Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara * Gives Insight Into These Characters Beyond The Ball Gowns, Princes And Tiaras

September 23rd, 2022

Everyone knows the Disney Princess characters, but how did they become the cultural icons we know today? From the Princesses Walt Disney and his artists brought to the screen in the 20th century, such as Snow White and Aurora, to the recent additions such as Moana, Tiana and Rapunzel, each Disney Princess character’s influence has expanded beyond their original film. Each of their unique, individual stories create a fabric with the power to inspire our imaginations, spark social conversations, and empower us. Featured Disney Princesses include Moana, Merida, Rapunzel, Tiana, Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White. Organized by themes of origins and inspirations, re-imaginings, toys and collectibles, fashion, music, parks, fandom, and more, the book features memorabilia and interviews with Disney historians, directors, voice talent and fans. Explore the different eras, influences, and legacies of the Princesses with Disney Legends such as Jodi Benson (voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid), Lea Salonga (voice behind Jasmine and Mulan) and composer Alan Menken.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Nyara A. comments, “Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara is an enlightening book that gives you true insight into character design and animation beyond the ball gowns, princes, and tiaras. The reader learns about the process of Disney filmmaking from the steps of animating the characters to the fashion designers behind the classic “princess dresses.” See her full review and interview with the author below.

Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara
By Nyara A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara is an enlightening book that gives you true insight into character design and animation beyond the ball gowns, princes, and tiaras. The reader learns about the process of Disney filmmaking from the steps of animating the characters to the fashion designers behind the classic “princess dresses.”

Author Emily Zemler engages the reader with an abundance of colorful and appealing photos. These images help you recognize the immense amount of work you never knew was necessary to create your favorite princesses. My favorite part of this book is the chapter on the fashion designers and artists who worked tirelessly to create perfect dresses that matched each character and their personality.

This book would be a fascinating read for Disney-loving families or teens and adults. Each chapter of Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara describes a different element of this process including animation, music, fashion, marketing, and merchandising, as well as its famous theme park, Disneyland.

Readers will enjoy learning about the development of animation from the early 1930s with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the early twenty-first century with popular films such as Moana and Encanto. It even offers the reader insight into how classic animated films have been adapted into modern live-action movies, many with actors we all know and love.

By including pictures, quotes, illustrations and memoirs written firsthand by Disney voice stars, every type and age of reader can easily engage in the storytelling. Although this book contains positive information about the Disney Princess franchise, it does not address the issues the company faced with complaints such as princesses having an unrealistic body image or the lack of diversity.

I give Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Kids under 12 would benefit from reading it with their parents. It will be available starting September 20, 2022, at online retailers and in bookstores.

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The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales * Have You Ever Wondered If The Cast Members At The “Happiest Place On Earth” Are Happy Themselves?

September 23rd, 2022

Abigail Disney looks at America’s dysfunctional and unequal economy and asks why the American Dream has worked for the wealthy, yet is a nightmare for people born with less. Using her family’s story, Disney explores how this systemic injustice took hold and imagines a way toward a more equitable future.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Have you ever wondered if the cast members and staff at the “happiest place on Earth” are actually happy themselves? Well, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales is … eye-opening, and shocking, and exposes the wealth inequality among employees at Disneyland and other companies in the United States.

The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Have you ever wondered if the cast members and staff at the “happiest place on Earth” are actually happy themselves? Well, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales is the documentary you need to watch! It’s eye-opening, and shocking, and exposes the wealth inequality among employees at Disneyland and other companies in the United States.

The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales follows philanthropist and co-director, Dr. Abigail Disney, the great-niece of Walt Disney and the granddaughter of Roy O. Disney, as she embarks on a journey to bring awareness to pay gaps between the rich and poor workers at companies such as Disney. The story starts in 2018 when Dr. Disney is contacted by Disneyland employees for help because they are struggling to afford food, housing, and even cover medical expenses.

This documentary uses videos of protests, court proceedings, cast member interviews, and experiences to tell the stories of how employees that help create the magic at Disneyland don’t have fair and equal pay and how that needs to change. My favorite part of this documentary is seeing how all the workers featured were willing to share their stories, rally, protest, and even host food drives for workers to help make a difference. While most would be scared to make a film like this, I love the bravery it took for Dr. Disney to speak up and make these issues public, especially since the fight is against the company that bears her name and family legacy. It’s a documentary that is sure to stun its audience.

The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales highlights how companies must have fair and equal pay for all employees. It’s not right for people to work hard to make CEOs and others rich at a company and still have to be on food stamps and homeless. While there isn’t anything for parents to look out for, I wouldn’t recommend showing it to young viewers to avoid ruining the magic of Disney for them.

While the topics covered in The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales are very serious, somehow Dr. Disney and co-director Kathleen Hughes courageously deliver this bold film in a very easy-to-understand and entertaining format. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This inspiring documentary will debut first in Orlando, Florida, starting on September 16, 2022. It will be available in additional markets and video-on-demand on September 23.

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Railway Children * An Epic Combination Of Emotion And Action That Pulls You In And Then Slams You With Grief

September 23rd, 2022

Inspired by one of the most beloved British family films of all time, Railway Children is an enchanting, moving, and heart-warming adventure for a new generation. 1944 — As life in Britain’s cities becomes increasingly perilous, three evacuee children — Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) and Ted (Zac Cudby) Watts — are sent by their mother from Salford to the Yorkshire village of Oakworth. There to meet them on the train station platform are Bobbie Waterbury (Jenny Agutter, reprising her iconic role in the original film), her daughter, Annie (Sheridan Smith), and grandson Thomas (Austin Haynes), and with their help the evacuees are soon settling into their new life in the countryside. When the children discover injured American soldier Abe (KJ Aikens), hiding out in the railyard at Oakworth Station, they are thrust into a dangerous quest to assist their new friend who, like them, is a long way from home.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kyla C. comments, “Railway Children is an epic combination of emotion and action. It pulls you in and keeps you watching and then slams you with grief. All of the actors who play the five leading kids, Lily, Pattie, Ted, Thomas (Austin Haynes) and Abe, are fantastic at conveying the sadness to the audience.” See her full review and interviews below.

Railway Children
By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

A heart-wrenching and adventurous new film set partway through World War II, Railway Children is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The excellent acting highlights the emotional plot twists in the well-written script, and the time period is clearly depicted through costumes and props. Grab some popcorn, grab some tissues and get watching!

Railway Children follows three kids, Lily (Beau Gadsdon), Pattie (Eden Hamilton) and Ted (Zac Cudby) who are sent away to the countryside in England for safety during the war. There, although missing their mom immensely, they live happily with a temporary family. One day, while playing hide and seek in a train station, they discover a person living in one of the abandoned train carts. At first, they believe it is a German spy, but they later come to learn a lot about the boy, Abe (KJ Aikens), and his story. However, when Lily receives news that Abe could be more than he’s let on, they have to decide whether to help him illegally or turn him in.

Railway Children is an epic combination of emotion and action. It pulls you in and keeps you watching and then slams you with grief. All of the actors who play the five leading kids, Lily, Pattie, Ted, Thomas (Austin Haynes) and Abe, are fantastic at conveying the sadness to the audience. Beau Gadson as Lily stands out as being a strong and emotional actress. In addition, the costumes, props and accents help express the settings and develop the characters. One example is the school uniform. Although they are all basically the same, each character has a spark in their outfit that matches their personality. This could be the hairstyle, headpiece, belt, scarf or shoes. The kids’ costumes look absolutely adorable on screen, especially on the little siblings.

The message of Railway Children is that you can always make a stand and fight for what’s right. Lily is a strong-willed older sister who is determined to help Abe no matter the cost. Teamwork is also encouraged in this film. What seemed like life or death disputes at school quickly dissolve when another kid is in need of their help. There is some minor inappropriate language and violence.

I give Railway Children 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18 plus adults. You can watch Railway Children in theaters only on September 23, 2022.

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Heathers: The Musical * A Front Row Seat To Witness The Witty And Creative Production That Continues To Revolutionize Theater And Lives

September 22nd, 2022

Welcome to Westerberg High, where Veronica Sawyer is just another one of the nobodies dreaming of a better day. But when she’s unexpectedly taken under the wings of the three beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers, her dreams of popularity finally start to come true. Until JD shows up — the mysterious teen rebel who teaches her that everyone fears being a nobody, but its murder being a somebody…

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S., comments, “Bring Broadway to the small screen with Heathers: The Musical! Sit in the front row and witness the musical that took the world by storm. The witty and creative production continues to revolutionize theater and lives.” See her full review and interview with director Andy Finkman below.  

Heathers: The Musical
By Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Bring Broadway to the small screen with Heathers: The Musical! Sit in the front row and witness the musical that took the world by storm. The witty and creative production continues to revolutionize theater and lives. 

Heathers: The Musical is a musical theater adaptation of the 1988 film Heathers. When Veronica (Ailsa Davidson) wants to fit in with the cool crew at her new school, the most popular girls, the Heathers, (Madison Firth, Vanka Panka, Teleri Hughes) take her under their wing. As Veronica realizes that being popular isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, she tries to escape the clique she’s become a part of, and soon finds that it’ll be much more difficult than she thought. 

Heathers: The Musical brings the off-Broadway production to audience’s homes. The recording of the musical makes it easy for theater fans of all ages to re-watch their favorite play. The film really captures the magic of the theater and hits every mark. The live audience reaction adds to the feeling that viewers are in an opera house, watching the production live. The acting is colorful and easily defines the characters’ personalities. Veronica dangles in the morally gray character. She’s awkward and funny, but will cross the line between innocence and murder.

Meanwhile J.D. (Simon Gordon) is someone who may not be the best boyfriend, but he’s a character we can’t help but love. All of the actors’ performances are outstanding; they emphasize character development, belt out high notes and dance to difficult choreography. It’s clear that every actor is a triple threat and enjoys performing for live audiences. The standout performance is Ailsa Davidson, as Veronica. She is a star and captures every scene she is in. Each musical number is fantastic and gives insight to each character and their life. The most recognizable song is “Candy Store.” This performance upholds its reputation and proves why it is the most famous song of the soundtrack.

The message of the film is a reminder to be yourself. Veronica craved to be popular and, once she thought she had good friends and changes her entire personality, she realizes that what she really wants is to be herself. This film is inappropriate for younger audiences due to crude language, partial nudity, heavy sexual innuendo, murder and suicide.

I give Heathers: The Musical 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available now on Roku Channel. 

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Andor * Perhaps The Best Star Wars Spin-Off Series So Far, It’s Superb Script, Visuals And Performances Will Grip You Throughout Its Duration

September 21st, 2022

The series explores a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved. It’s an era filled with danger, deception and intrigue where Cassian will embark on the path that is destined to turn him into a rebel hero.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Perhaps the best Star Wars spin-off series so far, Andor’s superb script, visuals and performances will grip you throughout its duration. The force is indeed strong with this dark, grounded show, which comfortably departs from the Star Wars formula in significant ways.” Heather S. adds, “The theme of the show is to fight for what you believe in. In the early days of the Rebellion, there weren’t many fighters for the cause, and it was a risky gamble to join up against the Empire. Cassian takes the risk to fight against oppression and to take a stand.” See their complete reviews below.

Andor
By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

(L-R): Kravas (Lee Boardman), Verlo (Stephen Wight), hostess (Margaret Clunie), bartender (Caroline Green) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in a scene from Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Perhaps the best Star Wars spin-off series so far, Andor’s superb script, visuals and performanceswill grip you throughout its duration. The force is indeed strong with this dark, grounded show, which comfortably departs from the Star Wars formula in significant ways.

A gritty, layered prequel to the highly popular (and also prequel) movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Andor follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) on a five-year journey as he grows from a revolution-averse, shifty, cynical con man to a selfless, Empire-defying rebel against the Galactic Empire. When confronted with enemy after enemy, Andor continually proves himself to be the perfect sort of spy, revolutionary and killer.

(L-R): B2EMO and Maarva (Fiona Shaw) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Thank you, Tony Gilroy, for creating this series. It’s simply incredible. Driven by mood, Andor seems more like a crime drama or a Ridley Scott sci-fi film than a true Star Wars film. Though the first two episodes are a bit slow and offer pretty low-stakes, with lots and lots of exposition, Luna pushes the series, one of his best performances yet, to excellence. Episode three, especially, is WOW. His power to add nuance to what starts as a one-dimensional personality — surly dude disillusioned with his surroundings — is remarkable. We’re lucky he reprised his role. Adding a tiny note here, I love how Luna keeps his native Mexican accent in all his portrayals of Cassian Andor. It adds something to the role! The plot of Andor is simple enough, and this allows for both the trademark character development and world-building of the Star Wars universe and also the slow reveal of the Rebel Alliance forming. Stellan Skarsgård’s portrayal of Luthen Rael is subtle without being dry, and he helps elevate the show and make it even more riveting. The production quality, much like the acting, is off the charts; every scene is engineered to be utterly stunning. Half the time the feeling of dread is offset by, “oh my goodness, look at the sky.” All of this — the new tone, new feel, new style — might be too different for some, but the utter novelty is to be appreciated. Finally, the beautiful score by Nicholas Britell adds so much to the retro-futurism of Andor and makes the performances pop even more.

Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Andor promotes fighting for good causes, allowing yourself to be taken by passion, and leading others for the greater good. Beyond these lessons, it’s also a master class (tonally, visually, sonically) for filmmakers playing in the sandbox. There are some sexual undertones in the first episode and violent scenes.

I give Andor 4.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Andor releases on Disney+ September 21, 2022.

Andor 
By Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

(L-R): Kravas (Lee Boardman), Verlo (Stephen Wight), hostess (Margaret Clunie), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and bartender (Caroline Green) in a scene from Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

Andor, a prequel to Rogue One, is the latest Star Wars-inspired series to debut to much enthusiasm from expectant fans.  Despite some exciting cameos, though, the series lacks the boldness of its predecessors. 

Andor follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), before he was known as Captain of the Rebellion. When he murders two officers and has an arrest warrant on his head, he meets Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) who offers Cassian the opportunity of a lifetime: to join the early formations of the Rebellion against the Empire.  Viewers will recognize the character of Cassian from Rogue One. In the film, he’s witty, smart and callous. In his own series, however, he’s described as being a playboy and smooth talker, though in many ways he doesn’t really live up to that description; it’s rare that we see him engaging or displaying these qualities.

(L-R): Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.

The series has some strong points. The CGI is extremely realistic, transporting viewers to never-before-seen planets. The fight scenes keep you on your toes, always waiting for the next blaster battle. In the past several years, Disney has produced outstanding and mind-blowing Star Wars shows like Obi Wan Kenobi and The Mandalorian. Both series have deep connections to the Star Wars universe and set the bar high for upcoming Star Wars projects. Audiences can decide if Andor meets the expectations set up by those series or not. 

The theme of the show is to fight for what you believe in. In the early days of the Rebellion, there weren’t many fighters for the cause, and it was a risky gamble to join up against the Empire. Cassian takes the risk to fight against oppression and to take a stand. 

I give Andor 3 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It begins streaming on Disney+ September 21, 2022. 

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