Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Ray Nutt, CEO, Fathom Events – A Leader That Brings Us H.O.P.E.

May 8th, 2020

From everyone at KIDS FIRST! we want to send you our love and support. These are challenging times as we deal with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want you to know that our KIDS FIRST! Film Critics have continued doing what they do best, which is reviewing films and interviewing the talent behind them. Of course, there are no live event during this time, so we are reviewing films via online screeners and interviewing via Zoom. We’ve also added a webinar component to many of our interviews, adding a Q&A from our audience after the original interview. It’s been sort of cool to do that and more kids get to participate. This is a reminder that if you want to join our team, visit our website (www.kidsfirst.org) and click on the banner “Join Us.”

Today, we have an amazing conversation to share with you with the uber talented CEO of Fathom Events, Ray Nutt.  The eloquent Nathalia J. interviews Mr. Nutt and is joined by Katherine S., Tiana S. and Joshitha B. for the Q&A.

How familiar are you with Fathom Events?  It is one of the largest distributors of content to movie theaters in North America. Ray Nutt brings more than three decades of experience in the entertainment business as former SVP at Regal Entertainment Group, former EVP at United Artists Entertainment and more.  Jump on in and enjoy this interview and webinar. Find out how cinemas are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, when and how they will re-open and what you might expect. And learn how Mr. Nutt has developed the H.O.P.E. campaign for Fathom Events to guide his team and customers through this challenging time.

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Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind * Wonderful! Truly Honoring The Spirit of a Remarkable Woman

May 4th, 2020

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind explores actor Natalie Wood’s life and career through the unique perspective of her daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner, and others who knew her best. The film features previously unseen home movies, photographs, diaries, letters and artifacts, as well as intimate interviews with her friends, family, co-stars and colleagues; re-examining her personal and professional triumphs and challenges, which have often been overshadowed by her tragic death at age 43. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “The purpose of this documentary is to honor Natalie Wood and show people how great a life she lived. Some people focus more on the tragedy of her death and overlook her legacy in the film industry.” See her full review below.

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is a wonderful biography telling the story of Natalie Wood’s life in a raw way from the perspectives of multiple people. The film gets into lots of details and aspects of her life. By the end, the audience knows all about who Natalie Wood was.

The film is composed of old video and audio clips of Natalie Wood as well as multiple interviews, some of which are conducted by Wood’s daughter, Natasha. The clips follow in somewhat of a chronological order, but the film doesn’t start off at the beginning of her life. It covers details and facts about her entire life, but skips around, going to different parts. It focuses on her success as a child, her family’s struggles, her love life, and the drama surrounding her death. The documentary also highlights all of her achievements in her film career.

The people featured in the documentary represent Natalie Wood’s extensive circle of family and friends. Their interviews tell their perspectives of Natalie and her life. Included are her daughters, the family nanny, her husband and people who worked with her.

I thought it was interesting the way that they decided to skip around to different phases in her life. Normally documentaries pursue a chronological order, starting from the beginning and following through to the end. In contrast, this documentary is really effective in the way it skips around, because it gives the audience a bit of background information before returning to explain some aspect in deeper detail. I liked this because it allowed me to get a general idea first of what Natalie Wood was like and then what she experienced. I could see how people viewed her from the outside and then, the film delves deeper into a closer perspective by her friends and family.

My favorite parts are the home videos of Natalie Wood with her children. These clips make you realize that, even though she was under the pressure of the spotlight all the time and looks perfect, she is a human being with a life too.

The purpose of this documentary is to honor Natalie Wood and show people how great a life she lived. Some people focus more on the tragedy of her death and overlook her legacy in the film industry.

I loved watching and learning more about Natalie Wood’s wonderful story. I give Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. Even adults will enjoy learning from this documentary. Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind premieres on HBO May 5, 2020 so be sure to look for it!

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Critical Thinking * Incredible, fleshed out Characters, Emotional Story

May 1st, 2020

The true story of the Miami Jackson High School chess team which was the first inner city team to win the U.S. National Chess Championship. Directed by John Leguizamo, starring John Leguizamo, Rachel Bay Jones, Michael Kenneth Williams and more. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Rohan F. comments, “Critical Thinking is a film with incredible, fleshed out characters in an emotional story, which surprises you at every turn. It gets you to connect with the characters quickly and made me actually feel bad for them when things went wrong.” See his full review below.

Critical Thinking
Reviewed by Rohan F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Critical Thinking is a film with incredible, fleshed out characters in an emotional story, which surprises you at every turn. It gets you to connect with the characters quickly and made me actually feel bad for them when things went wrong.

Critical Thinking tells the true story of the lives of members of the Miami Jackson High School chess team during the U.S. National Chess Championship. It goes into the motivations behind the members and their team supervisor, Mr. Martinez, as they struggle to get out of a system that doesn’t value them via the chess tournament. It follows the journey of them starting out, raising money to get to the tournaments, and the events that occur during the tournaments, As well as all the problems throughout. The film also goes into the specific details of the members personal lives to show their daily struggle.

The characters are developed incredibly. The film makes you feel like you know the characters. It makes even the most insignificant characters interesting. They are all real people who make real choices about their lives for better or worse. I really enjoy the way they showed the players develop during the competitions. They play like real people and make mistakes like them too. There are very complicated relationships between characters that help them develop their abilities and personalities.

The score is subtle and matches the film. There was never a point where I noticed that the score was practically good or bad, but it fit the themes and changed when necessary.

My favorite scene was the final chess match. Marcel took risks which made sense for his character. The other members of his team appear genuinely nervous because they don’t know who is going to win. They put Marcel under a lot of pressure, and it is unclear if he is going to break because of it. There is one point where an offer is made to him and it is unclear if he would be willing to abandon his team for personal gain.

The film has a message that people who come from different places can still accomplish incredible things. As well as the problems with the school systems view on people of color.

Overall, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 13- to 18, plus adults because it covers some very mature topics.

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Entertainment Super Star Tom Kalinske, former CEO of Sega US and Leapfrog Talks with KIDS FIRST!

April 30th, 2020

Recently KIDS FIRST! reporter Rohan F. had the opportunity to visit with Thomas “Tom” Kalinske, an American businessman, best known as having worked for Mattel 1972-87, reviving the Barbie & Hot Wheels Brands, launching Masters of the Universe, then being promoted to CEO of Mattel from 1985 to 1987. Next he was CEO of Matchbox, and then recruited to become president and CEO of Sega of America, Inc. from 1990 to 1996. Next up – CEO and COB of Leapfrog 1997-2006.

Tom’s aggressive marketing decisions during his time at Sega, such as price drops, anti-Nintendo attack ads, and the famous “Sega Scream” TV campaign, are often cited as key elements in the success of the Genesis video game console. He is currently the Executive Chairman of Global Education Learning, a company dedicated to children’s education in China.

For his work at Mattel, Universal Matchbox, Sega, and Leapfrog,  Kalinske was a 1997 inductee into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame. He has received the NYC Boy Scout’s Good Scout Award, the Starlight Foundation Man of Year Award, the University of Wisconsin Business Partners “Distinguished Fellow” Award, and the Video Software Dealers Man of Year Award.

Learn what Tom’s experience means to you and why he is a perfect role model for kids worldwide.

Interview by Rohan F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

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The Half Of It * Beautiful Story About Love, Friendship And Longing

April 30th, 2020

When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn’t expect to become his friend – or fall for his crush. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “The Half of It is certainly a beautiful story about love, friendship and longing. It is a very relatable story about the process of discovering love and what comes with it. The acting is splendid and writer/director Alice Wu is very assertive in both capacities.”  Ruby A. adds, “The Half Of It is a film that virtually anyone can enjoy. It’s hilarious, unique, and has many intersecting relationships that keep you guessing what will happen in the future. The small-town setting helps the story feel more relatable. The personalities of the characters blend well and the progression of the plot makes sense.” Calista B. Wraps it up with, “The Half of It is interesting, however I feel like it could have been much better. I like it, yet I think there is a lot of missed potential.” See their full reviews below.

The Half of It
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The Half of It is certainly a beautiful story about love, friendship and longing. It is a very relatable story about the process of discovering love and what comes with it. The acting is splendid and writer/director Alice Wu is very assertive in both capacities.

The story follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a shy and introverted, straight “A” student, in her senior year, helping a friend, Paul, to capture the attention of the girl of his dreams, Aster. Initially, Ellie writes just one letter, but the story evolves into an exchange of text messages before their first date. During the journey, the characters discover the truth of the stress and challenges of courtship.

The film starts with a beautiful, artsy animation and excellent voice over work, guiding us into the mysteries of love at a very young age. The Half of It is a very well narrated story, keeping you intrigued, making you wanting to know more about the characters and how they will end up. The editing and music are very interconnected and they work in perfect harmony, turning into amazing storytelling.

I enjoyed the acting and the honesty of Leah Lewis’ portrayal of a very timid, but determined girl. I love Paul naiveté and his struggle to communicate and show his emotions and how his innocence contrasts with Ellie’s intelligence. Despite their differences they become friends, which is one of my favorite aspects of the film. I also love Collin Chou who plays Ellie’s dad. He barely speaks English but he’s really funny. He portrays a very loving and kind man and wants what’s best for his daughter. Ellie’s Dad loves classic films and, throughout the movie, there are several references to art in different disciplines like painting and poetry. This makes the film feel very grounded. “The Best Part,” as Ellie’s Dad refers when interrupted when watching his cinema classics, is when Ellie and Aster are in a secret lake and just talking. The scene itself is beautiful and the acting feels so natural. I love how this scene is shot and found it really relaxing.

The Half of It is not the typical high school movie, because in almost every high school movie there is a popular girl, a shy nerdy girl with lots of clichés and no substance. But in this movie the characters are real, current and deep.

The message of this film is “be the best version of you.” Ellie used to be an artist and one of the things she learns is that “you can have a good painting, but to make it a great one you need to make a bold stroke.” I think what she means by “bold stroke” is the best version that you can possibly be of yourself. Also we hear that “love is the journey we pursue with determination.”

This film is wonderful! I could watch it a million times and still be entertained. I give The Half of It 5outof 5 stars and recommended it for ages 12 to 18. The Half of It opens on Netflix May 1, 2020.

The Half Of It
By Ruby A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

The Half Of It is a film that virtually anyone can enjoy. It’s hilarious, unique, and has many intersecting relationships that keep you guessing what will happen in the future. The small-town setting helps the story feel more relatable. The personalities of the characters blend well and the progression of the plot makes sense.

Netflix’s The Half Of It takes place in a small town by the name of Squahamish, following a girl named Ellie Chu. Ellie is in high school and has a way with words. Although she is talented, she is made fun of frequently. One day, Ellie is riding her bike and her classmate, Paul Munsky, asks her to write his crush, Aster, a love letter. Ellie is skeptical and annoyed, but she agrees to help him out. Little does she know that she will become his friend and fall for his crush at the same time.

Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) and Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) make a great cast of main characters. Paul and Ellie (despite their differences) make a great team when trying to impress Aster. I love so many parts of this movie, however I have to choose a favorite! The acting really is something else. The cast is really amazing and, when you watch it, you feel an emotional connection to them. There is one specific person from the cast who does an exceptional job – Leah Lewis. She embodies the role of a reserved and skeptical-of-everything teenager very well.

The lesson from this film is that acting like your true self is for more valuable than the person you may want others to perceive you as. This way, others can love you for just being you. The movie is most definitely successful in portraying this. It is a very positive and uplifting message. This movie promotes the positive social behaviors of friendship and helping other people. However, there is quite a bit of bullying towards the main protagonist, Ellie, that occurs. There is a slight bit of swearing, but nothing too severe, and some alcohol use is shown.      

I give The Half Of It 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can find The Half Of It on Netflix May 1, 2020.                                                      

The Half of It
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Half of It is interesting, however I feel like it could have been much better. I like it, yet I think there is a lot of missed potential.

The movie follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) who makes money by charging other students for essay help. One day, a jock named Paul (Daniel Diemer) asks her for help writing a love letter to his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire). However, as Ellie continues to help Paul win her over, she ends up also falling for Aster.

A big aspect of this film is the LGBT twist. As someone who cares a lot about representation, this intrigued me. However, I have mixed feelings about the way this movie goes about its representation. I can’t elaborate much as that would lead to spoilers, but let’s just say the actual LGBT romance is a little lackluster and mostly overshadowed by the straight romance. This isn’t really an issue for most of the film, however this heavily affected my opinion on the ending. I usually try not to compare pieces of media, however I want to compare this film to Love, Simon. An issue I’ve noticed when it comes to LGBT representation is the prevalence of tragedies and dramatic stories. Either that, or stories where the LGBT character doesn’t have a happy ending. This is why Love, Simon was such a hit with the LGBT audience, because it is a wholesome, romantic comedy that embraces its gay representation. And considering The Half of It is also pushing the gay aspect in marketing, it could have been a lot better. The Half of It is far from the worst when it comes to unsatisfying representation, but it definitely has room for improvement.

However, the representation is not the only aspect of the film. As this is a comedy, how is the humor in this movie? Honestly, I really like a lot of the comedy in this film. I like the way Ellie and Paul play off each other and there’s many well executed visual gags and recurring bits. I also really like the friendship between Ellie and Paul. Despite the fact that they’re technically romantic rivals, you really buy their friendship as they have a great chemistry and you want them both to be happy in the end. 

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18. It comes out on May 1, 2020. Look for it.

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