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

Archive for February, 2012

Hi Ho Silver! New Mexico is Home for “The Lone Ranger” Production

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

LoneRanger.jpgAfter a few false starts, New Mexico is delighted to welcome Bruckheimer Films’ epic adventure “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp into our fine state. The film tax incentives, which helped grow the film business in New Mexico for the past 10+ years, were almost squashed by the new Martinez administration. Fortunately, the tax incentives have not gone away and production for the film has commenced on location in New Mexico where exteriors and studio work will be filmed, followed by locations in Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The film reunites the filmmaking team of the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” blockbusters—producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski—with Johnny Depp.

Depp plays spirit warrior Tonto in “The Lone Ranger,” with Armie Hammer (“The Social Network,” “J. Edgar”) starring in the title role. Depp and Hammer are joined by a prestigious international cast which includes Tom Wilkinson, two-time Academy Award nominee (“Michael Clayton,” “In the Bedroom”) and Golden Globe® and Emmy® winner (“John Adams”); William Fichtner (“Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Black Hawk Down”); Emmy Award-winner Barry Pepper (“True Grit,” “Saving Private Ryan”); James Badge Dale (“The Grey,” TV’s “The Pacific” and “Rubicon”); Ruth Wilson (TV’s “Jane Eyre” and “Luther”); and two-time Academy Award nominee and six-time Golden Globe nominee Helena Bonham Carter (“The King’s Speech,” “Alice in Wonderland”). The film is slated to open on May 31, 2013.

JohnnyDepp_1.jpg“The Lone Ranger” is a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior Tonto (Johnny Depp) recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid (Armie Hammer), a man of the law, into a legend of justice—taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.

“The Lone Ranger” is written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio of “Pirates of the Caribbean,” Eric Aronson and Justin Haythe. The executive producers are Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Eric Ellenbogen and Eric McLeod.

Jerry Bruckheimer and Gore Verbinski are joined by a remarkable team of behind-the-scenes artists, including director of photography Bojan Bazelli (Verbinski’s “The Ring,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”); visual consultant Mark “Crash” McCreery (production designer of Verbinski’s “Rango); costume designer Penny Rose (“Pirates of the Caribbean” films); film editor James Haygood (“Panic Room,” “Fight Club”); visual effects supervisor Tim Alexander (“Rango,” three “Harry Potter” films); Academy Award®-winning special effects supervisor John Frazier, a 10-time nominee whose previous collaborations with Jerry Bruckheimer have included “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and, with Verbinski as well, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”; and stunt coordinator Tommy Harper (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2”).

Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Gore Verbinski has enjoyed tremendous box office success as the innovative director of both character-driven franchises and thoughtful genre-bending fare. Most recently, Verbinski released his first animated film, the smash hit “Rango,” starring Johnny Depp. Grossing over $240 million worldwide, the film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film, as well as BAFTA and Annie awards, and received Golden Globe® and PGA nominations. Verbinski previously helmed the hit franchise “Pirates of the Caribbean,” directing the first three films starring Johnny Depp and Keira Knightley. The films have collectively grossed nearly $3 billion worldwide since release. He made his directorial debut with “Mouse Hunt,” starring Nathan Lane, followed by the road movie “The Mexican,” starring Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini. He also directed the smash horror film “The Ring,” starring Naomi Watts.

First in partnership with Don Simpson, and then as the chief of Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Bruckheimer has produced an unprecedented string of worldwide smashes, impacting not only the industry, but mass culture as well. Bruckheimer’s films include (producing with Don Simpson) “Top Gun,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” “Beverly Hills Cop 2,” “American Gigolo,” “Flashdance,” “Bad Boys,” “Dangerous Minds,” “Crimson Tide,” “The Rock,” and (producing solo) “Con Air,” “Armageddon,” “Enemy of the State,” “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Coyote Ugly,” “Remember the Titans,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Black Hawk Down,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Bad Boys II,” “Veronica Guerin,” “King Arthur,” “National Treasure,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “National Treasure: Book of Secrets” and the 2011 blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.”

On television, Bruckheimer had an unprecedented 10 television series airing in the 2005-6 season, a record in the medium for an individual producer. JBTV’s series include “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation” and its spinoffs “C.S.I.: Miami,” “C.S.I.: NY” and “Without a Trace,” “Cold Case” and the eight-time Emmy® Award-winner “The Amazing Race.”

Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Television have been honored with 41 Academy Award® nominations, six wins, eight GRAMMY® Award nominations, five wins, 23 Golden Globe® nominations, four wins, 105 Emmy® Award nominations, 21 wins, 30 People’s Choice nominations, 15 wins, numerous MTV Awards, including one for Best Picture of the Decade for “Beverly Hills Cop.”

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Roma Downey Creates Christian Pre-School Series

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

LITTLE_ANGELS_ABCs.jpgLittle Angels is a new DVD series created by Executive Producer, Roma Downey, star of the Touched By An Angel TV series. This animated series teaches life lessons to preschoolers through stories from the Bible.

Brother and sister, Alex and Zoe, are two ordinary kids who find that the angels their parents put on their ceiling (decorations) come to life to help them through their daily discoveries and adversities.

KIDS FIRST! reviewed two DVDs in the Little Angels series: ABC’s and Animals. In ABC’s, our main characters, Alex and Zoe, are first introduced to the Angels. They help them learn to read by showing them how you can recognize letters by their shapes and relate them to real life images. Using concepts from the Bible to help them remember, for instance, “J” looks like a fishing hook, like one you might use to catch the Big Fish that ate Jonah – which starts with a “J.” The angels also help Zoe and Alex appreciate each other and treat each other fairly, with honesty and without jealousy.

In Little Angels Animals, the angels make Bible stories come to life, allowing the children to interact with its characters while learning lessons of cooperation and hard work. Throughout, the message that “God Loves You,” helps them navigate their feelings and overcome fears and adversity. When Zoe is afraid of lightning and climbing to the top bunk, she learns from Jonah that facing her fears is less scary than not doing what God wants you to do, and as she chants “God loves me,” she is able to reach the top bunk and overcome her anxiety.

YoungLITTLE_ANGELS_ANIMALS.jpg children from religious families will delight in seeing Alex and Zoe as they are helped by angels and get to talk to characters they’ve only read about – or, since they are preschool-aged, been told about. It is comforting to children of this age to feel as if they are never really alone and they are always loved.

Each vignette is short, three fit nicely into a 30 minute DVD, and you can choose a single episode, or story, at a time. The DVDs also include some special features. Roma Downey explains her underlying idea and gives parents tips for listening to their children. You can watch music videos covering the topics of each of the stories and animated with images from each.

You can purchase these DVDs for $14.99 each at Amazon.com

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Watch for These Preschool Valentines Day Shows on PBS

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

CliffordHeart.jpgTwo of Scholastic Media’s award-winning kids’ television shows celebrate Valentine’s Day this Tuesday, February 14. Follow Clifford and his owner, Emily Elizabeth, as they help friends on everyday adventures that teach life lessons through Clifford’s Big Ideas. An award-winning, top-rated series on PBS KIDS ®, Clifford the Big Red Dog airs Mon.-Fri.

Tuesday, Feb. 14 on PBS KIDS
To show how much he loves her, Clifford works hard to make Emily Elizabeth the perfect valentine. In the end, he learns that it’s his presence, not his presents, that means the most to her.

With some help from K.C., Cleo goes overboard preparing a special gift for Clifford and T-Bone.  When she doesn’t get a big gift in return, Cleo learns to recognize the joy in giving.

VDay.Wordgirl.jpgThe Emmy Award-winning WordGirl airs on PBS KIDS GO! (Check local listings). Whenever there is trouble in The City, fifth-grader Becky Botsford transforms into WordGirl, using super strength and amazing vocabulary to stop quirky villains in their tracks. A special one-hour episode of WordGirl that focuses on bullying and stars Jane Lynch airs Feb. 20 on PBS KIDS.

Tuesday, Feb 14 on PBS KIDS GO!


All the kids at school are making valentines to share with their special friends. But when Victoria Best (Kristen Schaal) runs off with all of the cards, it’s up to WordGirl to stop her and save Valentine’s Day. Vocabulary Words: Flee, Cherish

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Journey 2: Mysterious Island

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

journey2.jpgWatching one of our new youth film critics conduct their first interviews is really one of the most fun parts of my job as their producer and coach. Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying 14-year-old Blake Hawes to the press junket for the new Warner film, Journey 2: Mysterious Island. Blake attended as one of the finalists in our 2012 youth film critics search competition. Today, he was announced as one of our official winners! (Congratulations Blake). Check out his interviews here.
Blake is a truly wonderful young man with the good fortune to have two equally wonderful parents. Both Blake’s Mom and Dad accompanied him at two days of events all over Oahu as we screened the film, met the cast and hung out with the other critics who virtually took Blake under their wings.

All of us loved the film which is a story about a mythical island where small critters become huge and huge ones become miniaturized. The underlying message of the story deals with something many young people can relate to: getting along with a step parent. Dwayne Johnson, who not only stars in the film but is also one of the producers, was beyond kind to Blake – particularly after Blake told him this was his first interview ever. “The Rock’s” response was to stand up and say, “then let’s take a picture.” Afterwards, he coached Blake on his now famous, “pec-pop of love.”

Be sure to take a look at his video review here or read it below:

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is a fun and entertaining movie and offers some brilliant eye candy in some of the most impressive action scenes. Sean Anderson  (Josh Hutcherson) has a new man in his life, his stepfather Hank (Dwayne Johnson). This movie is more about the relationship between Sean and Hank than a mindless cliché adventure movie. Sean grew up with a lot of loss of loved ones and people coming in and out of his life. Sean has trust issues with his new stepdad and doesn’t want to get too close to him, for he’s afraid that he’ll leave him due to his unfortunate past. Hank wants to play a bigger role in Sean’s life and hopes to finally make a bond between them.

Then they uncover the mystery of the Mysterious Island and go on an adventure to find Sean’s long-lost grandfather (Michael Caine). The only way to get to the island is by flying by helicopter. The quirky and fun tour guide (Luis Guzmán) is the comic relief in this huge journey. His daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens) is Sean’s love interest in the movie. The plot itself is easy to understand for younger audiences and it is fun to see how it plays out in the end. The movie is chockfull of massive set pieces, which all are creatively brought to life by cinematography and editing.

Hudgens doesn’t deliver the most believable performance of her career because of the fact that she acts more like a big-city girl than a hardened islander of their destination. But all in all, she has great chemistry between Hutcherson in the movie, and should be commended for it. Guzmán however, delivers some tongue-in-cheek jokes throughout the film. He’ll offer a couple of chuckles throughout the movie for older viewers, but most of his jokes will appeal to the younger audience.

I like this movie because of its frantic action sequences and surprisingly well-suited soundtrack. This movie may be scary for younger viewers at points such as the lizard chase sequences. The intensity and the importance of the given situation during the final act of the movie gives the audience a very good reason to sit on the edge of their seats. Overall, I think the movie is very entertaining and has many great moments. I give it eight out of ten stars.
Nice start Blake. Keep up the good work. We can’t wait to see your next one.

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Media Can Play Important Role in Teaching Character Building Skills

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

HandsOn.pngResults of a new research study released today, “It Starts with Character: Inspiring Kids & Teens to Volunteer” found that kids and teens who have more exposure to character-building skills, such as sharing, being kind and helping others, are more likely to volunteer in their communities, and with greater frequency. The study also found that parents and teachers say that media (TV, film, books, magazines, games, apps and Internet) can play an important role in communicating the value of character education. The study was commissioned by Scholastic Media – a division of Scholastic Inc. – and HandsOn Network – the volunteer enterprise of Points of Light – and administered by C+R Research and MDR.

Among the study’s findings from parent, teacher, kid and teen respondents:

·         Parents (84 percent), teachers (78 percent), kids age 6–11 (73 percent), and teens age 12–17 (64 percent) say character-building skills are among the most important skills to develop along with academic skills in order to be successful in life.

·         The more kids and teens are exposed to character-building skills, the greater their level of interest in volunteering. Additionally, kids and teens who are more exposed to character-building skills volunteer more frequently.

·         Eighty-eight percent of parents and 93 percent of teachers believe that volunteering provides opportunities for children to build character.

·         Ninety-four percent of parents and 98 percent of teachers agree that media can play an important role in teaching kids the value of character education; 63 percent of teachers believe that kids would benefit from more media exposure to lessons about character-building skills.

“This study demonstrates the importance of having curriculum for the heart as well as the head,” said Francie Alexander, Senior Vice President of Scholastic Education and Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic Inc. “At Scholastic, we put the same value on preparing children for good citizenship as we do for careers and college.”

 Findings Coincide With Launch of Fourth Annual ‘Clifford® BE BIG™ In Your Community’

National Contest to Inspire Service and Volunteerism

“This survey reinforces the importance of ensuring that kids are able to discover their power to make a difference in their communities at an early age,” said Michelle Nunn, CEO of Points of Light. “Programs like BE BIG encourage our next generation to act on their potential to make their mark on the world.”

The findings coincide with today’s launch of the fourth annual ‘Clifford BE BIG in Your Community’ national contest, which is designed to inspire engagement in service and volunteerism. Beginning today, the contest invites kids of all ages, teachers, parents and community leaders to submit proposals that demonstrate how Clifford’s BIG Ideas (Share, Help Others, Be Kind, Be Responsible, Play Fair, Be a Good Friend, Believe in Yourself, Have Respect, Work Together and Be Truthful) can make the world a better place. Submitted ideas vie for the chance to win up to $10,000 in community grants from the BE BIG Fund to be used to implement the winning proposals. The mission of the fund is to recognize and reward others for their BIG actions, to catalyze change in local communities, and to provide resources for everyone to share BIG ideas. Entry forms can be found at http://www.scholastic.com/cliffordbebig/contest/; those interested can also explore their local HandsOn Network action center for opportunities to serve in their community at http://www.handsonnetwork.org/actioncenters/map. Complete rules are online at www.scholastic.com/cliffordbebig/contestrules.*

Additional findings of the study include:

  • Teacher, kid and teen survey respondents name Clifford The Big Red Dog® as the character most associated with teaching character-building skills relative to other characters.
  • The vast majority of parents (96 percent), teachers (98 percent), kids (91 percent), and teens (81 percent) surveyed agree that Clifford’s BIG Ideas are valuable/important.

The study was commissioned to examine the role of the BE BIG™ program on civic engagement, as it continues to grow and inspire communities to engage in service. “It Starts with Character: Inspiring Kids & Teens to Volunteer” is a national online survey of more than 1,000 individuals – 250 parents of kids age 2–11, 251 kids age 6–11, 249 teens age 12–17, and 260 kindergarten through second-grade teachers.  The sample was drawn from C+R Research and MDR online panels, and the survey was fielded from October 10, 2011 through October 25, 2011.  The margin of error is +/– 5.2 percent at a 90 percent confidence level. The study results can be viewed online at mediaroom.scholastic.com/clifford and www.handsonnetwork.org/bebig.

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Internet Safety: It’s Everyone’s Business – Advice from IBM

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

2012InternetSafetyDay_1.jpgToday is Safer Internet Day, and IBM is rallying around the globe to help inform students and teachers about how to safely manage their presence online. Here is a blog from Lisa Lanspery who is an IBM employee speaking about Internet Security:

“I frequently get requests from friends asking me how to put controls on their computers for their kids. Although I am not personally an expert on security, I wanted to share the toolsthat IBM has released in conjunction with Safer Internet Day. These tools for Internet safety and controlling one’s identity online can help anyone understand what it means to be digitally responsible.

I am a parent of two children, and their easy access to the Internet scares me. To pass the time in long lines at the supermarket, I will hand my daughter my iPhone so she can play on it or surf the Internet. My two-year-old already knows how to use her pointer finger to “turn pages” online to read an ebook. While I want my children to be digitally savvy, I also know that it is essential for them to learn to be digitally responsible. Teaching digital responsibility to my young children is a key part of my responsibility as a parent.

By the time kids reach middle school, they’re likely to know as much or more about the Internet as their parents. Children use the Internet for schoolwork, to play games, to send email and instant messages, for downloading music, for shopping, and for entering contests. Although they know their way around the web, they may lack the judgment and emotional maturity to steer clear of trouble.

It is everyone’s role to understand the ramifications of their actions online. Parents should make use of IBM’s guides on Cyberbullying, Internet Safety Coaching, and Controlling Your Online Identity as a starting point to learn more about protecting their children (and themselves) online.

Please check out this post from IBM’s Security Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer discussing how your “individual actions can make the difference to protect your reputation, your physical safety, your financial information, and the integrity and safety of the digital devices and networks that you may use and that our society relies upon.”

Lisa Lanspery is Manager of Corporate Communications at IBM, and the mother of two young children.

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