, they play a little piece of “Be Our Guest” – that’s actually my favorite scene in the film and it is not in the original. I definitively think this is a perfect visual recreation of the original. I love that they chose The Lion King to be the next Disney Classic to turn into live action. Lately, Disney been only doing Princess stories, so I like that they chose animals this time. I absolutely adore the animals and I feel like they fascinate you during the entire film. This is not a reinvention of the story; it is pretty much just taking the original to the real world. The way the live action blends with digital imagery is fantastic. This photo realistic Africa on the big screen is splendorous.

THE LION KING – Featuring the voices of JD McCrary as Young Simba, Shahadi Wright Joseph as Young Nala and James Earl Jones as Mufasa, Disney’s “The Lion King” is directed by Jon Favreau. In theaters July 19, 2019. © 2019 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

There are so many messages in the film: stay true to yourself, being compassionate is more important that being powerful, and we can’t change our past. It is very inspiring to hear again “Hakuna Matata.” This words have been an important motto for people since the original Lion King was released in 1994. The song was composed by Elton John and was nominated for an Oscar. There’s a new Elton John song – “Never Too Late,” and other surprises in this new one. All the beloved classic songs play in this 2019 version, which makes the audience very happy.

I give this film 5 of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 13, and adults as well. Never forget: Hakuna Matata. The Lion King 2019 opens July 19, 2019, so look for it.

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Bigger and Better than Its Predecessor

July 19th, 2019

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Spider-Man: Far From Home is bigger and better than its predecessor, Homecoming and another exciting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Far From Home is a blast that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and is a nice palette cleanser after the despair of Endgame and Infinity War.” Veronica S. adds, “The performances and the comedy are this film’s high points. Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and Tom Holland as Peter Parker absolutely steal the show and are both a pure joy to watch. This is Gyllenhaal’s first Marvel flick, and it looks like he was born to be in one. Spider-Man:  Far From Home, like most Marvel films, is hilarious; all the side characters had several lines that got the entire theater laughing.” Madison M. chimes in with, “The message of Spider-Man: Far from Home is that the world doesn’t need another you, it needs  someone who can be better. Throughout the movie Peter is constantly reminded of Tony Stark (Iron Man) after his death in Endgame and Peter feels that he needs to be the next Iron Man. Then Happy reminds him that no one could ever be Iron Man and that Peter needs to be a better Spider-Man.” Newcomer Navah W. wraps it up with, “The special and visual effects that take place are beyond awesome! They include four of the five elements of science – earth, fire, water and wind. The fighting scenes that take place in the cities that the students visit cause so much destruction of boats, bridges, buildings, cars and planes that it made me think, “Wow! Does this really get destroyed during the making of this movie?” See their full reviews below.

Spider-Man: Far From Home
Benjamin Price, Kids First! Film Critic

Spider-Man: Far From Home is bigger and better than its predecessor, Homecoming and another exciting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Far From Home is a blast that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and is a nice palette cleanser after the despair of Endgame and Infinity War.

With pressure from being a superhero mounting every day, Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man (Tom Holland), needs a break. He’s ready to go on a school trip through Europe and confess his feelings for classmate MJ (Zendaya). Peter’s easy going summer is mangled when creatures called Elementals attack the first stop on his trip. Peter is appointed by the head of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury to assist Quentin Beck in taking the monsters down. Beck, a.k.a Mysterio, is ready to sacrifice anything to vanquish the Elementals after they destroyed his home and killed his family. Peter sets out to protect his friends and the world at large from the coming supernatural threat.

Tom Holland plays a great Spider-Man. Far From Home relies on him being likable and relatable and this time around, somewhat vulnerable too. Holland does all of these things really well. This film doesn’t work if you’re not invested in Peter Parker, but lucky for us, this version is perhaps the best incarnation of the character yet. The awkward, yet sweet interactions between Peter and MJ are a highlight of this film.

Far From Home has a fun atmosphere, even when the stakes are tense and thrilling. The comedy is sharp and witty, but the emotional nuance of Peter’s arc is well-executed. Peter has to face the responsibilities of being a “friendly neighborhood Spider-man” and step up to fill the void left by his recently fallen mentor and friend Tony Stark, a.k.a Iron Man. Stark expected the best from Parker and trusted him with numerous gadgets and resources to continue to do good after he was gone. Parker has to live up to those expectations, while also mourning the loss of his friend.

I recommend this for ages 12 to 18 for some violence, peril and language. Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great teen comedy with a touch of science fiction, romance and heroism. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend you see this film when it swings in theaters July 2nd.

Spider-Man: Far From Home
By Veronica S., KIDSFIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Spider-Man: Far From Home is one of the most exciting movies in theaters right now. Its thrilling action will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire runtime, and you’ll leave the cinema smiling. Thisis the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it truly did not disappoint.

This film follows your “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”, aka Peter Parker, leaving New York City to go on a school field trip throughout Europe. On his trip, he plans to spend time with his friends, tell his crush how he feels about her, and go sightseeing around the several countries he’s visiting. But his plan will soon come to a halt when Nick Fury warns him about a new threat coming to Earth. With the help of a new superhero named Mysterio, Peter Parker will have to decide whether to enjoy his teenage years and have fun on his trip or to save the world, risking his identity in the process.

The performances and the comedy are this film’s high points. Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and Tom Holland as Peter Parker absolutely steal the show and are both a pure joy to watch. This is Gyllenhaal’s first Marvel flick, and it looks like he was born to be in one. Spider-Man:  Far From Home, like most Marvel films, is hilarious; all the side characters had several lines that got the entire theater laughing. Something else I admire about this film is how well it encapsulates teenage life and all of the awkward, exciting, and confusing moments being a teenager brings. The film portrays teens very realistically, and I have to commend the director, Tom Watts, for this. The special effects are marvelous, especially in scenes dealing with Mysterio.

With many highs, this film also has its lows. My main problems with the movie are the heavy exposition scenes and the dialogue. The way it feeds the audience information and tells backstories is poorly written which makes the scenes feel unnatural. The predictability of the story took me out of the film several times, but the movie still contains many moments which utterly shocked the entire audience. Although it has its lows, the highs fully outweigh them.

All in all, Spider-Man:  Far From Home is a fun-infused thrill ride that you will not want to miss. If you enjoy the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you will absolutely adore this one. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11-18, but adults will also appreciate it. Check it out in theaters on July 2, 2019. 

Spider-Man: Far from Home
By Madison Moy, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

What I like about Spider-Man: Far from Home are the special effects, the quality of the storyline, the fight scenes and the fact that Spider-Man is my favorite superhero! I can’t just point out one specific part. The MCU never disappoints.

Spider-Man: Far from Home is about the after-math of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and how everyone that is destroyed in the snap that they call “The Blip” comes back the same age. It’s been five years so, instead of their being 21 and graduated, they are still 16 and have to re-do their sophomore year of high school. So, the school year ends and the class is going on a summer vacation to Europe. Peter doesn’t want to be Spider-Man on this trip, but coincidently Nick Fury happens to need Peter’s help as Spider-Man. He fights along Quentin Beck (Mysterio) and, while in the comics Mysterio is the bad guy, it seems his role is reversed in this movie. While all this is happening, Peter is trying to tell MJ (the girl he really likes) how he feels.

My favorite part of Spider-Man: Far from Home is when Peter walks with MJ to give her a gift and tell her about how he feels. As he gets ready to tell her, she interrupts and asks him if he is Spider-Man. It’s a very funny scene.

Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures’ SPIDER-MAN: ™ FAR FROM HOME.

The message of Spider-Man: Far from Home is that the world doesn’t need another you, it needs  someone who can be better. Throughout the movie Peter is constantly reminded of Tony Stark (Iron Man) after his death in Endgame and Peter feels that he needs to be the next Iron Man. Then Happy reminds him that no one could ever be Iron Man and that Peter needs to be a better Spider-Man.

I give Spider-Man: Far from Home 5 out of 5 stars. It is a great cinematic movie with great performances and is a lot better than Spider-Man: Homecoming. I recommend it for ages 13 to18, plus adults because of the language and violence. Make sure to go see Spider-Man: Far from Home in theatres everywhere when it opens Tuesday July 2, 2019.

Spider-Man: Far from Home
By Navah Wallace, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The live action thriller movie Spider-Man: Far from Home is mind blowing and hilarious!I definitely enjoyed this movie. The action-packed fights between the superheroes are explosive, like bombs going off everywhere. The characters travel to adventurous places and weird sci-fi things begin to happen.   

The storyline follows Peter Parker preparing for a high school field trip with his classmates to exciting cities in Italy and France. Peter is planning to finally wow MJ, the girl he really likes. However, he becomes frustrated when he is called on mission as Spider-man and tries to avoid the mission by “ghosting” Nick Fury’s calls. Ultimately, that does not work and he finds himself trapped and forced into the mission.

The special and visual effects that take place are beyond awesome! They include four of the five elements of science – earth, fire, water and wind. The fighting scenes that take place in the cities that the students visit cause so much destruction of boats, bridges, buildings, cars and planes that it made me think, “Wow! Does this really get destroyed during the making of this movie?” However, I realized later it is simply special and visual effects, because I have learned that drones are used to make you think something is really happening when it is not. In addition to all the action, I also wondered if the superheroes did their own stunts or if there are multiple stunt doubles. Therefore, I did some research and found out that there are several stunt performers.

The message in this movie is about illusion versus real. In other words, everything is not what is seems to be, and people will believe anything, so trust no one. My favorite part of the movie is when Peter Parker gets to shoot his shot with MJ. You should know that there is some profanity and risky situations that kids may try to imitate, so parent guidance is suggested.

I give Spider-Man: Far from Home 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. I also think adults will be amazed and enjoy it as well. It opens in theaters nationwide July 2, 2019, so be sure to check it out.

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