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A Week Away * Feel-Good Teem Rom Com of the Year!

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Reviews
A Week Away * Feel-Good Teem Rom Com of the Year!

Nowhere left to go, Will Hawkins finds himself at camp for the first time. His instinct is to run, but he finds a friend, a father figure and even a girl who awakens his heart. Most of all, he finally finds a home. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S. comments, “A Week Away is a total breath of fresh air! This film is set to be the feel-good teen rom com of the year with hilarious one-liners and catchy tunes. This is definitely a new Netflix knockout.” Katherine S. adds, “On the musical front, this movie has an impressive soundtrack. Kudos to the songwriter, Adam Watts, for the original songs in this movie. The choreography is splendid as everyone has a dance during the singing, and it is perfectly in sync with everything else. The setting for this movie is beautiful! The cabins have so much attention to detail; the forest is very realistic; and the lake is gorgeous. Now I want to go to Camp Aweegaway!” See their full reviews below.

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A Week Away

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

https://youtu.be/TINVwOUqv8s

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A Week Away is a total breath of fresh air! This film is set to be the feel-good teen rom com of the year with hilarious one-liners and catchy tunes. This is definitely a new Netflix knockout.

A Week Away follows juvenile delinquent Will (Kevin Quinn) as he goes to camp Aweegaway as a way to escape juvie. At the camp, he meets Avery (Bailee Madison). Soon, Avery tears down Will’s walls and shows him the ropes. The two of them, along with the rest of the campers, breakout in song and dance. The large dance numbers and intimate ballads balance out the storyline perfectly.

https://youtu.be/TINVwOUqv8s

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The cinematography is absolutely breath-taking. The shots of the early morning at the camp and the gorgeous dancing between Avery and Will at the dock are stunning. The sun shines down on the two as they dance together. The choreography is spectacular. The upbeat dance numbers with large groups make you want to dance with them. The songs are also incredible. After watching this movie, you’ll definitely want to add the whole soundtrack to your playlist. Along with this film’s spectacular visuals, the performances stand out. The intimate scenes between Avery and Will leave you rooting for these young teens from the lovely garden scene where Avery confesses how she’s exhausted of trying to be perfect, to Will’s vulnerable moment as he comes to terms with being loved and accepted.

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The moral of the film is that your past doesn’t define your future. Once the truth about Will’s checkered past comes to light, he runs away, believing that Avery would reject him. She, on the contrary, accepts him with open arms. Over the week that the film takes place, Will’s character develops dramatically, as he learns to love himself and learns how God and faith guides souls.

I give A Week Away 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. It is available on Netflix March 26, 2021.

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A Week Away

By Katherine S, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

https://youtu.be/Rk_KhtqMrRo

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A Week Away is a teen rom-com musical. It has attractive, lakeside outdoor settings, amazing choreography and solid faith-based messages.

This movie follows a teenage boy named Will (Kevin Quinn) who is a bit of a troublemaker.  He takes his actions a bit too far by stealing a police car, and when caught has the choice of going to a juvenile detention center or going to a faith-based camp with one of his foster families. He chooses camp Aweegaway, a place where some of the teens are only a week away from a life-changing experience. While at camp, Will meets Avery (Bailee Madison), who may very well be the catalyst for that change.

At several points during the storyline, A Week Away can be a bit cheesy and predictable, but this is a rom-com musical so it can only go in so many directions – and it’s still fun! On the musical front, this movie has an impressive soundtrack. Kudos to the songwriter, Adam Watts, for the original songs in this movie. The choreography is splendid as everyone has a dance during the singing, and it is perfectly in sync with everything else. The setting for this movie is beautiful! The cabins have so much attention to detail; the forest is very realistic; and the lake is gorgeous. Now I want to go to Camp Aweegaway! Kevin Quinn, who plays Will, possibly drew inspiration for this role from his character in Bunk’d, also about a camp. Bailee Madison is so believable as sweet and faithful Avery, who becomes Will’s love interest. My favorite character is Avery’s dad (Dave Koechner) because he is kind, silly and pretty inspiring. He is such a good dad role model.

The two primary messages for this movie are that nobody’s perfect and always keep your faith. There are a couple of examples of bad behavior in the movie, like someone stealing a car and running away from home.

I give A Week Away 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 9 to 18. It comes out on Netflix March 26, 2021.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers * Comedy, Creative Storyline, Great Messages and Lots of Hockey

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Reviews
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers * Comedy, Creative Storyline, Great Messages and Lots of Hockey

After failing to make the cut to join the now powerhouse Mighty Ducks junior hockey team, 12-year-old Evan’s mother encourages him to form a new team of underdogs with help from Gordon Bombay, the Ducks’ original coach. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is super enjoyable to watch! This beloved movie franchise now has a new series that all Mighty Ducks fans can enjoy. It has comedy, a creative storyline, great messages and of course plenty of Mighty Ducks hockey action.” See her full review below.

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The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

By Katherine S, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

https://youtu.be/DO3WfxV6_1Y

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The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is super enjoyable to watch! This beloved movie franchise now has a new series that all Mighty Ducks fans can enjoy. It has comedy, a creative storyline, great messages and of course plenty of Mighty Ducks hockey action.

The next installment of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers follows a boy named Evan (Brady Noon) who loves hockey and plays for the Mighty Ducks. However, the Mighty Ducks are not what they used to be, as the team has become a bunch of kids who want to win at all costs. Since the team moved to the 12 to 14-year-old bracket, only the best will stay on the team and, unfortunately, Evan is not one of them. After being devastated from being cut, Evan’s mom (Lauren Graham) decides that they should make their own team, but the deadline is in a few days. Can they find a rink, a coach, players and equipment to play in the league? It’s a lot of fun to watch their journey.

Since this new series is based on the previously released Mighty Ducks movies, you might want to watch some of those movies just to know some of the references and backstories of various characters. The characters include a diverse set of kids, parents and coaches that are very relatable and entertaining. Emilio Estevez reprises his role as a “cranky” Gordon Bombay being coaxed into coaching. Sound a bit familiar? My favorite character is Nick (Maxwell Simkins), because he is sweet, has a love of hockey, is not very good and has the best one-liners.

The message of this show is to remember that, just because you are not the best, does not mean you should not bother to try.  And it would not be a Mighty Ducks movie without demonstrating the importance of teamwork. There is a tiny bit of mild profanity.

I give The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. Adults, hockey fans and Mighty Ducks movie fans will enjoy it, too. The first episode of this show comes out on Disney+ March 26, 2021.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier * Non-Stop Action, Belly Laugh Funny, Emotional Ride Of A Lifetime

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Reviews
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier * Non-Stop Action, Belly Laugh Funny, Emotional Ride Of A Lifetime

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is an upcoming American web television miniseries, based on the Marvel Comics superheroes of the same names. The series is a sequel to Avengers: Endgame. It is the second installment and the second television series of Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Picking up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, the show centers on Sam Wilson (aka The Falcon) taking over the Captain America shield, and Bucky Barnes (aka The Winter Soldier) grappling with 21st century life without his star-spangled pal Steve Rogers. On top of that, the pair team up on a globe-trotting mission to take down an anarchist group called the Flag-Smashers. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “Are you ready to fly into nonstop action? Are you ready to watch a show that will belly laugh and also immerse you in an emotional ride of a lifetime? Well if so, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the show for you! Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan return in iconic roles, delivering mind-blowing action choreography and creative new ways to show action like Marvel hasn’t achieved before.” Heather S. adds, “The moral of the series is that there’s always a way to help heal all kinds of wounds. Sam desperately tries to help his sister with finances and tries to gain back the time he lost. Bucky, on the other hand, goes to therapy to help deal with his trauma and pain, trying to erase all traces of the Winter Soldier.” See their full reviews below.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

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

https://youtu.be/C1YJhbeWsR4

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The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the action-packed series everyone needs! With explosions, story-telling and two Avengers, we explore the backstories and lives of our favorite superheroes. This show is definitely a Marvel world-class adventure.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame. We catch up with the two heroes and see how much has changed in the last five years. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is still fighting crime as the Falcon, as he hangs up the Captain America shield. Meanwhile, Bucky Barnes tries to move on from the wars, as his past as the Winter Soldier haunts him. Soon, the two Avengers must team up against their latest villain, Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl).

Marvel yet again delivers with the cinematic spectacular they’re known for. The series starts off doing what Sam knows best – fighting and flying. With explosions and swift movements, Sam saves a prisoner. This series really gives insight to characters that never took center stage. It showcases why their skills and mindsets make them valuable assets and Earth’s mightiest heroes. It’s so exciting to see them on their own. It’s beautiful to see the two heroes be actual humans and people, not just aliases. We also see how comfortable the actors are in their respective roles. Sebastian really dives in deep into how Bucky has changed and faces these emotions head on. Anthony also merges with Sam. It’s so hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. They’re both hilarious and their performances offer comedic relief. I can’t wait to see both Sam and Bucky reunite. These two characters have been teased to be a comedic duo in previous Avengers films.

The moral of the series is that there’s always a way to help heal all kinds of wounds. Sam desperately tries to help his sister with finances and tries to gain back the time he lost. Bucky, on the other hand, goes to therapy to help deal with his trauma and pain, trying to erase all traces of the Winter Soldier.

I give The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. It starts streaming on Disney+ March 19, 2021.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

By Jude A., KIDS FIRST Film Critic, age 15

https://youtu.be/IWBsDaFWyTE

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Are you ready to fly into nonstop action? Are you ready to watch a show that will belly laugh and also immerse you in an emotional ride of a lifetime? Well if so, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the show for you! Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan return in iconic roles, delivering mind-blowing action choreography and creative new ways to show action like Marvel hasn’t achieved before. This will definitely bring a smile to long time Marvel fans, and it will also be extremely enjoyable for first time Marvel viewers.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, establishing the current status of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan). Sam (aka the Falcon) is still completing missions fighting crime left and right. Bucky (aka the Winter Soldier), on the other hand, is lying very low. He is dealing with mental health issues, trying to make peace with himself and the world. When the terrifying villain Zemo makes his reappearance from the events of Captain America: Civil War, Bucky and Sam must team up and defeat this foe.

In Captain America: Civil War, we get a taste of the Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan duo. Everyone loved it. Now to satisfy our lust for more, we have The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Their chemistry is outstanding. You laugh consistently throughout the show, making you want more and more. The visual effects and writing departments each deserve a lot of credit for the extremely creative route the show takes, demonstrating to the world what beautiful effects Marvel can produce.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is intense at times. A good portion of the show is pure action that some parents might not be comfortable with their younger children seeing. Some episodes contain mild cursing. The show does offer many morals and lessons. It explores themes such as teamwork, love and friendship. It also teaches the lesson that, even though you might have lost someone you love, they would have wanted you to move on and continue to live the life you want.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier soars higher than the Falcon does in the show, delivering plenty of great laughs and action-packed scenes. The show does contain intense action and cursing. Therefore, I give The Falcon and the Winter Soldier 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. Every Friday a new episode releases on Disney+ starting March 19, 2021, so make sure to check it out!

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) * Sheds Light on Struggles of Poverty and Virtues of a Single Mom

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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Reviews
I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking) * Sheds Light on Struggles of Poverty and Virtues of a Single Mom

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When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off of the streets. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail L. comments, “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is a fantastic film that sheds a new light on the struggles of poverty and the virtues of being a single mother. Director, writer and star of the film, Kelley Kali, creates an excellent, heart-wrenching story that captures the turmoil and strife that people are currently facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Joshita B. adds, “This movie represents the struggle of many single parents, especially when juggling their financial responsibilities while trying to parent as well.  Right off the bat, I must mention that Kelley Kali’s emotionally driven character is so well acted that she honestly steals the show and my heart. By making the mother so likable, the audience can’t help but root for her!” See their full reviews below.

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)

By Abigail L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

https://youtu.be/WQE-jmmADNw

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I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is a fantastic film that sheds a new light on the struggles of poverty and the virtues of being a single mother. Director, writer and star of the film, Kelley Kali, creates an excellent, heart-wrenching story that captures the turmoil and strife that people are currently facing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The film features Danny (Kelley Kali), a recently widowed mother who is struggling to make ends meet. She convinces her eight-year-old daughter, Wes (Wesley Moss), that they are camping while they live in a tent. After promising her daughter that they will have a home by the end of the day Danny skates around Los Angeles trying to find different ways to make enough money to secure an apartment.

My favorite part of this movie is the acting. Each character is distinguishable and genuine. The large variety of filming locations stands out as well. It showcases the marginalized communities in Los Angeles, a city that is often associated with glamor and success, which can also be tied back to Danny who tries to constantly make things look better than they truly are. Although Danny makes several poor decisions, it is difficult not to sympathize with her struggles. The direction of this film is especially admirable because of the emotion the directors, Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina, elicit from viewers as they watch Danny go around town pleading for help and toiling to keep her and her daughter’s head above water.

This movie addresses issues that are often neglected in overlooked communities. I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) successfully conveys the gravity of the difficult decisions people encounter when destitute. Although the subject matter is rather dark, the message is still inspiring and thought-provoking. Parents should know there is some mature content such as death, strong language, drug use, violence and blood.

I rate I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. This film is premiering at the SXSW 2021 Film Festival from March 17, 2021.

I’m Fine (Thanks For Asking)
By Joshitha Balamurugan, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

https://youtu.be/K63cvWZJLWs

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I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), directed by Kelley Kali and Angelique Molina, is an incredibly enlightening film about hardship. Everything, from the cinematography to the heartfelt dialogue to the acting, is top tier. This film is well made and sheds light on an important topic.

I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) is about a widowed mother that convinces her daughter they’re camping to hide that they’re homeless. This movie represents the struggle of many single parents, especially when juggling their financial responsibilities while trying to parent as well.

Right off the bat, I must mention that Kelley Kali’s emotionally driven character is so well acted that she honestly steals the show and my heart. By making the mother so likable, the audience can’t help but root for her! Also, the cinematography for the ocean scene is just breathtaking; the build-up for it is masterfully scripted so that when we see Kali scream underwater it hits us that much harder. Another thing worth mentioning is that the plot is very realistic – there is no magical element that whisks them away when life gets too tough to deal with.

The message of this film is that, no matter what happens, you have to put one foot in front of the other, because there is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not an option to give up. You should know that there is some profanity and sexual references in the film. So it is best suited for older teens and adults. In telling the story this way, the truthful message we take away sticks with us.

I rate I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking) 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 16 to 18, plus adults. This film premieres at the SXSW Film Festival on March 17, 2021, so catch it there.

@thanksforaskingmovie

@iamkelleykali

@rowemolina

@artistrydna

@abigailliu_

Stray * Brilliant Documentary That Makes You See The Value Of Stepping Up For What You Believe In

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Movie Reviews
Stray * Brilliant Documentary That Makes You See The Value Of Stepping Up For What You Believe In

The world of Zeytin, a stray dog living life on the streets of Istanbul. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “Stray is a brilliant film about three beautiful dogs living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.  Director Elizabeth Lo gives a unique perspective that allows viewers to venture into dogs’ lives and learn a lot about the country of Turkey and the people there, as well. Through the eyes of the dogs we learn about their lives on the streets and the lives of others they interact with.” See her full review below.

Stray

By Carlee Spagnolo, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Age 16

https://youtu.be/lRTEvpnu_B4

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Stray is a brilliant film about three beautiful dogs living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.

Director Elizabeth Lo gives a unique perspective that allows viewers to venture into dogs’ lives and learn a lot about the country of Turkey and the people there, as well. Through the eyes of the dogs we learn about their lives on the streets and the lives of others they interact with.  We gain a better understanding of the people as we overhear conversations the citizens are having which tell us a lot about the personal lives of the people there and the living conditions. For both the dogs and some of the people, there is danger and the struggle to survive.  There are also touching moments. It is an unforgettable film that helps people understand a different part of the world, the people and animals that live there, and that they all have the same basic needs of food, shelter, and friendship.

https://youtu.be/ABjZQH_oafo

This documentary follows three dogs named Zeytin, Nazar and a puppy named Kartal. The camera follows the dogs at their level which is a very ingenious and a creative touch. As the camera rolls, we follow along and see how these dogs interact with other dogs and the humans they encounter. Not only do we get to experience a stray dog’s life, but the lives of a young group of boys also living on the streets. The dogs in Istanbul are allowed to roam around the city freely since the citizens fought to save them. We’re taken into these dogs’ lives and live it with them, seeing all the sights and sounds they see.

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One of my favorite scenes in Stray is when Zeytin is in the park and notices another dog approaching. You can tell from the beginning, when we first get to know Zeytin, that she is a sweet dog. She doesn’t seem to mind the other dogs she comes in contact with and is friendly towards them. Watching Zeytin and the other dogs in the park was very enjoyable. I just loved watching them run around and being very playful. It is a scene that could have been in any part of the world.  I also enjoyed watching the puppy, Kartal. The puppy’s expressions are very sweet and, the way people react to Kartal, it adds a nice touch to the film.

The message in this film is to step up for what you believe in. The citizens of Turkey made sure their voices were heard, so that dogs can freely roam, and are not to be held captive or destroyed. Every life is worth something. The dogs provide comfort to many people there. There are some warnings. Some scenes can be graphic that go with life on the streets. Some of the topics and language spoken by some of the people is also for older viewers.

I give Stray 5 out of 5 stars. I was glued to the screen and I am now a much bigger fan of documentaries after watching this film.  I plan to watch more in the future. I recommend this film to ages 13 to 20. Magnolia Pictures will release Stray in theaters and On Demand on March 5, 2021.

Land * Intriguing; Valiant; Relatable. Terrific Directorial Debut by Robin Wright

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Movie Reviews
Land * Intriguing; Valiant; Relatable. Terrific Directorial Debut by Robin Wright

A local hunter brings a grieving lawyer back from the brink of death after she retreats to the harsh wilderness of the Rockies. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Nathalia J. comments, “The upcoming drama film Land, by director Robin Wright, is intriguing, valiant and relatable. I found it astounding knowing Robin Wright also starred in this film as the principal figure Edee. Considering this was Wright’s feature film directorial debut, I can’t deny that she surpassed my expectations for this film.” Rosabella P. adds, “This film is a compelling piece that captures both the internal and external landscape of Wyoming. The acting is phenomenal, which is critical given that the dialogue is meager. The cinematography and music are breathtaking, showing both the kindness and sacrifice of facing the unexpected in the wildness. This is a must see in the movie theater to appreciate the grandeur of the cinematography and all this movie brings.” See their full reviews below.

Land

By Nathalia J, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

https://youtu.be/cvjfBkjvzwM

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The upcoming drama film Land, by director Robin Wright, is intriguing, valiant and relatable. I found it astounding knowing Robin Wright also starred in this film as the principal figure Edee. Considering this was Wright’s feature film directorial debut, I can’t deny that she surpassed my expectations for this film. Land shows the raw emotion of a human overcome by grief and follows Edee (Wright) as she manages with unimaginable despondency after the passing of her spouse and child. Edee makes a bold choice to depart from society, seeking out a new life off the grid in Wyoming. Leading up to that moment, she tosses her phone, buys canned merchandise and supplies, and finds an isolated, somewhat-rundown cabin within the Wyoming wild. Throughout the film, you can see how isolated she feels — once she starts a new life, it’s like she’s left her old self behind with society.

Edee is certain about her brave decision, and ready to start a new life. However, there is no coordinate for the area’s unwavering winter. She is incapable of keeping the fire going to warm her cabin. After a bear continually eats her food, Edee is on the brink of starvation, as well as frail and too cold to stand.  Edee is spared by a neighborly hunter/woodsman (Demián Bichir) who brings her back to life and instructs her on how to survive living on the land. As Edee starts to construct a new life for herself outside of civilization, she works to manage her past and see toward a bright future.

My favorite part in Land would have to be when Edee was fishing at the nearby lake. As she is struggling to catch a fish, she becomes frustrated. Then, she notices a young man, Miguel (Demián Bichir) chasing his young son, Drew (Finlay Wojtak-Hissong) She recalls memories of her late spouse and child and follows them from afar as they run through the trees. I enjoyed watching as she relived those precious moments from her past, and it was overall a heartfelt moment in this film.

However, although Land was only 88 minutes, the film felt way longer than that, due to the slow pace. There are many relatable moments within the film, but I felt some scenes dragged and, at some moments, many scenes felt “dry.” This film promotes positive social behaviors and shows the true meaning of kindness. What I took away from Land is that it’s okay to be not okay. And, sometimes, we need a break from our continuous busy schedule in life and to break free!

I give Land 4 out of 5 stars, with an age recommendation of 11 to 18, plus adults. Land debuts February 12, 2021 at your nearby theater and PVOD March 5, 2021.

Land
By Rosabella P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

https://youtu.be/EyLTIWzRroY

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Land is a poignant story with a harsh American wildness twist. This film is magnificent and has unbearable events to watch. The part I enjoyed most is when Edee (Robin Wright) finally decides to go hunt in the woods instead of starving herself to death. The part I disliked is when she is contemplating taking her life away until she reminisces about her sister Emma (Kim Dickens) tells her something important to remember about her life.

Directed and starring Robin Wright, the storyline is about a desperately sad woman, grieving over the loss of her husband and child, who seeks out a new life away from her family and friends. She is very uncertain about life and goes deep into the mountains of Wyoming to begin a life of solitude and privacy to figure things out.  With the help of a nearby hunter Miguel (Demian Bichir) solace in nature may create the best healing path for her.

This film is a compelling piece that captures both the internal and external landscape of Wyoming. The acting is phenomenal, which is critical given that the dialogue is meager. The cinematography and music are breathtaking, showing both the kindness and sacrifice of facing the unexpected in the wildness. This is a must see in the movie theater to appreciate the grandeur of the cinematography and all this movie brings.

The film has a implacable message about believing in yourself. It promotes the idea that hope is all you need to conquer anything. It also emphasizes the importance of being helpful and being supportive of people you care about. Helping others with compassion always comes within your heart.

I give Land 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It will be available on PVOD March 5, 2021 at the theater near you

Moxie * Wonderful Comedy, Drama and Terrific Message

Posted by Felix Assivo on
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Movie Reviews
Moxie * Wonderful Comedy, Drama and Terrific Message

Fed up with the sexist and toxic status quo at her high school, a shy 16-year-old finds inspiration from her mother’s rebellious past and anonymously publishes a zine that sparks a school-wide, coming-of-rage revolution. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “I love the coming-of-age movie, Moxie! It has comedy, drama and a terrific message, while handling very serious topics.  The cast is perfect, and the music gives the film a lot of energy.”  See her full review below.

Moxie

By Katherine Schell, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

https://youtu.be/uuT3uU7DFAE

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I love the coming-of-age movie, Moxie! It has comedy, drama and a terrific message, while handling very serious topics.  The cast is perfect, and the music gives the film a lot of energy.

Moxie is based on the novel by the same name by Jennifer Mathieu and follows a 16-year-old girl named Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who prefers to be under the radar. This all changes when Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Peña) comes to her high school. After witnessing Lucy “holding her head high” during an encounter with another student, Vivian notices all of the horrible ways that girls are being treated at her school and decides to publish an anonymous zine that sparks a fire in all of the other fed-up girls at her school.

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Amy Poehler directs the movie and plays Vivian’s mom.  She also happens to be my favorite character, because she is very clever, inspiring and is not a “traditional mom.” The rest of the cast plays their characters so well. We see Vivian’s journey from follower to leader. Lucy is such a bold and confident woman, standing up for what is right. Seth (Nico Hiragra) comes across as a really cool love interest of Vivian’s and male ally to the female revolution. Patrick Schwarzenegger’s portrayal of Mitchell Wilson is terrific, as I just hated him in the movie. The supporting characters are very diverse as we see people of all shapes, sizes and races, including a girl in a wheelchair, which I rarely see in movies, plus an all-girl band.The key messages in this film are: to be the change you want to see, and friendship can support that change. You should know that the film has some mild profanity, shows underage drinking and handles some mature subjects.

I give Moxie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. It comes out on Netflix March 3, 2021.

Raya And The Last Dragon * Fascinating Setting and Mythology; Story Falters a Bit

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Movie Reviews
Raya And The Last Dragon * Fascinating Setting and Mythology; Story Falters a Bit

Long ago, in the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons lived together in harmony. However, when sinister monsters known as the Druun threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, those same monsters have returned, and it’s up to a lone warrior to track down the last dragon and stop the Druun for good. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “In terms of world-building, Raya and the Last Dragon is probably one of Disney’s best. This animated film has a fascinating setting and mythology; however the story falters a little… Raya and the Last Dragon feels a lot more dramatic and serious in tone than most other Disney films. On the one hand, I really enjoy this as I believe we need more serious kids’ movies.” See her full review below.

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Raya And The Last Dragon

By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

https://youtu.be/2U1WHte8nKQ

In terms of world-building, Raya and the Last Dragon is probably one of Disney’s best. This animated film has a fascinating setting and mythology; however the story falters a little.<p>This film takes place in Kumandra, a world comprising five divided nations. When an evil force known as The Druun sends Kumandra into a state of despair, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran) sets out on a journey to find the last dragon, and defeat The Druun for good.First, the animation in this film is strong and very realistic; perhaps a little too realistic to the point where some shots look like photographs. This might be a pet peeve of mine, because I don’t like ultra-realistic animation. Sure, it is impressive, technologically speaking, but I find stylized animation to be much more striking and memorable. Aside from that, it’s very beautiful. I really like the colors, and how each location is so visually distinct.

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Raya and the Last Dragon feels a lot more dramatic and serious in tone than most other Disney films. On the one hand, I really enjoy this as I believe we need more serious kids’ movies. However, I’m assuming the producers were concerned about this film being “too dark for kids” because there is a lot of really unfunny comedy in the beginning. This comedy mostly comes from Sisu (Awkwafina), the last dragon. And while I’m usually a fan of Awkwafina and her comedic timing, she’s just not given any good material here. The jokes don’t fit with the setting or tone, and they really bog down Sisu’s first few scenes. Yet once the comedy slows down, she becomes a more dramatic character which I enjoyed.

I have a few concerns with the themes of Raya and the Last Dragon. The message that, instead of being divided, we need to come together and stand united is fine. However the execution of that message is a bit questionable. No spoilers, but let’s just say a certain character really deserved some repercussions for all the problems they caused. I do understand that the moral is that we should learn to trust each other, but I feel like that message is used as an excuse to not properly redeem a character.

I give Raya and The Last Dragon 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It comes out on March 5, 2021 in theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access.

Llama Llama: Fun with Friends! * Jennifer Garner’s Distinctive Voice Brings Warmth and Charm as Mama Llama

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Reviews
Llama Llama: Fun with Friends! * Jennifer Garner’s Distinctive Voice Brings Warmth and Charm as Mama Llama

Join Llama Llama, Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat as they explore their friendly hometown and make childhood memories. Giana N. comments, “I used to read these books all the time, and I was both surprised and happy when I recognized the familiar storylines. The lessons that Llama Llama and his friends learn are something a viewer may need a refresher on, or they may even be something they want to teach someone else. Either way, this show has great reminders of what’s important about life.” KatherJne S. adds, “Llama Llama: Fun with Friends!, like so many of the other Llama Llama DVDs, teaches helpful life-lessons, like patience and discussing how you feel with others. The animation is simple and 2D, with a variety of adorable animals.” Ashleigh C. wraps it up with, “Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30) has a very distinctive and warm voice while portraying Mama Llama. While Llama Llama is voiced by Shayle Simons, whose voice is very young and natural sounding. The animation, especially of the characters, is very colorful and feels like the pages of a storybook awakening. Each episode consists of different plot lines and introduces new characters and scenes. You never know what to expect or what will happen next in each episode, making this show one of a kind.” See their full reviews below.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends

By Giana N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

https://youtu.be/pVxZxTxnWFU

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The DVD Llama Llama: Fun With Friends is a collection of episodes from the animated children’s show, Llama Llama, on Netflix. In this DVD Llama Llama and his friends go on adventures and learn valuable lessons.

The stories in these episodes follow Llama Llama (Shayle Simons), and his friends having fun and learning along the way. Even though Llama Llama is obviously a llama, this show talks about issues that real kids deal with. Mama Llama (Jennifer Garner) is also a part of the activities with Llama Llama and his friends, encouraging him to have fun, be kind, and trust that everything will be okay.

In all the episodes, Llama Llama and his friends learn something new and viewers can learn along with them. My favorite episode is “Llama Llama Shopping Drama,” because it shows Llama Lama being impatient as his mother shops, which I am sure many kids can relate to. In this episode, Llama Llama learns that, in life, you need to be patient. Another thing I like about this show is that it includes the events that happen in the Llama Llama books, but as a TV episode. I used to read these books all the time, and I was both surprised and happy when I recognized the familiar storylines. The lessons that Llama Llama and his friends learn are something a viewer may need a refresher on, or they may even be something they want to teach someone else. Either way, this show has great reminders of what’s important about life.

The message of Llama Llama: Fun With Friends is that there is always something to learn. Whether it’s an educational or character development lesson, it can be helpful in knowing how you live your life.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends is an awesome DVD! I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 7. The DVD is available now so go check it out!

Llama Llama: Fun with Friends!

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

https://youtu.be/UtCK6k-7R0Y

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Llama Llama: Fun with Friends!, like so many of the other Llama Llama DVDs, teaches helpful life-lessons, like patience and discussing how you feel with others. The animation is simple and 2D, with a variety of adorable animals.

This collection follows Llama Llama (Shayle Simons), a playful Llama and some of his adventures with his friends Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat. It has 165 hours of fun, with 15 episodes, each lasting around 11 minutes. Episodes include some about the seasons like Last Day of Summer, Spring Fever and Snow Show. Others cover a variety of experiences such as Happy Birthday Llama Llama, Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! and Llama Llama Shopping Drama.

This show is based on the beloved Llama Llama books by Anna Dewdney. I admire how the creators of this show do so much with just a little help from the books. Kudos to the writers and to George Gabriel, who wrote the show’s theme song; it’s very catchy. This cast includes Jennifer Garner who voices Mama Llama and her soothing voice fits the role perfectly. My favorite episode is Happy Birthday Llama Llama because it shows how much friends care for one another. My favorite characters are Grandma (Kathleen Barr) and Grandpa Llama (David Orth/David Poole) because wherever they are, they bring fun along with them.

There are many positive messages throughout this DVD, including patience, making the most out of everything and problem solving and friendship.

I give Llama Llama: Fun with Friends! 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 9. This DVD is available now, so look for it.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends
By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

https://youtu.be/pPBPfDapPEQ

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends makes the childhood stories we all know and love come to life in a spectacular and fun way. This DVD is a compilation of episodes from the animated series based on the children’s book Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney.

Each episode in this show is full of adventure, whether it’s looking for a missing tooth, losing a race, or just flying kites. Every episode, Llama Llama and his friends learn something new and so does the audience.

Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30) has a very distinctive and warm voice while portraying Mama Llama. While Llama Llama is voiced by Shayle Simons, whose voice is very young and natural sounding. The animation, especially of the characters, is very colorful and feels like the pages of a storybook awakening. Each episode consists of different plot lines and introduces new characters and scenes. You never know what to expect or what will happen next in each episode, making this show one of a kind. Voice director and series casting by Doug Parker makes this entire show worth the watch!

Even though every episode has a different message, the overall theme is like the words that Llama Llama’s many friends say: “Never say never! Don’t give up.” You don’t know how far you can go. This show promotes positive social behaviors, such as caring, helping one another and being there for your friends.

Llama Llama: Fun With Friends gets 5 out of 5 stars from me and I recommend it for ages 2 to 8. You can find Llama Llama: Fun With Friends on DVD now. Look for it!

The Father * Beautiful, Moving Film Depicting Dementia In Its Raw, Brutal Essence

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Reviews
The Father * Beautiful, Moving Film Depicting Dementia In Its Raw, Brutal Essence

A man refuses all assistance from his daughter as he ages. As he tries to make sense of his changing circumstances, he begins to doubt his loved ones, his own mind and even the fabric of his reality. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “The Father cries out to its viewers to enjoy life while they have their senses and to show compassion toward those who have begun to lose (or have already lost) a clear view of the world. It’s a sobering portrait of mental illness and yet an empowering film for those coping with their individual struggles.” Heather S. adds, “The moral of this film is that love conquers all, even the impossible. With the decline of Anthony’s mental health, he always has family by his side. Anne always does what is best for her father, including finding the best caretaker in London. Once Anthony is in a home, his nurse has the patience and love to answer his questions, comfort him and put his needs first.” See their full reviews below.

The Father

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

https://youtu.be/qehxSKiuYp8

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A beautifully-made and moving film, The Father depicts dementia in its raw, brutal essence and will surely make an imprint on your soul.

The French-British film centers around aging Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an Englishman who “has his ways,” as his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) says. As Anthony develops dementia and his condition worsens, Anne finds it difficult to balance her life with caring for her father. The film traces how the two of them go about their lives together and how the disease progresses. The Father is told in a jumbled manner because our perspective of the film is as Anthony would see it:  All out of order. Anne’s husband Paul (Rufus Sewell) and another man who Anthony thinks is her husband, a woman, and several caretakers all appear and disappear throughout the film. Even the settings shift, and you’re never really sure where you are. Director Florian Zeller and his crew design both Anne and Anthony’s apartments to look relatively similar which enhances that perspective of disorientation.

Anthony Hopkins has always played cerebral roles, so this more emotional one is unique in his repertoire. He sheds tears, flies into fits of rage, and immerses himself in the character of a strong-willed man slowly losing his grip on what’s happening. The last scene is especially poignant and hard-hitting; no spoilers, though! Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Anne is one that many who have dealt with a relative suffering from a progressive mental illness will identify with. It’s incredibly realistic, and, at times, you forget that she’s an actress playing a character. Anne herself is layered, especially in how she copes with Anthony’s dementia; first keeping her emotions bundled up, escalating to emotional breakdowns, and eventually to some scary fantasies. Colman deals with these feelings beautifully, immersing herself much like Hopkins does. Director Florian Zeller isn’t actually a director by profession; he’s a playwright, and this film was adapted from his play Le Pére. He’s a master storyteller, and you couldn’t tell this is his first gig as a director. His attention to detail (especially with sets, something I’m sure he took from his career in playwriting), combined with his personal experiences (his grandmother was diagnosed with dementia when Zeller was 12) make this film an earnest yet unsettling project.

The Father cries out to its viewers to enjoy life while they have their senses and to show compassion toward those who have begun to lose (or have already lost) a clear view of the world. It’s a sobering portrait of mental illness and yet an empowering film for those coping with their individual struggles. There is some profanity, slight violence (Paul slaps Anthony), and Anthony and Anne’s father-daughter relationship gets a bit abusive at times.

I give The Father 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults; younger kids could watch the film if they feel comfortable with themes like mental illness. The Father releases on-demand on March 12, 2021.

The Father

By Heather Suarez, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

https://youtu.be/VStCKiHgLtY

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The Father is an excellent depiction of the reality for many elderly people. This film offers insight into the minds of those that suffer from dementia and how they think. We see how this illness affects not only the patient, but their loved ones.

The Father follows Anthony (Anthony Hopkins), an elder suffering from dementia. The motion picture shows how his mind plays tricks on him. He forgets names easily and he sees his daughter differently, as in with a different face. He also imagines people are there that do not exist. All the while, his daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) struggles to find her father the perfect caretaker.

This film really is an eye-opener to the reality of dementia. Not only is Anthony forgetful, but his attitude changes rapidly in the blink of an eye. In one scene, he is all happy and jazzy as he converses with a young woman, and then he is angry and demands that he doesn’t need a caretaker. He believes that he can outlive his own daughter and even talks about what he would say at her funeral. In another scene, he even forgets his name and calls out for his mother. This film is perfect for the loved ones of dementia patients. The movie offers the perspective, ideas, and confusion the victims go through. It also serves as a guide by showing how Anne deals with her father’s outbursts and how her love stands strong to always help him. Not once does she give up on her father, insisting he deserves the best care.

The moral of this film is that love conquers all, even the impossible. With the decline of Anthony’s mental health, he always has family by his side. Anne always does what is best for her father, including finding the best caretaker in London. Once Anthony is in a home, his nurse has the patience and love to answer his questions, comfort him and put his needs first. There are warnings that go along with its PG-13 rating. Mild profanity is sprinkled throughout the film, along with realistic depictions of mental illness.

I give The Father 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. It premieres on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu February 26, 2021.

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