Up to date information about children's entertainment – film, TV, DVD and more…. from founder and president of KIDS FIRST! Ranny Levy

Archive for November, 2011

Christmas DVDs You Might Not Be Aware Of

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

211189.jpgThe Littlest Angel, based on the fifteenth best-selling children’s book of all time, tells the story of a young boy who arrives in heaven before his time.  Have you ever wondered what Heaven looks like? The Littlest Angel is an adaptation from the book The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. The movie is about a clumsy angel who has difficulty adjusting to Heaven because his wings are not developed yet. He is very homesick, so he goes on an adventure with his dog to Earth to retrieve his treasure box containing things that are precious to him. Will the littlest angel complete his mission despite his clumsiness? Watch the movie to find out. All of the characters have such different personalities, so it’s comical to watch them interact with one another. I also thought the voices of the characters were well suited to their personalities. The movie is very jubilant and shows that you should treat people the way you want to be treated. For example, the littlest angel was kind to everyone, including those who didn’t initially like him, so he earned respect. The movie also shows that practice makes perfect, but perhaps the essential message of the movie is that it’s the thought that counts which makes a gift valuable.  I recommend this movie to all ages, but I think it suits more for children 3 and up. I enjoyed the CGI animation of the movie because it is simple, and the facial expressions of the characters are easily readable and adorable, so everyone can understand it. Credit: Gabriella Chu, age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Watch Gabriella’s video review here.  Gabriella3.jpg211175.jpg

Looking for something new to watch this holiday season? “The Dog Who Saved Christmas” features the voice talent of Mario Lopez (“Dancing With the Stars,” “Saved By the Bell”) as Zeus, a mischievous yellow Labrador who appears to be less than the dependable guard dog the Bannister family needs.  What happens when a Christmas present goes horribly wrong? Find out along with the Bannister family when they adopt a K-9 watchdog who does not even know how to bark! An All-star cast is sure to impress with names such as Gary Valentine (“King of Queens”), Elisa Donovan (“Clueless; Sabrina the Teenage Witch”), Charlie Stewart (“The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”) and many more. With the holiday season approaching, the Bannister family agrees they need either an alarm or a watchdog to keep their new house secure. Zeus sadly is no watchdog. While the kids fight to keep their loving dog Zeus, Zeus tries to prove himself to his new family. The poor dog is constantly reminded he cannot bark by his new mother Belinda and two hilarious talking mice who share his new home. After failing a mock-burglar test and breaking the Bannister family’s gift to their Grandma, Zeus has run out of chances to prove himself worthy of protecting his family. But just as the Bannister’s leave to spend Christmas Eve with their Grandma, and begin saying their goodbyes to their Pound bound mutt, Zeus is given one more chance to prove himself. With the threat of two robbers and no family around Zeus must snatch the chance to be a hero, he even gets help from an unexpected source to defeat the criminals. This fast-paced comedy is a perfect addition to the holiday season, and will become a family-friendly tradition for future Christmases to come.

211184.jpgAlso, look for The Dog Who Saved Christmas Vacation with the same talent.

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Hugo – A Treat from the Master!

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Hugo.jpgMasterful Martin Scorsese has transformed the wonderful book, The Invention of Hugo Caberet by Brian Selznick into a film that is truly a gift to all of us this Holiday season. The story itself is similar to Scorsese’s own life story. Here are what two of our 14-year-old critics have to say about it.
Hugo is the thrilling story about Hugo Cabaret (Asa Butterfield), the orphan clockmaker who, with help from Isabelle Melies (Chloe Moretz), fixes an automaton that was created by magician and filmmaker George Melies (Ben Kingsley). I thought this movie was great, particularly the scenery which takes place in Paris. I also loved the soundtrack, which really helps set the mood. The acting is great, especially considering that Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz are only 13- and 14-years-old. They do a fantastic job. The only thing I don’t like is that the movie takes place in Paris, but the people have English, not French, accents. I recommend this film for ages seven and up because  some themes may go above younger kids’ heads. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

By Daniel Menegaz, age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Hugo is about a little boy, no more than ten or eleven, who works at the train station running the clocks. Hugo and his dad are clockmakers, until his dad dies when he (Hugo) is very young. His grandpa takes him into the clocks at the train station, but leaves him there after a short amount of time. All Hugo wants to do is fix the automaton he and his dad were fixing…

Daniel.JonalMusicSM.jpgThe movie is amazing, the acting is great. I have to hand it to the two main characters: Hugo (Asa Butterfield) and Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), both are children, my age or younger, and they portrayed the characters very well.

The Cinematography is eye-catching, in the middle of winter, the shots they take from the clocks, or just in the train station are great. What is a movie without a sound track? This movie’s music sets the scene up very well, making you think you know what is about to happen.

I recommend this movie to people 7 and up, it doesn’t have much violence or language or anything like that. Overall I rate this move 8.5 out of 10.

Credit: Jonah Menegaz, age 14, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

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Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

PBS KIDS will feature the broadcast premiere of the original Curious George movie, which will air as part of the CURIOUS GEORGE Holiday Spectacular on Wednesday, November 23. A three-movie on-air event that is sure to be a new family tradition, the Holiday Spectacular kicks off with Curious George, featuring the voices of Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore and Dick Van Dyke, as well as the music of Jack Johnson, followed by Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey and Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas. Encore presentations of the Holiday Spectacular will air on PBS KIDS throughout Thanksgiving weekend (check local listings).
“We’re excited to extend the fun and engagement of CURIOUS GEORGE, the #1 preschool series in the U.S.*, into this special holiday movie event,” said Lesli Rotenberg, Senior Vice President, Children’s Media, PBS. “George has a natural curiosity and eagerness to learn, making him an ideal trusted guide for our young viewers. We hope that the CURIOUS GEORGE Holiday Spectacular will take families on even more adventures with their favorite monkey, fostering excitement in exploring the world around them.” CURIOUS GEORGE Holiday Spectacular Program Descriptions
Curious George Curious George follows everyone’s favorite spunky monkey as he sets off on a series of (mis)adventures. In the film, after the Man with the Yellow Hat accidentally brings back George from a business trip to Africa, the unlikely twosome embarks on a fun-filled journey through the big city, and ultimately finds their way to a lasting friendship. Featuring gorgeous and old-fashioned two-dimensional animation that echoes the simple colors and shapes of the books by Margret and H. A. Rey, Curious George includes voice talents Will Ferrell (as the Man with the Yellow Hat), Drew Barrymore, and Dick Van Dyke, as well as all-original music from Jack Johnson.Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey
In Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey, the fun-filled sequel to the hit animated movie, Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat set out on a madcap cross-country adventure to reunite Kayla, a homesick elephant, with her family. This unlikely trio faces all types of comic calamities and colorful characters and in the end learns that with family, friends and determination you can achieve anything. Curious George 2 features the voices of Tim Curry, Matt Lauer, Jamie Kennedy and Jerry Lewis.

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas
In A Very Monkey Christmas, Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat are having a wonderful time getting ready for Christmas. There’s only one dilemma – neither of them can figure out what to give the other for a present! In the end, both gift-giving predicaments are simply and beautifully resolved, revealing the true spirit of the holiday season.

Tips for Creating Family Traditions

PBS encourages families to take part in traditions new and old. PBS Parents provides additional ideas to create meaningful traditions for the family such as:
1) Write an annual letter to your child. The holidays are an appropriate time to mark your child’s growth with a special message that will be cherished for a lifetime. Seal letters and store them in a keepsake box until they are old enough to read and enjoy them.
2) Do a Secret Santa gift exchange for charity. Turn the tables this year. Instead of buying a present, make a donation or spend time volunteering for a charity of the giftee’s choice.
3) Make a family walk an annual event. Walking is a great way to spend time with each other, and work off those extra gingerbread cookies! Set aside time — even if it’s 30 minutes — to get outside and stretch your legs with the family.
4) Leave a legacy that lasts (and helps the environment). Each New Year’s Day, plant a tree in honor of your child(ren). Hold a special ceremony in which everyone in the family plays a part in planting that year’s tree, and take lots of pictures, both when the tree is planted and over the years as it grows.
5) Take part in a community service project as a family. Designate a day that will be devoted to serving others in your community.
6) Select a recipe and make it a tradition to make it together as a family, giving each family member a task in preparing it. In honor of the CURIOUS GEORGE Holiday Spectacular, make monkey bread or a banana dessert.
More details and ideas can be found on PBS Parents.

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Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 – Should Your Teen See It?

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

307571_285243148169713_285240848169943_1081677_1713698878_n.jpgTwilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, reviewed by our 13-year-old critic, Daniel Menegaz is the first half of the final installment of the Twilight saga movies based on the novel by Stephanie Meyer that has gripped the nation since Twilight first came out on print. Here are Daniel’s comments: It is about the tortured love story between Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) the vampire. In this first part, Bella gets married, and then gets pregnant on her honeymoon. The movie ends with her opening her bright red eyes as a vampire. Having read Breaking Dawn, I thought it was fairly accurate to the story. Although, the book doesn’t have quite enough information to stretch into two movies, I found the movie a little boring. The movie has some heavy drama; in fact, that is something I didn’t like. All the characters seemed to be depressed at what should have been a happy moment. Other than that, the movie was fairly good. I really enjoyed the soundtrack and particularly the scenes. The movie has some very stunning nature shots. I think this movie is for ages 13 and up because of very inappropriate subject matter regarding the sex and Bella’s pregnancy. Overall, I would give this movie 3.5 out of 5 stars. If you are looking for a movie filled with drama, vampires, and werewolves, this is your movie.

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Happy Feet 2 – Great Family Movie Displaying Happiness and Friendship

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

HappyFeet2.jpgI love this movie. It’s about Mumble (Elijah Wood) and Gloria’s (Pink) baby penguin named Erik (Ava Acres) who wanders off from all the other penguins. His father, Mumble tries to find him and while he is gone a big iceberg blocks the penguins from going anywhere.

Watch Anthony’s review here.
My favorite characters are Mumble, Erik and two krill named Will and Bill (Brad Pitt & Matt Damon). I like Mumble because he is really funny and he sometimes gets mad at Erik. I like Erik because he tries to get his father to take more chances and he is almost always happy. I like the two krill because they show how friendships take work. They split up in the movie, get lost and then find each other again and make a stronger friendship.My favorite part of this movie is when Will and Bill start tapping on the ice from underneath – kind of like how Mumble taps on the ice from above. Then, a whole bunch of other krill join in and they light up the ice with all of their tapping. I think this is really cool because it is neat to see all the lights and how they actually do that.

The animation and special effects in this movie are really cool. When the krill light up the sea, that is really cool. When some of the ice goes tumbling down the effects of that are really neat. The animation in this movie is awesome. The penguins look very real and they do a good job at making them talk.

I recommend this movie for ages two and up. This movie does have a few scary parts that might be frightening for kids younger than two. For example, when one of the elephant seals falls into a big hole his kids get really scared because they think he might get stuck down there forever. That part made me a little nervous. This is a great family movie that shows happiness and friendship. Go out and see this movie when it comes out in theaters on November 18th.

Reviewed by Anthony Aranda, age 9, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

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PBS KIDS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Join National STEM Video Game Challenge

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

atomboy.pngThe Second Annual National STEM Video Game Challenge, which aims to encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning, opened for entries this week. Students and educators can enter their original video game concepts and designs in four categories, middle school, high school, college, and educators at StemChallenge.org.  A new sub-categories being introduced this year is the PBS KIDS stream, which invites entrants from all four categories to design educational math-based video games for kids in pre-k through grade four. Read on for details:
Inspired by the “Educate to Innovate Campaign,” President Obama’s initiative to promote a renewed focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, the Challenge is an annual competition to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games.

The 2012 Challenge features four entry categories: Middle School, High School, Collegiate and Educator.  Within each category, PBS KIDS and CPB are challenging participants to develop educational games for children ages 4-8 that focus on specific math curriculum skills. Contestants can find insights and more information about the challenge on  PBSKIDS.org/stemchallenge, including resources that help guide game production for young children and interviews with top PBS KIDS game producers.

The Middle School and High School winners will each receive laptops, game design software packages and other tools to support their skill development, and youth sponsoring organizations will receive cash prizes and educational software. A prize of $10,000 will be awarded to each of the winners in the Collegiate and Educator categories.

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and E-Line Media launched the 2nd annual Challenge in partnership with the Digital Promise, a new initiative created by the President and Congress, supported through the U.S. Department of Education.  Entries will be accepted from November 15, 2011 through March 12, 2012 at www.stemchallenge.org.   At the end of the competition, the winning games for the PBS KIDS and CPB track will be featured on the PBS KIDS Lab and PBS LearningMedia websites.

PBS KIDS and CPB are participating in the 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge as part of the Ready To Learn Initiative, a grant program managed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement.

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