Paddington is happily settled with the Brown family in Windsor Gardens, where he has become a popular member of the community, spreading joy and marmalade wherever he goes. While searching for the perfect present for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday, Paddington spots a unique pop-up book in Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, and embarks upon a series of odd jobs to buy it. But when the book is stolen, it’s up to Paddington and the Browns to unmask the thief. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This sequel to the hit family film, Paddington delivers in all the right places and truly lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses the 2014 film in many ways.” Benjamin P. adds, “Paddington 2 is a warm fuzzy blanket of a film. Its title character is a symbol of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He never gives up and always believes in the best in those around him.” Jolleen M. wraps it up with, “This film is hilarious and made me cry a cry of joy and also of sadness, multiple times. It is amazing to watch live characters bond with an imaginary, animated bear. Even though there’s not actually a bear there, you can feel the love within the family.” See their full reviews below.
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
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Paddington 2 seamlessly blends heart and comedy for a truly charming family film. This sequel revisits the title character, a precocious young bear living in London as part of the Brown family. As the movie opens, Aunt Lucy is celebrating her birthday in darkest Peru and Paddington is struggling to find a suitable gift to send to her. He settles on a pop-up book of London at a local antique shop and takes on a series of sometimes hilarious odd jobs to pay for it. One night, the book is stolen. Paddington is accused of the theft and sent to prison, but the real culprit is Phoenix Buchanan, a narcissistic actor who craves the spotlight and wants to use the book’s value to fund his one-man-show. Paddington sets out to clear his name, while the Browns try to prove that Phoenix is the real criminal.
Interview with Sally Hawkins & Hugh Bonneville
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Interview with Hugh Grant
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Paddington 2 is a warm fuzzy blanket of a film. Its title character is a symbol of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He never gives up and always believes in the best in those around him. I love coming back to Paddington’s London and being reacquainted with the Brown family and their quirks. The cheerful tone of this film radiates throughout. The lesson of Paddington 2 is be kind to others, always, and its timing could not be better.
Paddington 2 surpasses the first Paddington film in many ways. It brings back endearing characters and everything you love about them, while introducing memorable new ones as well. I love how, once again the modern take on the widely loved story of Paddington Bear stays true to the character while still telling an original story.
Hugh Grant is very good as Phoenix Buchanan. Grant embodies Phoenix’s charisma and sly humor. It is nice to see an actor typically known for romantic comedies go to a more villainous place to play this sinister has-been actor who will do anything to be famous again. Grant’s top moments are his most bizarre. Be sure to stay for the credits for one of his best.
My favorite character in this film is Knuckles McGinty, the prison chef played by Brendan Gleeson. Gleeson subtly and comically shows us the intensity and warmth of his character. Knuckles’s anger and pessimism is a nice foil to Paddington’s constant glowing positivity. Gleeson also illustrates how Paddington brings out the softer sides of those around him.
I recommend this film to ages 4 to 15 and adults will love its positive attitude. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars for putting a smile on my face and recreating the magic of the original and then some. It opens nationwide in theaters on January 12, 2018 so be sure to check it out.
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15
This sequel to the hit family film, Paddington delivers in all the right places and truly lives up to its predecessor and even surpasses the 2014 film in many ways. Paddington 2, like the first one, is definitely a family film filled with many morals and messages, generally surrounded by unique jokes and fun adventures. To add conflict to the story, there are some dramatic scenes, but the film manages to always stay kid-friendly.
The movie picks up sometime after the first film. Paddington the bear still lives happily with the Brown family in London. By now, he has a daily routine and has become friendly with the whole neighborhood. In a few days, his aunt will have her 100th birthday. Paddington decides to get her a perfect present. Little does Paddington know that the present he has chosen actually contains a big secret and gets stolen. Paddington is blamed for the theft and sent to jail. Now two conflicts emerge, Paddington must fit in prison and the Brown family must figure out how to get him out of jail.
Paddington’s realism really stands out. He clearly still contains character-like features with big brown eyes and heavenly fluffy fur, but he essentially fits-in properly with his surroundings. Not only does the special effects’ team deserve credit for this, but the actors deserve double kudos for performing so realistically with a character that doesn’t really exist. Adding a superstar as Hugh Grant also brings the film to a completely new level of goodness.
Rare for a sequel, the story stays original and separate from the last film while still maintaining the good parts of the previous story. The humor becomes almost slapstick at times, and other times it’s purely situational and always results in a laugh. Paddington as a character really pulls at the heartstrings of the audience, both because of a well-written script and a bear who’s designed to be adorable in every way.
My favorite scene starts when Paddington gets into jail. He, of course, does not fit in as a well-mannered, kind bear. After proving his skill at making marmalade sandwiches for everyone, the prison stops looking like the one in Shawshank Redemption and begins to look like a cute bed and breakfast you’d pay to stay at. This really shows a large amount of irony due to the fact that many gruff convicts become well-mannered and kind. This scene not only demonstrates the power of the humor in Paddington 2, but truly brings up all of the main characteristics of Paddington as a character.
I recommend this film for ages 7 to 18. Surprisingly, in the audience, there were more adults laughing than kids, while the kids were simply fixed on the realism and adventures of Paddington. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars for being an outstanding family film that truly outdoes its predecessor and leaves you wanting more. It opens nationwide in theaters on January 12, 2018 so, be sure to check it out.
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
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Red carpet interviews
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Interview with Simon Farnaby
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This film is hilarious and made me cry a cry of joy and also of sadness, multiple times. It is amazing to watch live characters bond with an imaginary, animated bear. Even though there’s not actually a bear there, you can feel the love within the family.
The film starts off with a little flash back showing how Paddington was saved from falling off the waterfall when he was a cub, by Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy. They adopted him and raised him as if he was their own son. Then it returns to present time. Paddington wants to get the perfect gift for Aunt Lucy on her 100th Birthday and decides on a present, but it is expensive. He works hard to earn enough money to buy the gift. One night while he is walking past the store where the gift is, a thief breaks into the store and steals it. Paddington chases after the burglar, but when the police arrive they assume that he is the thief. Paddington is sentenced to 10 years in prison even though he didn’t commit the crime. His family tries to prove his innocence, but they don’t have much evidence.
Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is supposed to be a young bear. Ben Wishaw, who does his voice, doesn’t sound like a young bear to me. He sounds more like a polite and proper man. Even though he doesn’t sound young, his voice matches Paddington’s personality, particularly because Paddington is very polite, kind and sweet.
The animation for this film is very realistic. Paddington interacts with objects that aren’t animated, which makes him seem like he is actually there. Paddington looks very realistic with very detailed fur, eyes and feet. My favorite part of this film are all of the jokes throughout it. They are so funny and sarcastic. The whole audience was laughing together. Everyone understood the jokes, adults and children both, which is always great.
The moral of this story is to be kind and positive, so that life will be kind and positive to you. Throughout all the hardships that Paddington goes through, he stays positive, remains kind and eventually everything becomes right in the end. Paddington 2 is such an amazing film to watch with your whole family. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 18, as well as adults. It opens in theaters nationwide on January 12, 2018 so, go check it out.
Following the events of The Force Awakens, Rey begins her Jedi training under Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled about Rey’s immense strength with the Force. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to continue the fight against the First Order, which is led by Kylo Ren and the mysterious Snoke. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Michelle C. comments, “…my only hope was that Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be just as mind-boggling as the others. Shame on me for ever doubting the legendary billion-dollar franchise, because (spoiler alert): It is!” Arjun N. adds, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi lives up to the hype because of its wonderful story and action. The acting has never been better for the series. This is sure to be a hit for all Star Wars fans.” Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror, wraps it up with, “Loyal audiences won’t be disappointed! From the traditional opening scroll to the non-stop, action-packed 2:32 hours of characters new, known and loved, writer-director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is fantastic.” See their full reviews below.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi lives up to the hype because of its wonderful story and action. The acting has never been better for the series. This is sure to be a hit for all Star Wars fans.
The story follows the events set in place after Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Rey (Daisy Ridley) turns to the legendary Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), for help to turn the tide of the desperate battle between the Resistance and the First Order. However, Luke has lost all hope after his failure of letting Ben Solo (Adam Driver) become Kylo Ren. While trying to convince Luke, Rey further learns to control her ties with the Force, while learning mysteries of the past. Meanwhile, the First Order learns an advanced battle tactic that could destroy the Resistance under Leia (Carrie Fisher). This leads to a newly awakened Finn (John Boyega) forming an unlikely team with the smart Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and the determined Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), to save the Resistance.
Daisy Ridley, as Rey, excellently presents her newly learned powers and her inner battle between the light and the dark side as her character progresses to become an epic hero, like Luke. Mark Hamill, as Luke Skywalker, is the highlight of the movie and he is also my favorite character, due to his long-awaited return as the character, which delivers on all grounds. He delivers a more brooding edge to character as a hopeless Jedi who is adamant on his choices. Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, is an incredible villain with well-developed motives, as you can feel his inner conflict with the Dark Side. Carrie Fisher, as Leia, delivers an impressive posthumous performance as the tactical leader of the Resistance. Her character is also tied up in a way that respects the actor. John Boyega, as Finn, delivers an excellent performance as his character stops being a coward and transforms into a brave rebel for the Resistance. Kelly Marie Tran, as Rose, is smart and resourceful in her team up with Finn. Oscar Isaac, as Poe Dameron, is a true maverick who refuses to follow orders for the safety of people.
Rian Johnson wonderful directs every scenic location, whether it is from the desolate ship of the First Order to the abandoned, yet beautiful landscapes of Crait. My favorite scene is the one where a certain choice must be made, on the side of Kylo to Rey. My only problem with this movie is that, while the perfomances between Finn and Rose are superb, their subplot drags the movie in a slower middle act. However, this a short part of a long movie is full of story and battles.
The message of the movie is about finding hope. The Resistance is put through extreme threats from the First Order, but they find a way to battle it with hope. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 because of its intense action. The movie releases in theaters on December 15, 2017, so check it out.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
By Michelle C., KIDS FIRST! Critic, age 19
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As I sat back in the comfy leather seats and watched the star-dusted opening credits roll out in front of me, I reminisced about what it felt like watching the Star Wars series for the first time. It has been a long time since that happened and my only hope was that Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be just as mind-boggling as the others. Shame on me for ever doubting the legendary billion-dollar franchise, because (spoiler alert): It is!
If you haven’t seen the previous installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then I highly recommend you grab some friends to watch it with and get yourself back on track. Otherwise, you will be in for a big surprise. For those who have seen it, then you know that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) makes an iconic return to the big screen and this time, with a vengeance. Luke went into hiding, undetected, to the Porg-infested island of Ahch-To to die. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has a mission to bring Luke back to fight the Resistance as war is once again brewing against the First Order. Millions of porg-encounters later, Rey finally persuades Luke to lend her his knowledge in combat, leaving Luke unsettled by the strength of her powers.
This time around, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) leads the Resistance due to unforeseen circumstances. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Holdo go head to head as he refuses to follow Holdo’s rules. This creates major conflict in the storyline, as some things don’t necessarily go as planned during combat. We are also introduced to a new lead character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a maintenance worker that guards the escape pods. She bonds with Finn (John Boyega) as she takes him to her wealthy home of Canto Bight. Though, there’s so much more to this planet than meets the eye.
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) remains high and mighty, just for show. It’s evident that he hides something deep within, something he cannot control – a slight hint of compassion. After a head-to-head conflict with Rey and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the film finally reveals who he truly is.
Now that you have an idea of what the film is about, let’s talk about the magic that goes on behind-the-scenes. To be quite honest, the writing has its lows. There are moments when the audience would let out an uncomfortable laugh due to the awkward, juvenile jokes that we know certain characters would never say or do. It felt somewhat out-of-touch with the Star Wars franchise, especially since they are thrown in during the most serious, suspenseful scenes. Despite that, the rest of the screenplay is groundbreaking. It gives the audience what they want and what they didn’t know they needed. Also, the cinematography is phenomenal. Shooting in locations such as Ireland and Croatia, the visual effects team make it seem as though they are off in a galaxy far, far away, without straying from its natural beauty. Special effects, as always, are mind-blowing. It’s nearly impossible not to fathom lightsabers being real. Top it all off with detailed costume design and award-winning acting, and you’ve got yourself a masterpiece.
Ultimately, Star Wars: The Last Jedi exceeded far beyond my expectations, and I urge you to go out with your Jedi Knight robes and lightsabers and experience it on the big screen. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18 as well as adults. It opens December 15, 2017 in U.S. theaters so, go check it out.
Stars Wars: The Last Jedi
By Kimbirly O. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror
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Loyal audiences won’t be disappointed! From the traditional opening scroll to the non-stop, action-packed 2:32 hours of characters new, known and loved, writer-director Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is fantastic. As I watched the film, I thought about the yeoman’s task to step into George Lucas’ world, filled with beloved characters, and continuing the tale between good and evil, light and dark, all within The Force. After all, Johnson is known for film shorts and episodic television, not movie studio franchise blockbusters.
When we first see our hero, Luke, (Mark Hamill) I could not help but consider, “if Skywalker lives, hope lives.” Hope is a central theme of this film and is voiced several times by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Only Poe (Oscar Isaac) seems to have a less than optimistic view of the tasks at hand.
Rey demands Luke teach her the Jedi ways. She delivers Darth Vader’s lightsaber to him almost as an offering. Luke declines to show her the Jedi religion telling her there are no more Jedi’s. As he painfully explains the path his nephew, Ben Solo (Adam Driver) took from light, as a Jedi trainee, to dark as Kylo Ren, the pain is palpable. As Yoda later reminds us, “The greatest teacher is failure.”
Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Princess Leia is compelling and often funny. She reminds many crew members, “May The Force Be With You” often. At one point, her admonition to Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) is funny. In fact, there are many humorous bits within the film, humanizing the war among the worlds and battles within deep space. When we meet the Porgs, I laughed aloud at their antics, especially when they take flight with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The lessons in the film, spoken by various characters are impactful. My favorite is “saving what we love is the only way we fight hate.”
Given the performances of the young actors, and possibilities at the end of the film, I wonder, can this story go on forever? As Luke aptly reminds us, “no one is ever really gone”. Thank you, Luke. May we all know peace and purpose. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 as well as adults. Some battle scenes could be too intense for younger children.
Gumby and Pokey, television’s legendary clay characters, live one great adventure after another in a timeless world of stop motion magic and wonder. Join our favorite duo in this fun-filled collection of 50’s, 60’s and 80’s episodes! When Santa gets sick right before Christmas, will the holiday be ruined or can the Witty Witch save the day and deliver the gifts with the help of a certain someone? Then, Scrooge escapes from his book and sets out to destroy all of the toys in Toyland, but luckily Gumby is there to save the day. From helping the Pilgrims, George Washington, and even the Moon Boggles, to rescuing a baby mastodon in the arctic, these unique shows will spark your imagination and bring a smile to your heart. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “Even though this collection’s branded as Arctic, there are many episodes that leave the Arctic Circle and dive into history. Some of the best include visiting the American Revolutionary War or the voyage on the Mayflower. Gumby really makes them shine by bringing humor and unique adventures to each one.” Carla P. adds, “I believe the DVD Gumby: Gumby’s Arctic Adventure is a great series because of its claymation and characters. I found it brought cheer to my Christmas and made me happy.” See their full reviews below.
Gumby: Gumby’s Arctic Antics
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15
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This collection of a dozen Gumby episodes promises to entertain the whole family with great humor suitable for all ages. Its spectacular soundtrack really brings the show justice.
Like many other Gumby collections, this set revolves around Gumby’s adventures which vary from episode to episode, but generally have some light comedy throughout. Something that really stands out to me on this DVD is the moment where Gumby actually talks about some historical facts, bringing a bit of education to this set.
Even though this collection’s branded as Arctic, there are many episodes that leave the Arctic Circle and dive into history. Some of the best include visiting the American Revolutionary War or the voyage on the Mayflower. Gumby really makes them shine by bringing humor and unique adventures to each one. The genius writers even fit in an occasional fact here and there that teaches young viewers about history without it feeling like a lecture. It just feels like one character explaining the situation to another character. However, there are minor issues with some of the plots. Generally, Gumby episodes are very short which fits the style, but many of these are too open-ended and don’t have a concrete finish. Almost all Gumby episodes feel a bit unfinished and seem to do little to address the conflict that made the story exist, which leaves the viewer slightly disappointed.
The quality of the stop-motion animation keeps at a superb level, despite these episodes originally being made across three decades, some as early as the 1950s. The writers, for the most part, did well in keeping the episodes interesting. There are some noticeable repeats in jokes or ideas. For example, there are two episodes where Gumby and Pokey somehow destroy an igloo and must rebuild it for the occupants. The two stories vary slightly, but have a very similar conflict. This makes the repeat episode rather boring. Something that the writers excel at (as they always did for Gumby) is the dialogue. The conversations are always natural, smooth and very realistic, despite all the characters being made from clay. These episodes of course also feature the original soundtrack of the show, which is recognizable and really adds to the experience. The music feels light and soothing, yet entertaining and fitting for each story.
My favorite episode is Gumby Crosses the Delaware River. In this episode, Gumby and Pokey enter a book about George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, where he surprise-attacked enemy soldiers. Pokey and Gumby help Washington by sending Pokey in as a spy. The episode is filled with a good sense of humor and does teach kids about some historical facts. It represents a perfect bundle of learning and fun.
Like all other Gumby collections, the show revolves around family. There are some jokes here and there that will make teens and adults laugh, but it’s mainly geared for younger kids. I recommend this for ages 9 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. In general, the episodes are great to watch, but some could have a better or different storyline to ensure uniqueness and the originality of writing. This DVD is available in stores now so go check it out.
Gumby: Gumby’s Arctic Adventure
Reviewed by Carla Paz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13
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I believe the DVD Gumby: Gumby’s Arctic Adventure is a great series because of its claymation and characters. I found it brought cheer to my Christmas and made me happy.
This DVD is a collection of holiday themed episodes from the 50s, 60s and 80s about Gumby and his friend Pokey as they look into famous stories about Christmas, Thanksgiving and the fourth of July. Gumby and Pokey are an iconic duo from the 60s.
This type of animation is known as claymation. It reminds me of Christmas movies such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other classics such as Santa is Coming to Town. They poke fun of the fact that the characters are clay by making them melt. I like how they incorporate live action with the animation. In one scene, Gumby and Pokey fall down into a pile of things and they are live action.
The characters in the show are fantastic. I love the banter between Gumby and Pokey. Gumby always tells Pokey to pay attention to the story they are watching, but he always disobeys. Instead, he helps the characters in the story.
The message of this film is to help people no matter the consequences. It spreads a message about helping friends or people in need. Pokey helps a prince who was scammed by shop owners when they gave him a plum tree with a pigeon in it. So, he tells a man with fairy dust to turn the tree and pigeon into gold. The prince is surprised of what happens and the girl he gives it to is ecstatic.
I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars recommend it to ages 6 to 9. This is available on DVD now so go check it out.
Dive into adventure with your favorite underwater explorers, the Octonauts! Join brave Captain Barnacles, daredevil ex-pirate, Kwazii, medic Peso Penguin and the rest of the crew, as they explore the world s oceans, rescue the creatures who live there and protect their habitats above and below the waves! Based on the richly imaginative books by Meomi, this series combines immersive visuals and submersive humor to transport young children into a world that is both real and fantastic, full of mysteries to unravel and surprises around every corner. So come aboard the Octopod for 52 exciting missions! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “There are multiple different messages throughout this DVD. All are really important and sometimes are overlooked. I love that The Octonauts offer entertainment to young children while teaching them good lessons.” See her full review below.
The Octonauts Season 1
By Jolleen Mejia, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
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The Octonauts have always been one of my favorite TV/DVD series. The Octonauts are selfless and brave, human-like animals and have great teamwork. Aside from the multiple wonderful messages that they teach in every episode, they also have detailed animation.
The Octonauts live in the ocean in their octopus-like structure called the Octopod. Whenever there is trouble in the ocean, the team of Octonauts does not hesitate to help anyone in need. The main characters include Captain Barnacles (the bear who leads the team), Kwazi (the pirate-like cat) and Peso (the timid penguin). At the end of the episode, there is always a Creature Report, a song giving facts about one of the creatures that they saw or helped during the mission.
Captain Barnacles (Ross Breen) sounds like a bear who has everything under control. He has a very deep, commanding and strong voice which implies that he is the boss, and he is. Peso (Paul Panting) has a very soft, sometimes shaky and uncertain voice. Peso is a happy, but conservative penguin, and you can hear that through his voice. You can also easily hear when he is scared.
The animation is detailed and shows the ocean as a beautiful place with the wide variety of colors. Another thing that I like about this series is that on the Octonauts team, there are different species of animals aboard the Octopod. They work together great as a team, even though they are all different. It shows that even though you don’t have many similarities, you can still work together successfully and be friends. This is just one of the great messages taught in this series.
My favorite episode is “Undersea Storm.” During this episode, a storm is heading near the reef where the Octonauts live. A strong current sweeps up a baby lobster, but Kwazi saves it and returns him to its family and they are very grateful. Later, Kwazi crashes and can’t get his submarine to work. The whole family of lobsters shows up to help him out. Everyone makes it safe inside before the storm hits. This is my favorite episode because it teaches the morals of The Golden Rule. It is very clever how they present this moral.
There are multiple different messages throughout this DVD. All are really important and sometimes are overlooked. I love that The Octonauts offer entertainment to young children while teaching them good lessons.
This is an awesome DVD to watch and I give it 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 3 to 11. Maybe it could even be for 12 and 13-year-olds, because I really enjoyed watching it myself. It is available now on DVD so, be sure to check it out.
Welcome to Doozer Creek where the Doozers live! They’re green. They’re cute. They’re three inches tall and they’re full of energy, ideas, and enthusiasm! It’s family time at Doozer Creek! The Pod Squad want to build a Doozer-sized Gingerbread House! However, in order to achieve such a large size Gingerbread House it’s going to take some clever construction to create. Can the Pod Squad do it? Then, Daisy Wheel wants to ice skate with the others, but she doesn’t know how. Together, the Pod Squad build her a custom Doo-Step Skating Dress that lets her glide across the ice in no time. Weee! Enjoy these adventures and six more focusing on science, technology, engineering and math!
Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House
By Morgan B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
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Jim Henson’s three-inch green characters, The Doozers, from the wonderful Fraggle Rock Adventures are available on the new DVD, Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House. This is perfect for the holiday season because it is all about sweet treats, ice skating, presents and holiday joy that we know and love. If you aren’t in the holiday spirit yet, then this DVD will put you in it.
One thing I love about The Doozers is that they teach young children about STEAM which stands for science, technology, engineering, art and math. It is so important that kids learn these basic skills when they are young and The Pod Squad demonstrates this perfectly. The Jim Henson team always seems to know what kids will enjoy and they are on target with this new DVD. You might not have the tools that The Doozers have, but it encourages you to want to build something. It makes me feel like there is never a problem that, with a little thought and creativity, cannot be solved.
The voice-overs are great because they are so cute. They match the little green Doozers perfectly. They all have different personalities and qualities. Each character has a terrific personality and that makes me feel as if I have been friends with them forever. My favorite episode is Daisy Wheel on Ice. It is hilarious when Daisy Wheel tries to ice skate but can’t. She keeps falling until her friends invent something to help her skate while standing up. This invention could be very helpful for people who can’t skate, including me. I think someone should invest in this invention.
Daisy Wheel might be the youngest of the Pod Squad, but she is ready for anything and always has a bright idea when needed. That is why she is my favorite character. Daisy Wheel is also very quirky and had me laughing through many episodes. Daisy Wheel is goodhearted because she loves helping others by building them things. This is another one of her qualities that I adore.
I recommend this DVD to ages 3 to 8 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Kids will adore the fun things that The Doozers do and will be inspired by the fun projects to want to build things themselves. The animation is colorful and the story lines are easy to follow which makes it perfect for a young audience. It is available on DVD now so be sure to check it out.
Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House
By Izzy C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9
This is a fun movie to watch during the Holiday Season. It takes place in a magical little community that is close to where humans live, but it is hidden from them. The movie stars members of the Doozer Pod Squad, known for using math, engineering and design to find solutions to problems, which they do again in this story.
The story is simple and sweet. It is a very enjoyable and easy to follow along with. The animation is gentle looking, round and happy. The bright colors and good voice actors make it fun to play on the TV. Like it says in the title, this movie is about a Giant Gingerbread House that the Doozers make. They are trying to sell Molly’s father’s gingerbread houses, but they need the right materials and some help. They have a positive mission, but will they be able to do it in time for Christmas?
Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House takes us on a fun adventure with four little children and their mission to be helpful. This movie is also about spending time with your friends. If you are the type of person who does not like to work with others, then this is the movie you need to watch to encourage you to work better with others.
There are two characters that I identify with – Mollybolt and Daisy Wheel. Molly is independent and kind. Those characteristics speak to me. I can also relate to Daisy Wheel when she learns how to ice skate. I remember learning how to ice skate and I felt just like her when I started. I relied on the encouragement from my Mom and my friends on the ice rink to help me keep going.
My favorite thing about the movie is its positive message. There is a very important lesson here that I have never seen in a Holiday movie. Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House shows kids that anything can be accomplished if you work with a team and do your best. I learned that if I need help with anything then I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. I also learned that if anyone tries to do something on their own and are not successful, then they should remember that there are people who are ready to help make it happen. All you have to do is ask! When you work as a team, anything is possible. This movie reminds me of the saying “Teamwork Makes The Dream Work!”
I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids from 2 to 6 years old. I watched it with my 6-year-old brother and he was very entertained. I don’t think older kids or adults will find this movie interesting enough, but it is perfect for little kids. This DVD is available now so, be sure to look for it.
Doozers: Giant Gingerbread House
By Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Juror
I really enjoy watching The Doozers because I was always a huge fan of Fraggle Rock. My son loves Fraggle Rock and he totally recognized the Doozers when they came on! In this DVD collection, the Doozers set out to make a large gingerbread house and the show really goes into the math and engineering of building the house. It’s great how it manages to simplify it enough for young viewers to enjoy. Next you get to see the gang help out a friend and engineer a really cute dress in the process. There’s even little present exchanges in this story. I really love how educational and engaging this show is for younger children. I think teamwork is an important life skill and any child watching this is sure to learn very quickly the importance and joy that comes from being part of a team. This is great for ages 3 to 7, but my 21-month-old really enjoyed as well. I give it 5 out of 5 stars!
Katharine Graham is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee, Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “The story comes to life under the masterful direction of Steven Spielberg. His most famous techniques are clear from the very first shot and continue throughout the film. In fact, the first scene, which takes place in the jungles of Vietnam, will remind you of Saving Private Ryan due to the heart-thumping sound design and chaotic cinematography that puts you right on the battlefield.” Clayton P. adds, “The Post is very timely and reflective of our own time. In this day of “fake news” and media bashing, this film is a refreshing story of the integrity of newspaper organizations. Spielberg tries to show the importance of a free press in combating government malfeasance.” See their full reviews below.
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15
There are very few films every year that keep you excited and entertained while delivering impressive visual achievements. The Post does not belong in this category because it far surpasses any expectations and delivers on a much higher level. Every single aspect of this film -from acting to directing to editing – are all superb.
The Post has many things to offer, but the biggest would be the drama surrounding this very real story. It feels like an adventure, even though it takes place on East Coast. It is sprinkled with just the right amount of funny moments here and there, with hilarious and perfectly timed jokes. Out of all the spectacular cinematic achievements, none of them would be possible without the exciting and truly eye-opening story. It dives into a major leak of top-secret information, ranging multiple U.S. presidents, all relating to the Vietnam War. At first, the film seems to be about the two newspapers, The New York Times and the Washington Post, both attempting to get this story. Later, it turns into a fight between freedom of the press and censorship as the Nixon Administration attempts to block both newspapers from publishing any information about their secrets.
The story comes to life under the masterful direction of Steven Spielberg. His most famous techniques are clear from the very first shot and continue throughout the film. In fact, the first scene, which takes place in the jungles of Vietnam, will remind you of Saving Private Ryan due to the heart-thumping sound design and chaotic cinematography that puts you right on the battlefield. The cast has their own achievements. Tom Hanks (Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (Kay Graham) work perfectly together and truly become their characters. John Williams, the Composer for the film, manages to take the spotlight from the visual scenes and put them into the music. His original score sounds incredible and you’ll find yourself swallowed by the soothing and memorable tones. But what really looks impressive in The Post is the film grain. The quality looks like a modern film, yet the colors and the lighting make it feel like the 60s which adds to the realism of the story.
The cinematography defines my favorite scene, the climax of the film. Kay Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, has to make the final decision whether the paper should publish the leaked documents or not. She is on the phone with multiple business partners, her editor (Ben Bradlee), and many journalists of the paper as well as some of her board advisors. Easily, this makes for the most intense scene in the entire film and truly brings Meryl Streep’s character to life. Throughout the phone conversation, the camera angles make it feel like one long shot across multiple locations. Finally, at the moment she makes her decision, the camera slowly zooms into her eyes and mouth to show wonder, fear, curiosity and more – all at once. Finally, as Kay makes her decision, the camera zooms out and the feeling of intensity immediately leaves the room. Despite being just a few minutes long, it feels like an eternity and you, as a viewer, can’t help but clench your fist in anticipation of what her decision will be.
The story has many mature elements and the concept itself is complicated at times. The messages related to journalistic oppression are very important for all ages. I recommend this to ages 10 to 18, as well as adults. I give it 5 out of 5 stars for perfect directing, astonishing acting, and cinematography so beautiful it belongs in an art gallery along with many other films directed by Steven Spielberg. It is available in theaters January 12, 2018 so check it out.
By Clayton P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic , age 18
Spielberg’s The Post is a paean to the American ideal of freedom of the press. This highly intense, suspenseful film tells the story of Katherine Graham, owner of The Washington Post and its historic role in the publishing of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the films stars Meryl Streep as Katherine Graham, Tom Hanks as the Post’s editor, Ben Bradlee and a top ensemble cast.
Set in the classic age of newspapers and network television, before the internet age, The Post is a coming-of-age story on two fronts. The Washington Post goes from being a regional media outlet to a national newspaper of note. In the process, Katherine Graham, goes from being a society hostess to a strong female corporate owner. A former government analyst finds proof of a government cover-up regarding American involvement in Vietnam and leaks the information to The New York Times and The Washington Post. Graham’s editorial team is in favor of publishing the material because it’ll put the newspaper on the map, so to speak. Her legal and financial team are against it and warn that she could go to jail for contempt and lose the newspaper. What follows is an intense examination of all the pros and cons of the issue.
One of the most fascinating parts of the film is seeing the inner workings of creating a newspaper – the old printing presses, the dyes, the plates with all the metal letters and etchings of pictures. Spielberg clearly loves the traditional craft of printing a newspaper. The John Williams music is perfect for the suspenseful plot. The acting is impeccable. Both Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks have such amazing craft that they imbue their roles with intelligence and humanity. The beginning of the film sets up the true-to-life plot and players. Because of this, the beginning of the film may be difficult for younger viewers because they aren’t aware of the politics of the 1970s.
The Post is very timely and reflective of our own time. In this day of “fake news” and media bashing, this film is a refreshing story of the integrity of newspaper organizations. Spielberg tries to show the importance of a free press in combating government malfeasance. The Post is appropriate for ages 15 to 18. Younger teens may find the film boring if they are not interested in politics or media. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars for its exceptional use of real life suspense. It is available in theaters January 12, 2018 so check it out.
Tai and his friends are haunted by the infection that resulted in Meicoomon destroying Leomon. What could have caused it? When did it occur? Now, all of the Digimon are quarantined, in hopes that answers can be found and the infection can be stopped. Unfortunately, one of the quarantined Digimon is already showing symptoms. The adventure now evolves once again. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jolleen M. comments, “All of these brave and courageous Digimon are so cute! This story is so powerful and made me bawl my eyes out.” Arjun N. adds, “Digimon Adventure Tri: Confession impressed me because of its wonderful style and action. The voice-acting is spectacular and the impressive animation allows for amazing visuals.” Talia J. wraps it up with, “Digimon Adventure Tri. 3: Confession is a beautifully made anime film that touched my heart and will touch the hearts of others.” See their full reviews below
Digimon Adventure Tri 3: Confession
By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
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All of these brave and courageous Digimon are so cute! This story is so powerful and made me bawl my eyes out. The animation for each Digimon is unique and the animation for the human characters shows their emotions quite well. I really love seeing the sweet bond between the Digimons and their owners.
I haven’t watched Digimon part 1 or part 2 before, so it was a bit confusing for me in the beginning. But after the story got underway, I got the gist about what was happening. The storyline starts off with the characters trying to find a cure to an infection. The infection caused one of their Digimon, Meicoomon, to start causing trouble in the human world. They don’t know where Meicoomon has been or where she will go, so they have to keep all of the Digimon in Koushiro’s office to prevent them from getting infected. But one owner brings his Digimon home by accident. Later that day, the Digimon gets the virus but they don’t tell anyone. During the fight to keep Meicoomon in the digital dimension, the virus spreads to one of their Digimon friends who went to hold Meicoomon. The Digimon realize that they have no choice but to fight till the end to protect their owners and their human world. The Digimons say a sad goodbye to their owners and, even though their owners don’t want them to fight, they go anyway, ready to die.
The voice acting in this film is really convincing. Convincing in the way that I could tell when a character is desperate, sad or angry, and also convincing. Miwa Matsumoto (Patamon) sounds like a very delicate and caring creature. Patamon’s close bond with his partner T.K. is very sentimental. When Patamon has to say goodbye to T.K., I cried so much because I could tell that T.K. could not live without Patamon. But Patamon sounds determined and very emotional, as if he was crying.
The animation of this film is anime style. The animation for the Digimon is very unique. Each of the Digimon are completely different from the others and they each have different personalities and physical characteristics. The human characters are animated so that their faces shows their emotions. My favorite part is when Patamon and T.K. have to say goodbye to each other. Even though this part made me sad, I feel like it is the best part of the film. I really feel the emotions from T.K. in this scene.
The message of the film is about overcoming obstacles. Meiko is very depressed because her Digimon, Meicoomon took a dark turn. Even though this obstacle is in her way, she gets out of bed every morning and tries to do something to bring Meicoomon back to normal. She realizes that just crying won’t do anything for her Digimon.
This film is very sentimental. I really enjoyed crying about this film. Sometimes you just got to cry and have your heart be moved and not worry about how everything will turn out. Be sure to check this film out to see what happens. I recommend this for ages 8 to 14 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It is out on DVD’s now so go check it out!
Digimon Adventure Tri: Confession
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15
Digimon Adventure Tri: Confession impressed me because of its wonderful style and action. The voice-acting is spectacular and the impressive animation allows for amazing visuals. This is sure to be a hit with Digimon and anime fans.<p>
The story follows the events after an infected Meicoomon (Kate Higgons) turns to the dark side and kills Leomon. Due to this, Meicoomon’s owner, Meiko (Miho Arakawa), is dealing with extreme guilt and all the other Digimon are left in the office of Izzy (Mona Marshall) to prevent further infection. However, when Takeru (Junya Enoki) finds out his Digimon, Patamon (Laura Summer), is facing infection, he tries to stop it before it is too late. Meanwhile, Meicoomon returns to cause more havoc on Earth.
Miho Arakawa, as Meiko, excellently presents her guilt and blame after Meicoomon turns to the dark side. Her sadness is well presented as she tries to abandon her team. Junya Enoki, as Takeru, is a highlight delivering a well-ranged performance full of charisma and urgency, as he tries to put his team back together to save Patamon. Also, the emotional drama between Takeru and Patomon is well done, and due to this he is my favorite character. Tom Fahn, as Agumon, is a well-presented team leader of the Digimon who will do anything to save his friends. Laura Summer, as Patamon, delivers and equally emotional performance to Takeru as she is facing a possible impending infection, which will turn her against her Digimon friends. Kate Higgons, as Meicoomon, is a well-developed antagonist who is a formidable foe for the Digimon to fight.
The direction by Keitaro Motonaro is wonderful due to a pace that feels as if it’s an interesting magna story. My favorite scene is the scene when Takeru tells Patamon that he is infected, because it is extremely emotional due to the incredible acting of the two characters. My only problem with this movie is the large amounts of expository flashbacks that further progress the story. It feels like a lazy way to tell a story.
The message of the movie is about finding a way to forgive yourself. Meiko’s intense guilt and blame for herself is a big plot point, but she learns that moving on and helping the team will be for the better. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 because of its action and emotional themes. The movie is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray, so check it out.
Digimon Adventure Tri.: Confession
By Talia J., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14
Digimon Adventure Tri. 3: Confession is a beautifully made anime film that touched my heart and will touch the hearts of others. The storyline picks up right after the events that took place in past movies. Tai and his friends are still trying to figure out what caused the infection that made Leomon go rogue. All the Digimon are quarantined in hopes to keep them safe from the infection and buy the friends some time to figure out ways to stop it from spreading. Sadly, one of the Digimon is showing some indications that they might have the infection.
This DVD is the third film in the franchise Digimon Adventure Tri. I had absolutely no background knowledge of the first film Digimon Adventure Tri, nor did I know anything about the second film Digimon Adventure Tri.2: Decision. Consequently, it was a bit difficult for me to understand what was happening in the beginning of the film, since the characters referred to things that happened in the previous two films. For example, the character Leomon is discussed a lot in the beginning of the movie. I had no idea who or what that character was for the first twenty minutes. Eventually I picked up that Leoman is a Digimon. Then, I had to rewatch the scenes where they talked about that character. The one very helpful thing in this film are the flashback scenes. They really helped me understand the plot. I recommend that people watch the first and second films before watching this one as it will help them understand the plot of the film.
This is not my first anime film, but it is my first anime dealing with magical characters like Digimons. I was not a fan of Pokemon growing up so I never watched too many anime films. Occasionally I have watched a realistic fiction anime but never fantasy ones. After watching this film I’m definitely going to put more time in watching anime films. This film gives justice to the world of anime. The storyline is compelling and the whole concept of digital monsters is absolutely fascinating. I love the relationships between the people and their Digimons. My favorite duo has to be Patamon (Anna Garduno) and TK (Johnny Yong Bosch). I could feel the love they have for each other. I grew very fond of these characters over time. I emphasized with them when times were bad. These two characters make this film even better.
The animation is absolutely stunning. There is so much detail that goes into making anime films. This film meets that high standard. The Digimon are drawn beautifully. Their exterior designs match their personalities so well. I could tell a lot of time went into drawing these monsters. The humans also have a very special look to them. My favorite feature is the characters’ eyes. You can feel the characters’ emotions by looking into their eyes. It can be difficult to truly connect with animated characters at times, due to their not looking realistic. These characters are drawn very realistically and I personally connected to them.
I recommend this film for ages 7 to 16. Younger audiences will love the fun characters and the older audiences will find the story line interesting. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. I felt a connection to the characters and an urge to know the ending. I think the animation is stunning. This film is available now on DVD now so go check it out!
Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, young Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. After meeting a charming trickster named Hector, the two new friends embark on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abraham F. comments, “It is nice to see Disney / Pixar incorporate different cultures into their movies. Pixar’s animations, story line and character development really excel here. I am glad to see all that in an animated film geared for kids and families.” Imani G. adds, “Coco is a fantastic, family-friendly, historical movie that is quite spectacular with its many historical references about the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead. It is filled with comedy and sentinel scenes, vibrant colors and much more!” Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror wraps it up with, “The cast is entirely Hispanic and the music is rooted in heritage and the life traditions within a multi-generational family. Considering this film is about crossing over into Día Los Muertos, the land of the dead, the liveliness of the film and animation is breathtaking.” See their full reviews below.
By Abraham F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
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Coco is a notable movie from Pixar which I found very funny. It is nice to see Disney / Pixar incorporate different cultures into their movies. Pixar’s animations, story line and character development really excel here. I am glad to see all that in an animated film geared for kids and families.
The storyline is about a 12-year-old boy named Miguel that wants to be a musician, but his family won’t allow it. So he practices his guitar in secret. On the Day Of The Dead he visits his favorite musician’s grave and plays the guitar. Then, he finds himself in the land of the dead. He goes on many adventures to try to get his family’s blessing and ends up on a big adventure to find his father.
Anthony Gonzalez plays Miguel the protagonist. This is his first time playing a major role. Benjamin Bratt has been in a few major roles such as El Macho in Despicable Me 2. In this film, he portrays Ernesto De La Cruz, the famous musician.
There are many interesting things about this movie. First, the name was changed to Viva in Brazil because in Portuguese means poop. Also, when Miguel’s walking down the street, you can see pinatas of Buzz Lightyear and Woody. Last, when grandma explains why their family doesn’t enjoy music, you see a Pizza Planet truck drive by.
The message is to do things that you believe in, not what people tell you to do. I recommend this film for ages 6 to 12 years old and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. It exceeded my expectations and is really well made. This movie is available in theaters on November 22, 2017 so go check it out.
Interview with Anthony Gonzalez by Michelle C.
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By Imani Baptiste-Green, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16
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Coco is a fantastic, family-friendly, historical movie that is quite spectacular with its many historical references about the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead. It is filled with comedy and sentinel scenes, vibrant colors and much more!
Due to past family history, Miguel’s (Anthony Gonzalez) family completely banned music from their lives. But, Miguel has a passion for it and wishes to become an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to find his true talent, Miguel finds himself in the colorful Land of the Dead, where his deceased family members are. After meeting the charming trickster Hector (Gael García Bernal), the two go off in search of the famous musician to discover the real history of Miguel’s family. Join the two on their fascinating adventure.
My favorite aspect of this film is the storyline and the thrilling holiday, Day of the Dead. I recently learned about this interesting holiday in school, but this movie helped increased my knowledge of it even more! For example, in Mexico they see dying as a beautiful thing instead of bad. Also, they use colorful paper called “papel picado” to tell stories. Viewers of this film will learn about the Spanish culture and how they view things.
The message of this film is that family is important, no matter the circumstances and we should encourage each other’s dreams. Although Miguel’s family shunned and erased music from their lives, they were able to accept it and make it part of their tradition once more. This is a very powerful message because it shows how important family is in supporting each other’s dreams. I think that this film will open the eyes of many and even change their perspective about life.
I recommend this film for ages of 5 to 18 as well as adults. I am 16 and loved every aspect of it! I give this film 5 out of 5 rate this film stars for its amazing storyline, cultural history, awesome cast, vibrant colors and much more. Coco opens in theaters on November 22, 2017. Please be sure to check it out.
Interview with Gini Cruz Santos by Michelle C
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By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Juror
When Coco opens in the United States, it will likely follow the radiant opening in Mexico with record-setting audiences. The use of color and authentic characters is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from the studio. The cast is entirely Hispanic and the music is rooted in heritage and the life traditions within a multi-generational family. Considering this film is about crossing over into Día Los Muertos, the land of the dead, the liveliness of the film and animation is breathtaking.
The film centers around Miquel, a curious 12-year-old boy who is a delight, even when he gets into a bit of mischief. The magic of Disney is well at work when Miquel leaves his family in search of his passion and the man he believes holds the keys to his life’s future success. In search of his muse, Miquel partners with a man he thinks is evil, only to learn he doesn’t know the truth. As the facts unfold, it is in technicolor and splendor. Coco offers a fantastic walk into a new world and, while it twists and turns, Coco is a complete delight. The story has lessons in ethics and may be overwhelming for younger children since it is centered on the annual Día Los Muertos celebration, the Day of the Dead. Beyond sugar skulls, I can see future merchandising in the alebrijes!
As with many Disney films, the theme of family is front and center. In this original and unique story, it transcends generations and left me wondering what my great, great, great grandmother would be like and if she would be proud of me. Beyond Miquel, my favorite character is his great, great grandmother, both versions of her! This film has all the feels and left me wanting more. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. And, it wouldn’t be Disney if I didn’t cry. It opens nationwide in theaters on November 22, 2017 so check it out.
Based on the New York Times bestseller, Wonder tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to discover their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B., comments, “This is a movie I was anticipating since I saw the first trailer. The trailer alone had me in tears, so I already knew it was going to touch my heart. Well, wouldn’t you know, my assumptions were correct.” Benjamin P. adds, “Wonder is an uplifting film that translates to the screen very well, thanks to some spot-on casting and good performances across the board.” Juanita L., KIDS FIRST! Adult reviewer wraps it up with, “This film has messages of limitless love and developing and building friendships as Auggie says, “If you really want to see who people are…just look.” See their full reviews and Benjamin’s interview with the author of the book and film producer below.
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14
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This is a movie I was anticipating since I saw the first trailer. The trailer alone had me in tears, so I already knew it was going to touch my heart. Well, wouldn’t you know, my assumptions were correct.
The story is about 10-year-old Auggie Pullman, a kid with facial deformities due to a gene disorder. He is starting 5th grade, middle school and struggles to fit in at a new school. Seriously, middle school is tough for everyone, so add to that being different and being home-schooled until 5th grade. It’s a minefield.
This movie is an adaptation of the book “Wonder” which is a popular read in middle school. No, I didn’t read the book, but now I want to, since I love this movie for multiple reasons. First, the acting is fantastic, particularly the emotional scenes, which is probably why I cried so much. This movie has some pretty good star power. Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and of course, Daveed Diggs, who stars in Hamilton, are all part of this cast. I absolutely love the characters in this film. A lot of the supporting roles actually have important parts and each character is unique and likeable as well. All except Julian’s mom, the only character that isn’t really redeemable. Still, Auggie’s parents, his sister, his friends, his teachers, and, of course, Auggie himself, Jacob Tremblay, make this movie exceptional. Not only that, the teachers and the principal at his school are so much better than teachers at actual schools. A big theme and important message, is the way parents raise their kids. I believe this is a true and good message.
One thing that makes this story unique is the different perspectives of other characters and their lives. Certain characters come off as mean, but you see through their life through their eyes and get a different view. Although the main focus is Auggie, characters like his sister get nice subplots that contribute to providing extra context of the character, but not drawing our attention away from the main plot. Some may complain that the entire story revolves around Auggie and I can understand those impressions. However, I think of it as a way of showing that Auggie changed many people’s lives for the better. The script is also really well done, with a good balance of funny and emotional writing.
I definitely give this movie 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. This movie comes out November 17, 2017 in theaters nationwide so go check it out.
By Benjamin P, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12
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Interview with Author and Director
By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12
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Wonder is an uplifting film that translates to the screen very well, thanks to some spot-on casting and good performances across the board.
Based on a popular novel by R.J Palacio, Wonder follows Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with a craniofacial disorder. He lives with his parents and his older sister. His mom enrolls Auggie in the fifth grade at a nearby school after years of homeschooling. Hesitant but confident, Auggie struggles to make new friends and encounters bullies. The movie follows different perspectives of people in Auggie’s life throughout the school year. Another key plotline follows his sister Via. She loves her brother, but sometimes feels like her parents ignore her. Now her grandmother, the only person who puts her first, is gone and her best friend has abandoned her for a new group of friends from summer camp. The movie triumphantly brings these and other viewpoints together for a full, rich storytelling experience as Auggie’s personality leads people to care less about what he looks like, but the kind of person he is on the inside.
Seeing A-list stars such as Julia Roberts, who plays Auggie’s mom, portray characters from one of my favorite books piqued my interest for this adaptation, but I did not expect the film to be so excellent in its execution. It maintains the spirit of the novel, without feeling sappy, thanks to the direction and screenwriting from Stephen Chbosky, the author and director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The emotion onscreen is just as raw as conveyed in the book and the scenes carry the same poignant effect. Just like with the novel, you fall in love with these characters and care about what happens to them. Jacob Tremblay is especially fantastic as Auggie and shows a compelling range of emotion. He brings confidence to the character and represents his softer sides as well.
The lesson of Wonder is that it shouldn’t matter what a person looks like, but who they are on the inside. Auggie is bullied for what he looks like, but people should not be judged by appearance, but rather by their character.
I recommend Wonder for ages 7 to 18. There are some scenes with characters in peril, as well as some scenes of bullying. Bullying is a hard topic to watch on film, but kids should be aware that it is an issue. I give Wonder 4 out of 5 stars. It is available in theaters now so be sure to check it out.
By Juanita L., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror
I enjoyed watching Wonder, based on the book by R.J. Palacio. It is a very uplifting story about Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a facial difference who enters private school for the first time in fifth grade. Auggie has been home-schooled by his mother who decides it is time for him to have a real school experience. We can feel Auggie’s pain as he gets a taste of the best and the worst of human nature. He goes through 27 surgeries. Some of the students he meets are kind and accepting, others are not sure and some are just cruel. Auggie wants to do normal things and he is upset and afraid to face the kids’ reactions to his appearance.
One of my favorite scenes happens in the beginning when the director of his new school (Mandy Patinkin) introduces Auggie to a small group of students before school starts, thinking this will help ease the transition. I felt this was a wonderful way to help Auggie feel comfortable. You will have to see the film and decide if you think it works.
Auggie’s parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson) along with his sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) provide unbelievable love and support to him. It is almost not real. The story and the characters show us a range of human emotions. Auggie wants to be treated like a normal kid. Via wants her parents to give her some attention and ask about the day SHE HAD at school. Mom has put her life on hold to care for Auggie and now sees a chance to complete her dissertation. Auggie’s father tries to be a supportive, understanding and caring father. This film has messages of limitless love and developing and building friendships AS Auggie says, “If you really want to see who people are…just look.”
The visuals and music are excellent and bring an element of fun. The elements of bullying and some of the emotion around Auggie’s beloved dog might be intense for younger children. I recommend Wonder for ages 9 to 18 as well as adults. Be inspired and experience Wonder at your local theater when it opens November 17, 2017.