The KIDS FIRST! Endorsement category has 2129 titles

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Series: FEATURE, AGES 5 - 12
Description - A boy with an active imagination faces his fears on an unforgettable journey through the night with his new friend: a giant, smiling creature named Dark.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The film Orion and the Dark is a family friendly film that includes various types of emotions such as sad, happy, afraid and more. I love the animation and the contrast between the light and dark.

The storyline follows a boy named Orion (Jacob Temblay). Orion is terrified of the dark until one night an entity named Dark comes to his house to show him there is no reason to be afraid. He takes Orion with him to show him his job. In the process, Dark takes Orion to see the other night entities. Everytime he goes to see all the night entities' jobs he ends up messing them up. Orion explains to the other night entities how Light is amazing and Dark is bad. Dark overhears him and thinks nobody likes him. All the other night entities quit because they want to see how the Light is. Dark has to do his job all by himself now. Dark doesn't want to do his job alone so he goes into the light and disappears. Orion gets all the night entities back together to save Dark. To do that dream goes in his imagination and finds Dark there. In the end Orion likes the dark and appreciates them now because without dark it was too light.

My favorite part of this film is when Dark takes Orion to see his job. I think it is so cool to see Dark and Orion fly through the sky. I also enjoy watching the night entities doing their job. I especially love Dream's job. It is amazing how Dream goes into people's imagination and makes their dreams out of something that has happened in their life. It is very surprising when the audience realizes that Orion and the Dark is a story that future Orion is telling his daughter, explaining how he gets over his fear of the dark.

The film's message is to face your fears because if you don't you will miss out on life. At the end, Orion faces his fear! He just does it and he feels better. He feels like he can accomplish and do anything now.

I give Orion And The Dark 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. This film starts streaming on Netflix February 2, 2024.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10
Juror Recommended Age: 5-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - A country singer falls for the girl of his dreams and has to choose between love and his dreams of stardom in Nashville.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A Nashville Wish is the romantic country film of a lifetime. Combining drama, country music, and romance, this film is engaging and enjoyable. It has strong acting, pleasant music and, for the most part, an excellent storyline.

This film follows Tucker (Maxfield Camp) as he navigates the ups and downs of his musical career and his relationship throughout his senior year of high school and the following summer. Tucker has a dream relationship with his longtime crush, the cheer captain, Lisa (Kaileigh Bullard). However, this relationship begins to create more obstacles and challenges for Tucker as he is forced to decide whether the greatest love of his life is worth sacrificing the possibility of his lifelong dream, to record music in Nashville. With Lisa's parents disapproving of Tucker, their long term plan for her in the family business, and her reputation in town, she also has to make a difficult decision.

The characters in A Nashville Wish are portrayed meaningfully and emotionally. Tucker and Lisa are both very dynamic characters who have deep, personal backstories. For example, we discover that some of Tucker's motives are due to a family loss a few years back. This demonstrates even further the depth of each character and how much effort went into creating these characters and bringing them to life onscreen. The acting fully mirrors the talent of the writers. Maxfield Camp and Kaileigh Bullard have amazing chemistry as a couple throughout the highs and lows of their onscreen relationship. They are so genuine; it truly seems like they're in love. Maxfield wonderfully accentuates Tucker's changes through a variety of conflicts, emotions, friendships and so much more. To match the spectacular characters and acting, the music is fantastic and fits the movie in every way. Despite not being a big country music fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the songs that are incorporated at every twist and turn of the plot. They help express the characters' emotions and thoughts, and also help with the setting and mood of the film. The tone of the music always matches the events occurring in the film. While the songs help move the story along, the story is a bit lacking at times. Although the plot and the concept is unique and very engaging, some of the subplots failed to engage me and ended up slowing down the movement of the story. For example, parts of the film focus on Tucker's best friend, Chewy (Fletcher Olsen). Although the character and the acting are perfect for the film, some of the storyline involving him is really unnecessary and slow.

The theme of A Nashville Wish is that when difficult decisions come around in life, it's important to think long and hard about your priorities so you don't make irrational decisions. Tucker's big decision is the main focal point of the film and this message is emphasized through his character and his decisions.

I give A Nashville Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can watch A Nashville Wish in theaters beginning February 2, 2024, and on video on demand beginning February 27, 2024.

By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

With a foot-tapping score, A Nashville Wish is a classic family watch that delivers exactly what it promises -- a high school romance with some country music.

In a small town in West Virginia, high school senior Tucker (Maxfield Camp) has big dreams to travel to Nashville and cement his career as a country music star with his best friend Chewie (Fletcher Olson) after graduation. He falls in love with the beautiful cheerleader Lisa (Kaileigh Bullard), and she's smitten by him as well after a serendipitous event at a concert where their favorite artist Cassie Jo Campbell (Alexis Gomez) is playing. There's just one problem -- Lisa comes from a wealthy family who owns a prominent business in town, and her parents won't let her go to Nashville with Tucker. Lisa defies her parents, and all is set. But in a conveniently-timed scene, right before they leave for Nashville, Chewie tells her that she will ruin Tucker's chances of becoming a star and convinces her to dump Tucker and stay home. Now Tucker is heartbroken in Nashville, and Lisa is heartbroken in West Virginia. Viewers will see how the two get back together -- if at all -- and the role Cassie Jo Campbell plays in Tucker's life.

There's no diving deep into emotions, psyche, or similar here; A Nashville Wish is among the leagues of Hallmark-esque films releasing each year, which is perfectly fine. It works as good, clean family entertainment. The acting is passable, with Camp and Olson, ironically enough, having the best chemistry with one another. A couple scenes are interestingly staged, including a musical interlude where Tucker and Lisa are in the middle of a field alone...except for a truck full of singers behind them. The cinematography is good, though, with lots of medium shots and closeups that squeeze as much emotion out of the script as possible. The music is the most striking element, as it should be in a country music-centric film. Admittedly, I'm not a country connoisseur, but the songs are amazing, both in terms of the vocals and production quality. Lee Greenwood is the most recognizable voice as Grandpa Woods. T. Graham Brown sings a country and gospel song, and the film leads Maxfield Camp, Kaileigh Bullard, and Alexis Gomez do as well.

A Nashville Wish promotes following your passion and finding a balance between personal and professional aspirations by focusing on the professional first, and then letting the personal fall into place.

I give A Nashville Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 plus adults. You can watch A Nashville Wish in theaters beginning February 2, 2024, and on video on demand beginning February 27, 2024.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

A Nashville Wish is a moving musical with an inspiring success story. It is set in the countryside and told by interesting, dynamic characters and impressive musical performances. I love the encouraging environment the movie creates with characters who provide support for one another.

The movie follows a recent high school graduate, Tucker (Maxfield Camp), who is an aspiring country singer. Tucker and his best friend Chewy (Fletcher Olson) are ready to hit the road to Nashville to become stars when Tucker's dream girl, Lisa (Kaileigh Bullard), a popular cheerleader from a prestigious but strict family, suddenly and unexpectedly takes an interest in him. Unfortunately, Lisa's parents are disapproving of Tucker's plan, forcing Tucker to make a decision that could change the course of his future.

One thing I love about A Nashville Wish is that Tucker has a great support system - the encouragement from his family and friends is clear from the beginning. Chewy and Tucker have shared the same dream of moving to Nashville to become famous since they were in fourth grade. It is nice that Tucker has a friend who shares his interests. And for many artists, gaining family approval presents a challenge, but this is not an obstacle Tucker faces, as his parents and grandfather (Lee Greenwood) truly believe in his star potential and urge him to pursue his passions. I admire Tucker's perseverance as well. At times, his life is hard, such as when he is struggling for money in Nashville. But music is Tucker's dream for a very long time - he never considers giving up on it, and eventually he finds success and stardom! The singing in the movie is also worthy of praise - all the main actors have vocal training and a background in music, adding to the film's authenticity. A Nashville Wish takes you on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, from the move to Nashville and arguments with Chewy to Tucker's date with Lisa at a Cassie Jo Campbell (Alexis Gomez) concert. Tucker's duet with Cassie makes the film wholesome and brings it full circle.

A Nashville Wish reminds us that determination is vital to succeed. It's what drives you to go for your biggest goals, even when the world deals you a tricky hand. It's also a reminder to keep your eyes on the prize and trust that the small things will work themselves out - the universe has a plan for you. So stay focused and remember to thank the people who believe in you!

I give A Nashville Wish 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. A Nashville Wish releases in theaters beginning February 2, 2024, and on video on demand beginning February 27, 2024.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ 9 Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - The relationship between Eugenie, an esteemed cook, and Dodin, the gourmet she has been working for over the last 20 years. Growing fonder of one another, their bond turns into a romance and gives rise to delicious dishes that impress even the world's most illustrious chefs. When Dodin is faced with Eugenie's reluctance to commit to him, he decides to start cooking for her.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A leisurely, luminous portrait of love, culture and cuisine, The Taste of Things is a feast for the eyes. It's all about partnership through a shared passion, conveying feelings through fewer words and baked Alaska. With such deep themes and beautiful visuals, no wonder it's France's selection for this year's Academy Awards.

The Taste of Things is a tough movie to summarize. It's about so much more than its plot... but here goes. The film takes place entirely in a 19th century French manor, mostly in its warmly-lit, wood-accented kitchen and centers on the bonds between the characters. Dodin Bouffant (Benoit Magimel), an esteemed gourmet partly based on real-life gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin, oversees the meal, helps with the cooking and visits with his group of friends. His partner in the kitchen, Eugenie (Juliette Binoche), beams as she whips up dozens of French culinary marvels. They have two assistants, who seem more like daughters, the teen Violette (Galatea Bellugi) and her niece Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire). This scene unfolds each day for years. The film follows Dodin's and Eugenie's romance as it evolves from unspoken partnership to marriage to separation by illness, as well as how the younger members of the kitchen grow.The Taste of Things is a film about indulgence -- in food, in love, in family. It also shows viewers that truly powerful relationships are those that transcend labels and that are bound by shared love for one another and, in this case, a shared passion. It shows viewers that food is inextricably tied to love, life and joy. Be forewarned that the film does contain scenes with partial nudity and smoking.

I give The Taste of Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Taste of Things releases on February 9, 2024 in theaters and is an Oscar nominee.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Cady Heron is a hit with the Plastics, an A-list girl clique at her new school. But everything changes when she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Get in losers! The iconic Mean Girls is back in its new modern day adaptation for a new generation of fans to enjoy. As a brilliant combination of the 2004 movie and the Broadway musical, this film is stunning, entertaining and the perfect movie to start the New Year!

Mean Girls borrows the same storyline as the original film, with plenty of plot twists. The film is presented as a story narrated by Janice (Auli'i Cravalho) and Damien (Jaquel Spivey). It follows Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), a new student at North Shore High School who moved to the US from Kenya. She makes friends with Janice and Damien, and eventually crosses paths with Regina George (Rene� Rapp), Gretchen Weiners (Bebe Wood) and Karen Shetty (Avantika), also known as "The Plastics." When Cady is sent to spy on The Plastics by Janice and Damien, it sets off a series of chain reactions including drama, betrayal, and getting hit by a bus.

Fans of both the original Mean Girls movie and the Mean Girls Broadway musical will not be disappointed. My favorite song was "Someone Gets Hurt" sung by Renee Rapp. From her gorgeous vocals and the beautiful scenery, this performance is so mesmerizing that it could have been a stand-alone music video. I love that they include other songs from the Broadway show like "Apex Predator" and "Revenge Party" as well as new ones. I also love the special cameo appearances and newly discovered facts about the original characters; both of which really add depth to the film. I love how the movie includes things like social media and other references to things unavailable in 2004. I watched this film in theaters and there were so many places where I just wanted to pause or rewind it because they were so mind blowing. This is a movie I would love to see again!

The film's message is to be yourself and not get caught up with the wrong people. Cady was so fed up of "living the life" with The Plastics that she betrays her true friends and loses the smart and sweet girl she originally was. Parents should be aware that there is foul language as well as suggestive topics and special effects that are so realistic they will make you gasp.

I give Mean Girls 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18, plus adults. Be sure to watch after the credits for a very short post credits scene. Be sure to check out Mean Girls in theaters now!

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I like the musical remake film Mean Girls because of its interesting plot and enjoyable characters. It's very relatable for teenagers and hilariously entertaining to watch.

The film follows Cady who moves to a new town where a notorious popular clique runs the local high school. She becomes close with them to spy on them for her other friends and get closer to a guy. In the process, her acting isn't as fake anymore.

The main characters are Cady Heron (Angourie Rice), Janis 'Imi'ike (Auli'i Cravalho), Regina George (Rene� Rapp), Damian Hubbard (Jaquel Spivey), Karen Shetty (Avantika), Gretchen Wieners (Bebe Wood) and Aaron Samuels (Christopher Briney). The casting is perfect in the film. The actors are not only wonderful, but they portray the characters in the original movie. They all have different and unique personalities. Mean Girls has many musical numbers. The characters randomly break out into song, which is a bit cheesy at some points, but it makes it stand apart from the original movie. The camerawork is magnificent because it captures the whole setting of the kids at school and their personal interactions. The lighting really stand out during the musical numbers where it enhances the contrast between the singer and the rest of the cast. When Regina is singing, she is illuminated while the rest of the cast is standing still, unlit and frozen. I applaud the producer, Tina Fey, who also plays Ms. Norbury. Speaking of a previous cast member, there is a special cameo appearance of the original Cady Heron by Lindsay Lohan. I recommend watching the original Mean Girls (2004) because there are many iconic scenes that are included in this film. The inclusion of those scenes makes me appreciate the movie even more. My favorite part of the film is its humor. There is a lot of it and it made me laugh a lot while watching it. Important to mention is that the humor is all based on things that today's teens can relate to. The term "text slang" is used as well as other new and trending concepts and words.

The film's message is to be yourself and don't pretend to be someone you're not. Cady wants to become like Regina, but she learns that her true self is what makes her special. This film has foul language and the use of many inappropriate terms.

I give Mean Girls 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Mean Girls releases in theaters January 12, 202

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Do you have what it takes to be on top of the social food chain? Join the clique, the Plastics, and get ready to watch the reimagined, iconic 2004 Mean Girls movie this winter with friends and family!

Cady (Angourie Rice) is the new kid at North Shore High, where she befriends Janice (Auli'i Cravalho) and Damian (Jaquel Spivey). Regina George (Renee Rapp), Karen (Avantika Vandanapu) and Gretchen (Bebe Wood) take Cady in as one of the Plastics. When Cady falls for Regina's ex she finds herself in her cross hairs and, while being part of the Plastics, Cady betrays her true friends Janice and Damian. Through the film, Cady realizes that she was wrong and that should just be herself and make it up to Janice and Damian. She learns that everyone is special and should be recognized for that.

What I enjoy the most about this film are the stunning show tunes. I love the catchy rhythm and voices of the actors! My favorite song is "Someone Gets Hurt." I also really like the costume designs. The costumes have a modern Y2K style, which Gen Z teens can relate to. Another thing worth mentioning is the cast. Each actor plays their character perfectly and has their own spin on the classic characters. For example, Bebe Wood allows the audience to feel the emotions of Gretchen on a deeper level. When Regina bosses her around, Gretchen gets fed up with having to deal with Regina to the point that she doesn't let Regina sit with them at lunch when she breaks one of the Plastics rules. Kudos to the casting director. I really love how this film reimagines the original Mean Girls. I love how they keep the iconic lines and songs in this film. Lastly I love the set designs, especially those during the musical numbers that are bright and on theme.

The film's message is to focus on yourself and be nice because everyone in this world just wants to coexist. This film teaches us that we are special in our own way and we should not try to be someone we are not. We should not have to change who we are just to fit in. Please be advised that there is harsh language and other age-inappropriate content in this film.

I give Mean Girls 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Mean Girls is available in theaters now.

By Valerie R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: Web Series

Series: TV SERIES, AGES 12-18
Description - An Apple Original Series from Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman - the producers of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. During World War II, airmen risk their lives with the 100th Bomb Group, a brotherhood forged by courage, loss, and triumph. Masters of the Air is based on the 2007 book Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany by Donald L. Miller and follows the actions of the 100th Bomb Group, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber unit in the Eighth Air Force in eastern England during World War II. The series serves as a companion to Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010). It is the first series to be produced by Apple Studios, in cooperation with Playtone, and Amblin Television.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Masters of the Air is exactly the kind of masterpiece viewers expect from the dynamic duo of Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Perfect for fans of war dramas, Masters of the Air has the rich plotline and sky-high production quality to not only entertain, but even educate its viewers; it's a shame that the pacing lets the magnificent series down slightly.

Adapted from Donald L. Miller's book of the same name, Masters of the Air presents in nine episodes the story of eleven men who, in a plane called the "Flying Fortress," battle flocks of German fighters. These men were a part of the 100th Bombardment Group of the US Army Air Forces in World War II, nicknamed the "Bloody Hundredth," due to the heavy losses they suffered over the course of their campaigns. They embark on a scintillating journey as they work to destroy Hitler's Third Reich. It's truly a momentous story.

Both Band of Brothers and The Pacific, the films that Masters of Air is linked with (it provides the Air Force narrative to supplement their stories of terrestrial and naval warfare) are well-known for their incredible visuals and CGI. Masters of Air is no different; the midair combat is almost dizzyingly realistic, the sets are stunningly crafted, and every character's look is intricately pieced together. The series warrants a theater experience, which viewers unfortunately won't get. These amazing VFX are thanks to the high production budget of the film -- between $200 million and $250 million. The series also has some incredible talent behind it, though; Austin Butler, who plays Major Gale Cleven, and Barry Keoghan, who plays Lt. Curtis Biddick, headline Masters of the Air, and their brotherhood and bond is palpable. Their storyline becomes especially strong after an unfortunate turn of events when they're taken as prisoners of war. The only knock on Masters of the Air is its pacing; every episode feels lengthy, but the first two episodes are especially rough. It was tough to sit and wait for the plot to get moving, though there are combat scenes after the first half-hour of episode 1. I suppose it took me some time to get used to Cary Joji Fukunaga's style of direction, though he ensures that every part of each scene he films has not a hair out of place, which is commendable.

Masters of the Air is a lesson in patriotism, courage and resilience. The men of the show stick together even when death is at their doorstep -- not just for their own pride or sanity, but more importantly, for their country.

I give Masters of the Air 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The first two episodes of this miniseries will release on Apple TV+ on January 26, 2024. New episodes will be released the following Fridays through March 15.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: TV

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - A 25-yr-old influencer struggles to cling on to her status but is running out of tricks. Will she have to separate her online persona from her authentic self?
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Under The Influencer is one of the most optimistic films I've ever seen! You get a taste of what it's like behind the scenes in a social media influencer's life, including all the struggles and accomplishments, too. Not everything turns out as planned and life gets in the way, which makes for a great film for those on a journey to finding themself.

We follow Tori (Taylor Scorse) as her YouTube account following begins slowly plummeting but that's all she eats, sleeps, and breathes. During this time she is not only desperately trying to find ways to fix it, but is also trying to heal from a messy Internet break up . Throughout this time Tori is coming to terms with the fact that her personal life and her social media life might need to cross paths, but she is not comfortable with making that happen. She enjoys learning new things about herself but struggles to grasp the fact that her content is taking over her life, and not in a good way. Tori hits complete rock bottom, and that's when she starts to make a breakthrough. She lets go of some people and has new experiences with others that affect her for the better. As for locations, from the sunsets to the mansions the settings were great. The acting was pretty spot on as well and some of the characters make their mark when it comes to learning the life lessons. Overall this film is great and watching it unravel will definitely prompt emotions in audiences.

Under The Influencer is relatable and shows realistic challenges for not just influencers but all people, too. When you see what the true meaning behind this film is it really touches the heart. Tori starts to see how social media is crushing the real her behind the mask she puts on. And yet she is not completely alone, as her best friend and employee Sara (Chandler Young) helps her through her journey of showing who she really is. Tori never really stays low when she gets knocked down; she just keeps learning and doing what's best for her.

The film's message is to not be afraid to show the world the real you. You never know what is going to happen or change in your life. So learn from the mistakes you make to improve yourself.

I give Under the Influencer 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Under The Influencer is available now on VOD!

By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Under The Influencer is an amazing tale of social media and self-identity. The topics are very relatable and modern to teens as well as others.

The plot of this film centers around a girl named Tori who has a large following on her YouTube channel. No matter what she does though, the channel gets a large amount of hateful comments on it for no reason. As the film progresses she begins to resent the life she's built and the tension continues as the plot develops.

One of the most exquisite parts of this film is simply how relatable it is today. The presence of social media and the hate that spirals from it is not uncommon. This sort of tension is what a lot of people face now with the influence of the internet growing as rapidly as it has. It helps the film's relatability to teens and other influencers. Another spectacular part of the film that is very interesting to see is the way they portray YouTube channels as a type of business or enterprise. Rather than just one person filming videos in their basement they showed a team of people working to plan everything out perfectly and keep the image of the influencer intact. It's one of the reasons the fans of the fictional channel in the film thought everything was so fake. It just didn't seem genuine. Going off of that another really important part of the movie is the way the fans react when the content is fake vs genuine. People like to see the real and unfiltered side of people on YouTube and other social media platforms rather than just the scripted highlights of others' lives. It makes the whole thing a lot more relatable.

The film's message is to just be yourself and never change or destroy yourself for others, because that's never going to get anyone anywhere.

I give Under The Influencer 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film is available now on DVD and VOD.

By Avalon N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 15

Under the Influencer is an uplifting and satisfying film with a very important message. Romance is blended with working and friendship elements, which gives it a little bit of everything. The acting and writing deliver an important message, despite some slower patches in the film.

Under the Influencer follows Tori (Taylor Joree Scorse) as she starts off as a very successful influencer. Her views and popularity start to decline significantly, and she can't figure out why. She realizes that, not only has she lost the approval and support of fans, but she's also lost herself. She put all of her effort and focus into her social media persona. When she can no longer rely on fame and positivity, she takes off on a journey to determine who she really is when she's not in front of a camera. She has to figure out what she, not the girl on the camera, enjoys.

The highlight of this film is how the message is incorporated in a way that not only emphasizes it, but also keeps it entertaining and related to the storyline and the protagonist. Taylor Joree Scorse places such a strong emphasis on this message through her acting. She lets her emotions shine through; demonstrating how being lost and not knowing who she is affects her. She uses her facial expressions and body language to accentuate the theme, plus, her dialogue allows the message to shine through. There are lines and moments when her inner struggle is so clear -- she doesn't know who to be, and the things she says or doesn't say really show the impact this has on her. The ending wraps up the film so nicely, tying the new romantic element into the message, and leaving viewers with a positive feeling. While this part of the film is very enjoyable, there are definitely some weaker aspects. There are a few stretches that seem unnecessarily long and get a bit boring. There are some very important scenes and moments within these stretches, but there's a bit too much extraneous stuff that takes away from the stronger, more important parts of the film.

The film's message is that finding yourself is the most important thing in life. It's easy to get lost in pretending to be someone else, especially as a social media influencer who's constantly trying to please other people. This theme makes the film uplifting, encouraging people to find parts of themselves they either didn't know they had or wanted to hide before.

I give Under the Influencer 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. You can watch Under the Influencer on VOD beginning December 12, 2023.

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - From Academy Award winning and internationally acclaimed filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, The Boy And The Heron follows the incredible journey of young Mahito. After he experiences the tragic loss of his mother, Mahito settles into a new town that is anything but ordinary. After several strange encounters with a grey heron, Mahito goes on a search for his mother that leads him to a magical world unknown.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Boy And The Heron, directed by Hayao Miyazaki is a very unique Japanese film. The amazing high quality sound effects and suspenseful background music are spectacular. However, this film does get confusing very quickly.

This semi-autobiographical animated movie follows the story of young Mahito Maki (Soma Santoki), who tragically loses his mother in a fire and moves to the country with his dad Shoichi (Takuya Kimura) and his step-mom Natsuko (Yoshino Kimura). Action soon rises after Mahito interacts with a talking gray heron (Masaki Suda) who is revealed to be a shapeshifting avian guide. The gray heron alludes to Mahito's mother still being alive and Mahito goes on a journey to find her.

The sound effects in The Boy And The Heron enhance the film tremendously. Even though this film is animated the sound effects make it seem almost as if it is a live action film. From realistic deep footsteps to the realistic sounds of crashing ocean waves; sound director K�ji Kasamatsu absolutely brought this movie to life. I also enjoyed the background music throughout this film. The music by Joe Hisaishi creates suspenseful and surprising moments that kept me engaged throughout my viewing experience. My favorite scene in the movie is when Mahito and a fisherwomen named Kiriko (K� Shibasaki) watch the Warwara (creatures whole embody both life and death) be released into the normal world. The music is beautiful and creates a sense of awe and wonder. Who could forget the gorgeous animation by the world renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki? Every scene in this movie is animated to perfection. For example, when Mahito first enters this new world he lands on an island surrounded by a vast deep blue ocean and stormy clouds. The ocean waves crash very fluidly and the clouds are different shades of purple and move very realistically. The detail and fluidity of the animation does not go unnoticed. As much as I like this film, I did find it somewhat confusing. Over the course of two hours we primarily follow the main character searching for his mother, but this plot is somewhat drowned out by many other side plots taking place, which makes things murky and difficult to track.

The film's message is to not let grief hold you back and to find different healthy ways to move on. However, this film delivers this message in a very confusing way. It's important to note that this movie contains mentions of self-harm, minor cursing, gore and small jump scares that could be frightening to younger audiences.

I give The Boy And The Heron 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters December 8, 2023. Make sure you give it a watch!

By Tia O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

The film The Boy and The Heron is unlike any film I've ever seen before. I was in awe with the beautiful scenery and the music that goes from simple piano notes to complex orchestrations.

The storyline follows a family living during a time of war in Tokyo. Tragically, the main character, Mahito Maki's (Soma Santoki) mother dies in a fire at the hospital where she works. Years later, Mahito and his father move from Tokyo to start a new life with his new step-mother. Outside this new home, Mahito is drawn to a gray heron that seems to be taunting him and leading him to a tower on the property. His step-mother, Natsuko, (Yoshino Kimura) disappears and Mahito follows the heron into the tower in search of her. Entering the tower brings him into another world where he meets his mother from another time and together they race to find Natsuko while battling many obstacles such as pelicans, parakeets and the heron's sneaky and selfish ways.

I love the character, Kiriko (Ko Shibasaki), both in her younger and older self. She is helpful and fierce and stays by Mahito's side. The ship she lives on in the strange tower world is so beautiful and the idea of her taking care of the warawara before they float into our world and are born as human beings shows how nurturing she is. I really enjoy how this movie makes me think and make connections between parallel worlds. I knew that Lady Himi was going to be his mom and when I realized that he was meeting her during the year she vanished into the tower when she was younger, my mind was blown as the puzzle came together. I was also shocked when Natsuko said that Mahito's mom is her sister! There are many twists and turns in this film that kept me on the edge of my seat. The artistry in the animation, by Hayao Miyazaki, is really neat to watch and made me want to research and learn more about the film and about anime.

The film's message is to find acceptance after the loss of a loved one and to find peace during a time of turmoil. Mahito struggles with personal grief while his country is also struggling during a period of war.

I give The Boy and The Heron 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This film releases in theaters December 8, 2023.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - While visiting a Christmas market in her Norwegian town, eight-year-old Mariann discovers an unbelievable secret: on the top shelf of the lottery booth, a teddy bear has just moved his head and started sniffing. Feeling an instant connection with the living toy, Mariann can't think of any better wish for Christmas and tries to win him. However, Teddy (voiced by Zachary Levi) has different plans, dreaming of a wealthy owner who can teach him everything the world has to offer. But when Teddy is taken away to a woodshed, his new best friend, the hedgehog Bolla, helps him realize what really counts in life.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I like the film Teddy's Christmas because Teddy's character (Zachary Levi) makes me laugh and so does the hedgehog, Bolla (Lene Kongsvik Johansen), when they are stuck together in the basement learning to cuddle. I like how the film looks like it is from an older era. As soon as you see the snow and decor you know it is Christmas. It is very seasonal.

The storyline is about a teddy bear that can talk. Marianne goes to town for an almond and ends up playing a carnival game where she sees Teddy move so she attempts to win, and does! Teddy moves the wheel because he wants to go with someone who has more money than her. She goes home to get another coin to play again but before she comes back another man wins Teddy. She goes and tries to find the man but fails.

I love Teddy's character and I also enjoyed Marianne (Marte Klerck-Nilssen) and her brother's close knit relationship. You can tell they love each other. The storyline has unexpected events and is adventurous. Marianne definitely has a big imagination and I wish I had a big imagination like hers. My favorite part is when Teddy and the hedgehog are in the basement and then the hedgehog starts doing a song and dance. It is a great musical moment. She does multiple dances and waves her arms around senselessly while attempting to get Teddy to cuddle. I love how when she dances it sounds like she makes up her own language. I also enjoy when her grandpa comes to the room in a Santa Claus costume and pretends as though he is the real Santa Claus. He delivers presents and afterwards Marianne approaches him and asks if it was him. He says, "yes, but don't tell anyone." She must be extremely smart to have figured that out! The film was made in Norway and it is interesting to see all their different traditions and meals. At first, I was distracted because the words they speak don't match the movement of the actors' mouths, but then I realized that is because the actors are speaking in a different language. I got used to it pretty quickly.

The film's message is to appreciate who you are and what you have. Teddy wants to be someone he isn't and go places he can't and he isn't happy until he realizes he is in a great place already. He is meant to be cuddled and now he has a whole family to cuddle with.

I give Teddy's Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8, plus adults. This film releases in theaters December 1, 2023.

By Avalynn G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

I like the film Teddy's Christmas. The acting is absolutely superb; the plot is adorable and filled with Christmas spirit. I loved all the different settings and was particularly interested in the smooth character development of Teddy.

The story follows 8-year-old Mariann (Marte Klerck).While visiting a Christmas market in her Norwegian town; she spots a talking teddy bear at a carnival game booth. However, when someone else wins it, she takes off on a mission to find it but ends up causing a lot of damage instead.

This is a really good film that I really enjoyed. The acting of Marte Klerk as Mariann is amazing --he really portrays the character well, which greatly influences the entirety of the film. She has such a noticeable spark throughout the film. I also really enjoy the character, Mom (Mariann Hole) in the film. She really brings this character to life, particularly in the scene where Teddy learns what a hug is. That is so adorable because his first hug was with a hedgehog who thinks she is un-huggable. The ending is filled with so much kindness and Christmas spirit it inspired me in many ways. My favorite aspect of the whole film is Teddy (John F. Brungot.) John's voice acting is a perfect match for this role, which is a somewhat sarcastic yet loving character. At the beginning of the film all Teddy wants is a rich owner who can take him places. In fact he originally doesn't like Marianne simply because she is a child and doesn't have money, but at the end you can see how much he has matured since the beginning. It touched my heart to see how far he came in his emotional journey. Additionally the settings such as the snowy Christmas market are very realistic and beautiful, especially the Christmas Market game stand. It is super colorful and an adorable little tent.

The firm's message is to always be honest and know that sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the greater good. Parents should be aware that Marianne's behavior is rather suggestive at times.

I give Teddy's Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. You can watch it in theaters beginning December 1, 2023.

By Sofia T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Teddy's Christmas, directed by Andrea Eckerbom, is a heartwarming animated gem celebrating the magic of Christmas. The enchanting story of eight-year-old Mariann and her connection with the sentient Teddy is a delightful blend of nostalgia and whimsy. Zachary Levi's captivating voice work and seamless animation make this Norwegian tale a festive treat for all ages.

In Teddy's Christmas, the enchanting story unfolds in a Norwegian town during the festive season. Eight-year-old Mariann (Marte Klerck-Nilssen) discovers a magical secret at a Christmas market - a teddy bear named Teddy comes to life! Determined to make him her own, Mariann faces unexpected challenges as Teddy dreams of a worldly adventure. Alongside his newfound friend, Bolla (Lene Kongsvik Johansen), the hedgehog, the film takes us on a heartwarming journey exploring the true meaning of friendship and the joy of the holiday season.

This heartwarming tale is a must-see for anyone who embraces the holiday spirit and shares the season's joy with loved ones. Bringing Teddy's Christmas to life is a talented cast led by Marte Klerck-Nilssen as the charming eight-year-old Mariann. The chemistry between Klerck-Nilssen and the animated character Teddy, voiced by the charismatic Zachary Levi, is a standout feature that adds a layer of enchantment to the film. The seamless animation compliments the festive and immersive sets of the Norwegian town's Christmas market. The costuming attention to detail and overall visual design create a cozy and magical atmosphere. One of my favorite aspects is Zachary Levi's voice work for Teddy, infusing the character with personality and charm. The whimsical music further enhances the enchanting experience, making it a memorable and heartwarming holiday film.

At its heart, Teddy's Christmas carries a poignant message about the true meaning of friendship, love, and the joy of giving during the holiday season. The film successfully emphasizes the importance of cherishing moments with loved ones and valuing the simple joys of life.

I give Teddy's Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. You can catch the magic of Teddy's Christmas releases in theaters starting on December 1, 2023.

by Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 5-8 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: Web Series

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Writer, actor, filmmaker, studio head and media titan, Tyler Perry, is America's consummate multihyphenate. But underneath this entertainment behemoth is a man working humbly to heal his childhood trauma by transforming his pain into promise. Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story, a nod to his mother's love, is a tender and intimate portrait of visionary and innovator Tyler Perry: his harrowing but faithful road to the top of an industry that didn't always include him. With unfettered access, directors/filmmakers Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz lead us into the inner-world of a man, whose story has never fully been told, as he becomes a father and a media mogul with a mission to pave his own road to the top. The product is a profound lesson on remembering where you came from to know where you want to go.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story is a beautiful movie. This documentary is so inspiring with lessons on the importance of forgiveness, faith and perseverance. And I learned so much about Tyler Perry!

The movie reveals the childhood trauma that Tyler Perry went through and shows how he became the most successful African American filmmaker we all know. It's also a tribute to his late mother, Maxine, hence the title of the movie.

According to co-directors Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz, this movie took ten years to make. I had no idea what Tyler went through as a child because he had a pretty private life, so it was incredible to learn more about him and see how strong he is. We already know about his success, but in this documentary, we get to see all the challenges he faced. It highlights many aspects of his life like his faith, his abusive father, his previous studios, the start of his famous character Madea and the impact he had on the movie industry. Something else that is interesting that I learned about from this film is that Tyler Perry's newest studio is on an old confederate army base in Atlanta, which really makes this movie come full circle. The beauty of this rich documentary is that it provides so many different points of views from so many different people and perspectives. We hear from his supporters, his haters, his family, and his friends, such as Oprah Winfrey, Ozzie Areu, Gayle King and Ari Emanuel. In addition to hearing from all of these people, the movie also uncovers never-before-seen videos of Maxine Perry, Tyler's mom, which is really special since she has passed away and she's the movie's namesake.

The film's message is all about forgiveness. Even after all the abuse, Tyler was able to forgive and move on from his trauma, which really allowed him to grow. Be aware that this movie deals with abuse, has a few graphic images and also some profanity. I give Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases on Prime Video on November 17, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. But unintended consequences see Carol shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to an anomalous wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with that of Jersey City super-fan, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel, and Carol's estranged niece, now S.A.B.E.R. astronaut Captain Monica Rambeau. Together, this unlikely trio must team-up and learn to work in concert to save the universe as "The Marvels."
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - While it is far from perfect, The Marvels is a captivating film filled with adventure and laughter. It has unexpected twists and turns around every corner that help make it an entertaining movie.

The Marvels centers around members of the Avengers. Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), better known as Captain Marvel, has found herself and her superpowers linked with Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and new teenage superhero Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), aka Miss Marvel. These three powerful women must team up to stop Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), the ruler of a struggling civilization who has set her eyes on taking resources from thriving planets. However many secrets about Carol's past resurface as they do so.

Iman Vellani's performance as Kamala Khan overpowers the movie with a new side of joy to the MCU. Her explosive personality bursts through the screen as a huge highlight throughout the entire film. I love her character as she brings it to life with a passion. There are so many insane plot twists throughout the film and, while most are a great addition to the plot, a few get a little too crazy for my liking; though they aren't wild enough to drag the movie down. I enjoyed the plot being based around three strong women who are in charge. It's something not seen as often in superhero movies, especially in the past, but the MCU has been doing it a lot recently and it's very empowering. My favorite part of the movie is towards the beginning when Monica, Kamala and Carol first discover their powers have been entangled and they find themselves fighting soldiers in three different places and switching back and forth between locations throughout the battle. It's super fun to watch and my eyes were glued to the screen.

The message of The Marvels is that true friends and family will love you and always be there for you no matter what. Carol learns this throughout the movie as she sometimes worries about what the people who care for her will think about her past; eventually, she accepts that they will love her for who she is now and not what she's done before.

I give The Marvels 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters November 10, 2023.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

The Marvels is a blockbuster film, filled with action and adventure. It is highly engaging while still staying true to the message throughout the entire movie.

In this film viewers are reunited with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) for a second time, in this sequel to Captain Marvel. The plot follows Captain Marvel, along with her little cousin who isn't so small anymore. After experimenting with the power of time and universes, the two powerful women find themselves to be linked with a teenage girl from New Jersey, who likes to think of herself as Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani). These three team up in order to gain their revenge on the Supreme Intelligence, all while going up against old and new enemies, and keeping the universes stable.

A huge standout in this film is the CGI effects. Throughout the movie the three main characters' powers are synced together, and we often find them switching positions mid fight. The way that this is executed is very impressive. The visuals in the fight scenes, moving from space, to earth, and to other galaxies is all so overwhelming, but intriguing at the same time. Additionally, the costumes are really impressive and eye-catching. In the different universes that they explore, the people in those villages have the most unique looks - everything from their hair, to their makeup and their attire is so creative, and really stands out. I also enjoyed Captain Marvel's signature suit she wears, which really contributes to her statement look. Finally, this film is highly engaging. There is never a dull moment, and it held my attention the entire time. Every scene is packed with action, and definitely lives up to the original film, as well as the Marvel name. I also enjoyed the plot, and how straight forward it is. It gets right to the point. I never found my mind wandering off, or feeling lost in the story. The movie kept attention 100% of the time, which is rare.

The message of The Marvels is to remember your truth, and always do what you believe is right. Be forewarned that this film contains some intense fighting scenes and the use of weapons.

I give The Marvels 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Marvels releases in theaters November 10, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The film, The Marvels blends teamwork, girl power, comedy and emotion with action-adventure. It's heartening to see a movie that not only entertains but also resonates with positive themes.

The central plot revolves around Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Mrs. Marvel (Iman Vellani) teaming up to thwart the menacing Der-Bann (Zawe Ashton) from wreaking havoc on their homes - classic Marvel setup.

The enthusiasm for the film is palpable; the movie is successful in delivering a compelling, entertaining, and empowering cinematic experience. The brevity of The Marvels sets a new record for Marvel in terms of its runtime and it stands out in a franchise known for sprawling narratives. The commendation extends to the CGI and camera work, with special mention of shots and angles that enhance the viewing experience. It's clear that attention to detail has been a priority, ensuring that every frame contributes to the overall brilliance of the film. Brie Larson's portrayal of Captain Marvel showcases her character's development. The shift from a more serious tone to a nuanced performance is highlighted, indicating growth in both the actor and the character. Zawe Ashton's portrayal of the villain, Dar-Benn, earns high praise, what I consider to be "Oscar-Worthy." The film's pacing is lauded for its seamless flow, allowing the audience to absorb every moment without missing a beat.

The emphasis on "girl power" as the film's message is particularly noteworthy, aligning with the growing trend of empowering narratives in the entertainment industry. However, be forewarned about the profanity in the film which adds a layer of responsibility to parents.

I give The Marvels 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Marvel fans, both young and old, will find an exciting experience when this film opens in theaters on November 10, 2023.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I love The Marvels. It is fun, laugh-out-loud funny, has some heartfelt moments and the chemistry between the three leading ladies is outstanding. The film definitely kept me entertained from beginning to end.

In The Marvels Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), aka Captain Marvel, has reclaimed her identity from the tyrannical Kree and taken revenge on the Supreme Intelligence. However, unintended consequences see her shouldering the burden of a destabilized universe. When her duties send her to a wormhole linked to a Kree revolutionary, her powers become entangled with two other superheroes to form the Marvels - Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) learn to work together because their powers become entangled.

I love all the action scenes and watching the three leading ladies working together to fight against evil. I recommend watching Ms. Marvel and Wanda Vision on Disney+ before watching The Marvels. They give you the background on Kamala and Monica, which will help you understand where they are coming from in this film. I immediately fell in love and related to Iman Vellani's (Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel). She is a Marvel fan, just like us, and she is so excited to meet her heroes and fangirls just like we would do ourselves! I was so happy to see her family in the film as well because they steal the show. The family scenes are full of laughs and the family dynamics really make this movie. The chemistry between the three leading ladies is truly amazing. They work so well together and look like they are having so much fun together. Their friendship seems genuine on the screen. The battle scenes are epic, especially when the three of them switch places, which is so fun to watch.

The Marvels is about teamwork, girl power, friendship, family, heart and action. It shows how family will always be there for you, no matter what, and reminds you to always stay true to who you are. You are never wrong when you are doing what is right.

I give The Marvels 5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. The Marvels is available in theaters now.

By Kennedy P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Directed by Academy Award� Winner Taika Waititi (Jojo Rabbit, Thor: Ragnarok) and based on a true story, Next Goal Wins follows the American Samoa soccer team, infamously known for their brutal 31-0 loss in 2001. With the World Cup Qualifiers approaching, the team hires down-on-his-luck, maverick coach Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) hoping he will turn the world's worst soccer team around in this heartfelt underdog comedy.
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Next Goal Wins, based on a true story, is a heartwarming and genuinely enjoyable film that captures the essence of teamwork, perseverance and the human spirit. It's a family-friendly movie that offers both humor and feel-good moments and is told with an authenticity that makes it relatable and engaging.

The story revolves around the determined coach, Thomas Rongen (Michael Fassbender) who takes on the challenging task of coaching an American Samoa soccer team with a historically abysmal loss record. Their only goal is to score one point, a seemingly insurmountable task.

This film is a delightful cinematic experience that celebrates the power of belief, teamwork, and the indomitable human spirit in the world of sports. As the film develops, it dives deeper into the characters' lives, particularly Coach Rongen and the soccer team. The connections that form between the players showcase the power of heartfelt camaraderie in sports. The film brings out both the emotional and comedic aspects of these players journey. It's clear that the cast and crew put their heart and soul into this project, resulting in a standout film. The camera work is outstanding - it captures the action on the field with finesse, making you feel like you're right there with the team as they strive for victory. Michael Fassbender's performance as Coach Rongen is commendable, as he skillfully balances humor with emotional elements in the film, delivering a memorable character. Oscar Kightley, as Tavita, Coach Rongen's right-hand man, brings a good-spirited energy to the film. His character adds to the loveable dynamic of the team, making it easy for the audience to root for them. The film's pacing is fast-paced, keeping the story engaging and ensuring that viewers remain invested in the team's journey from start to finish.

The film's core message is a simple, yet powerful one: believe in yourself and have fun. It's a message that resonates with both young and adult audiences, reminding us of the importance of enjoying the process and having faith in our abilities. It's important to note that the film contains some profanity, alcohol use, glimpses of drug use, and a transgender lead character, which may require some parental guidance depending on the age of the viewers.

I give Next Goal Wins a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults who appreciate uplifting and heartwarming stories. It releases in theaters on November 17, 2023.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - A troubled security guard begins working at Freddy Fazbear's Pizza. During his first night on the job, he realizes that the night shift won't be so easy to get through. Pretty soon he will unveil what actually happened at Freddy's.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Five Nights at Freddy's is a comedic horror film, filled with intensity and suspense. It brought me to the edge of my seat and kept me wanting more.

Based on the popular and highly-engaging video game, the storyline follows Mike (Josh Hutcherson), who is struggling to make it financially while having to care for his younger sister. He gets offered a security job night shift for the abandoned "Freddy's Pizzeria" and, at first, is hesitant, but eventually realizes that he has no choice. Mike struggles with past family trauma and has very vivid dreams at night. When he starts to fall asleep at work his dreams get longer and clearer. He soon learns that the job he has taken can be the answer to more things than he could have ever imagined.

A huge standout in this film is the cinematography. Every camera angle holds so much purpose, and is made with such intention. Moods are created from a singular camera angle and set the tone for the entire film. For example, the flashbacks scenes that accompany Mike's dreams focus on specific moments to highlight their importance. The director, Chris Columbus, creates this uncomfortable feeling through his work, and delivers an outstanding film. Additionally, I really enjoyed the suspense throughout the entire movie. I never knew what was going to happen next, and I was riveted to the screen. I wanted to cover my eyes, but didn't want to look away at the same time! There is the perfect amount of scariness, laughter and surprise. Lastly, the message of this film is both heartwarming and intriguing. The importance of never giving up is highlighted in such an interesting way and can almost be hard to spot. However, at the end, even though we are left wanting more, it is clear that hope is one of the only ways to get through life. Joy and happiness is a must in order to continue successfully, and that is the underlying meaning of this movie.

The message of Five Nights at Freddy's is to listen to your heart and never give up on what you believe in. Be forewarned that this film does include gruesome content.

give Five Nights at Freddy's 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Five Nights at Freddy's in theaters and on Peacock October 27, 2023.

By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 12-17 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: TV SERIES, AGES 5-12
Description - When a generations- long family curse turns Alex Vanderhouven to stone, it's up to his two kids, Pandora and Russ, and his wife Sky, to return artifacts stolen by their ancestors to their rightful homes to finally lift the curse for good.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Curses is a fun and mysterious 10 episode series that is full of adventures and soon to be solved mysteries. This show is very kid friendly and could be interesting to adults as well. I really enjoy how this show refers to ancient civilizations and how the adventures you take around the world.

The storyline follows the Vanderhouven family when a generations-long family curse turns Alex Vanderhouven (Reid Scott) to stone. It's up to his wife Sky Vanderhouven (Lyric Lewis) and their two kids, Russ (Andre Robinson) and Pandora (Gabrielle Nevaeh) to return artifacts stolen by their ancestors to their rightful homes to finally lift the curse for good. The Vanderhouvens need to solve this mystery soon before it's too late.

This very adventurous show is full of unsolved mysteries and has lots of educational benefits. For example, in one episode we learn about two ancient civilizations -- the Aztecs, and the Olmec. The animation is phenomenal and the voice-acting cast is amazing - Rhys Darby, Rhea Perlman, Phylicia Rashad and horror legend Robert Englund, among others - which makes it outstanding. The voice actors really portray their characters exceptionally well. The way the director shows the bond between the family members and how they support each other is rare for an animated show. This show is so inspiring and heartfelt. However, I will say that the storyline is very predictable; for instance, when the kids go looking for their father I already knew something bad had happened because of how he was being so secretive from the beginning of the show.

The show's message is that, with the help of a family member, friend, or a trusted adult, you can do anything.

I give Curses 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 through 12, plus adults. This show premieres on Apple TV+ October 27, 2023, just in time for Halloween. Be sure to check it out.

By Gavin S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Juror Recommended Age: 5-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: TV

Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-12
Description - The children of the world's greatest secret agents unwittingly help a powerful game developer unleash a computer virus that gives him control of all technology, leading them to become spies themselves to save their parents and the world.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Wow! Spy Kids: Armageddon is an action-packed, family-friendly adventure that takes the beloved Spy Kids franchise to new heights. Directed by the visionary Robert Rodriguez, this film combines thrilling spy missions with heartwarming family moments, making it a fantastic addition to the series.

The film follows the next generation of Spy Kids, Nora Torrez (Gina Rodriguez) and Terrance Tango (Zachary Levi)'s children, tasked to save the world from a diabolical villain's doomsday device. The young cast, led by talented newcomers Connor Esterson and Everly Carganilla, brings fresh energy to the franchise. The action sequences are exhilarating, and the gadgets are as ingenious as ever, providing a visual spectacle that left me on the edge of my seat.

Spy Kids: Armageddon excels in production elements. The imaginative sets, cleverly designed spy gadgets, and visually stunning special effects create a world that feels familiar and full of surprises. Standout performances by Everly Carganilla as Patty Tango-Torrez and Connor Esterson as Tony Tango-Torrez add depth to the cast, and their chemistry with the lead characters is delightful. Rodriguez's signature style shines through in the film's direction, keeping the pace engaging and fully immersing the audience in the Spy Kids universe.

At its core, Spy Kids: Armageddon delivers a positive message about teamwork, family and believing in oneself. The young spies face challenges and make mistakes, but ultimately learn and grow from their experiences.

I give Spy Kids: Armageddon 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults who have fond memories of the original Spy Kids movies. You can catch this exciting family adventure right now on Netflix, making it a perfect choice for a cozy movie night at home with your little spies-in-training.

By Hanadie K, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 5-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 2-8
Description - A magical meteor crash lands in Adventure City and gives the PAW Patrol pups superpowers, transforming them into The Mighty Pups.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - If you need a new movie to keep your young ones entertained check out PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie. It has everything kids love and more.

After a meteor strikes Adventure City, damaging their Pup Tower - the PAW Patrol finds themselves with superpowers. But the pups soon realize they're in danger because Humdinger and mad scientist Victoria Vance are after these superpowers to make themselves into ultimate supervillains. It's up to Ryder and his team of mighty puppies to keep what is theirs as they learn that truly no pup is too small.

PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie is fantastically entertaining for younger viewers, with its fun storyline, bright colors and adorable characters. There are so many fun scenes that younger kids will enjoy. I really enjoyed the music choices in this film - it's a good mix of popular songs that different age groups will recognize and they are placed at nice points of the movie. The film takes place in Adventure City and the animators really excel in the attention to detail in creating the city as well as the other settings throughout the film. My favorite scene is when Sky tells Chase about her backstory; it is a really sentimental point of the film and is super sweet.

The theme of PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie is that if you believe in yourself you can do anything. Sky spends most of the movie contemplating her size because she's the smallest in the group, but in the end she learns that her size doesn't determine whether she can be a hero, she just has to believe in herself. Ryder says throughout the movie, "no pup too small." The pups learn the importance of this throughout the movie when they realize they all must work together to keep their powers.

I give PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 8. It releases in theaters September 29, 2023.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 2-8 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-12
Description - Three young girls try to stick together as they get trapped in a sea cave filled with crashing waves, hundreds of sea lions, and giant elephant seals.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love Island of Lost Girls! Its captivating storyline, outstanding performances by young actresses who fearlessly handle their own stunts, and breathtaking cinematography on a remote island make it a must-see family thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat.

The storyline follows three young sisters who accidentally become stranded on a remote island, battling nature's dangers and wildlife as they strive to stay together and survive a thrilling, unplanned adventure.

I like the originality of the storyline, which engaged me throughout. The girls' resilience in the face of challenges adds depth to the narrative. The only drawback is that the film runs a bit long which makes it difficult to maintain its intensity. The cinematography completely immerses the audience in a captivating world with breathtaking shots that showcase the remote island's wild beauty and close-ups that intensify emotional moments, such as the sisters' struggles. The camera effectively captures encounters with wildlife, like sea lions and elephant seals, which adds to the film's tension. Dynamic camera angles within the sea cave enhance the sense of adventure and danger. The costumes suit the storyline perfectly - given the girls being stranded on a remote island, they primarily wear wet bathing suits throughout the film. The remote island off the coast of Baja, California, serves as a breathtaking and immersive setting with its rugged coastline, sea caves and natural wildlife, such as sea lions and elephant seals; it creates a sense of realism that enhances the adventure and peril of the girls' journey. One standout location is the sea cave, which becomes the story's central element of tension and wonder. The dark, labyrinthine passages of the cave, illuminated by natural light, add a sense of mystery and danger. The background music, featured music, and sound effects enhance the film's storytelling. Notably, the music intensifies during critical moments, such as when the girls face danger or navigate treacherous waters, effectively building tension. The natural sounds of the sea, waves and wildlife make the audience feel intimately connected to the characters and their struggle for survival. The central characters are portrayed by real-life sisters Autumn Schmidt, Avila Schmidt and Scarlet Schmidt. The sisters are carefree and adventurous at the start, embarking on a fun day at the beach. However, their characters transform significantly as the story unfolds, and they become stranded on the remote island. They evolve from carefree individuals into determined and resourceful young girls who have to rely on one another to survive. Each sister faces personal challenges and fears, and their growth is evident in their ability to confront and conquer these obstacles. This film benefits significantly from the collaborative efforts of the filmmaker family, with parents Ann-Marie Schmidt and Brian Schmidt directing and co-writing the film alongside their daughter Avila Schmidt. Their combined talents result in a cohesive and emotionally engaging narrative, and excellent performances by their daughters, Autumn, Avila, and Scarlet. My favorite part is when the girls dare to escape from their house to sneak to the beach. This scene captures their adventurous spirit and sets the tone for the entire film. It's a moment filled with excitement and anticipation as the sisters embark on what they believe will be a carefree day of fun. The scene effectively establishes their characters and close bond, making it a memorable and engaging start to their remarkable journey.

The film's message is about the strength of family bonds and the ability to adapt and grow in the face of adversity. It highlights the power of unity and determination and the importance of facing challenges together. It conveys that, even in the most challenging situations, the support and love of family can help individuals overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Note that the film does show kids doing risky things that kids might imitate. The girls perform dangerous stunts and engage in water activities that require caution and expertise.

I give Island of Lost Girls 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It is available on VOD and DVD October 3, 2023. So look for it!

By Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Island of The Lost Girls is a strange juxtaposition of a childhood "Mission Impossible" combined with "Survivor." As a viewer I felt a bit lost in the purpose of this film.

The storyline follows three orphaned girls who seek adventure together on the beach in California. The story begins with an adoption interview with the oldest daughter Avila (Avila Marie Schmidt) which turns out to be unsuccessful when the couple realize that Avila has two younger sisters and they are not ready for that kind of commitment. The middle sister, Autumn (Autumn Fiore Schmidt), declares it's going to be "a grand adventure, I promise" and her words are truer than anyone could predict. As the girls sneak out together to overcome their disappointment about the failed adoption, they encounter wildlife and dangerous situations after they are caught in a rip current and pulled away from shore. Luckily, they overcome these situations and learn to survive together on a remote island.

The cinematography, under the direction of Heatha McGrath, is outstanding and really highlights the beauty of the island and wildlife. I really love all the interesting camera angles and wildlife footage - the location is incredible. The camera work is outstanding. I like how they included all the childhood flashback scenes. I should mention that the film is truly a labor of love by the entire Schmidt family. The parents, Ann-Marie Schmidt and Brian Schmidt direct and co-write the film and the girls are all played by their three children, Avila, Autumn and Scarlet. The music by Cali Wang drives the emotions in the film and the three girls contribute musically as well. You cannot find three more independent, fearless and adorable girls who I easily fell in love with. Their interaction is genuine and makes you want to be part of their family, especially the youngest, precocious Scarlet. The girls' adventures include unbelievable and dangerous scenes against the ocean waves and currents combined with local wildlife such as sea lions. Scarlet interacts closely with elephant seals who are dangerous and fighting. Avila and Autumn scale cliffs and maneuver through dangerous caves and Autumn falls from dangerous heights in more than one scene which makes their adventure seem more like a dangerous mission. In spite of all that, the girls learn to survive on this island and to scavenge resources and food from wildlife and what is available to them.

The film's message is that love is unconditional and demonstrates how you can be independent and take risks while supporting one another in the spirit of love. Most of the film shows and even glorifies dangerous behavior for young children such as the girls performing dangerous stunts and water activities. There is very little adult supervision shown, which makes it doubly dangerous.

I rate Island of The Lost Girls, 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. It is available on VOD October 3, 2023.

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST!
Juror Recommended Age: 8-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - This film is a biopic about Jose Hernandez and his path from a farm worker to becoming an engineer and an astronaut. Jose M Hernandez was born in Mexico. While working in the fields, he co-developed the first digital mammography imaging system. He then persevered to become a crew member on Space Shuttle mission STS-128. Tells a tale of perseverance, community and sacrifice to accomplish a seemingly impossible dream.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - A Million Miles Away is an absolutely incredible film that is definitely worth watching. The film has great performances, a compelling story and stunning visuals.

The storyline reveals the true life story of Jose Hernandez, the first migrant farmworker to become an astronaut. His journey is filled with incredible perseverance and resilience, as he overcomes numerous obstacles to achieve his dream of reaching the stars.

A Million Miles Away is full of remarkable acting. Michael Pena leads as Hernandez with much charisma and dramatic depth. He excellently captures the humble, smart and ambitious astronaut. It's very difficult not to root for him, as we can all resonate with aspects of his journey. Rosa Salazar portrays the strong, supportive, and similarly determined Adela, who marries Hernandez. Salazar's performance effectively portrays the film's theme of dreams interfering with reality and one's struggle to chase their ambitions while concurrently supporting their family. The way in which Hernandez's story is told in this film is especially captivating. The film connects his past with his present life, helping us understand how his earlier life influenced who he has become. Throughout the film, watching Jose get closer and closer to becoming an astronaut is incredibly satisfying. The film keeps us engaged and eager to see how his life unfolds - making it a truly memorable viewing experience.

The film's message is one of aspiration and persistence. Jose's path is filled with barriers and obstacles, but his unyielding determination drives him to fulfill and pursue his dreams. With Jose Hernandez's traits, one can reach what previously felt a million miles away.

I give A Million Miles Away 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases on September 15, 2023.

By Daniel S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-12
Description - A typical summer for four young friends becomes the adventure of a lifetime when they notice that something is amiss at their favorite swimming spot as their friends and family begin falling ill. When they discover that the local factory is dumping harmful chemicals into the town's water, they must expose the truth and figure out how to stop the pollution and save the town before it's too late.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With a simple but engaging story and strong casting, Little Heroes is the perfect film to culminate your summer with!

Little Heroes takes place in a small town where four young friends -- Robbie (Coleman Christian), Brewster (Max Gerstenberg), Eric (Corban Jazz) and Grace (Ashtine Besteda) -- are enjoying their summer break. Brewster's father works in a factory which gets a contract with the town government. He soon finds out that the factory plans to expand their operations, and as a byproduct, is dumping hazardous chemicals into a lake where his son and his friends swim. The friend group catches wind of this and realizes they must use their wits to find a solution.

The casting of Little Heroes is a high point, as is its production quality. Coleman Christian as Robbie and Max Gerstenberg as Brewster are the stars of the cast; it's evident they paid attention to even the littlest nuances in playing their characters. Director and producer Brittany Goodwin has taken all the pains to ensure that every audiovisual element of the film is perfectly tuned. The score by Andrei Shulgach comes off a little bit like stock music, but it does suit the film. It's similar with the costumes, which fit the film's eclectic characters but somehow seem snatched out of a children's book. My personal favorite is the set design by Jennifer Dopp, Donald Imm and Craig Weaver, and the editing and color-correction by Justin Moe and Cinegach Studios. The town in which Little Heroes takes place looks picture-perfect, and every frame is vibrant. I also enjoyed how the plot came together; sure, it is predictable at some points, but there are other plot points (including a romance!) that come out of nowhere. The script feels a little bit forced and the chemistry between Brewster and his father doesn't really work for me; their relationship feels unnatural.

Little Heroes promotes teamwork, caring for our environment, and friendship. It also shows that our individual talents are what help us most in times of crisis. It's a great film for young viewers interested in conservation and those who are fans of realistic fiction. Parents should know that the children do wander around on their own in the film and do risky things like jumping into a biohazardous lake. Also, one character nearly drowns.

I give Little Heroes 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases on October 17, 2023 on demand.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

I really like the hilarious adventure film, Little Heroes. It has a suspenseful storyline that kept me engaged and is a wonderful comfort movie!

This film is about a group of friends attempting to save their whole town before a factory releases harmful chemicals into their favorite lake. Will it be too late to stop the corrupt factory?

The characters in the friend group are Robbie (Coleman Christian), Brewster (Max Gerstenberg), Grace (Ashtine Besteda), and Eric (Corban Jaaz). Other main characters are Diana (Alexa Feldman), Drew Brewster (Brian Stever), and Kerri Smithson (Brittany Goodwin). The characters' interactions are entertaining and they make me feel like I'm in the scene with them. I really admire that despite hardships in their lives, Robbie, Brewster, Grace, and Eric always show up for each other. This is shown when Robbie has a deep conversation with Brewster about his dad working extra hours to make more money. Audiences could relate to this on a personal level. Robbie is a supportive friend, as are the others. I also like the diversity in the friend group. From interests to feminism, everyone in the audience is represented in some way in the group. They are all completely different but get along. Next, I applaud the director and writers, Brittany Goodwin, Doug Maddox, and Jeremiah Wiseblood. They created a suspenseful storyline with an interesting resolution (you'll have to wait and see!) The film is slow at times but it eventually picks up the pace. The camerawork is shaky when there's a lot of action, and closeups when the scene feels more intimate. The sets are well-made, too. I like their clubhouse because it looks like the perfect hangout place. The watering hole, town ice cream shop, and factory look realistic, as well. There's tension in the music when Brewster sneaks into the factory. All of these little details enhance the movie overall. My favorite part of the film is the characters Grace and Diana. They're both strong female leaders and I like their personalities.

The message of this film is that community is the only thing that matters. Love comes before money, power, and success. Brewster's dad figures this out. Another message is that teamwork makes the dream work. Also, Robbie mentions to Brewster that he has "friends that love him," which is an important reminder.

I give Little Heroes 4 out of 5 stars and recommend this for ages 8 to 12. Little Heroes comes out October 17, 2023 on VOD.

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Juror Recommended Age: 8-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Description - Get ready for an epic adventure with "Ghosters: Phantom Patrol!" When tricky ghosts break free from a super-secret government facility, things get wild, a little spooky, and a whole lot of fun! As New York City is packed with mischievous ghosts, two clueless security guards team up with a pair of fearless tech-savvy kids to save the day. Get ready for a side-splitting and thrilling ride as they dive into the ghostly commotion and work together to save the city!
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Ghosters: Phantom Patrol is a spoof of the classic movie, Ghostbusters. It has good cinematography, but a lot of the time I found myself confused. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or scream at the animated images, and the plot is confusing.

The storyline takes place in New York City and follows Wilbur (Leon Mayfield) and Casey (Heath C. Heine), two ordinary men work the night shift as guards in a mysterious government facility. They soon discover the building is home to ghosts who have been trapped and contained in glowing green tubes (a reference to Ghostbusters, where ghosts are trapped in similar tubes). When the ghosts escape the building, it's up to Wilbur and Casey to stop them from taking over the city.

There are many similarities between Ghosters and Ghostbusters, such as the theme music, the New York setting, and even the logo with the ghost shown at the beginning (though it isn't exactly the same). Fans of Ghostbusters will enjoy certain scenes, like the scene where one spirit takes over a giant statue, a nod to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. However, some things are very different - the iconic four-person crew is missing, and Ghosters is set in the 21st century and ends in a video game. I especially like Wilbur's character -- he provides comic relief, such as when he has to ride a child's bike and when he eats a Domino's� pizza during an attack scene. But while the movie is funny and the landscapes of New York are beautifully captured, it falls a bit short. It has no climax; the movie never peaks. It's all action from the start with no plot twist or big reveal. The characters have no objective or goal either. Wilbur and Casey's escape from the building lacks pizzazz - we are left to use our imaginations. The animated images are confusing as well. Although Ghosters has a funny tone, the ghosts are actually pretty scary looking, with sunken white eyes and limbs that can twist and contort in ways we can't imagine. They're terrifying but very unrealistic. I'm still not sure whether they are supposed to be funny or creepy!

As this movie is meant to be a spoof that makes fun of another movie, the message is a bit unclear. Be aware that there is some mild language, very mild graphic content, some alcohol references and one drug reference. The ghosts may be quite frightening, especially to young children and they scared me.

I give Ghosters: Phantom Patrol 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This film releases on AVOD on September 22, 2023.

The film Ghosters: Phantom Patrol is a very interesting movie. I like this film because it's the perfect mix of funny and suspenseful along with also tackling tough family dynamics.

This storyline follows two guys, Wilbur (Leon Mayfield) and Casey (Heath C. Heine), as they work an overnight surveillance job in a government building. The two, being unemployed, take the job and everything seems to be going fine until they find out they aren't the only ones in the building.

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Joey (Arthur Gazarian) and his dad, Casey, get to bond over fighting some ghosts. Casey was going to miss his son's birthday because of his new job that he got but he later ends up making it up to his son when he joins the battle against the spirits with his dad. The way that Heine and Gazarian show the reconciliation between a dad and a son in a time of need is truly amazing. My favorite character is Wilbur because he is hilarious throughout the film. There is a moment where Wilbur gets out of the facility he's trapped in after Casey does. Once he realizes that he was left there to fend for himself while the others are off looking for what may help them with the ghosts, he finds a very small bike and begins to pedal himself to the source of the issue to be as much help as he can, even if it's going to take a little bit longer for him to get there than the others.

This film's message is that your family will always have your back. Even while Jenah and Casey are not happy with each other, Jenah still stands by Casey's side in his time of need, making sure he is safe. Be aware there is mild swearing and brief discussion about violent actions.

I give Ghosters: Phantom Patrol 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12. Ghosters: Phantom Patrol will be available in theaters this fall on September 22, 2023.

By Victoria L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - Following the rise and fall of Orson Welles, while interweaving stories of diverse individuals amidst the backdrop of the Great Depression, World War II, and the dropping of the atomic bomb, director Danny Wu's American: An Odyssey To 1947 sheds light on the defining moments that shaped the destinies of the subjects, and the nation's collective consciousness. In the early 1940s, director Orson Welles navigates his meteoric Hollywood rise. As WWII begins, a Japanese American boy visits abroad, and an African American soldier enlists in the army. As the story heads towards 1947, each character follows their own ambitions in search of their American identity. The tone of the film is split into two halves, with the first half being about the romantic rise of a great American director, and the second half transitioning into the realities of race and life in the Jim Crow era. In the end, as one American returns home, another American is forced into exile.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With vivid interviews and b-roll to complement its engaging narrative, American: An Odyssey to 1947 had me glued to the screen and enhanced my understanding of a transformative era in American history.

The film takes viewers through the first half of the 20th century, following stories as diverse as Citizen Kane star Orson Welles rising to fame, to FDR shaking up politics, to Japanese citizens being shipped to internment camps. Things students might yawn at in class -- the makeup of the Northern and Southern Democratic Party, for example -- are made captivating as they're examined through different lenses, including seeing mid-century politics through the shifting relationship of media magnate William Randolph Hearst and FDR.

Thanks to its detailed, well-paced interviews and high-quality photos and videos, American: An Odyssey to 1947 seems destined not for a history classroom but for the silver screen. It might take some time to get used to the multiple narratives being presented, as there isn't much of a transition between them, but viewers can be assured that all becomes clear within the first thirty minutes. The cinematography is clean and clear, as is the soundtrack. My favorite part of the editing is the interspersed of archival interview footage from Orson Welles and others from the 20th century, as well as the somewhat-experimental initial and final sequences shot in black-and-white.

This film promotes patriotism, but also suggests there's more to American identity than meets the eye -- some bad and some good. The film is all about looking back at our experiences and doing better going forward.

American: An Odyssey to 1947 gets 5 stars out of 5 from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film opens in select theaters beginning September 8, 2023 in New York City and releases on digital platforms September 12, 2023.

Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: Web Series

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Exploring the different aspects of the afterlife, including near-death experiences and more.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Beyond the Grave is one of the most informative and awakening documentaries I have ever watched! The whole concept of it is alluring because who wouldn't want to learn about what happens in the afterlife. I also enjoy it because of how everything is so clearly explained. The documentary covers lots of spiritual discoveries and intriguing stories. It is also amusing to watch if you are interested in paranormal activity.

The plot of Beyond the Grave follows Serena DC who is on a mission to figure out as much as she can about what happens after you die. She travels around meeting with different experts, doctors, mediums, and even paranormal investigators who all have stories to disclose. Throughout her trips Serena attains new knowledge that she is using to answer the main question of what really happens to one's soul after they pass and other factors that involve their life before death.

Beyond the Grave has loads of information and each piece adds a bit to the puzzle. The main reason Serena interviews all of these people is because the majority of them share at least one thing, which is the fact that they faced death head on in their own way. For the ones who didn't, they are professionals when it comes to life and death situations. One of the people she meets whose narrative touched me was Susana Grau. She gained abilities after her near-death experience to the point that she can communicate with present spirits. She gave Ms. DC some really interesting information. Another interesting person is Ellen Whealton, who witnessed things out of earth's reach that changed her life for the better and made her who she is today. Each of the people Serena talks with explain their stories and how they changed their lives. The documentary is very well executed from the camera work to the interviews.

The film's message is to show and prove that death, the one assured thing in life, may sound scary but it could truly be just the beginning of something unimaginable to the human mind and its analysis should be seen as such.

I give Beyond the Grave 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Beyond the Grave releases September 5, 2023, on VOD!

By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - From writer and director Nia Vardalos, the worldwide phenomenon MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING is coming back to theaters with a brand-new adventure. Join the Portokalos family as they travel to a family reunion in Greece for a heartwarming and hilarious trip full of love, twists and turns. Opa!
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is the latest of the hilarious trilogy -- this time with more emotion and nostalgia added to its humor. Fans of the franchise will love watching their favorite Greek family back for another wedding and, this time it's set in Greece! I was amazed by the cinematography, the characters and, of course, the jokes!

The movie follows the Portokalos family as they vacation to their recently deceased father's (Michael Constantine) hometown in Greece for a family reunion, coordinated by their cousin and self-appointed mayor Victory (Melina Kotselou). In Greece, Toula (Nia Vardalos) attempts to fulfill her father's death wish -- to deliver his old journal to his childhood friends George (Ektoras Kaloudis), Dimos (Menelaos Ntaflos), and Thanasis (Spyros Kasfiks). However, the discovery of even more new extended family members leads to yet another Greek wedding.

Throughout the film, the landscapes are beautifully captured, showing some very beautiful pictures of rural Greece. We see lush green forests and rolling hills, crystal-clear rivers and cloudless blue skies. Closer to the village, we see a long winding road, cobblestone streets, secret passageways and older, worn buildings that have a rustic charm to them. Several times, we see sunny beaches with white sand. This makes it feel more like a three-dimensional experience than a movie. While fans will miss Grandpa Gus and his amusing ability to connect every word to its Greek root, they will enjoy meeting newer characters such as Toula's daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris). Also, many familiar characters have returned, including Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin), who thinks she's in charge of everyone else, and Toula's cousin Nick (Louis Mandylor). The soundtrack features upbeat Greek songs, such as the wedding dance. But my favorite part of the movie is all the jokes. Every morning, the family is awakened by a rooster. Cousin Nick hilariously tries to shave his face at the breakfast table. There is one scene where a sheep randomly enters the house before most people are up. An aunt is startled by the sheep, which is right next to her when she wakens, and exclaims that she thought her husband had come back from the dead.

This film reminds us that time with our loved ones is valuable, and we should make the most of it. We only get to live once, so we should live each day to the fullest and appreciate our cherished people every day.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gets 4.5 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. The releases in theaters September 8, 2023.

By Ella S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is a fun comedic film that takes you on an adventure to an authentic small town in Greece.

This film brings the Portokalos family together for the third time and, in this film they are going to their father's hometown for a special reunion. In his last words to his daughter, Toula (Nia Vardalos), he asked her to reconnect with his best friends from childhood and give them his diary. The family embarks on a journey of new discoveries, finding their culture, and connecting with the people around them.

I really enjoyed the beautiful locations in this film. Everything from ocean views, to food, to music, and the Greek culture made me feel as though I was getting swept off my feet and fully emerged into Greece. This really speaks for the film, plus it has such a fun summer aesthetic. Additionally, this movie has the total package of humor and insight. There are many moments of laughter, specifically with Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) and her fun free spirit. The scenes with Aunt Voula and Toula are such key bonding moments for them; their special relationship to one-another intensified during this trip. I also found this film to be quite the tear-jerker as I was definitely wiping tears from my eyes by the end. There are so many emotions and pure human reactions incorporated into this film which gives it so much life. You can feel the love that the all the family members have for one another, based on how they stick together and believe in each other. Another standout is the storyline. Sometimes sequels can fall flat and feel repetitive. However, this is definitely not the case here! The third time the Portokalos come together to continue their story is exciting, while still staying authentic to who they are and what they believe in.

The message of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 is to never give up on the power of hope and love. The film does contain some jokes intended for an older audiences, so be forewarned.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gets 4.5 out of stars and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 releases in theaters September 8, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Get ready to yell "Opa!" for My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3! This emotional, but fun movie is definitely the most upbeat of the trilogy, and this particular film holds a special message about family and love.

This film follows Toula (Nia Vardalos), Ian (John Corbett) and the rest of the Portokalos family as they are on their way to a family reunion in their motherland - Greece. As they want to make a tribute to Gus Portokalos, Toula attempts to track down Gus's three best friends from childhood to give them a special gift. Along this journey, the family discovers new and important roots and celebrates many cultures, all while trying to plan the best family reunion ever.

My favorite part of this film is definitely the location. This film is set in Plaka, Athens and it is absolutely breathtaking to see the oceans and the mountains and the small villages; everything is so unique and special. I also love the costumes, especially those worn by Elena Kampouris's character, Paris. They are all so fashionable and I fell in love with their patterns and colors. I also appreciate that they celebrate many different cultures in this film, as it shows that they are open to being diverse and they make sure to include everyone, no matter where someone is from. My favorite character is definitely Toula because, even though she struggles with so much in her life, she is the epitome of resilience.

The message of this film is to be open to new experiences, because you never know how similar you are to others. As the Portokalos family stays in Greece, they find new connections and new friends. Be aware that there is mild profanity, sexual references, and partial nudity.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This movie will be released in theaters on September 8, 2023.

By Ari P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - The Monkey King is an action-packed family comedy that follows a rebellious and charismatic Monkey and his magical fighting Stick on an epic quest for victory over 100 demons, an eccentric Dragon King, and Monkey's greatest foe of all --his own ego! Along the way, a young village girl challenges his self-centered attitude and shows him that even the smallest pebble can have a big effect on the world.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Monkey King is a modern twist on the classic Chinese tale. It takes you on an exciting adventure of discovery and growth, while being packed with fun and suspense.

The storyline follows a journey of the Monkey King (Jimmy O. Yang). Although he is strong and powerful, the praise that he receives can sometimes go to his head. When he is faced with the ultimate challenge of defeating the Dragon King (Bowen Yang), he must learn to put his pride aside and work with the secretive, but friendly Lin (Jolie Haong-Rappapert) who can help him conquer this journey.

A huge standout is the character development in the film. The Monkey King changes a lot throughout the movie. He starts off conceited and relentless and, by the end, he's changed for the better. His character learns multiple lessons along the way which helps teach young viewers about selflessness and understanding that sometimes the right answer isn't always what's best for you. I enjoy the creative storyline. The Director (Anthony Stacchi) and Producer (Peilin Chou) have incorporated aspects of traditional Chinese culture and tales to create a modern day version of The Monkey King that grasps multiple audiences. The townspeople are inspired by the Ming Dynasty, which was cool for me to see as I have been learning all about that during the past year. I always get excited when I'm able to connect and understand historical references! Lastly, the film's animation is top notch! The quality is clear, and the color scheme really fits the aesthetic. The Monkey King feels so alive and vibrant, which definitely catches my attention.

The message of The Monkey King is that everyone has the power to create their own path in life.

I give The Monkey King 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. You can watch The Monkey King on Netflix beginning August 11, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Golda is a ticking-clock thriller set during the tense 19 days of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Helen Mirren), faced with the potential of Israel's complete destruction, must navigate overwhelming odds, a skeptical cabinet, and a complex relationship with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Liev Schreiber), with millions of lives in the balance. Her tough leadership and compassion would ultimately decide the fate of her nation and leave her with a controversial legacy around the world.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - What a remarkable film with a stunning performance by Helen Mirren. I am absolutely awed by her, once again.

The film focuses on the 19-day Yom Kippur War and the tragedy of it all.

I remember in my youth, this war happening, but if pressed for the details, I would be hard-pressed to provide that. What this film shows is how Prime Minister Meir handled this crisis with an iron glove. Dealing with her all male cabinet and advisors, she is always the quintessential leader. She asks for their advice, but clearly the decisions she makes are completely her own. We see her soft side as she shows concern for the son of one of her secretaries in one scene and, in another, pulls out a small notebook wherein she keeps track of the number of troops who have died. I walked out of this film numbed to my core and really couldn't speak about it for hours. It just made me think deeply about how vulnerable the state of Israel is and what it must be like for those who live there to be surrounded by big and powerful countries.

The film's message is really about standing your ground in even the most difficult of situations.

I give Golda 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. By Julie S., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Golda is a somewhat bland, but interesting look at how Israel's prime minister from 1969 to 1974, Golda Meir confronted the forces that threatened her country. Aside from its monotone nature, Golda contains award worthy performances, and visually striking cinematography.

When Egypt, Syria, and Jordan launched an attack on Israel, Golda Meir (Helen Mirren), Israel's determined Prime Minister, managed internal conflicts within her predominantly male cabinet and raced against time to avert disaster during the 19-day span of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Golda portrays her intense struggle to preserve Israel.

Helen Mirren's performance as Golda Meir is the film's strongest asset. Mirren commits to the role and transforms herself physically. Meir's struggle to grapple and navigate Israel's ongoing war is depicted flawlessly, along with the deep feelings of stress and terror seen in her eyes. Her patriotism and profound love for the citizens of Israel is clear. Live Schreiber has a minor, but pivotal role as Henry Kissinger and delivers a performance just as remarkable. His dynamic with Meir is one of the film's most enjoyable aspects due to their rocky relationship. Golda's runtime is definitely felt. While it sets a necessary somber mood for the gravity of the situation, it makes Golda void of visual variety. The film maintains a constant gloomy color tone, which is artistic, but this makes the film very tedious to watch. Even with its ticking clock pace, Golda is filled with excessive verbal communication instead of actual events occurring. Showing instead of telling would make Golda's stress and the growing tension more believable. Another huge highlight of Golda is Jasper Wolf's cinematography. Golda is filled with unique and stunning shots and camera movements. Shots are used to express the tension with rapid camera motion along with still, more mellow shots. This assists the actors' performances by improving the impact of their emotion.

Golda's message is the importance of unity and perseverance in difficult times. Despite all odds, Golda Meir pushes through obstacles in order to protect her country of Israel. She stands not for herself, but for all in trouble and in need of hope. Her endless patriotism and devotion drives her to fight for Israel and unify all. Parents should be aware that Golda is centered around a very heavy topic and includes violence and profanity.

I give Golda 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It will be released in theaters August 25, 2023.

By Daniel Salem, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - Into the Spotlight centers on a high schooler who grew up writing music with her rockstar dad but always preferred to stay out of the limelight. When her best friend isn't able to perform, she steps in as her substitute at their high school talent show. The incredible performance goes viral, and she becomes an overnight star.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Into the Spotlight is a remarkable film! The film includes lots of singing, dancing, and some romance as well. It is also great if you are a fan of plot twists because there is definitely a jaw dropper for this one, it was extremely fun to watch!

The storyline follows Laura Banks (Kate Larson) who has a passion for singing and songwriting but not the best confidence to do so. She is very shy when it comes to audiences and performing, but when she is alone she sings with grace and no fear. Laura's friends, Riley (Marisa Lynae Hampton), Ben (Raphael Ruggero) and David (Justin Sterner) are just as talented as she is. Laura ends up unintentionally falling into fame and, in the process, loses touch with her authentic self. As she juggles with the trappings of success her identity becomes overshadowed, but with the guidance of her parents and friends, she embarks on a journey of rediscovering herself for the better, seeking to reclaim the genuine essence of who she is before it's too late.

This film has numerous surprising turns that kept me on my toes throughout the entire film. There's the ideal high school drama between the protagonist, Laura, and her school bully Violet (Isabelle Almoyan) who twists up issues and adds fuel to the fire whenever she can. Additionally, there a school talent show where Laura makes her debut with her friends that practically puts her on the map. An important theme is to never be afraid because you might miss out on something great if you do. The costumes are very relatable --gorgeous and classy. The sets are cool as well; some are at the school and others are impressive homes, vintage retail stores, and fabulous apartments. The whole time I thought how this film is both surreal and relatable all at once. The songs are catchy and perfectly match the various scenes. As for the actors' performances, they are executed well but lacked emotion. Everything makes sense in the end and none of it is expected.

The film's message is to never lose sight of who you are and to stay true to yourself along with the ones you love. Steer clear of those who want to change you for the worse.

I give Into the Spotlight 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Into the Spotlight releases September 1, 2023 on VOD!

By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Into the Spotlight is a film full of teaching that I enjoyed and felt thrilled because it talks about success and this film really defines that!

The storyline follows Laura Banks (Kate Larson), a teenager who is discovering what she wants, and a scholarly event suddenly shows the girl what her purpose is. Everything is right but someone very important to Laura's career has an idea that goes against the girl's thoughts and can change her life as well as everybody else involved.

What I enjoy about this film is how it depicts situations very similar to the days of many students; it addresses serious subjects that we need to learn, including music and singing, which I relate to. My favorite part is when Laura becomes courageous and shows everybody her talent. Laura's energy is contagious! I like the way Laura's father is kind to her and is always on her side. I love seeing such a great example of good parenting. The costumes are very typical of what a young person might wear today. For example the t-shirts the teenagers wear to school and what they usually use. The soundtrack is very important for the film and the singers perform them quite admirably. For example, I enjoyed the music when Laura sings and the music in a sad scene made it very touching.

The film's message is a reminder to choose friends for quality not quantity, and believe in yourself.

I give Into the Spotlight 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. It will be available on VOD and DVD September 1, 2023.

By Anna Clara B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Recent college grad Jaime Reyes returns home full of aspirations for his future, only to find that home is not quite as he left it. As he searches to find his purpose in the world, fate intervenes when Jaime unexpectedly finds himself in possession of an ancient relic of alien biotechnology: the Scarab. When the Scarab suddenly chooses Jaime to be its symbiotic host, he is bestowed with an incredible suit of armor capable of extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever changing his destiny as he becomes the Super Hero Blue Beetle.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I really love the film Blue Beetle! One thing I enjoy is the strong cultural theme at its center. It is a great sci-fi film, with a great tone and some pretty fun comedic scenes and characters, which is different for a DC movie.

The storyline is set in Palmera City where Jamie Reyes (Xolo Maridue�a), a Gotham pre-law graduate, is trying to get a job. When he meets Jenny Kord (Bruna Marqueszine), she gives him a piece of alien technology called the "Scarab" that gives him superpowers. The plot thickens when a woman named Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon) tries to steal the Scarab back from Jamie, putting his entire family in danger.

The storyline is great. What this story does differently than other superhero movies is make the main character's family a big part of the action. There are a lot of other unique things about this film, too. I love the way the director and writers bring representation of Latino culture into the film through the characters and the sets. Palmera City, Jamie's house and Jamie's family all feel very realistic. The costumes are incredible as well, especially the Blue Beetle suit -- it's slick and has a personality of its own. Of all the characters, my favorite is Rudy (George Lopez), who brings a lot of fun into his scenes. He is the 'tech support' for Jamie, but is also a conspiracy theorist, and there are a lot of jokes based on his quirky personality. The makeup effects are great too; for example the scene where Jamie transforms into the Blue Beetle.

The film's message is that family makes you stronger, not weaker, which is a theme I love. Be forewarned that the film has a few violent scenes, a lot of action, some profanity and sexual references.

I give Blue Beetle 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters on August 18, 2023.

By Connor S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

By Connor S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Blue Beetle is a fascinating adventurous movie that checks off every box. It brings you to laughter, tears and everything in between all while being an intense blockbuster film!

Blue Beetle takes place in Palmera City, and follows Jamie Reyes (Xolo Mariduena) who starts off as a typical college graduate trying to find himself and his calling. That all changes when an ancient relic, a Scarab, chooses Jamie as its host and sends him and his family on a life changing adventure.

A huge standout in this film is the creative storyline. I really enjoyed the idea of the Scarab, and how the characters go about finding a solution. Each character really comes to life, and watching their journey is so interesting. This movie hits all the marks and has something for everyone. There are so many comedic scenes, yet still definitely has some tear-jerking moments, especially in the end. These different dynamics contribute to creating a well-rounded film, which leads up to the satisfaction that comes at the end. It is quite intense and had me on the edge of my seat most of the time. Another thing I enjoyed are the characters. They each have their own personalities and skills, but ultimately come together through their common love of family. For example, Jamie, Blue Beetle, is more of a go-with-the-flow kind of guy and a little unsure of himself. Then there's Jenny (Bruna Marquezine), who is confident and experienced. Rudy (George Lopez) likes to take risks and often prays for the best. All of these different characteristics and personalities come together and mesh so well in creating a power team!

Lastly, the scenery in this movie is outstanding. The island is beautiful and the CGI is extremely clear. From the clear blue ocean water, to the local heartwarming neighborhoods, everything is extremely appealing to the eye. These features draw my attention, and locked me into what I'm watching.

The message of Blue Beetle is that strength comes from love and hope. Be forewarned that this film contains some strong language, aggressive violence and use of weapons.

I give Blue Beetle 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Blue Beetle releases in theaters August 18, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Blue Beetle is an awesome movie! I like it because the story revolves around family and it's a comedic sci-fi film made me laugh and cry.

Blue Beetle is about a young man named Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridue�a), who returns home after graduating from college and discovers that his family is about to lose their house. When he and his sister, Milagro Reyes (Belissa Escobedo), get jobs working at the house of Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), Milagro's mischief causes them to get fired, but not before they meet Victoria's niece, Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine). Jenny offers to help Jaime land a job at Kord Industries but instead, she winds up asking him to protect the Scarab, an alien artifact that turns him into the Blue Beetle. The Scarab gives Jaime superhero powers but he is reluctant to use them until his family and Jenny become the target of the film's villain, Victoria Kord. She wants to harness the power of the Scarab to build superhuman warriors and rule the world.

You won't want to miss this heart-warming action-packed film. Throughout the entire film, the cinematography is so good that it feels like you are right in the middle of all the action. My favorite part is when Jaime is in danger and his family and Jenny rescue him by using advanced technology developed by Jenny's late father. Even Jaime's grandmother, Nana (Adriana Barraza), shows off her impressive combat skills by wielding a futuristic-looking rainbow-colored cannon. The upbeat Latin-inspired soundtrack adds even more energy to the already intense scenes as Jaime's loved ones risk their safety to protect him. I was especially impressed by Uncle Rudy's (George Lopez) bravery when he faced off against Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo) and narrowly avoided being hit by a fireball. Overall, this movie is truly a thrilling and action-packed ride that will have you rooting for the Reyes family as they laugh together, encourage one another, and cope with tragedy.

The film's message is that family matters more than anything else, and the love of your family make you strong even when things seem impossible. Be forewarned that there are some strong language and scenes with blood and gore that may be scary for a younger audience.

I give Blue Beetle 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Blue Beetle is available in movie theaters on August 18, 2023.

By Kira O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I really enjoyed Blue Beetle. The characters are heartwarming and lovable while the VFX are beautiful. The message of this film is about family which I felt was a genuine storyline and not the typical family story line we see in movies.

The storyline follows Jaime Reyes (Xolo Mariduena), a recent college graduate, who is chosen by an alien scarab to be its symbiotic host. The alien scarab gives the teen a suit of armor with extraordinary and unpredictable powers, forever altering his future as he becomes the superhero known as Blue Beetle.

Blue Beetle Is a great family film with a theme used correctly while having lovable characters. What makes the characters so lovable? Their charisma and charm. The best example of this is Rudy Reyes (George Lopez) who steals the show. Anytime he's on camera it's going to be a good time. The other character that's lovable is Nana Reyes (Adrianna Brazza) who is heartwarming to watch on camera while still remaining a funny character. I won't say more about her because, if I do, I might spoil some of her best moments. If you see this film you'll understand. Finally the person that I believe to be the heart of this film is Alberto Reyes (Damian Alcazar). This character is how the theme of this film is used correctly with very few lines. He somehow makes an impact on this film greater than anybody else. Without him this film wouldn't be the same. Now let's talk about the VFX. This movie is a breath of fresh air. The VFX for this film is pretty beautiful. There's one moment with Jaime and his dad that is just magnificent and even the Blue Beetle suit looks realistic. Even with all these good things Blue Beetle has its flaws. There are some moments in this film that could have been better like providing scenes that give it more depth. I know the character Blue Beetle, but if this is your first time ever seeing the character Blue Beetle you won't know much about his backstory. You will still enjoy it - it's a great experience and you should definitely go watch it.

The theme of this film is about family. It deals with all the things surrounding a family, such as the loss of a family member, the struggles of a family to afford rent that month, or issues with each other. All of these problems blend so well that, by the end of the film, the characters have grown and learned. It gives them development. It's kind of hard to describe how wonderfully portrayed the theme of family is here. In order to truly understand you have to go watch the film.

I give Blue Beetle 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommended it for ages 12 to 18. This film releases in theaters on August 18, 2023

By Rayce S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: TV SERIES, AGES 12-18
Description - After an epic summer at Camp Shallow Lake, the Wildcats return to East High where they prepare a stage production of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year." But plans are disrupted when Principal Gutierrez announces that Disney has decided to make the long-awaited "High School Musical 4: The Reunion" movie on location at their beloved high school.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4 is a great new season to add to the previous three. The series features many returning characters that are known and loved, as well as some new additions to the cast.

Season 4 has the East High students putting on a production of High School Musical 3: Senior Year. However things take a twist when it's revealed by a famous couple that they, along with some of the original cast of the High School Musical trilogy are going to be making High School Musical 4 right in the East High School. With tensions brewing and the movie crew taking over the school, the East High students are in for a wild ride this season.

The twists and turns that happen throughout this season are amazingly captivating. Every time I think things can't get crazier, they do. The relationship between Ricky (Joshua Bassett) and Gina (Sofia Wylie) is very cute and one of the best parts of this season. Actually all of the relationship and friendship dynamics in the show are very cute and scripted. Another cool part of this season is the return of lots of alumni from the original series, including Corbin Bleu, Lucas Grabeel and the legendary Alyson Reed. The whole cast excels in their performances of their characters -- the dynamics of the various relationships are well defined and make sense. For example the relationship between characters Ashlyn (Julia Lester) and Maddox (Saylor Bell Cruda) starts as a platonic friendship with lots of texting yet seems to be developing into more. The show is filmed again at the iconic East High School, which is an appealing part of the series that we all relate to now. One of my all-time favorite parts of this season is the creation of an entirely fake show called Mark and Spark with its own intro and theme song. A new character, Mack (Mathew Sato), comes to East High to star in High School Musical 4 and Mark and Spark is the show that made him famous when he was young. The show features many revised versions of Disney songs such as Now or Never from High School Musical 3 as well as lots of new original songs that are very catchy. One of my favorites is the song in episode one that Ricky and Gina write together about their relationship. Other returning actors include Dara Rene�, Julia Lester, Frankie Rodriguez, Kate Reinders, Liamani Segura and many more.

The message of this season is to be in the moment and don't get caught up in the past. It is a continuing message throughout the entire series.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. The new season releases all episodes August 9, 2023 on Disney+.

By Avalon N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I love High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4. It's filled with engaging content and storylines that keep you hooked. The characters and themes are easy to enjoy and understand, especially if you are a High School Musical fan and even if you are new to the series.

The new series joins the East High drama club's return from a hectic summer camp when things take an unexpected turn. The original cast of High School Musical, the movie, arrives to introduce a new movie idea with the East High drama club included in the cast. The drama club will also stage an adaptation of one of the HSM films. The plot moves quickly and is fun and easy to follow with some unexpected surprises along the way. Each episode recaps the previous storyline and keeps it going with new twists, subplots and characters that make them easy to watch and watch again. The camera work with smooth zooms and clear focus on the actors enhances the viewing experience. I love how the costumes match the vibe of average teens, featuring popular brands and fresh styles. I appreciate the attention to detail with the set design; they truly reflect high schoolers rooms from the neat and organized to the truly messy. I couldn't help but enjoy the music. The background music really sets the mood and moves the story along. But it is the cast's songs that really tell the story with well-rounded lyrics and fun-to-listen-to melodies. I really enjoyed the harmonies of the Halloween special; full of fun and a great surprise to start off the first episode of the season--an excellent beat. The new main character Gina (Sofia Wylie) shows a deep emotional side while remaining strong and confident. I enjoy how relatable her character is. The scriptwriter did a strong job with fast-moving dialogue that is witty, complex and heartfelt. The writers create a series that entertains, with a story inside of a story, without being confusing. My favorite part is when Gina meets Mark (Matthew Sato) her childhood crush and her current boyfriend Ricky (Joshua Bassett) jealously and comically tries to prove he's better than him.

The message of this season is about taking things slowly, not rushing into decisions, and figuring things out calmly.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series Season 4 gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I and recommend it to ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Season 4 releases August 9, 2023 on Disney+.

Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: TV

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Dreamin' Wild, the true story of love and redemption, is about what happened to singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson and his family when the album he and his brother recorded as teens was rediscovered after thirty years of obscurity and was suddenly hailed by music critics as a lost masterpiece. While the album's rediscovery brings hopes of second chances, it also brings long-buried emotions as Donnie, his wife Nancy, brother Joe, and father Don Sr. come to terms with the past and their newly found fame.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - With its toe-tapping music and sincere performances, Dreamin' Wild definitely entertained me and I believe will enrapture pop-rock fans as well as those who have never heard of Donnie and Joe Emerson. The film tells a true story with immense heart. It is shot elegantly and the story is fascinating; the at-times flat narration is the only chink in Dreamin Wild's armor.

Dreamin' Wild opens in the rural Pacific Northwest, as singer/songwriter Donnie Emerson (Casey Affleck) and his family, are approached by a representative from Light in the Attic, who says he thinks the album Donnie and his brother Joe (Walton Goggins) recorded as teenagers is the next big hit. When the album, also named Dreamin' Wild, makes its rounds, it is hailed by music critics as a lost masterpiece. And whereas the brothers see this stroke of luck as a second chance for stardom, it also unmoors other deep-seated emotions, fears, and hopes, as Donnie, Joe, and the family come to terms with the past, present and possible future.

The moving story is shot with clarity, care and craft; the lighting and framing do justice to the Emersons' bucolic hometown as well as their eclectic and ethereal 'jam space.' Casey Affleck has somewhat patented the 'damaged man exploring his trauma' trope, perhaps because of his real-life experience fending off his demons with alcoholism. That takes nothing away from his deep performance as Donnie in Dreamin' Wild. His portrayal of emotional damage and hope is enough to keep you gripped. Walton Goggins is equally spectacular. Every dialogue-heavy scene is followed by the brothers jamming, and then another dialogue-heavy scene; this format gets a little tiring by the 60-minute mark, but the plot developments and emotional performances redeem the film's at-times slow pace.

Dreamin' Wild encourages following your dreams but staying grounded, being hopeful but never forgetting where you've come from, and caring for your family and yourself.

I give Dreamin' Wild 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Dreamin' Wild will release exclusively in theaters on August 4, 2023.

Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Icelandic lawyer Kristin gets drawn into the vortex of an international conspiracy when she receives footage of an airplane wreck, recently revealed by the melting of one of Iceland's largest glaciers. The old German World War II plane not only brings ruthless criminals onto the scene, but also CIA director William Carr, who has been secretly trying to remove the wreck for a long time. Kristin refuses to rest until the key has been discovered that will solve the riddle of Operation Napoleon.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Operation Napoleon is a great film for fans of mysteries and international intrigue. Its interesting plot shines, thanks to stellar cinematography and despite a rough screenplay and sometimes wooden performances from the cast.

Operation Napoleon follows Icelandic lawyer Krist�n (Vivian �lafsd�ttir), who is drawn into an international conspiracy and falsely implicated in a murder after her brother finds a Nazi plane atop the Vatnajokull Glacier. Now she must unravel the history behind the conspiracy, codenamed Operation Napoleon by the CIA, and escape U.S. agents tracking her down.

As with many Nordic films, the style of acting in Operation Napoleon is very understated. This does not do the film too many favors when it comes to scenes of life and death, in which the characters struggle to emote and to immerse the viewers in each scene. The editing and cinematography are highlights -- sets are believable; the color correction is consistently cold (to do justice to Icelandic winters); and everything looks great. The film doesn't slow down to breathe too frequently, which helps keep the momentum of the action going. But the screenplay is a mixed bag; the script doesn't provide enough detail behind many characters' goals and ambitions, and the story waits until the end to explain the real motive behind Operation Napoleon, in a relatively awkward way. Iain Glen, who plays William Carr, and Olafur Darri, who plays Einar, are the best actors of the lot. �lafsd�ttir and her male lead counterpart Jack Fox (who plays researcher Steve Rush) both come across as one-note characters. Still, the premise of the film is interesting enough to keep you watching.

Operation Napoleon promotes honor and the pursuit of truth.

I give Operation Napoleon 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Operation Napoleon releases in theaters and on demand on August 11, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - Based on the popular children's book by Donna Morgan it is about a dog whose fur turns into money.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Furry Fortune is a very entertaining film about learning to not take advantage of the things you have. Also it reminds us that family should always come first, especially before money.

The story follows young twins, Zoey (Juju Brener) and Dax (Mason Bloomberg), and their dog Nuzzles (Henry) who sheds money from his fur due to a wish Dax made to help their mother (Mo Allen) and father (Shane Heartline) who are struggling with money. They end up with so much money and it gets in the way of their family, plus their neighbors get suspicious of how the Taylor family suddenly has so much money. This makes them obsessed with finding out their secret.

What I like the most about this film is the brother-sister relationship Zoey and Dax have. I also adore how the actors make their characters look and feel like they are a family. The acting by the child actors is outstanding. I love how Zoey's characteristics are mature, sassy, smart and very grown up. Dax characteristics on the other hand are very childish, sweet and kind. The actors show what siblings actually act like -- even when they fight, they still love each other. The neighbors, William Kearst III (Adam Kulbersh) and his son Odom Kearst (Mason Wells), bring humor into the film by their spying on the Taylor family. I also really enjoyed the cinematography; the images are steady, in focus, and very clear. Another thing worth mentioning are the set designs -- the Taylor family's house feels like a nice, clean and cozy home. And, the twin's treehouse with all its gadgets, pulleys and other crazy stuff that allows people to go in and out of the tree house is outstanding.

The film's message is to never take what you have for granted and that family is everything! It also reminds us that money can't buy you happiness, so appreciate what you have and always make family a priority. Never let anyone or anything get in the way of family; family always comes first.

I give The Furry Fortune 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. It releases on video on demand and DVD beginning August 1, 2023.

By Valerie R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to have a dog that sheds money? Welcome to the life of twins Dax (Mason Blomberg) and Zoe Taylor (Juju Journey Brener). An absurd story is executed with comedy and charm, portraying the importance of family over money in the film The Furry Fortune.

The Furry Fortune follows Dax and Zoe on their adventures as they start out as bored and neglected children and navigate their way through unexpected events to eventually arrive at a very important realization. Not only does Furry Fortune focus on Dax and Zoe's lives, but it also shows snippets of their parents, Doug (Shane Hartline) and Emily Taylor (Mo Allen), and their next door neighbors, William Kearst (Adam Kulbersh) and Odom Kearst (Mason Wells). The neighbors are willing to do whatever it takes for money, which becomes a problem when the Taylors are forced to hide their windfall from everyone. Will the secret stay a secret, or will the money become a curse rather than a blessing?

The acting in The Furry Fortune truly makes so much of a difference. Specifically, Mason Blomberg and Juju Journey Brener, as the twins, emphasize the message of the film. Through their sad and left out expressions, we are able to further relate to the characters and understand the importance of the theme. Their parents are constantly putting work and money over spending time with their kids, and the twins demonstrate the effect it has on them. In addition, the acting performances of Shane Hartline and Mo Allen, as the parents, show what not to do, and how one person's actions can affect someone so much without them even realizing it. Without these in-depth acting performances, the message wouldn't be as strong or seem as relevant to viewers' lives. The comedy throughout provides a nice break from some of the sadder and more serious moments. On top of some jokes and hilarious moments, the film is funny as a whole because of the absurdity of the world they are living in -- a dog that sheds money? How much more ridiculous can a film get? But it is such a fun concept and kept me engaged the entire time.

The message of The Furry Fortune is that time can make more money, but money can't make more time. Dax and Zoe think that the more money you have, the happier you will be. They both come to realize that if you spend all of your time chasing money, you lose time that you can't get back. The Furry Fortune emphasizes the importance of putting family first and spending time doing the things you love with the people you love while you can. There is some very mild inappropriate language.

I give The Furry Fortune 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It releases on video on demand and DVD beginning August 1, 2023.

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Description - After years of being sheltered from the human world, the Turtle brothers set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O'Neil helps them take on a mysterious crime syndicate, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - After a long absence from the big screen, Seth Rogan successfully revived the beloved franchise of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with his new and authentic-style film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. The movie veers away from the look of its predecessors with a fresh art style that combines 2D and 3D animation, resembling Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse films. On top of that, the film is the brainchild of "permanent teenager" Seth Rogan, who is a comedic genius. Rogan's more age-appropriate humor featured within the film will have audiences belly-laughing the majority of the time.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have always struggled with being accepted. Ever since birth, they have been outcasts. After being raised while hidden away within the sewers of New York City, the turtles start hoping for a shot at a normal teenage life. They come to believe that the only way for them to be accepted is to share their own heroic story with the world. This encourages them to investigate and stop the local evil-doer, Superfly (Ice Cube), and his band of mutant misfits.

Many modern-day movies and TV shows often miss the mark when trying to portray the authentic experience of being a teenager in this day and age. However, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem hits that mark spot on. The language and whole dynamic between the turtles is incredibly accurate for what it means to be a teenager today, and most likely will give young-adult audiences more of a laugh because of this hysterical and relatable portrayal. It's clear that the star-studded cast really respects the material and just has fun with it all, especially Paul Rudd as Mondo Gecko, who, quite frankly, steals the show.

The large theme of the film is acceptance, while teaching the moral that in order to truly be accepted, you just have to be yourself. It also teaches the importance of brotherhood, and the significance of simply watching out for your own. It is rated PG, which definitely is appropriate rating as it has its fair share of action, crude humor and mild language. Any intensity is often balanced out with little jokes that keep the mood light and enjoyable.

I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can find Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem flipping into theaters on August 2, 2023. Make sure to check it out!

By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

If you're looking for a humorous and family-friendly film to go see this summer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is just the film for you.

The story begins with brothers Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Donatello (Micah Abbey), Raphael (Brady Noon) and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) who try to live normal teenage lives, despite having an overprotective father who tries to keep them safe and hidden away from the dangerous humans. They meet a human girl named April (Ayo Edebiri) who helps them prevent the evil villain Superfly (Ice Cube) from killing all humans and mutating every animal on earth, and taking over the world. In return, April learns to accept herself as she also struggles to fit in.

The comedic timing of the characters is my favorite thing about this film. The jokes and references had me laughing out loud. And I love how this film relates to not only the younger generation but also to the older generation--it appeals to the perfect mix of audiences. I also like how it shows the struggles of trying to fit in as a teenager. For example, the turtle brothers are willing to defeat a villain to be accepted by humans. I also really enjoy the visual effects. For example, during a fighting scene, the fire and explosions are absolutely spectacular. The animation and character designs are also worth mentioning. I love how the mutants' designs are crazy and abstract. My favorite personality belongs to Splinter (Jackie Chan) -- Chan really brings Splinter to life and shows how a dad may feel towards his children.

The film's message is to accept yourself for who you are-- you do not need validation from others. It also reminds us that no one is "normal" and that we should accept others as well as ourselves. Please be advised there is brief profanity in this film.

I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem will be released in theaters August 2, 2023.

By Valerie R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

I love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. The film is laugh-out-loud funny and includes a powerful message about acceptance.

The film tells the story of how, after years of being sheltered from the human world, the turtle brothers set out to win the hearts of New Yorkers and be accepted as normal teenagers through heroic acts. Their new friend April O'Neil (Ayo Edebiri) helps them take on a mysterious crime group, but they soon get in over their heads when an army of mutants is unleashed upon them.

I love that this movie really explores the youthful side of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and that they add depth to each of the characters. It works so well that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are teenagers, and that teenagers voice them. Raphael (Brady Noon) has a temper; Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu) just wants to be a good leader and do what is right; Donatello (Micah Abbey) is super smart, and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.) is fun and carefree. They could not have picked a better group of boys to voice these turtles. The writing is so smart--the boys really get to act like teens and say things teens would say. The boys also recorded all their lines together, which I think was so good for the overall chemistry of the characters. The animation and style of this film is phenomenal, and the visuals are stunning. My favorite part is when the turtles meet April O'Neil (Ayo Edebiri) for the first time and they help get her scooter back that was stolen and the turtles have their first fight scene.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is full of comedy, heart, action and incredible animation. I think this movie will create a whole new generation of TMNT fans. The film teaches you to accept people, turtles, or mutants for what they are and appreciate everyone's differences. This is an important message everyone should understand and appreciate.

I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters August 2, 2023.

By Carter P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a touching yet thrilling animated film that brings back the iconic Ninja Turtles, and dives deeper into their lives.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem brings back this well-known group of Ninja Turtles; Leonard (Nicolas Cantu), Donatello (Micah Abbey), Raphael (Brady Noon), and Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr.). The film features their everyday lives as teenagers living in NYC. They've always been told to stay unseen, but that all changes when their curiosity overpowers them, and they start to realize their potential. This movie takes these Ninjas along with its audience on a fun journey, and teaches important lessons along the way.

I really enjoy the style of animation in this film. The filter used gives a dystopian modern day feel that really takes you to a different world. The warm colors and dark features all add to this, and, to me, the film feels like a realistic fantasy. Every animated detail, from the design of the streets, to the small food items, all contributes to the vibe and aesthetic of the film. Another standout in this movie is the soundtrack. Each song matches that scene, and overall has a nostalgic, freeing feeling. For example, there were some older songs that reminded me of my life. The track at the end of the movie really put everything I just watched into perspective. The entire film is relatable, and, deep down, shows the young innocence of teenagers discovering who they are.. The Ninjas embark on a mission after getting tied up with wrong people, and the execution of that plot is outstanding. Overall, the storyline is powerful and helps to develop the message of accepting others.

The message of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is to never judge someone from the outside. Also the meaning and message of the film teaches us to accept others and always do what you know is right.

I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 4.5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it to ages 8 to 18. You can watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem in theaters beginning August 2, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critics, age 17

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem is a breath of fresh air and certainly the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie so far. This animated rendition of everyone's favorite turtles is "oozing" with distinctive and eye-catching graphics and upbeat music. The movie dives deep and expands on the personalities of the characters we know and introduces new mutants that I love. Although it has a predictable plot, it's certainly enjoyable and appealing to kids, teens and adults.

After many years of hiding from the human world in the sewers, Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), Raphael (Brady Noon), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr) and Donatello (Micah Abbey) want nothing more than to be accepted as normal teenagers. They find that the only way to do this is to save New York City. They plan to take down the notorious villain, Superfly (Ice Cube) and be hailed as heroes. Easy enough, right?

This movie "milks" the strengths of the franchise with an updated view. It's great for all ages, but I feel it caters the most to a teenage audience. It uses current slang (such as "sus" and "rizz" - which made me laugh) music and pop culture. Director Seth Rogen's creativity in this movie elevates it. Compared to other turtles seen in previous installments, the turtles here feel way more like actual teenagers. Even Master Splinter (Jackie Chan) feels more genuine and like a dad. Some of the best performances in this movie come from Nicolas Cantu (Leonardo), Brady Noon (Raphael), Micha Abbey (Donatello) and Ayo Edebiri (April O'Neil). The dynamic of the Turtle brothers is one of my favorite parts of this movie. April (Ayo Edebiri) is very realistic because she just wants acceptance and to get through high school. She is also very relatable to me personally because she is a journalist and trying to make it in the world. There is also some big star power in this movie, represented by Ice Cube, Maya Rudolph, Giancarlo Esposito, Rose Byrne, John Cena, Paul Rudd and Post Malone! Master Splinter, voiced by Jackie Chan, is my favorite character because he is so endearing. Make sure to stay for the post-credits scene.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem displays that love for friends and family overpowers even the worst evils. This movie also deals with acceptance and bias and demonstrates the importance of not judging a book by its cover - or shell. Another idea demonstrated is don't let the haters get to you because you can't really hide from the world in a sewer for the rest of your life. There is some mild profanity and actions that are risky for children (like being ninjas).

I give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This movie comes out in theaters August 2, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - The incredible story of the greatest cycling race in history, the 1989 Tour de France, and how American Greg LeMond faced down betrayal, childhood sexual abuse and death completing one of the most inspiring comebacks in history.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The Last Rider is a powerful and inspiring true story that truly touched my heart and I believe will touch many others as well. This life story is brought to the screen with captivating and impressive storytelling.

This documentary is about Greg LeMond, a famous cyclist who won the Tour de France three times; he is the first and currently, last American to do so. It reveals his life story, starting from when cycling was simply a sport he did to keep fit for skiing in the winter. The story progresses as he wins his first Tour de France in 1986. He gets shot in 1987, which puts his career and life in jeopardy. The documentary focuses mostly on his struggle to get back into cycling and winning the Tour in 1989 and 1990 after his near death -- showcasing one of the greatest comebacks in sports' history. The story is truly motivational and has many good messages.

What makes The Last Rider so captivating due is the amount of actual footage they used. The footage came mostly from news broadcasts or LeMond's personal collection -- all from different events that took place, with perhaps a bit of stock footage. A lot of the footage has never been shown to the public before. Another thing that impressed me is the amount of interviews that are used. There are interviews with Greg and Cathy LeMond as well as a few other people that were impactful in LeMond's life such as Laurent Fignon. The film can be very confusing at times due to the use of a lot of cycling terms, which are not explained.

The film's message is to never give up and keep trying, because you never know what might happen and the race isn't over till you cross the finish line. It does contain a lot of more difficult topics that aren't necessarily appropriate for younger audiences.

I give The Last Rider 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters now.

By Avalon N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - The League celebrates the dynamic journey of Negro League baseball's triumphs and challenges through the first half of the twentieth century. The story is told through previously unearthed archival footage and never-before-seen interviews with legendary players like Satchel Paige and Buck O'Neil -- whose early careers paved the way for the Jackie Robinson era -- as well as celebrated Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Hank Aaron who started out in the Negro Leagues. From entrepreneurial titans Cumberland Posey and Gus Greenlee, whose intense rivalry fueled the rise of two of the best baseball teams ever to play the game, to Effa Manley, the activist owner of the Newark Eagles and the only woman ever admitted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, THE LEAGUE explores Black baseball as an economic and social pillar of Black communities and a stage for some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, while also examining the unintended consequences of integration.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The League is an intriguing sports film documenting the camaraderie and competition embedded in the evolution of the Negro leagues. Despite its mix of newly unearthed interviews, carefully chosen music, and crisp and clear b-roll, the film falls short of a home run due to its slightly sluggish pace.

The League uses Black baseball as a lens to view the US pre-, post-, and during integration. An economic and social pillar of Black communities and a stage for some of the greatest athletes to ever play the game, The League also explores many unintended consequences of integration. It's a story of trials and tribulations, but also rousing victories.

The film offers a portrait of a community that weathered discrimination and marginalization and used a common passion -- the sport of baseball -- to shape their community in a time of new rights and a more integrated society. A jazz fan and lifelong film student himself, director Sam Pollard effectively sews together never-before-seen interview footage, historically rooted jazz tunes and a clear, if at times circuitous, narrative in The League. At times, the film loses itself in descriptions of individual players and it becomes hard to maintain the big-picture view of the Negro leagues. However, the crisp visuals and voiceovers - one by Pollard himself, of the late Negro league umpire, author and US marine, Bob Motley.

The League promotes resilience through a mix of self-reliance, resourcefulness and teamwork.

I give The League 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The League releases exclusively in AMC Theaters on July 7, 2023.

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

This documentary is perfect for anyone interested in sports and/or history. It has eye-opening material that is very educational while keeping one invested in the story. I learned so much about the Negro leagues and their importance to baseball and all of America.

The League honors the journey of the Negro leagues baseball and highlights the contributions of many, including Bob Motley, Rube Foster and Effa Manley, while also spotlighting the incredible teams like the Newark Eagles, Kansas City Monarchs, Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays. It investigates the start, the glory days, the challenges and the decline of the Negro leagues from many different points of view. It also explores the impact the Negro leagues had on the communities where they played.

If you have a passion for history and baseball, this is a great watch. It goes behind headlines and takes an opportunity to dig deeper into everything about the leagues and the MLB. Even if you're not very knowledgeable about baseball (like me), this documentary is certainly one to watch. The director, Sam Pollard, gives a very thoughtful performance as he voices Bob Motley's perspective and experience as an umpire in the Negro leagues. In addition to Bob Motley's thoughts, this movie also uncovers never-before seen interviews with Negro leagues' players and explanations from amazing historians and authors such as Larry Lester, Andrea Williams, Bob Kendrick and Dr. Lawrence Hogan.

The League demonstrates all the courage, passion, and determination of so many people. It gives you an in-depth view of the complexity of the Negro leagues. There are a few heavy topics covered in this movie that may not be suitable for a younger audience.

I give The League 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. I especially recommend it to those interested in baseball. It releases in theaters July 7, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I like the documentary, The League, and how it celebrates racial justice through a common passion: baseball. The combination of animation and film footage makes it visually appealing. I admire all the people involved in the film, as well as its historical perspective.

This storyline follows the creation of the Negro League and how playing baseball changed the course of history forever. Despite their obstacles, the league is part of an important social movement.

The directors of the film are Jeff Schaffer and Jackie Marcus Schaffer, both of whom are also part of the fifteen person writing team. They excel at spotlighting the various points of view and personal stories for the large number of people involved. The interview subjects include Phil Dixon, Andrea Williams, Larry Lester, Bob Kendrick, Leslie Heaphy, Rob Ruck, James Brunson, Layton Revel, Larry Hogan and Jim Overmyer. Each of them has a story about how the Negro League changed their life or their family's lives. A big part of bringing together the Negro League is collaboration. Every person involved helped grow the league and connect it altogether. Baseball is for everyone. That is shown when the Eastern Colored League and the Negro National League play each other in the very first Colored World Series. Fantastic players such as Hank Aaron and Willie Mays actually started their career in the Negro League. They made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. This shows how foundations are built from the ground up. These players were not spectacular when they started, but they kept practicing and were dedicated to learning the sport. In fact, the League was pretty unprivileged at first, but that didn't stop them from playing their hearts out. They did the best they could with what they had and that led the Negro League to victory later on. It brought people together and also brought better opportunities to their lives. The League is full of pride about how much they have accomplished and how it sparked the rise of Black professionals in the 20th Century. I like how animation is used in this film, varying from never-before-seen footage to animated run-throughs of the game in action. The music also adds to the effect because it builds anticipation. Despite the Great Depression and segregation through America, baseball was a tie that kept people together.

The film's message is that passion and stamina are essential for achieving your dreams. It also enforces that idea that your ethnicity, or what someone else thinks about you, doesn't dictate who you are as a person or an athlete.

I give The League 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in Theaters July 7, 2023 and will begin streaming July 14, 2023.

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Archaeologist Indiana Jones races against time to retrieve a legendary artifact that can change the course of history. Experience the return of legendary hero, Indiana Jones, in the fifth installment of this beloved swashbuckling series of films. Finding himself in a new era, approaching retirement, Indy wrestles with fitting into a world that seems to have outgrown him. But as the tentacles of an all-too-familiar evil return in the form of an old rival, Indy must don his hat and pick up his whip once more to make sure an ancient and powerful artifact doesn't fall into the wrong hands.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is another classic adventure with Harrison Ford's intrepid archeologist, but the movie shifts into a better gear when it reinvents rather than repeats. That said, nothing beats seeing this character back in the saddle, riding off into the sunset in search of the next great artifact.

The movie opens in 1969 -- we've landed on the moon, but Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) has landed a job as a professor at a sleepy university in New York. The adventure begins when his goddaughter, Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) offers him a chance to find a dial from ancient times that is rumored to have extraordinary capabilities. Indy soon discovers he's not the only one in search of the dial. A foe from Indy's past is on the trail with a posse of armed, dangerous associates and he wants to use the dial to rewind time and undo the events of World War II in the Nazi's favor. Indy and Helena's quest for a relic becomes a globe-trotting mission to stop the dial from being used for evil.

It's a winning celebration of all things Indiana Jones, the character, Harrison Ford's performance, the movies, and a reminder of why we love them. When the movie turns its focus away from honoring the past and instead tells a whole new Indy adventure, that's where it gets really good. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny starts with a thud. We see a flashback featuring a digitally de-aged Harrison Ford as a younger Indy in his first brush with the titular Dial, aided by an anxious professor (Toby Jones). It sets up the fabric of the story ahead, but the de-aging effect doesn't work like it needs to. It immediately creates a distance between us and the adventurer we're here to see. It's disquieting to see Indiana Jones not as we've known him for five movies now, but as a manipulated, augmented version of himself. A large portion of the rest of the movie suffers from the same flaws -- in honoring the franchise's past it feels like it keeps doing things we've seen before. In the final stretch, though, it does something I've never seen these movies do before, more specifically, somewhere Indy has never ventured.

There isn't a lesson per se to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny but all stories that deal with time and its manipulation remind us that we have to try to be happy where we are, rather than live in the past. If you've seen an Indiana Jones movie, you know that faces can get melted off or hearts pulled out in the pursuit of treasure, be warned that there is frequent violence and some profanity.

I give Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny swings into theaters nationwide on June 30, 2023.

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny is a thrilling adventure that transported me to a world of ancient mysteries and daring exploits.

Starring the legendary Harrison Ford, this film takes us on a journey alongside the iconic archaeologist, Indiana Jones, as he embarks on a quest to uncover the secrets of the mysterious Dial of Destiny.

The film delivers an entertaining experience that will satisfy those seeking adrenaline-fueled escapades. From the moment the movie begins, I was immediately captivated by the action-packed scenes and breathtaking locations. The film seamlessly blends intense action sequences with moments of suspense and discovery, keeping me engaged and on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film. Harrison Ford delivers yet another stellar performance as Indiana Jones, effortlessly portraying the charismatic and resourceful character we all know and love. His performance adds depth and authenticity to the film, making me feel as if I was right there alongside him, facing danger and unraveling ancient puzzles. The plot of Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny is filled with twists and turns, taking the audience on a globetrotting adventure from ancient ruins to hidden temples. The quest to unlock the secrets of the Dial of Destiny is both thrilling and intriguing, with each new discovery bringing Indiana Jones closer to the truth. However, there are moments when the pace slows down, and the plot feels a bit convoluted, which can be a minor drawback. Visually, the film is a feast for the eyes. The stunning cinematography showcases the exotic locations and beautifully crafted sets, immersing the audience in the world of Indiana Jones. The attention to detail is remarkable, and the special effects enhance the overall cinematic experience, adding to the excitement and grandeur of the film.

The film's message is that some things shouldn't be discovered. Be aware that there is some profanity.

I give Indiana Jones: Dial of Destiny 4.5out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, as well as adults, especially those who are devoted fans of adventure films. Mark your calendars for its release on June 30, 2023, and brace yourself for an action-packed adventure.

David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a thrilling adventure film that captures the essence of the beloved Indiana Jones franchise. This action-packed movie, directed by James Mangold, delivers an exhilarating experience from start to finish. The captivating storyline, impressive visuals and talented cast make it a must-watch for fans of the series.

In this installment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) embarks on a race against time to retrieve the legendary Dial of Destiny, a powerful artifact that holds the potential to alter the course of history. Accompanied by his courageous goddaughter, they face off against J�rgen Voller, a former Nazi who now works for NASA. As the stakes rise, the characters find themselves in a thrilling pursuit that certainly kept me on the edge of my seat.

This film is an absolute treat for fans of the franchise and adventure enthusiasts of all ages. With its thrilling storyline, impressive performances, and breathtaking visuals, it captivated me from beginning to end. The protagonist, Indiana Jones is flawlessly portrayed by the talented Harrison Ford whose performance captures the charismatic and adventurous spirit that has made the character iconic. The film's production design, by Adam Stockhausen, is exceptional, transporting viewers to stunning and immersive locations around the world. The attention to detail in the sets, costumes, and special effects truly brings the world of Indiana Jones to life. My favorite parts of this film are the incredible action sequences. The choreography and execution of these scenes are top-notch, providing exhilarating moments that showcase the daring nature of Indiana Jones. Additionally, John Williams' musical score perfectly complements the on-screen action, adding to the overall excitement and immersion.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny delivers a powerful message about the importance of preserving history and the consequences of tampering with it. The film successfully conveys the idea that our actions in the present can have far-reaching effects on the future. It also highlights the significance of teamwork and courage in the face of adversity. Parents should be aware that the film contains some intense action scenes and mild language.

I give Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny a stellar 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Both young viewers and adults will enjoy the exhilarating ride that this film offers. Make sure to catch it in theaters starting June 30, 2023.

By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 19

I love Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. It is fast paced, exciting and full of amazing actors. This action-packed film kept me on the edge of my seat while taking me on an adventure spanning centuries and the globe.

Dr. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), a retiring professor, is convinced by Helena Shaw (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), daughter of Indy's longtime friend Basil Shaw (Toby Jones), to find the missing half of the Dial of Archimedes or the Antikythera, a priceless artifact that might have the ability to find "fissures in time" to make time-travel possible made by Greek mathematician Archimedes (Nasser Memarzia). But they're not the only ones looking to find the other half and put the pieces together.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny's adventure starts in war-torn France where the Germans are loading the looted antiquities and artifacts, and the initial discovery of the Antikythera made by Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen) who wants to use it for hateful reasons. Enter a young (CGI generated) Indiana Jones - captured, life hanging in balance, and a narrow lucky escape followed by a harrowing chase to catch up with Dr. Voller and a train full of treasures, soldiers and his friend Basil. The battle to retrieve the Antikythera by Indy and Basil becomes a stunning race against all odds in and on top of a moving train. Fast-forward to 1969 New York with a ticker tape parade for Apollo 11 and we see Dr. Jones under chase on horseback. The camera work is impressive, creating a feeling of being right there with the characters. The standout scene for me is the car chase in Morocco, with its extremely busy streets, narrow passageways and the longest set of stairs which Indy, Helena and Teddy (Ethan Isidore) go bumping down in a tuk-tuk. The adventure and peril continue in the blue waters of Greece as Renaldo (Antonio Banderas) captains his boat for Indy and Helena to scuba dive for clues to the missing half of the Antikythera. The costumes are realistic and very stylish, capturing military attire from Roman siege of Syracuse in 213/212 BC, German Nazi uniforms as World War II is coming to an end, the jubilant attire of the moon race era from the late 1960s, and of course, the classic Indiana Jones' outfit - brown fedora, safari shirt, leather bomber jacket and bullwhip. The background music enhanced each scene, often introducing an imminent fight or chase scene and adding to the tension, while soothing and calming during the more joyful moments.

The film's message is about time - time running out, time catching up and questioning whether time travel can change destiny. I find this message thought provoking and a moving tribute to the Indiana Jones character and final film. There are some unsavory moments that include gun violence and sensitive topics.

I give Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters June 30, 2023.

Madeleine H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Asteroid City takes place in a fictional American desert town circa 1955. Following a writer on his world famous fictional play about a grieving father who travels with his tech-obsessed family to small rural Asteroid City to compete in a junior stargazing event, only to have his world view disrupted forever. Director Wes Anderson brings another all-star cast to this striking, imaginary world.
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KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Wes Anderson's unique style is all over the film Asteroid City. While watching it, I vacillated between being confused with the storyline and captivated by the eye-candy cinematography. I love the coloring of this film, and like Asteroid City as a whole but, despite the amazing cast and fascinating moments, the film left me blank.

The story starts showing a dad, Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) with his three daughters and one son, visiting Asteroid City's western meteor crash site hosting a sort of "space camp." The family is attending a science competition. While there, an alien visits everyone attending the science competition. This extreme world-changing event causes Augie, his family and everyone else at the competition to quarantine, leaving them stuck.

I really like the style of this film, the cinematography and set designs. The film takes place in 1955 and really embodies this time era. The bright colors of Asteroid City are mesmerizing but become overwhelming at times. Throughout the film, there are cuts in the storyline that make it confusing. It seems that Wes Anderson tries to tell the author's story while telling the story of Asteroid City at the same time. I like the storyline, although the multi-narrative detracts from the story itself and makes it difficult to understand where the story is going. The ending does piece together the straggling parts and everything becomes a lot clearer. After the first hour there is a turning point where I could better understand what was going on. I love the cast! I am a huge fan of Maya Hawke who plays a teacher named June. I love Maya's ability to be so in touch with the roles she plays and I really love her performance in this film. Scarlett Johansson also delivers a great performance as the character, Midge who is an actress in the film. Both Jake Ryan as Woodrow Steenbeck and Jason Schwartzman as Augie Steenbeck nail their performances -- their characters are surprisingly very alike, both having awkward, yet interesting personalities. There are so many other incredible actors in this film like Tom Hanks who plays the grandfather of the three girls and their brother. I love the performance of the three young daughters -- they are so funny and adorable.

The film's message is about scientists and artists finding a common place and longing to connect. Be aware that there is brief nudity, smoking and suggestive material.

I give Asteroid City 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Asteroid City releases in theaters June 23, 2023.

By Zoe C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Description - Disney and Pixar's "Elemental" is an all-new, original feature film set in Element City, where Fire, Water, Earth and Air residents live together. The story introduces Ember, a tough, quick-witted and fiery young woman, whose friendship with a fun, sappy, go-with-the-flow guy named Wade challenges her beliefs about the world they live in. The voice cast includes Leah Lewis as the fiery Ember; Mamoudou Athie as the water-guy Wade; Ronnie del Carmen as Ember's soon-to-be retired dad, Bernie; Shila Ommi as Ember's love-seeking mom, Cinder; Wendi McLendon-Covey as Wade's stormy and Air-Ball-loving boss, Gale; Catherine O'Hara as Wade's welcoming mom, Brook; Mason Wertheimer as Ember's admiring neighbor, Clod; and Joe Pera as an overgrown city bureaucrat, Fern.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I absolutely love the movie Elemental! It shares an uplifting message that's perfect for the younger generation. The animation is visually captivating, too. The whole concept and plot of the film (and the forbidden love story) is very clever and well-written.

The film takes us on the journey of a girl from the fire side of Element City meeting a guy from the water side. They try their best to solve a serious problem without conversing much. Who knows what happens when fire and water mix?

The main characters are Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis), Wade (Mamoudou Athie), Gale Cumulus (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Cinder (Sheila Vosough), Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen), Brook Ripple (Catherine O'Hara) and Alan Ripple (Matthew Yang King). The fire people usually stay away from all the other elements, so when Wade starts conversing with Ember, her parents don't approve. Wade could extinguish Ember, and Ember could make Wade evaporate. All in all, it's not a good mix. The concept of water and fire mixing is so clever and I applaud Pixar / Disney for this new idea. It represents everyone's differences and the idea that each element is special. Also, Ember learns to control her anger issues, which is a lesson many people can learn from. This movie appeals to me visually as well as emotionally. The animation is incredible and it looks realistic even for being animated. Element City is beautiful and looks like a futuristic city. I felt like I was in the city with them while watching it. There's a drastic change between the city and Ember's hometown solely for fire people. I like the sets and how they relate to the elements. For instance, Wade's house is mostly underwater, while other elements in the city live in trees. My favorite part of the film is when Wade starts the wave at the air basketball game they're watching. All the water residents turn into an actual wave! All these pieces come together to make the movie entertaining, emotional, funny and captivating.

The film's message is to follow your dreams and ignite your passions. It encourages others to do what they want to do with their life, rather than doing what other people ask them to do. In other words, be true to yourself. It also celebrates everyone's differences.

I give Elemental 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. It releases in theaters June 16, 2023 and is expected to start streaming on Disney+ shortly thereafter.

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Elemental has so many wonderful 'elements,' such as its detailed animation, playful voice-acting, and hilarious lines.

The storyline is about Ember (Leah Lewis), a girl who has lived in Firetown in Element City her entire life and dreams of one day taking over the family shop, run by her father (Ronnie Del Carmen). When a city inspector, Wade (Mamoudou Athie) bursts through the pipes under the shop he notices many violations in the shop and threatens to send notes of these violations to the city. Ember chases him throughout the city to get the notes back but it's too late. After hearing her story he decides to help her, and the two eventually develop a bond. But can fire and water ever be together?

The best thing about this film is the intricate detail put into every bit of animation. The city has so many different parts and the animation provides a look into every nook and cranny. Also, there are many element-related puns in every scene. This attention to detail and creativity is seen everywhere, but I particularly noticed it in the scene where Wade and Ember go to an air ball playoff game. From the team names to the game itself everything is so well crafted. Leah Lewis has so much emotion as Ember and her personality really shines throughout the film. The chemistry between Wade and Ember is remarkable for an animated film. We only hear their voices but the two voice-actors work so well together. My favorite part of Elemental is the scene where Ember and Wade try to touch for the first time. They don't exactly know what is going to happen since they are fire and water so the audience is left in anticipation.

The theme of Elemental is that differences shouldn't separate people, and you should not judge somebody because of theirs. Throughout the film grudges are held against Ember due to her being from Firetown. Water and fire are not allowed to be together, but the love Wade and Ember share overcomes the differences that were supposed to keep them apart.

I give Elemental 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 plus adults. It releases in theatres June 16, 2023.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Elemental is a beautiful animated film that fills the screen with color and excitement and is a great viewing experience for audiences of all ages. The animation is definitely the highlight of the film; the plot leaves a little to be desired.

Elemental tells the story of Ember Lumen (Leah Lewis), a fire element who lives in the Element City, where water, land, fire and air residents live together. Ember lives in the fire neighborhood and hopes to take over her dad's fire shop, but her anger issues and inability to control her temper is standing in her way. One day, Ember meets Wade (Mamoudou Athie), a water element who tries to shut down her dad's business. After convincing Wade by explaining what the business means to her family, Wade tries to help her; only it's too late since the paperwork has already been sent to his boss. Wade and Ember must work together to save her dad's business, and along the way, they discover more than they ever knew was possible.

Elemental is a beautiful film to watch. The animated creation of Elemental is incredible; every scene is filled with vibrant colors. I love all the elements that they incorporate into the city's design, especially with the multi-cultural neighborhoods like those that you would find in an actual city. The character animation is also great, especially with Ember; it is fascinating to see her flames become brighter and change shape depending on the weather. My favorite scene of the movie is the one underwater, as those visuals are the best in the film. However, the plot leaves a little to be desired. There are a lot of conflicts that are fixed quickly, so none of them feel that significant. Although I love Wade and Ember together, it is a little confusing since it is shown multiple times that water and fire shouldn't touch, so it feels counterintuitive to what is being stated in the film. Gale Cumulus (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is very funny and I loved watching her and wanted more. Also, Clod (Mason Wertheimer) is absolutely adorable; it was nice watching other elements to see how they operate, not just fire and water. My favorite relationship in the film is between Ember and her father (Ronnie del Carmen) -- it was heartwarming to see the respect the two have for each other and the love they share.

Elemental conveys the message of family, respect and loving others. It also has underlying messages of not discriminating against others, which is important in a world where some people are not always treated fairly.

I give Elemental 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. It releases in theaters on June 16, 2023.

Emma D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16 \
Juror Recommended Age: 5-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12-18
Description - Worlds collide in "The Flash" when Barry uses his superpowers to travel back in time in order to change the events of the past. But when his attempt to save his family inadvertently alters the future, Barry becomes trapped in a reality in which General Zod has returned, threatening annihilation, and there are no Super Heroes to turn to. That is, unless Barry can coax a very different Batman out of retirement and rescue an imprisoned Kryptonian... albeit not the one he's looking for. Ultimately, to save the world that he is in and return to the future that he knows, Barry's only hope is to race for his life. But will making the ultimate sacrifice be enough to reset the universe?
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Let's travel back in time to January, 1940 when Flash first appeared in a comic book. Since then we've seen Flash in The Flash TV series that came out October 7, 2014. And now The Flash is on the big screen! This film is packed with action, comedy and many warm messages.

The film opens with Barry Alen (Ezra Miller) at a coffee shop and, as danger arises we see the fascinating way he turns into the Flash. With Barry's dad in jail, balancing the life of being a superhero and suffering the loss of his mother, Barry gets worked up and discovers he has the ability to go back in time. He takes advantage of this new skill and accidentally changes the course of history. Barry becomes trapped in a new reality where General Zod is blood thirsty and wants to take over. He needs to create a new Justice League to fight back and undo what he's done in hopes of returning to his normal life.

I like this film very much. I'm not huge on superheroes, but nonetheless I've always found them interesting. Despite not having much knowledge of superheroes and the DC universe I understood almost everything. There is a lot going on. Luckily the film keeps you captivated throughout and the story line is easy to follow. I love the cast! Especially outstanding are the appearances by Wonder Woman, Batman and especially Supergirl! Ezra Miller's portrayal of Barry Alen is terrific. Ezra plays a younger version of Barry as well as an older version. He really touches into the youth of his character and his contrast of the two personalities is terrific. Sasha Calle is the very first Latina to play Supergirl and plays her beautifully. She definitely is my favorite character in this film. And of course, huge kudos to Andy Muschietti, the director of this fantastic movie.

The film's message that spoke to me is that our past is meant for us to learn and grow from, not to go back and change it. Be aware that there are brief sexual references, some nudity and some harsh language.

I give The Flash 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Don't miss The Flash when it opens in theaters and on MAX June 16, 2023.

By Zoe C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 14

If you're looking for a thrilling movie full of action, twists and turns and a fun plot, I suggest you watch The Flash. It features all that and more.

The film follows Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), better known as The Flash, a superhero with abilities to run at impossible speeds. After learning his powers can be used for time travel, he changes the tiniest detail in the life of his mom (Maribel Verd�) to ultimately save his whole family. He then arrives back to find that he has altered the future completely and is now trapped in a different reality, along with the current version of himself. In an attempt to recreate the moment he received his powers for this version, Barry loses his own. Now stuck in this new reality, how will he fix the mess he has created and defeat General Zod (Michael Shannon), who has come for superman?

While time travel storylines are common, the play this movie puts on it is very unique and exciting. When Barry is running and can see all the past moments of his life it is such a cool idea and the film's editors bring it to life in their own special way. Barry shares a really great relationship with his mom, which isn't focused on a lot in the movie but, when it is featured the actors execute the scene so perfectly and with so much heart and soul. Ezra Miller gives a spectacular performance as both versions of Barry. He shows off both the childish and mature traits of both characters, with lots of different viewpoints of them. I must give lots of credit to the writers because the script is fantastic. The only thing holding this movie back is the distracting CGI in some scenes. My favorite part of the movie is a very emotional scene that is shared between Barry and his mom while he is in disguise. The scene is really sweet to watch and the emotion is conveyed throughout the screen.

The film's message is that everything happens for a reason. Barry's personality is shaped by some of the traumatic events that happened in his life; he tries to erase them which changes his life entirely. It just goes to show that everything in your life has made you the person you are today and you should not regret those situations that formed you, even if they did hurt a bit.

I give The Flash 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theatres June 16, 2023.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The Flash is a truly rollicking, high-speed adventure through the multiverse loaded with action and countless heroes from all over the DC universe, and is equally adept at slowing down to linger on moments of humor and emotion throughout. It's this approach to telling such a large-scale, densely plotted story that makes The Flash not just a good superhero movie, but just a good movie.

The storyline follows the titular speedster, known as Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), a fidgety, nervous forensic tech who's struggling to balance everything he's got going on. When he's not off helping the other members of the Justice League with their many adventures, he's scrambling to make things work on time and fumbling his way through small talk with a former crush from college. All the while, he is haunted by the death of his mother and the father he lost as a result, locked up for a murder he didn't commit. It's a pretty standard character setup, but the story ramps up when, in a moment of sadness, Barry discovers he can rewind time by running at a speed faster than light. From there, he attempts to reverse his mother's death, even at the caution of Bruce Wayne a.k.a Batman (Ben Affleck) that things can go out of control if time is manipulated. Barry succeeds in ensuring that his mom lives, but is thrust into a new universe with a different Batman (Michael Keaton) and no super-humans to avert a familiar, cosmic threat. He must also reckon with a wholly new, unanticipated obstacle: a different version of himself (Ezra Miller).

I had a good time - I laughed; I oohed and ahhed; and I was moved. It turns out that the key to keeping these DC movies, maybe not fresh but lively, is just making them as much of a blast as this one is. The Flash isn't an origin story per se, but delves into the concept of origin. This is where so much of the friction of the film is derived. Are our greatest heroes supposed to accept that they are inevitably borne out of tragedy? And if they can change what made them the way they are, should they? Multiverses are everywhere in films right now, but The Flash uses the concept to ask new questions of established heroes and test the limits of their selflessness. As the film develops, Christina Hodson's screenplay becomes a victim of its own ambition - there is a loaded roster of heroes and villains: Batman, Supergirl, The Flash, General Zod, making a return from his memorable appearance back in Man of Steel. It sometimes becomes too much to bear and there are points where it's difficult to remember whose movie this is.

The lesson of The Flash is that we can't change the past, so we must accept it. When Barry changes the past, the universe radically transforms -- a metaphor for how we must accept what's happened to us, rather than dwell on the past to the point that we deny ourselves a pleasant future. Be aware that there is some brief violence and some foul language.

I give The Flash 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Flash zooms into theaters June16, 2023.

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: EBOOK, AGES 5-12
Description - The Adventure Prayer Journal: For Kids is an innovative and exciting tool designed to help children ages 5 to 12 learn how to pray and engage with God in a fun and meaningful way. This prayer journal is unlike anything else on the market, offering a unique combination of comic-style illustrations, easy-to-read text, and interactive exercises that guide children through the Book of Genesis. With its colorful and engaging visuals, the book brings the Bible to life in a way that young readers will love. The journal features a series of comic-style illustrations that help children visualize the stories and characters of the Book of Genesis. Each illustration is accompanied by easy-to-understand text that explains the story in a way that is accessible to young readers. includes a variety of interactive exercises that help children learn how to pray and connect with God.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - This is a cute and colorful comic-book style journal that offers guidance to young people to give thanks for pretty much everything that their world revolves around - family, sunshine, a wonderful day, and more. It asks for God's blessing and safety when they go outside, go to school, go to lunch. The prayers thank God for loving them even when they make mistakes.

As a non-Christian, I was curious about this book, not sure if I was the right person to review it. However, having recently returned from Bali where the Hindu people there give thanks and make ceremonies for just about everything in their life, I saw the similarities. Perhaps that is what I find so charming about the content here. It is not religious in the sense of knocking you over the head. Hey, it does quote Biblical verses, but in a calm and respectful way.

I do feel that children today oftentimes lack guidance in being respectful of the world around them and some are never taught what good manners are, which is reflected in some of the terrible ways that people behave. This book delivers a message of gratitude and respect in beautifully illustrated pages. It invites the reader to create their own prayers and has pages in the book where they can write them. The young characters, both male and female, gently guide the reader and offer sage advice that easily applies to people that follow any faith. I love that. It's unclear exactly who the illustrator is; the book credits Kristine and Broma Clyde. Its pages include prayers for different times of day - morning, night and any time of day. The book's characters are young people that anyone could relate to. They are adventurers that guide us through the book and take us snorkeling, to the soccer field, the baseball field and more.

The book's message is quite simple: Be thankful and praise God.

I give The Adventure Prayer Journal for Kids 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. It is available through online retailers.

By Julie S., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The most appealing thing about The Adventure Prayer Journal for Kids is how the author makes the book look like a comic book and even tells the story of Noah and the Ark. The entire book is suitable for a youth audience and, as it says on the title, this book is meant for kids.

This book is about a group of kids called the Adventure Team. They take us on a journey through the book of Genesis where we have lots of fun. The team members, Ashley, Tamia, Daniel, Peter and Braylon, teach us prayers and lessons. During one of their adventures they encounter a snake that tries to get them to eat fruit from a forbidden tree. Their next journey experiences a flood where they meet Noah, his family and pairs of animals. After that journey they teach us more about God and praying. At the end of the book there are coloring pages and activities for the reader. Now your adventure begins!

This book makes lots off sense. The storyline flows very well and it definitely held my attention from start to finish with interesting things happening on every page. All the characters reflect great behavior and are kind to one another. However, the snake is bad. The problem solving is very appropriate for young people and teaches kids good lessons. The vocabulary in this book is definitely suitable for a youth audience. The cover is also very appealing and has lots of colors. Something I found very interesting is how the book has pages where you can write down your own prayers. I also like how the author put coloring pages and other activities at the end of the book.

The book's message is about learning how God's presence is in everything we do and how we can communicate with Him through prayer. This book could help kids learn new words, pray every day and make good decisions.

I give The Adventure Prayer Journal for Kids 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. The e-book is available online.

By Gavin S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 5-12 Suggested Retail Price: $ 25 Media: Book

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - Returning to the action and spectacle that have captured moviegoers around the world, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will take audiences on a '90s globetrotting adventure with the Autobots and introduce a whole new faction of Transformer -- the Maximals -- to the existing battle on earth between Autobots and Decepticons.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts is a captivating film that blends comedy, action, adventure and drama. As a young film watcher, I was thoroughly impressed by the movie's ability to keep me entertained. One of the standout performances in the film is Mirage (Pete Davidson), who brings a delightful touch of comedy and showcases a genuine heart for humans.

The idea of the story revolves around the Maximals joining forces with Noah, (Anthony Ramos) and the Autobots as they work together to defeat the menacing Scourge (Peter Dinklage) and the Terrorcons in a battle that could potentially be the fate of the world.

Although the film takes a bit of time to build up in certain parts, it ultimately contributes to the overall experience. The camera work is flawless, providing a fresh and new perspective for viewers. Anthony Ramos delivers an outstanding performance as Noah Diaz, effectively portraying a range of emotions and going above and beyond to embody the character. Peter Cullen, the voice of the heroic Autobot Optimus Prime, presents a new side of Prime that we have never seen before, adding depth to the character. Peter Dinklage takes on the role of the perfect villain Scourge, adding a scary, creepy and dark twist to the story--a crucial element that superhero movies often need.

The message of "never quit and keep getting back on your feet" resonates strongly throughout the narrative. It's important to note that the film contains a significant amount of profanity.

give Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts a solid rating of 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, as well as adults who appreciate the Transformers franchise. Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts rolls into theaters June 9, 2023.

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I love the new Transformers movie, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. An action-packed and immersing film, it has incredible special effects and digital animation that make everything look so realistic. It's also packed with comedy lines that made me laugh.

The film takes us back to the Autobots trying to find a way back to their home planet. However, they have to battle the Terrorcons to get possession of the "key." The Maximals and a human duo assist the Autobots to try to save the world.

The main characters are Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos), Elena (Dominique Fishback), Mirage (Pete Davidson), Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen), Optimus Primal (Ron Perlman) and Airazor (Michelle Yeoh). I admire the hard work the human characters Noah and Elena contribute. They never intended on saving the world and they try their best to help the Transformers get back home. The duo's teamwork enhances the plot and adds more action, especially when they battle the Terrorcons multiple times. Being attacked underground or in a museum won't stop them from using clever tactics and keeping eyes on their mission. We learn the backstory for both Noah and Elena, which makes me feel more attached to them. The characters' costumes are awesome and they really exemplify how far CGI has come. This is, by far, the most lifelike Transformers movie yet. When the Autobots, Maximals and Terrorcons are fighting, the special effects are spectacular, and I felt very engaged while watching it. The metamorphosis when the Autobots change from cars to their Transformer avatars looks extremely convincing, as well. The soundtrack consists of nostalgic 90s hip hop playlists, since the plot is set in the early 90s. My favorite part of the film is when Noah attempts to steal Mirage (when he is in car form) without knowing he is a Transformer. Mirage controls the car and leads Noah to where the other Autobots are. The look on Noah's face is a mix of confusion, disbelief and most definitely horrified. It's my favorite scene because it's the turning point in the plot that starts their adventure, and it's hilarious, too.

The message of this film is to never give up on something you really desire, even if it takes a lot of work. It also promotes teamwork. You should be aware of some foul language in the film.

I give Transformers: Rise of the Beasts 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. This film will releases in theaters on June 9, 2023.

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

I enjoyed Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. The action sequences are good, the CGI is outstanding and the characters are enjoyable to watch, but the humor is this movie's best feature.

The storyline follows the Maximals, a brand-new Transformers faction, as they join the Autobots as allies In order to defeat a new threat capable of destroying the entire planet and endanger the universe during the 1990s.

Transformers rise of the Beast is a live action film and some of my favorite parts of this film are the action sequences, characters and humor. The action sequences are enjoyable to watch and the choreography for those scenes is pretty good. A great example of this is when Optimus Prime (Petter Collen) and the Autobots are fighting the Terracons as they are going down a mountain. However, the two biggest strengths of this film are its characters and humor. Noah Diaz (Anthony Ramos) and Mirage (Pete Davidson) steal this movie with their humorous chemistry and their jokes, which makes it enjoyable to watch. These two characters have a huge impact on this film and, without them, it wouldn't be nearly as good. The dialogue for these two characters really stands out because they blend together so well. Another strength of this film is the special effects. The transformers look great and so does the surrounding environment. One shortcoming is that the film feels poorly edited - there are definitely times when you notice some scenes were taken out and it doesn't flow well. The film doesn't feel rushed or slow - it's at a good pace. The plot isn't confusing if you have seen or know the characters from other Transformers movies. However, if you have never seen a Transformers movie, this film could be confusing. This film is very enjoyable and probably one of the best Transformers films that has come out in recent years.

This film's message is to be open to new things. It shows us that you can't always rely on yourself; sometimes you have to rely on others ,even if it may be hard. You can't do it alone.

I give Transformers: Rise of the Beasts 3.5 out of 5 stars and I recommended it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults This film releases in theaters June 9, 2023.

By Rayce S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - Seven foster kids are heartbroken when they learn that their group home has been sold and they are to be separated. When they cross paths with a successful attorney who also grew up in the foster system, they find that there is always help, hope, and family can be who you choose.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I had no idea what to expect going into the film Crescent Gang, but my heart is filled with joy! I love films that have skilled child actors that can match the energy of the adults. I loved this film from start to finish and am so honored to be reviewing this work of art. Not only did this movie make a 29-year-old question how she interacts with individuals on a day-to-day basis, but it filled my heart with so much pain to understand the foster care system.

The first section of the film tells the stories of different children from various backgrounds who are dealing with the foster care system. The middle part of the film curtails the dilemma of their foster home, Crescent Avenue, being sold and closed, leaving the children who are currently in the home to be moved to other group homes and being split up. The children find a time capsule hidden in the attic of their home and inside it is a map detailing a former foster child's favorite places in the city. This leads to the children escaping the home and embarking on a quest.

Crescent Gang is a prime example of having a heartwarming message and amazing actors. The story flows seamlessly. I was invested the entire time in how the story of Reena Jeffcoat (Kira Marie) and the foster children would come together. There are quite a few characters to keep up with. At the middle mark of the film, I understood where the story was going with the premise of the scavenger hunt and learning who the mysterious Karina H was. I put myself in the mindset of a child and could see the big twist as a surprise in a child's mind. I was blown away by the production values and the cinematography, especially the scenes where Daisy (Natalya O. Hudson) is on social media documenting different events taking place and we see it all on camera. Audiences can tell that this was shot on location in Las Vegas, Nevada which is showcased in various shots throughout the film. One great shot shows the children on a scavenger hunt at sunset and ask an adult to drive them to Red Rock Canyon. Shots like that make the experience more real to viewers, even if they have never been to the destination. A lot of other Vegas landmarks are shown such as the M & M store, the Hard Rock Cafe.

There is a scene that stands out to me when the characters are reflecting and a song is playing in the background with lyrics that say, "A broken heart it grows." It is sung beautifully by Jordyn Diew and adds to the moment of heaviness. There are some scenes where I wanted to focus on the actors' conversations, but the background music took me out of the moment. For example, when Reena is talking with her father, Mr. Jeffcoat (Joseph Adu), there is a good three minutes when there is no sound, but the emotional score starts up and I lost focus. I would have enjoyed a few more quiet moments throughout the film. The child actors excel in their roles. I was truly impressed with Liberty (Mariah Tavares). A memorial performance is by Haven (Valeria Camero) who is perceived to be the intellectual of the Gang. Another standout is Daisy (Natalya O. Hudson). The other foster children are Carleigh (Olivia Kaiser), Lailah (Mia Denae Brathwaite), Dayja (Eva Kauvon Thomas), and Kyle (Remy Payne). The adult standouts for me are Ms. Terry, the caretaker of the Crescent Gang children, (Shaquita Smith) and Reena Jeffcoat (Kira Marie.) Every character in this film is relatable and that aspect alone makes this film a pleasant viewing experience.

When a film just flows cinematically, it can be difficult to choose what impacts the viewer most. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching these children come together as a group. It can be a tedious task showcasing on screen the group dynamic of characters, let alone children. So seeing all these children becoming of team is very refreshing to witness. I was very impressed by the production value, the actors and actresses, and the story overall. I am honored that I was able to watch this film before its US release date. There are three celebrities in this film. Shaquita Smith (Ms. Terry) is known for the role of Jordan Davis in the drama series, Wicked City and she was also an actress on NCIS: New Orleans. Jarry Lee (Mrs. Hyatt) has acted in Dating Around, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and an episode of the show Billions. Mariah Tavares (Liberty) made her debut in the three-time Emmy-Winning television series, Abbott Elementary.

The film's message is that, as adults, we have to make sure we find the purpose behind the jobs we take. The film also made me reflect on the way I speak to children. They are so impressionable so, as adults we have to make sure that even if a situation is not the best for them we give them hope so they can keep pressing forward.

I give Crescent Gang 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. This film releases on VOD and as a digital release June 13, 2023. By Bria H., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - What an incredibly heartwarming and uplifting film Crescent Gang is! It captures the essence of hope and family with its touching story and relatable characters. The talented young actors bring authenticity to their roles, conveying the emotions and resilience of children in the foster care system. It is family-friendly and uplifting.

Crescent Gang follows seven foster kids who face heartbreak when they discover their beloved group home is being sold and they will be separated. Determined to stay together, they embark on a high-stakes scavenger hunt in Las Vegas, where they encounter a family court attorney in search of her inner peace. The film beautifully captures their quirky and adventurous quest, highlighting the importance of friendship, resilience and the possibility of finding a loving family.

I like Crescent Gang for its compelling storytelling, strong performances, and positive message of resilience and family. The film is captivating and enjoyable. I particularly enjoyed the talented young actors, including Valeria Camero as the determined new kid. The cast also includes Kira Marie, the spirited family court attorney, and Mariah Taveres, the resilient foster child, both of whom deliver compelling performances that bring depth and authenticity to their characters. The production elements are noteworthy, with the vibrant and bustling backdrop of Las Vegas adding dynamic energy to the story. The imaginative and well-designed costumes add to the visual appeal, complementing the characters' personalities and enhancing their individuality. The direction by Gino Payne and Onyx Keesha, who have drawn from their personal experiences in the foster care system, shines through in the film's heartfelt portrayal of the foster care journey. The plot development and pace keep the audience engaged -- perfectly balancing the kids' quirky adventures with their emotional journeys. Without giving away too much, one of my favorite parts of the film is when the kids realize their hard work and tenacity finally pays off.

The film's message is one of resilience and the power of a chosen family. It reminds us that support, love, and hope can be found in unexpected places and that no matter the challenges we face, we can find strength within ourselves and in the bonds we form with others.

I give Crescent Gang 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 and adults. It releases on VOD on major platforms June 13, 2023.

By Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 12

Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-18
Description - The beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure, "The Little Mermaid" stars singer and actress Halle Bailey as Ariel. The youngest of King Triton's daughters, and the most defiant, Ariel longs to find out more about the world beyond the sea, and while visiting the surface, falls for the dashing Prince Eric. While mermaids are forbidden to interact with humans, Ariel must follow her heart. She makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land, but ultimately places her life - and her father's crown - in jeopardy.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - This mesmerizing live-action musical, starring the talented Halle Bailey, is an absolute triumph! The Little Mermaid showcases the beloved tale in a fresh and captivating way, with stunning visuals that bring the underwater world to life. The CGI is seamless, creating a truly immersive experience that surpassed my expectations.

In this adaptation of The Little Mermaid, we follow the enchanting journey of Ariel (Halle Bailey), a young mermaid who longs to explore the human world. The film stays true to the heart of the original story, emphasizing themes of self-discovery, love and the importance of staying true to oneself.

The Little Mermaid delivers exceptional performances, breathtaking visuals, and captivating storytelling. Halle Bailey performs remarkably, capturing Ariel's curiosity, spirit, and powerful voice. Casting a Black actress in the iconic role of Ariel is a decisive step toward diversifying the portrayal of princesses on screen. It offers young audiences, particularly Black girls who have rarely seen themselves in mainstream media, a chance to see a character they can deeply identify with, and I love that! The cast is rounded out with renowned actors who bring depth and charm to their respective roles. Tony winner Daveed Diggs gives a comedic, clever and heartfelt performance as Sebastian the Crab. Awkwafina's delightful portrayal of Scuttle the Seagull and Jonah Hauer-King's as Prince Eric brilliantly captures the original characters' essence while bringing their unique charm and charisma to the roles. They skillfully breathe new life into these beloved characters, adding depth and memorable moments that both longtime fans and new audiences will appreciate. The costumes, designed by Colleen Atwood, beautifully capture the underwater kingdom and the human world above. The music score by the talented duo of Oscar winner Alan Menken and Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda is magical, seamlessly blending Menken's enchanting melodies with Miranda's vibrant and rhythmic compositions, resulting in an unforgettable and captivating musical experience.

The Little Mermaid carries a powerful message of self-acceptance, courage and pursuing one's dreams. It promotes positive social behavior and portrays relationships built on understanding and empathy.

I give The Little Mermaid 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults. It releases in theaters on May 26, 2023. Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of Ariel and embark on a magical adventure!

By Hanadie K., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

From acclaimed director Rob Marshall comes the retelling of the beautiful, adventurous fairytale we all know and love, The Little Mermaid. This beloved Disney classic has captured the hearts of past generations and certainly captured my heart in this one. Based on the original motion picture from 1989 and the fairytale by Hans Christian Anderson, The Little Mermaid is a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate audiences of all ages.

The Little Mermaid begins with a look at life under the sea from the perspective of King Triton's youngest mer-daughter, Ariel (Halle Bailey). Ariel is a beautiful, adventurous and free-spirited young mermaid who longs to experience life in the "world above." Ariel encounters the human world when she saves a young prince (Jonah Hauer-King) and falls in love with him. She makes a deal with the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to become human so she can be with him, but things don't go as planned. This movie is full of adventure, romance and memorable songs - both old and new.

This film definitely has a stronger emphasis on action than the original. There are many scenes where the live action element adds to the suspense and drama in the film. For example, in the song "Poor Unfortunate Souls," there are many impressive special effects. Towards the beginning of the movie, there is a scene with a shark which was not in the original, and that keeps the audience on their toes the whole time. What I enjoyed the most about The Little Mermaid is that it is not a replica of the original film. It shares scenes and songs that we all know and love, but it is different enough from the original. I particularly enjoyed Halle Bailey's portrayal of Ariel and Melissa McCarthy's of Ursula. Bailey gives the character a more adventurous and brave attitude, which makes Ariel a great role model for children everywhere. McCarthy, while being scary, manages to maintain great comedic timing which adds to the character of Ursula immensely. The updated elements, such as the special effects, music and actors, offer a fresh perspective of this tale.

The film's message is about the importance of being true to oneself and following one's dreams, even if it means making sacrifices along the way. The story encourages us to pursue our passions and not be afraid to take risks, even if it means living outside our comfort zones. It also explores themes of love, family and the consequences of making deals with others.

I give The Little Mermaid 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to18, plus adults. You can see The Little Mermaid in theaters starting May 26, 2023.

By Allison B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Little Mermaid is a lovely nostalgic movie that brought me back to my younger years, and really put me in a fun, exciting, happy mood.

The Little Mermaid is a live-action remake of the original 1989 film. It follows the life of Ariel (Halle Bailey), a mermaid who sometimes feels trapped underwater. One night, her Aunt Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) finds her in a vulnerable state and uses that to her advantage. Ursula casts Ariel with a spell, finally giving her the ability to have legs and walk on land. However, every good thing must pay a price, and Ariel eventually begins to lose sight of who she is. Ariel must learn to be strong and prove her strength, with the help of her friends of course!

A huge standout in this film is the CGI. A majority of the film takes place underwater and uses animation. All of the coral, fish and colors are so vibrant. The movement of the water feels so realistic, and I never second guessed the reality of the circumstances. Additionally, the scenery on land is outstandingly beautiful. The island that it is on is breathtaking, and the castle's architecture side-by-side with the ocean really makes everything come to life. It's definitely a destination that I find myself wanting to go to. The cinematography really lives up to my expectations for a Disney production. Furthermore, the characterizations are a big standout. Melissa McCarthy completely embodies her role as Ursula. Her confidence and ability to perform is evident and she does Ursula justice. Her character is believable gave me chills watching her. Additionally, Halle Bailey beautifully executes her role as Ariel. She feels like a real life Disney princess and speaks with such elegance. She makes the film feel like fantasy that has come to life. Ariel's wardrobe is also striking -- her mermaid tail is beautifully and intricately designed --the colors and scaling really pops underwater.

The message of The Little Mermaid is to lead with kindness, and always follow what your heart tells you.

I give The Little Mermaid 4 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. The Little Mermaid releases in theaters May 26, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The Little Mermaid is a stunning film; I love it! This live-action version of the beloved animated movie (and classic story) is appealing visually and emotionally. The music is absolutely spectacular and hints about the characters' emotions as well as explains turning points in the storyline.

The story follows Ariel (Halle Bailey), a mermaid who longs to experience what it feels like to be a human. Ariel goes up to the surface one day during a shipwreck and saves a sailor from drowning. Later, she bargains with the sea witch, Ursula Melissa McCarthy), who promises to give her legs in exchange for her voice. However, all this goes against her father's commands, warning her of the terrible dangers.

The main characters are Ariel, Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), Sebastian (Daveed Diggs), Scuttle (Awkwafina), King Triton (Javier Bardem) and Ursula. The actors' relationships and interactions make the film quite amiable and interesting. For instance, the compassion between Ariel and her father is significant to the plot, because he sacrifices so much just for Ariel to be happy. Ariel is surrounded by loving friends, as well. Without their help, Ariel wouldn't get too far on land. This admirable relationship enhances the storyline by spreading positivity to the audience. Furthermore, the production quality of this film is wonderful. The editing and CGI make it look like all the aquatic creatures are real. This is shown when the creatures begin to dance and sing. I applaud the behind-the-scenes crew for creating a movie that is mostly set underwater. It also takes a lot of creativity to make an animated film into a live-action film. The film looks very realistic (as much as it can be with mermaids and sea witches!) In the beginning, the ocean looks very realistic as we watch Ariel swimming in it. In addition to songs from the original film, there are new songs that relate to the characters. Eric has his own song that describes his side of the story. He sings it when he's in search of the girl that saved him from the horrible shipwreck. It's a side I never knew about his character and I really like that Lin-Manuel Miranda composed this song. Actually, Lin-Manuel contributed three new songs--one each for Ariel, Eric and Scuttle. Speaking of songs, my favorite part is "Part of Your World." Halle Bailey's voice is wonderful and full of emotion as she sings this. It really shows her perspective and enhances the storyline. It represents her breakthrough when Ariel realizes she wants to spend her life on land rather than in the ocean. Ariel knows what she wants and she goes through many challenges to finally reach her destination. She also feels as though she doesn't belong, which I can relate to. However, she ends up finding her place while still being true to herself and to her family. Her father finally understands that she needs her own freedom and lets her find what sparks her happiness.

The message of this film is about following your dreams. You should know that there is some risky behavior, like when Ariel disobeys her father's orders and runs away from home.

I give The Little Mermaid 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. The Little Mermaid releases in theaters on May 26, 2023.

By Sydney S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

After years of anticipation, the live-action version of The Little Mermaid is finally here. With a star-studded cast, this new film contains goosebump-inducing vocals and delightful scenes, quickly turning The Little Mermaid into a favorite for me and my family.

The Little Mermaid is about King Triton's (Javier Bardem) youngest daughter Ariel (Halle Bailey), who is adventurous and curious, ready to learn more about the human world. Defying her father's wishes, she swims to the surface and ends up falling for the charming Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). In order to fulfill her dream of experiencing life above the sea, she makes a costly deal with the evil sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), putting herself and her loved ones in danger.

The Little Mermaid will be engraved into the hearts of audiences after the first watch. After viewing this film, the songs have been stuck in my head. The songs--composed and written by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Lin-Manuel Miranda are captivating. Although it is hard to hear the words over the music at times, the vocal delivery from the cast is strong enough to overcome that. The connection between the characters helps the audience grow invested in the story. Ariel trades her angelic voice for an experience as a human. However, even without talking, audiences can see the devotion she has for Prince Eric through Halle Bailey's facial expressions. Guiding Ariel through the process of winning Prince Eric's heart, is Sebastian, a loyal and charismatic crab. Daveed Diggs who voices Sebastian uses perfect comedic timing to make his lines, as well as his character, memorable. The casting team picked actors that have the talent as well as the passion that allow them to convincingly portray these characters.

The message of The Little Mermaid is that sometimes when you love someone, the best thing to do is to let them go. Ariel is so fascinated by the human world, and finds love in it. Her family has to find strength to love her enough to let her go.

I give The Little Mermaid 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. The Little Mermaid releases on May 26, 2023 in theaters worldwide. This is a film you won't want to miss!

By Maica N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 5-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: BOOK, AGES 12-18
Description - Are you concerned about your future? Do you feel the pressure of picking the right career? Do you think about the future all the time? Have you thought about a way to map out your career choices? If you said yes to any of these questions, then you should look at Planning Your Dreams book, which gives you the strategy to understand how to make your dreams a reality. This book gives you a jump on thinking about how to find your dream career. Whether you are 12 or 18 this book can guide you to looking at your dreams and planning your career for the future.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - I like how Planning Your Dreams encourages a person to follow their dreams -- realistic dreams -- and guides them on how that can be achieved. My favorite part is the beginning simply because it clearly defines what a dream is. The book is simple and goes straight to the point so it's easy to follow along.

This is a guide book that teaches us how to plan our dreams and reminds us that how we tend to forget what we enjoy doing and what we always wanted to do as we become absorbed in different stages of our life.

I like how the book helps you understand exactly what a dream is and how you can achieve realistic dreams. It touches on what a dream plan is and how to analyze, nurture and develop your dreams into reality. The simplicity of the book makes it easy to follow and the illustrations hold your attention. I like how the book highlights the importance of following our dreams and passions. The book is well organized and flows well. It also allows the reader to journal their thoughts. I believe that with good guidance we truly can achieve our realistic goals and his book emphasizes that. This book touches on different chapters in our lives and emphasizes the importance of planning in order to succeed. Being able to plan also benefits our mental health. As Benjamin Franklin once said, "if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail."

I give Planning Your Dreams 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available through online book retailers.

By Eunnet C., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - The insightful book, Planning Your Dreams, is a valuable resource for teens seeking guidance in mapping out their future careers. With practical advice and a clear strategy, it empowers young readers to make their dreams a reality. The author presents compelling reasons explaining why planning for a successful career is essential, capturing the concerns and pressures many young people face in choosing the right path. By addressing these concerns head-on, the book immediately connects with its intended audience.

Planning Your Dreams provides a concise overview of the book's intent. It emphasizes the importance of starting career planning early and highlights the benefits of doing so. While it doesn't delve into every detail, it offers enough information to spark curiosity and encourage readers to explore the strategies presented.

One of the book's strengths lies in its relatable examples and personal anecdotes. The author introduces the concept of understanding dreams and aligning them with career choices. The book goes beyond conventional advice, encouraging readers to identify their passions and translate them into viable career options. The book also addresses various aspects of career planning, such as mapping out goals and developing a strategic plan. The author's guidance on these topics is clear and practical, providing readers with actionable steps to follow. Planning Your Dreams carries a positive and uplifting message, emphasizing the importance of pursuing fulfilling careers that align with one's passions. It successfully motivates readers to take action and offers a realistic approach to achieving their dreams. The book is entirely suitable for its target audience. It promotes positive social behavior by encouraging self-reflection and personal growth.

I give Planning Your Dreams 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, as it specifically targets teenagers who are navigating career choices. However, adults who are seeking career guidance may also find it insightful and beneficial. You can purchase the book online at various bookselling platforms or directly from the author's website.

By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 19

Planning your Dreams is very inspirational. What I like most about this book is how the author uses pictures at the start of every chapter.

This book is about having dreams, and planning them. It teaches you the steps to take toward achieving your goals and, gives you options if you do not achieve your goals.

This book teaches the reader many skills they could use in life to find a job and be successful in life. I like how it gives you steps towards achieving your goal and teaches kids to have an entrepreneur mind set, even at a young age. It reminds you that if you do what you love, you won't have to work a single day in your life. It gives options of jobs for certain interests and encourages people to try new things and find new interests. I like how it emphasizes that it's okay to fail and that, even if you don't have the talent to do something, it doesn't mean you can't do it -- you can always get trained. The book flows very well. Plus, I like how it teaches you what to do if you fail to achieve your goals. The vocabulary is definitely suitable for kids as well as adults. The illustrations are bright and colorful. One special feature I like is the sidebar where you can scroll through different chapters and pages. Another practical thing is that it has pages where you can write down your own goals and the steps needed to achieve them.

The book's message is that if you know what you want to do in life you have to work hard.

I give Planning your Dreams 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. It is available online at many online retailers.

By Gavin S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The book Planning Your Dreams is super educational and beneficial for teenagers. It focuses on thinking ahead and what you want to do with your life to make you happy and fulfilled.

Planning Your Dreams focuses on thinking ahead in your life and finding things you're passionate about and ways you can turn them into careers. It looks at finding things that combine your skills and your interests.

If you're concerned about your future or feeling unsure about what you want to do after high school, there are many ways you can prepare for life beyond your teenage years. This book examines ways to turn hobbies into careers, and how to turn dreams into reality by setting goals and making plans. It explains how to have a career that truly makes you feel fulfilled. The entire book is based on how to plan your life in a rewarding way. This is a useful thing for kids to know and think about. Plus, it has great information about careers and jobs. The author has a spectacular way of talking about things that kids love doing such as playing video games or exploring nature and turning them into exciting careers. It can help even the laziest kids think ahead in life. All this is important for teenagers to learn and will help them think about careers they might want to pursue in the future.

The book reminds us that it's never too early to think about what you want to do with your life, and there are many careers that can focus on your passions.

I give Planning Your Dreams 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can find it online at book retailers.

By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: Book ISBN # 9780971551039

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8-18
Description - Based on the book by LeBron James and the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Friday Night Lights, Buzz Bissinger, Shooting Stars is the inspiring origin story of a basketball superhero, revealing how LeBron James and his childhood friends become the #1 high school team in the country, launching James's breathtaking career as a four-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist, and the NBA's all-time leading scorer.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I love the new movie, Shooting Stars. You don't need to be a basketball lover to enjoy this one! This movie is so motivational, relatable and hilarious. It is a must-see, and definitely a "slam-dunk."

The film highlights the inspirational story of the ultra-famous NBA player, LeBron James and his high school friends. It takes place in 1994 through 2003, during his childhood and high school years, and focuses on the "Fab Four" - young LeBron James (Marquis Cook) and his best friends Lil Dru Joyce (Caleb McLaughlin), Willie McGee (Avery Wills) and Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage).

I've never been an avid basketball follower or fan, but that didn't make Shooting Stars any less of an enjoyable movie for me. Even though I never played basketball seriously, I can relate to this movie as a high school athlete. It was so interesting to learn things I never knew about LeBron James and his life. And what's great is that if you want to learn even more about LeBron, you can read the book by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger, Shooting Stars, which the film is based on. Since the film was produced by LeBron himself, it provides an accurate representation of his early years. In a voiceover in the first-look teaser trailer James says, "People think they know my story, but this is our story." The sets, locations and props all reflect the time period and give us a bit of nostalgia. Additionally, the actors look so much like the people they play. Speaking of which, Marquis Cook, Caleb McLaughlin, Avery Wills, Khalil Everage, and Sterling Henderson work so well together and have a lot of chemistry. Additionally, they all are fabulous basketball players. Shooting Stars marks the acting debut of Marquis "Mookie" Cook as young LeBron James. Although he is a rookie actor, Cook has a substantial basketball background. He is not only a top-ranked high school athlete but has also participated in the 2023 All-American games. Throughout the movie, be on the lookout for some cameos!

The message of this movie is to follow your passions and work hard for them. Additional themes are that your family isn't just blood and that teamwork is important when you're trying to achieve your goals. Be aware that there is some profanity and language that people may find offensive.

I give Shooting Stars 5 of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Athletes and LeBron fans will particularly enjoy this movie. It releases exclusively on Peacock June 2, 2023.

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I really like Shooting Stars -- it has a perfect balance between brotherhood, basketball, family and friends and dramedy. Lil Dru is my favorite in the film.

Shooting Stars is based on the book by LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger. It starts in the year 1994 as we watch 10-year-old Lebron James (Marquis "Mookie" Cook) and childhood friends Lil Dru (Caleb McLaughlin), Sian Cotton (Khalil Everage) and Willie McGee (Avery S. Wills Jr.) play together and bring a story of friendship to their senior year in 2003 and their high school team becomes #1 in the country.

I love this storyline and learning how Lebron's career got a jump start when he played with these childhood friends. That's what makes the film so good, with its multiple sources of first and second hand stories. The pace feels really fast. Watching this film makes me realize what well-deserved credits go to the camera team. Shooting Stars was filmed in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Marquis "Mookie" Cook's performance as young Lebron is outstanding. This is Cook's acting debut and he gives a great performance, especially portraying both the humor and anger of Lebron. Plus, he has a great deal of expertise laying basketball is a top-ranked high school athlete. Caleb McLaughlin's portrayal of Lil Dru gives truth to the idea that size really doesn't matter. Avery Willis Jr. as Willie Mc Gee, the second-best basketball player of the Fab 4 is also noteworthy. And finally, Khalil Everage is the funniest playing Sian Cotton -- when he is on screen the movie just gets better. The movie ends with the Fab 4 enjoying their lives.

The film's message is that friends are your family. Be aware that there is a lot of profanity in this movie.

I give Shooting Stars 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults.. Shooting Stars can be found on Peacock beginning June 2, 2023.

By David E, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 8-17 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Over many missions and against impossible odds, Dom Toretto and his family have outsmarted and outdriven every foe in their path. Now, they must confront the most lethal opponent they've ever faced. Fueled by revenge, a terrifying threat emerges from the shadows of the past to shatter Dom's world and destroy everything -- and everyone -- he loves.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Fast X is an unabashed next step in this series' mission to depict escalating vehicular mania. It's certainly enjoyable and even thrilling at points, but it does lack some novelty. As Fast X speeds the Fast and Furious franchise into its final lap, it can't help but feel like we're going in circles.

Fast X follows Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) as they raise their son away from their enemies and the battles that have taken up much of their time for decades. Dominic's friends and soldiers of the wheel--Roman (Tyrese Gibso), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) --all go on a mission to Rome, Italy, for an underground government organization. However, the mission isn't real and both the agency and Dom's pals are duped by an old foe that emerges from the shadows to exact revenge on Dom and his family. This villain, Dante (Jason Momoa), threatens to break Dom's family into pieces, so the family must figure out how to save themselves from Dante and new government agents who have Dom in their crosshairs.

These Fast and Furious characters used to steal TVs off of moving trucks--now they save the Vatican. These movies succeed most when they know what they are and what you want. It's a rollercoaster, so at a certain point you just throw your hands up and enjoy the ride. Dominic Toretto is basically inhuman by now; nothing can kill him and he can bend the laws of reality and science to his will. Action is the primary draw of these films--story has become secondary as the saga of Dom and his band of street racers turned superheroes cruises into its 11th entry. Fast X, however, goes all in on plot, which feels like a miscalculation. Especially as the second half refuses to reach any kind of conclusion, barreling towards a silly cliffhanger that does little to maintain the stakes the first half establishes. None of the racers we've come to know and love are safe, but the way Fast X wraps up, it's hard not to feel like all of them are.

Jason Momoa is unbelievable in this movie as Dante. He's easily the best villain Dom and the crew have ever fought against. This level of gleeful, over-the-top evil is hard to find in any movie, but it's a gift in the heightened world of Fast and Furious. He gets all the movie's best laughs--you almost wish he would crush Dominic's world so we could watch him laugh, twirl, and dance as it all goes up in flames. John Cena's a lot of fun, too. He takes a page from Momoa's playbook, an action hero who loses the self-seriousness and has a good time playing uncle to Dom's young son. Tyrese Gibson is ever a delight as Roman. Gibson always has a lot fun with this role, and he understands exactly what energy he must bring to keep the franchise full of life. Practically every time he comes on screen, the audience erupts into laughter.

I give Fast X 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, for some language, frequent intense action and some graphic violence. Fast X zooms into theaters on May 19, 2023. Vroom vroom.

Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Description - An intimate portrait of a misunderstood American icon, this emotional and uplifting documentary about Yogi Berra takes us beyond the caricatures and "Yogisms," and into the heart of a sports legend whose unparalleled accomplishments on the baseball diamond were often overshadowed by his off-the-field persona.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - It Ain't Over is a captivating inspirational documentary that highlights an important story, and really connected with me. I definitely felt moved and more knowledgeable afterwards.

This film tells the story of Yogi Berra (Lawrence Peter Berra), an Italian immigrant who had a talent for baseball from a young age. Although he had an outstanding ability to catch balls, he was extremely unappreciated in the sports industry when he first started out. Yogi didn't exactly fit the image of a stereotypical NBA star at the time, but he didn't let that stop him. After many rocky patches, Yogi eventually found a home with the New York Yankees, where he managed to work his way to a top position, and became one of the best players in baseball history.

I really appreciate the structure of the film; it's easy to follow and gives a lot of insight about Yogi as a person. Throughout the film are interviews with people from Yogi's life, including his close family and friends. These are people that knew him personally and their input helps create a strong foundation for the film. It helped me get a better understanding of who Yogi was, and the positive effect that he left on people. Additionally, the storytelling is strong. The film incorporates so many important details of Yogi's life in such an honest way. There are examples of people such as Jackie Robinson, who he really helped and respected. This documentary is going to make the world remember Yogi Berra in a positive and bright way, which defines who he was. The cinematography is outstanding. I really enjoyed the incorporation of archival footage from Yogi's life, along with present day videos that showcase the evolution of professional baseball.

The film's message is to always follow your dreams no matter what other people tell you.

I give It Ain't Over 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in select theaters on May 12, 2023.

Mikella G., KIDS FIRST!, age 16
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 12 - 18
Description - The highly anticipated sequel follows our four best friends as they take their book club to Italy for the fun girls trip they never had. When things go off the rails and secrets are revealed, their relaxing vacation turns into a once-in-a-lifetime cross-country adventure.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - What a delightful romp! The four life-long friends Viv, Diane, Sharon and Carol are played by superstars Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen run away with the show. We see how their friendship has persevered the ups and downs of life for decades, through marriage and divorce, child-bearing, work ups and downs... they support each other unconditionally. In this sequel to the 2018 comedy Book Club, they are reunited after the pandemic and, after learning that Viv plans to marry, decide to take a bachelorette trip to Italy - a destination they've had on the horizon for some time.

The script is filled with silly jokes and passion for all that Italy has to offer - food, wine, landscapes and beautiful men. The significant others of the four, played by Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Giancarlo Giannini and Andy Garcia are equally entertaining. If this doesn't make you want to pack your bags and head to Rome or Tuscany, then your spirit definitely needs a jump start.

I came away from watching this with an extra spring in my step and a sense of joie de vivre. The cast truly had a good time and it's contagious.

I give book Club: the Next Chapter 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults, due to some mild profanity. It's in theaters now, so drop what you're doing and catch a matinee today. You'll be glad you did. By Julie S., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Book Club: The Next Chapter is a feel good, comedic film. It's entertaining and light hearted, putting you in a happy optimistic mood.

Book Club: The Next Chapter, a sequel to Book Club, brings together four best friends, who finally reunite after being in quarantine. In order to celebrate Vivian's (Jane Fonda) big news and go on their long awaited girls' trip, the group departs for Italy. While on their trip, they encounter many obstacles and surprises, providing the ladies a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

I really enjoy the beautiful scenery shown throughout the film. As the four friends travel throughout Italy, we see the sights of Rome, Venice and Tuscany. Most of the movie was filmed on location, which is an incredible aspect that really elevates the film. Everything is so colorful and eye-catching, which definitely made me much more engaged. When I look at a fun and exciting scene, I'm automatically more interested in what I'm watching. This movie definitely has that effect. Additionally, the characters really stand out. Each of the women have such distinct personalities. For example, Diane (Diane Keaton) is more reluctant and very set in her ways. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is very optimistic and wants to be adventurous. Then there's Vivian who is finally stepping out of her comfort zone and taking a leap of faith, and lastly Sharon (Candice Bergen) who knows exactly what she wants, and won't let anyone change her opinions. All the characters have different personalities but they all cohesively work together. Each actor excels in her role and really brings her character to life for a second time in this sequel. The strong chemistry and friendship between these women is evident, and really made me feel so fulfilled and happy to watch them on their adventure. The storyline is a lot of fun and has many dynamics. While the women are in Italy they encounter many rough patches. They constantly have to reroute their trip, and even run into people and memories that slow them down a little. However, they still come out stronger than ever in the end. This film is exciting to watch, and definitely held my interest the entire time.

The message of Book Club: The Next Chapter is a reminder to take risks and live life to the fullest because you never know when you might no longer have that opportunity. Be aware there is some light profanity.

I give Book Club: The Next Chapter 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters May 12, 2023.

By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17
Juror Recommended Age: 12-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE, AGES 5-18
Description - What if you could speak to the future? When Dylan and Molly buy their first cell phones, they both ring at the same time. A mystery man, known as Future TX, says he's from the future and needs the kids' help to save the world!
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - Future TX is so fun to watch! It keeps you on the edge of your seat and has an unpredictable ending. The cinematography is fantastic and the dual messages (living in the present and our destinies are based on the choices we make) are timely.

The story is about two tweens, Dylan Wrench (Arran Kemp) and Molly Slide (Adele Congreve) who are given the opportunity to save the world before "Critical Impact" occurs. They purchase phones that communicate with a mystery man from the year 2048 named Future TX. The children's task is to locate a botnet so that it can be destroyed and thereby save the world. Dylan and Molly are attacked by drones controlled by a mad scientist who is one of the Folley Brothers (Griff Rhys Jones). Dylan and Molly have to choose who they can trust -- the Folley Brothers or another teen named Dominic Santiago (James Grogan) -- to help them prevent "Critical Impact." There is an exciting and surprising ending.

This is a wonderful, fun and wholesome film with good messages. It will keep the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next. The story is about the impact of technology on our lives, which is a very relevant topic given the expanding use of artificial intelligence. It is easy to relate to the children in the film and their advanced knowledge of electronics reflects reality. The story is easy to follow but I really like that the film is not predictable. The cinematography is wonderful. I really feel as if I was in the United Kingdom throughout the film. There are very interesting shots of the sky, landscapes, and buildings. The movie was filmed in Bournemouth, UK, which suits the story line. It is a quaint and beautiful town with lots of open spaces. The original music, played by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, is not only beautiful, it also provides the right amount of drama to various scenes. The special effects include the use of drones sent by the evil scientist to locate and attack the children along with a hand-held computer that can project into space. They are very believable. The actors are very suited for the film. Dylan and Molly are very likable and the actors portray them well. The scientists, the Folley Brothers, are played by the same actor who skillfully plays the good twin and the bad twin. My favorite parts are the scenes with Molly's mother, Saffron (Catriona Knox). Saffron talks to Dylan and Molly as if they are in a Shakespearian play, which is very amusing. The production values are excellent.

The film has dual messages. One is to live in the present and the other is that our destinies are based on the choices we make.

I give Future TX 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to18, plus adults. It releases in theaters March 10, 2023 and is available now on Amazon Prime and Roku.

By Pamela L., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Future TX is amazing, and I enjoyed it a lot, mainly because of the humor, transitions and the storyline.

The story follows a teenage boy named Dylan (Arran Kemp) who finds out he is moving to Dubai, away from his best friend Molly (Adelle Congreve). He decides to make a deal with his parents and buys a phone for himself and Molly. Suddenly they get a call from a mysterious man who claims he is from the future. Once he gains their trust, he tells them the fate of the future is in their hands, that they must save the future and he sends Dylan and Molly on an action-packed adventure.

Future TX is an awesome film. I enjoyed it a lot for many reasons. For example, the humor in this film is great. I particularly enjoyed the scene when Dylan gets ready to fight the guard with his shoe. I also like the scene when Dylan and Molly's TX make fun of Molly's hair. I was laughing throughout the whole film. Another thing I like about this film is the creative ways it transitions from scene to scene. For instance, when Dylan is waiting for his TX to call, the scene starts with Dylan looking straight ahead, then up, and when he looks back down, he is in a different set. Also, the storyline in this film is great. I like the part when Dylan gets a random call in the middle of the night, and all it says is, "Just be careful." In another scene that takes place two days later it shows Dylan calling his past self from the day before, and he says, "Just be careful," showing that Dylan has now created a loop.

The film's life lesson is an inspiring reminder that you cannot hold grudges against people, soon enough you will have to forgive them.

I give Future TX 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 through 18, plus adults. This film is available now on VOD so check it out. See ya!

By Gavin S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The future is on the line in Future TX! This classic caper raises the question, "Is choice an illusion?" Who decides what is right and what is wrong and is human behavior predictable?

In Future TX, Dylan Wrench (Arran Kemp) learns that his life is about to change. He and his friend Molly Slide (Adele Congreve) acquire mysterious new cell phones which connect them with a voice from the future. According to the voice of Future TX they are needed to put the future on the correct course and the two of them start to sort out this intrepid challenge while meeting interesting characters and situations manipulated by the devious technology company QuantaCrypt. After all, technology is meant to help people, right?

I really love how the movie starts out with thought provoking questions and mystery. Unfortunately, the plot doesn't quite live up to my expectations from this beginning. Arran Kemp plays the lead character, Dylan Wrench really well - I enjoyed his facial expressions, humor, and physical comedy. He interacts well with the other cast members and I particularly enjoyed the humorous scenes with his parents (Doug Cockle and Nicole Faraday). Original music by Steve Wright is very important to this story as it creates suspense and really drives the pace. The music was recorded by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, which adds an important element to the film and the story.

The message of this film is really a thought provoking question: Do you choose your own destiny or does destiny choose you? The only thing that we can really control is ourselves and the choices we make. It's important to live in the moments we have.

I rate Future TX 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. It is available on VOD now so check it out.

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Juror Recommended Age: 5-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: FEATURE FILM, AGES 12-18
Description - Inspired by the incredible true story of composer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bologne (Kelvin Harrison Jr. in a tour de force performance) rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - Fascinating story, beautifully constructed. Kelvin Harrison Jr.'s portrayal of Chevalier is impeccable. And Lucy Boynton as Marie Antoinette is equally so. I wanted the story to go on and on, but alas the end was inevitable. The costumes, hair and make-up are exquisite. This must have been a delight for those craftspeople to work on because they really shine here. The sets and locations are also spot on; one feels transported to 1800s France. I loved that Joseph (Chevalier)'s father took him on as a prot�g�, even though he was his illegitimate son. That showed character. However, he still was restricted in what he could do, due to the color of his skin. Not that it restrained him much, but in the end, the walls came tumbling down just as we expected as we watched him push the boundaries. I was unfamiliar with him before watching this and found it fascinating in so many ways. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. There are some scenes of partial nudity that you should be aware of. By Julie S., KIDS FIRST!
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I really like Chevalier, because of its story about segregation in France when Black people were slaves. I like the violin aspect of it as well.

The story takes place in 18th century Paris and is inspired by the incredible life of composer Joseph Bolognue, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). The illegitimate son of an African slave and a French plantation owner, Bolognue, rises to improbable heights in French society as a celebrated violinist-composer and fencer, complete with an ill-fated love affair and a falling out with Marie Antoinette (Lucy Boynton) and her court.

I really enjoyed the storyline. It is amazing and really shows us what life was like in the 18th century. The pace is intentionally slow and that's what makes it so good. It reminds me of a great meal that you would just want to savor. You can really imagine it taking place in your mind. The camerawork is excellent; it makes you feel as if you are in parts of the scene. Production on this film began on September 7, 2021, in Prague, Czech Republic and ended in November 2021. The setting was supposed to take place in France and the sets and locations really look very French. Kelvin Harrison Jr. gives a tour de force performance as Joseph Bolognue / Chevalier. He blew me away with his performance. Samara Weaving's portrayal of the Queen uses a rude and not too shabby voice and she changes sides like when you flip a light switch. Lucy Boynton, the love interest of Bolognue, seems to be a typical woman who men fall in love with. I didn't feel the inclusion of her as his love interest added much to the storyline. I don't particularly care for the film's ending, but it does kick off the French revolution.

The message of this film is never try to get rid of a Black man.

I give Chevalier 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available in movie theaters beginning April 21, 2023

By David E., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
Juror Recommended Age: 13-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm

Series: TV SERIES, AGES 2-8
Description - Frog is a frog. Toad is a toad. They have a lot in common ... but they are also very different. Frog and Toad are best friends who know that the true secret to friendship is not only enjoying the things you have in common, but embracing the things that make you different. Since our differences are what makes us special, Frog and Toad celebrate what makes them unique!
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - see youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - Frog and Toad is a new TV series based on the classic fictional children's story. In every episode Frog and Toad go on a new adventure and each adventure provides a valued life lesson.

The story follows a very joyful Frog and a groggy Toad on unique journeys around their neighborhood. Frog and Toad are the best of friends and spend every day together. Toad loves to bake, relax and enjoy his life at a slow pace; while Frog, on the other hand is an outgoing, upbeat and cheerful character. The main theme of the story in all the episodes is how Frog and Toad always help each other and never leave one another's side.

I love how this series constantly reminds me of how opposites really do complement each other. The animation is adorable, although some scenes are quite unrealistic. The storyline is terrific and the voice actors are fantastic. The voice actor for both Frog and Toad (Kevin Michael Richardson) is so enthusiastic. Throughout the series we see the characters really being authentic to what they are trying to say and, in one particular scene, Frog is trying to convince Toad to wake up from hibernation on the first day of spring (even though toads hibernate until late spring).

My favorite scene of the series is in the episode called "The Letter" where Frog hears Toad say that he has never gotten mail before. Frog goes back home to write Toad his very own first letter and after he finishes it, he brings it to the town's post office and tells the little postman (a snail) to take the letter as fast as he can to Toad's house. As you know, snails are awfully slow, so when Frog goes back to see Toad he is lying in bed and feeling upset that he isn't getting any mail and thinks he never will. Little does he know Snail is on his way, but definitely taking a while to bring his letter. Frog is a true friend to Toad because he waits two days with Toad waiting for Snail to come and bring his very first mail. You just have to see it!

The message of this series is to always enjoy our friends and appreciate our life; we only have a certain amount of time. Another message is to love the outdoors, just as we see Frog and Toad love spending their time going on walks and having a picnic. This teaches children not just to be on their electronics but to also savor the great outdoors!

By Keila V., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11
Juror Recommended Age: 2-8 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: TV

Series: FEATURE, AGES 8 - 18
Description - Based on J. M. Barrie's novel Peter and Wendy and inspired by the 1953 animated classic, Peter Pan and Wendy is the timeless tale of a young girl who, defying her parents' wishes to attend boarding school, travels with her two younger brothers to the magical Neverland. There, she meets a boy who refuses to grow up, a tiny fairy and an evil pirate captain, and they soon find themselves on a thrilling and dangerous adventure far, far away from their family and the comforts of home.
KIDS FIRST!® Adult Jurors say - See youth comments
KIDS FIRST!® Kid Jurors say - I like Peter Pan & Wendy because of the magical and mysterious place called Neverland. The cinematography is so beautiful and made me wish I could be there.

In Peter Pan & Wendy, Wendy (Ever Anderson) doesn't want to grow up and Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) doesn't grow up in Neverland. Peter comes to take Wendy and her brothers John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe) to Neverland with his friend Tinkerbell (Yara Shahidi). When Wendy and her brothers go with Peter Pan and Tinkerbell they encounter Captain Hook (Jude Law) and he shoots Wendy out of the sky. Then we are introduced to the lost boys when they save Wendy.

Peter Pan & Wendy definitely meets the KIDS FIRST! criteria and has great messages and awesome performances. Jude Law is great as Captain Hook because he portrays an angry and hurt character at the same time. Alexander Maloney is a convincing Peter Pan because of his youthful look. Ever Anderson shows a range of emotions from her defiance of growing up to wonder at the sight of Neverland and bravery as she faces the Pirates. I really like how Neverland is shown as a luscious green island with lots of trees and plants. It is a single mysterious island in the middle of the ocean with nothing surrounding it. The cinematography is beautiful and colorful, contrasting a luscious Neverland with the darker, more serious England. I also like how Peter and Wendy fly up into the sky and go through a portal to get to Neverland.

This film has a few themes, the biggest of which is that it is okay to grow up. Wendy refuses to grow up at first, but when she sees how she doesn't grow up in Neverland she becomes happy that she actually can grow up and have a full path ahead of her. Another message is that you cannot accomplish everything by yourself. Peter Pan tries to defeat Captain Hook all by himself, but realizes that he needs the help of his friends.

I give Peter Pan & Wendy 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It is available on Disney+ now.

By Avani M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

Peter Pan & Wendy brings to life the timeless story of children who escape to the childhood world of Neverland. This Disney live action remake of the classic film creates a new and exciting experience. The film takes viewers on an adventure that delivers the characters and story people have grown to love while adding some interesting new twists.

As the film begins, Wendy (Ever Anderson) is playing around with her younger brothers John (Joshua Pickering) and Michael (Jacobi Jupe). Wendy is soon going to attend a boarding school; however, she dislikes the idea of having to grow up and move away. Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) sneaks in one night trying to capture his shadow and he decides it would be best to take Wendy and her brothers with him to Neverland to prolong Wendy's childhood. When they reach Neverland they encounter an evil pirate, Captain Hook (Jude Law), lost boys (and girls), and others. Captain Hook has his sight sent on capturing and destroying Peter Pan and anyone else who is young.

The film brings the classic story to life in a commendable way. My favorite scene is when Captain Hook takes Wendy and the lost boys captive on his pirate ship. After a fight, Captain Hook forces Wendy to walk the plank. The scene is suspenseful and keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat. The detailed costumes fit well with each character and many closely resemble their clothing from the original animated movie. Captain Hook has on his iconic red coat that has a lot of intricate details and he wears a black pirate hat to top off the outfit. Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatahk) wears a seemingly authentic Native American outfit in this version. The CGI in this film is spectacular! It is especially notable in the scenes in Neverland, with Tinkerbell (Yara Shahidi), when they fly, when they encounter the crocodile, and with the pirate ship. Ever Anderson, as Wendy, and Alexander Molony, as Peter Pan, are enjoyable to watch as the main characters. Alyssa Wapanathk speaks Native American in parts of the film which gives her character a realistic feel. I also enjoyed seeing the different sides of Captain Hook's character. We don't see a lot of Neverland or places such as Mermaid Lagoon, which I would have loved.

The film's message is to find the joy in growing up. Wendy is clearly scared at first because she is nervous about growing up and facing the unknown. Growing up means things change and that can be quite scary. However, it also means new adventures and experiences. Be forewarned that there is some mild violence such as the fighting on the pirate ship and with the crocodile.

I give Peter Pan & Wendy 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. It releases April 28, 2023 on Disney+.

By Carlee S., Kids First! Film Critic, Age 18
Juror Recommended Age: 8-18 Suggested Retail Price: $ Media: FeatureFilm


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