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Mosul * Whirlwind of a Movie Anchored by Legitimately Visceral Sequences Throughout

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Movie Reviews
Mosul * Whirlwind of a Movie Anchored by Legitimately Visceral Sequences Throughout

An Iraqi journalist joins an army of uneasy allies in the battle to liberate the city of Mosul from the Islamic State. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Mosul is a whirlwind of a movie anchored by legitimately visceral sequences throughout and brisk pacing that the film sustains from beginning to end. In an environment where streaming has become the predominant mode of consuming content, it’s gratifying to get a movie this immersive, one that never truly lets up and one that will certainly keep you invested in the different directions it goes in.” See his full review and interview below.

Mosul

By Benjamin P., Kids First! Film Critic, Age 14

Mosul is a whirlwind of a movie anchored by legitimately visceral sequences throughout and brisk pacing that the film sustains from beginning to end. In an environment where streaming has become the predominant mode of consuming content, it’s gratifying to get a movie this immersive, one that never truly lets up and one that will certainly keep you invested in the different directions it goes in.Based on a New Yorker article from 2017 and produced by the Russo Brothers and the production company AGBO, Mosul takes place in the titular city and follows the exploits of the Nineveh SWAT team which gained their prestige through their clashes against ISIS forces. We meet the team through the eyes of Kawa, a rookie cop who is ushered into team by the steely commander Jasem, after they save Kawa and his seasoned partner mid-ambush. With ISIS on the retreat from the city and the arrival of a new command, the team has gone rogue and decides to carry out one final mission of their own, the details of which are kept from Kawa, but we come to find it’s rooted in a far more personal place than the ones they’ve gone through prior.

Through the absorbing bend much of the film takes, we are put in the heat of battle at every turn, but it’s rarely energetic and that becomes an effective element of the film’s tone. There is a weariness to each encounter with the enemy as they occur with increasing frequency and over the course of their journey; these soldiers are just trying to survive and here’s where Mosul cements its stakes breathlessly and efficiently. It begins to feel inevitable that the Nineveh will lose one of their own nearly every time they make contact with ISIS’s opposing forces. What sets Mosul apart from similarly tactical minded flicks is the moments of loss it frequently hammers home. In between the intensity of the action and each waypoint on their venture, there are moments of stillness where we get to witness the fighter’s true colors which makes their losses sting with greater severity, sometimes it’s commentating over a soap opera on television and at others, it’s cruising in a Humvee through the ruins of Mosul, as they’re reminded of why they fight and who they’re fighting for. The secret sauce that really makes those points of the film work when the team isn’t being rained down on by gunfire is that they’re still actively pushing the story forward and doing the necessary work to engage us with the characters at the center of the story. Mosul’s structure reminds me of that of a video game, with each conflict or objective so to speak, being separated by points of exposition and development, but it works for a mission-focused narrative in this case.

Mosul’s scenes of battle can get pretty brutal so I recommend this for ages 16 to 18 for some moments of extreme intensity and some graphic violence at times. Mosul is a raw testament to the heroism of the Nineveh SWAT team with an unexpectedly emotional conclusion and I greatly recommend it. I give Mosul 3.5 out of 5 stars. You can see it when it drops on Netflix on November 26, 2020.

Half Brothers * Fun Movie with Loveable Characters That Takes You on A Wild Adventure

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Movie Reviews
Half Brothers * Fun Movie with Loveable Characters That Takes You on A Wild Adventure

Renato, a Mexican aviation exec, is shocked to learn he has an American half-brother he never knew about, the free-spirited Asher. They are forced on a road trip together, tracing the path their father took from Mexico to the US. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Carlee S. comments, “Half Brothers is a fun-loving movie with loveable characters which takes you on a wild adventure that will have you laughing. Along the way the characters learn about each other and their father.  They also learn a lot about themselves. These two brothers with opposite personalities must unite to uncover the hidden truth of the past.” See her full review below plus Benjamin P.’s interview with director Luke Greenfield.

Half Brothers
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

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Half Brothers is a fun-loving movie with loveable characters which takes you on a wild adventure that will have you laughing. Along the way the characters learn about each other and their father.  They also learn a lot about themselves. These two brothers with opposite personalities must unite to uncover the hidden truth of the past.

The story begins with young Renato (Ian Inigo) enjoying time with his dad, Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa). Things change when Renato’s dad leaves Mexico to go to the U.S. to look for work and does not return.  Years later when Renato (Luis Gerardo Mendez) is a grown up, he gets a phone call saying his dad is extremely sick and he needs to come right away. He is torn between wanting to go and staying home to prepare for his wedding.  He decides to go and gets the surprise of meeting his half-brother, Asher (Connor Del Rio) who he did not know existed. Their dad sends them on a wild journey to get the answers Renato has wanted to know his whole life – why his dad never came back for him. Along the way, he gets to know his half brother as they go on a hilarious and bonding scavenger hunt across America to get the answers.

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My favorite scene is when Asher steals the goat from the barn. It kept me laughing and intrigued. All the actors make this odd situation funny and memorable.  I also enjoyed the music selections playing during their road trips. They are catchy, uplifting and always enhance the mood of these scenes. Asher is an easy character to like. He always has a positive attitude and his clothing choices throughout the movie really fit his character.

The messages in this film are about how forgiving can be life changing, that it is okay to be yourself, and accepting others’ differences can lead to the best friendships. While forgiveness is not always an easy thing to do, it is better to forgive than to hold onto something that makes you unhappy. Being yourself is important. Just because you are different it does not make you less important. Accepting differences in others can lead to happiness.  You should know that there is some explicit language, the use of guns and violence and there is talk about some adult situations.

I give Half Brothers 5 out of 5 stars. It has some amazing messages that are delivered in a very humorous way. I recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. This film comes out in theaters December 4, 2020.

Team Marco * Family-Friendly Comedy That Will Bring You Joy And Inspire You To Seize The Day

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Team Marco * Family-Friendly Comedy That Will Bring You Joy And Inspire You To Seize The Day

Marco, 12, is obsessed with his iPad and hardly leaves the house. But when his grandmother dies and his grandfather moves in, Marco’s life is turned upside-down and he’s forced…to go play outside. “Nonno” (Grandpa) introduces him to bocce ball and to the neighborhood crew of old Italian men who play daily at the local court. With sport, laughter and love, Marco finds connection to other people and rounds up a team of neighborhood kids to take on Marco’s grandfather and his pals. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Team Marco is a wonderful, heartwarming and sweet movie. This family-friendly fun comedy will have you laughing, bring you joy and inspire you to seize each day.” See her full review below.

Team Marco
By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

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Team Marco is a wonderful, heartwarming and sweet movie. This family-friendly fun comedy will have you laughing, bring you joy and inspire you to seize each day.

This movie is about a boy named Marco (Owen Vaccaro) who is insanely addicted to video games. When his grandmother dies and his house nearly burns down, his grandpa, Nonno (Anthony Patellis), moves in. Nonno is extremely bothered with his grandson’s obsession with video games. Nonno will not stand for this and takes measures into his own hands. He decides to take away all of Marco’s electronics and forces him to play outside. Nonno teaches Marco his favorite sport – bocce ball. Can Marco and his team of friends beat Nonno and his gang of neighborhood Italian bocce ballers in a bocce ball tournament?

This movie was written, directed and produced by Julio Vincent Gambuto, and it is his first feature film. This story is inspired by a real-life experience. About four years ago, when Julio was visiting his nieces and nephews, he noticed that his nephew, Marco, didn’t even greet him when he arrived at their house because his head was buried in his electronics. This sparked the idea for his movie. The film takes place in Julio’s beloved hometown, Staten Island, NY. It was filmed on location, which was very important to Julio. He loves his hometown community and was passionate about it being filmed on Staten Island.

My favorite characters are Nonno and Marco. I really like the performances of Anthony Patellis because of his dry sense of humor and his love of family, which shines through. He is very entertaining while playing the cranky grandpa battling technology. Owen Vaccaro convincingly plays the “pre-teen techie” Marco. I can relate to his love of electronics and his struggles trying to balance Nonno’s desire for conversation, friendship and connecting through Nonno’s favorite sport, bocce ball. My favorite part of the movie is when Nonno is trying to figure out the Google Assistant.

The main message of the movie is to be present when around your family. This film shows technology is not always bad, and in fact connects us. It also reminds everyone that, while technology will be around forever, your family will not be. Cherish the time you have with your family.

I give Team Marco 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 14, plus adults. Team Marco will be released on most streaming platforms November 20, 2020. Look for it.

Stillwater * Endearing Cast, Stories From All Around The World

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Stillwater * Endearing Cast, Stories From All Around The World

Based on the Caldecott Honor Children’s book series Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, Stillwater is produced by Gaumont and Scholastic Entertainment and centers on siblings Karl, Addy and Michael, who are typical kids with typical kid challenges – meaning that sometimes even the smallest things can feel insurmountable. Fortunately for these three, they have Stillwater, a wise panda, as their next-door neighbor. Through his example, stories and gentle humor, Stillwater gives the children a deeper understanding of their feelings as well as tools that help them face their own day-to-day challenges. Stillwater also brings newfound fun and adventure for the three, opening their eyes to the quiet wonders of the world around them, and guiding them to their place within it.  KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Stillwater is a unique offering this winter, combining stories from around the world with an endearing cast, as well as profound morals. This superb bundle will surely be attractive to young viewers!” See his full review below.

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Stillwater

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

Stillwater is a unique offering this winter, combining stories from around the world with an endearing cast, as well as profound morals. This superb bundle will surely be attractive to young viewers!Stillwater revolves around siblings Karl, Addy and Michael who have a unique anthropomorphic mammal as their neighbor – a wise panda named (surprise, surprise) Stillwater! Stillwater loves tai-chi, trying new things and eating bamboo shoots. Plus he seems to have the answer to any question the three kids ask. Thus, they have a very special friendship and bond with Stillwater; his stories help shape their perspective on life, the worl, and their relationships with others.

James Sie, Judah Mackey, Eva Binder and Tucker Chandler make up the main cast of this film. Binder and Chandler, who play Addy and Michael respectively, are secondary characters, whose performances don’t necessarily take center-stage, but still are quite skillful. Speaking of center-stage, Sie, who plays Stillwater the zen-friendly panda, puts on a superb performance. He succeeds in capturing the essence of what (at least, I think) a panda would sound like if it could speak, with his deep and sonorous voice. Sie was a great choice to play Stillwater, who discusses Chinese and East Asian culture in the show since he himself is of Chinese descent. I also love Judah Mackey’s portrayal of Karl, the inquisitive, sensitive youngest child in the family, who has a special affection for his panda friend. Mackey, along with many of the other characters in the film, help the show maintain its momentum because of their strong performances. A tip of the hat is in order for all the writers of the show, as well as the animators and producers behind it, as they seamlessly and intricately detail Stillwater the panda’s famed stories with backdrops of Chinese villages, Indian temples, Central American forests and adorable cartoonish animal characters from all regions. The inclusion and appreciation of cultural elements, specifically from Asia, is refreshing and exactly what we like to see! The score of the show also really stands out, as the serene notes of the Xiao, sitar and guitar help accent all of the six episodes’ action-packed scenes.

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Each episode of this show promotes a different, positive message. These include perseverance, patience, recognizing your inner talent, overcoming your fears, teamwork and being there for those you love. Stillwater promotes positive social behavior and is a great family watch.

I give Stillwater 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 7. Stillwater is releasing on Apple TV+ on December 4, 2020.

The Croods: New Age * Sensational! Colorful and Clever Graphics; Funny & Realistic Conflicts

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Movie Reviews
The Croods: New Age * Sensational! Colorful and Clever Graphics; Funny & Realistic Conflicts

Searching for a safer habitat, the prehistoric Crood family discovers an idyllic, walled-in paradise that meets all of its needs. Unfortunately, they must also learn to live with the Bettermans — a family that’s a couple of steps above the Croods on the evolutionary ladder. As tensions between the new neighbors start to rise, a new threat soon propels both clans on an epic adventure that forces them to embrace their differences, draw strength from one another, and survive together. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Bailey Rae F. comments, “The Croods: New Age is sensational because of the clever and colorful graphics, funny and realistic conflicts… The message in the film is that we do not have to look the same and we all have far more in common than we realize. It’s okay to look different.” See her full review below.

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The Croods: New Age
By Bailey Rae F., KIDS FIRST!  Film Critic, age 10

 

The Croods: New Age is sensational because of the clever and colorful graphics, funny and realistic conflicts.

The storyline is about the Bettermens not liking the Croods. They must learn how to get along with one another and they have many adventurous life lessons along the way.

I like the story line because it’s relatable to real life. The family conflicts and differences make the movie unpredictable. The characters are well developed. The production is state of the art. It is highly colorful and engaging from start to finish. The film is a great follow-up to the first one. My favorite part is when the main characters, Phil Betterment and Grug, are in the Jacuzzi.

The message in the film is that we do not have to look the same and we all have far more in common than we realize. It’s okay to look different.

I give The Croods: New Age 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 12. It releases in theaters on November 26, 2020.

Collective * Chilling Reminder Of The Underhanded Dealings Of Modern Politics

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Collective * Chilling Reminder Of The Underhanded Dealings Of Modern Politics

In 2015, a fire at Bucharest’s Colectiv Club leaves 27 dead and 180 injured. Soon, more burn victims begin dying in hospitals from wounds that were not life-threatening. Then a doctor blows the whistle to a team of investigative journalists. One revelation leads to another as the journalists start to uncover vast health care fraud. When a new health minister is appointed, he offers unprecedented access to his efforts to reform the corrupt system but also to the obstacles he faces. Following journalists, whistle-blowers, burn victims, and government officials, Collective is an uncompromising look at the impact of investigative journalism at its best. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “An electrifying and groundbreaking documentary, Collective is a chilling reminder of the underhanded dealings of modern politics. Shot in a rigorously observational manner, Collective covers an event that took Eastern Europe by storm and led to massive big pharma and government reform.” See his full review below.

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Collective

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

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An electrifying and groundbreaking documentary, Collective is a chilling reminder of the underhanded dealings of modern politics. Shot in a rigorously observational manner, Collective covers an event that took Eastern Europe by storm and led to massive big pharma and government reform.On October 30, 2015, a deadly fire in Colectiv, a popular nightclub in Bucharest, Romania killed 64 and injured 146. Of the 64 killed, 38 died in the hospitals. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered they were in close contact with some of the most resistant hospital bacteria on the continent, which festered in their uncleansed wounds. In the first part of the film, Catalin Tolontan’s journalistic crusade is detailed, as he embarks upon a journey to uncover the negligence, corruption and political machinations that plagues the Romanian health system as a whole. Vlad Voiculescu is introduced as the new minister of health, and he looks to take Romania in a new direction for health and safety but faces massive backlash. Watch Collective to find out how this crisis is solved.

A widely-known Romanian journalist at the Gazeta Sporturilor, Catalin Tolontan, together with Vlad Vioculescu, ex-minister of health and patients rights activist, are featured in Collective. Tolontan colleagues Mirela Neag and Razvan Lutac are captured in the newsroom, printing papers and delivering fiery questions at press conferences. I especially enjoyed their portion of the film, possibly due to my interest in journalism, but also because of Tolontan’s unique approach to tackling this case – calculated vehemence. Even Voiculescu’s segment is intriguing, albeit a little more morose and harder to follow. Honestly, you can’t help but feel bad for Voiculescu, the one upstanding politician who cares for people more than for the money in his pocket, especially in the tense election scenes. Tedy Ursuleanu, a burn victim, is also featured in this film. Her story is not illustrated in great detail, but featuring her is, to me, a massively positive step for Nanau to take. It adds a whole new level of ‘wow, this is real’ to Collective.

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The cinematography in this film is absolutely stunning; the camera team uses dimly lit, low contrast scenes to drive home the intensity of the incident and harshly lit closeups in telling the story of the people that Collective follows. The lack of ambient noise filtration in press conferences helps the viewer really jump into the story. Besides the plot, this has got to be my favorite part of the entire documentary.Collective promotes freedom of speech, government transparency, and valuing lives over profit, which are all positive morals. There are political elements in this film as well as rather graphic scenes depicting burn victims, that you should be aware of. Also, there is some bad language and the whole plot is unsuitable for younger audiences. Nanau successfully calls viewers to action to speak out against corruption.

I give Collective 4.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. Collective is in theaters and on-demand November 20, 2020.

Animaniacs * Fresh and Relevant Content, With the Same Hilarious Craziness as the Original Show

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Animaniacs * Fresh and Relevant Content, With the Same Hilarious Craziness as the Original Show

They’re back! The Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister Dot, have a great time wreaking havoc and mayhem in the lives of everyone they meet.  After returning to their beloved home, the Warner Bros. water tower, the siblings waste no time in causing chaos and comic confusion as they run loose through the studio, turning the world into their personal playground. Joining Yakko, Wakko and Dot, fan-favorite characters Pinky and the Brain also return to continue their quest for world domination.

Animaniacs is an American animated television series developed by Steven Spielberg for steaming service Hulu. It is a revival of the original 1993 television series of the same name. The new series sees the return of the Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko and their sister Dot (voiceovers by Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell and Tress MacNeille), and of Pinky and the Brain (voiceover by Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche). The first season is set to premiere on Hulu November 20, 2020. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “Animaniacs is back giving us tons of entertainment! Don’t expect to see reruns with this rebooted animated series. Showrunner Wellesley Wild nails the creation of fresh and relevant content, while keeping the same hilarious craziness of the original series.” See her full review and interviews below.

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Animaniacs
Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

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Animaniacs is back giving us tons of entertainment! Don’t expect to see reruns with this rebooted animated series. Showrunner Wellesley Wild nails the creation of fresh and relevant content, while keeping the same hilarious craziness of the original series.The series is about the Warner siblings Wakko, Yakko and Dot who are crazy and wild characters found on the Warner Bros. Studio. The episodes follow them as they get into trouble running around the Warner Bros. Studio lot and while meeting other characters. The new season picks up 22 years later, after they were locked away. Now we get to see their new adventures as they learn more about the current world around them and all the changes that have happened.

Director Steven Spielberg brings back the same characters and many of the original voice actors. The main characters are the Warner brothers and sister – Wakko (Jess Harnell), Yakko (Rob Paulsen) and Dot (Tress MacNeille). The setting for the series is the classic Warner Bros. Studio lot and the lot’s water tower. It’s hilarious to see the characters run around the lot learning about things that didn’t exist two decades ago like tablets, climate change, Ubers, cat-fishing, YouTubers and Amazon drones. Ralph the security guard (Frank Welker) even has new tricks he can use to catch the Warner siblings, such as a net connected to a drone. The show was updated to a wide-screen format and is not gender balanced and diverse. In the premiere episode, Dot points out that Warner Bros. now has a Black female CEO. Shorts like The Warner Kids and Pinky and The Brain also return with new content. It’s a clever way to see how the other characters are doing after meeting the Warner siblings.

The Warner siblings and the rest of the cast always find a way to have fun in each episode. The message of this series is to find a way to stay fun, positive and happy despite the craziness in the world. I will note that there are some scenes or jokes that viewers may not get unless they followed the original series, but you will still laugh.

Animaniacs is a great mix of kid-friendly education and slapstick comedy, deserving 5 out of 5 stars and a recommendation for ages 5 to 18. Adults are sure to love it too especially if they are fans of the original series. The new season of Animaniacs debuts on Hulu on November 20.

Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze * Never Fails to Keep You Entertained

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Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze * Never Fails to Keep You Entertained

The Octonauts are a team of adventurers who explore the worlds oceans, rescue aquatic creatures and protect their habitats – from the bustling eco-system along the Amazon River to the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Octonauts once again never fail to keep people entertained. There is something new to learn for everyone. The animation is very high quality, yet simple, and always has a new landscape to see, even if it is just snow and water.” Eshaan M. adds, “I have a bit of a history with the show Octonauts; I loved it when I was younger and, to be totally honest, still have a soft corner for the super awesome animated animals. Specifically two: the resourceful and level-headed Captain Barnacles who is voiced by the highly talented Simon Greenall; he’s one of my favorite voice actors. And, of course the scaredy-cat Peso who is the first to show vulnerability, but is one of the most resilient characters in the show.” See their full reviews below.

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Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze

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

Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze, like so many of their other DVDs, is so enjoyable! It has the cutest animation that has a near stop-motion look and fun adventures.

The Octonuats are a group of animals that explore, rescue and protect. On this thrilling DVD, we join the Octonauts on their numerous exciting adventures to the Arctic and Antarctic (yes, there is a difference). And for those that have watched previous episodes, this DVD introduces some new characters. There are five episodes in this DVD, each running about 13 minutes and include Operation Deep Freeze, Walrus Pups, Emperor Penguins, Coelacanth and Hidden Lake.

Octonauts once again never fail to keep people entertained. There is something new to learn for everyone. The animation is very high quality, yet simple, and always has a new landscape to see, even if it is just snow and water. The voice cast includes Simon Greenall, who plays Captain Barnacles, the leader of the Octonauts, who also happens to be a polar bear and really nails the leader-type voice. Rob Rackstraw plays Kwazii, the adventurous pirate cat, and has a splendid “piratey” voice. Paul Panting  plays Peso, the expert penguin medic, and does a perfect shy but kind voice. My favorite episode is Hidden Lake because I had no idea that red lakes existed, let alone that anything lives in them!

There are many positive messages throughout the DVD, including helping others, protecting the ecosystem and the importance of teamwork. Younger children should keep in mind that they should not be interacting with wild animals in real life. However, this show might inspire them to be a vet or animal researcher.

I give Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 8. Adults will think that the DVD is fun and probably learn as much about different animals as their kids will. This DVD is available now, so look for it.

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Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze

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

Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze is a superb, educational DVD that will capture your attention for its entire duration. The intricately-designed characters (both their personalities and outward look) and the unique storylines are wondrous!This 66-minute DVD follows a team of sea-adventurers (Captain Barnacles the daredevil polar bear, a friendly ex-pirate named Kwazii the cat, a medic: Peso the penguin and others), as they embark upon an expedition to Antarctica to help out marine life. They prevent a group of penguins from falling into an ice chasm, rescue walrus pups with the Captain’s niece and nephew, and discover some microscopic creatures under a hidden lake.

I have a bit of a history with the show Octonauts; I loved it when I was younger and, to be totally honest, still have a soft corner for the super awesome animated animals. Specifically two: the resourceful and level-headed Captain Barnacles who is voiced by the highly talented Simon Greenall; he’s one of my favorite voice actors. And, of course the scaredy-cat Peso who is the first to show vulnerability, but is one of the most resilient characters in the show. He’s played by Wayne Grayson. Also, the animation is absolutely spectacular; the deep colors and super cutely designed characters will surely catch your eye. Overall, it’s a beautifully executed show!

 

Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze promotes messages of teamwork, helping others, perseverance and resourcefulness. It’s an uplifting DVD that will surely put a smile on your face.

I give Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze 4.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 4 to 6. Octonauts: Operation Deep Freeze is available now on DVD! Look for it!

The Witches * Captivating, Intriguing, Perfectly Scary and Pure Cinematic Joy!

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Movie Reviews
The Witches * Captivating, Intriguing, Perfectly Scary and Pure Cinematic Joy!

Based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 classic book ‘The Witches’, the story tells the scary, funny and imaginative tale of a seven year old boy who has a run in with some real life witches! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “The Witches is probably my favorite film of the year. Is not just beautiful; it is captivating, intriguing, perfectly scary, pure cinematic joy! The Witches is a fantastic tale that grabs you from the very beginning. It is the story of a seven-year-old orphan boy who discovers that witches are real! They hate kids and turn them into mice. I don’t want to tell too much about the story, which is already well known. It is based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 classic book by the same name.” See her full review below.

The Witches
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12


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The Witches is probably my favorite film of the year. Is not just beautiful; it is captivating, intriguing, perfectly scary, pure cinematic joy!

The Witches is a fantastic tale that grabs you from the very beginning. It is the story of a seven-year-old orphan boy who discovers that witches are real! They hate kids and turn them into mice. I don’t want to tell too much about the story, which is already well known. It is based on Roald Dahl’s 1983 classic book by the same name. Since I haven’t read the book, I want you to feel as surprised as I was in case you haven’t read it or haven’t watched the 1990 movie, also based on the book. If you have read it, you may love the way the characters come to life in this cinematic adaptation.

It is always inspiring to see Octavia Spencer. She plays any character so well and here, as the boy’s grandmother and the voice of reason, she is fantastic. Anne Hathaway is from another world. I couldn’t believe she could play this wicked character with such a grandiose attitude. She is now my favorite villain – scary, with lots of charm.

Another flawless performance is Stanley Tucci’s Mr. Stringer. You can barely recognize him and he has just the perfect nuances and mannerisms to be a flamboyantly exquisite character. Last, but not least, Chris Rock is the perfect narrator with a totally engaging delivery and Jahzir Bruno, the boy, shines in his theatrical debut.

All the production aspects of this movie are very well done – the sets, costumes, cinematography, sound effects, editing, special effects, music. All together they create a great movie under the direction of Robert Zemeckis, who also wrote the script and, of course we can’t expect less from the director of hits and gems of cinema like Back to the FutureForrest GumpCast Away and so many other films. I also loved the imprint from Guillermo Del Toro who shares writing credits. There’s a quality of fantastical monsters that are delightful, which I am sure has to do with his attachment to this film.

The Witches is a spooky story for our generation, with real twisted characters, gorgeous scenarios and a great story that reminds us of the importance of team work, the courage to face adversities and offers a tribute to the important role of grandmothers in a child’s life.

I give The Witches 5 out of 5 starts and absolutely recommend it to kids 10 to 18, plus adults. Some scenes may be a little disturbing for younger kids, so think about that before taking them to see it. The Witches opens October 22, 2020 on HBO Max.

Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising * Goes Above And Beyond Sonic’s Top Speeds, Delivering An Entertaining Action-Packed Story

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Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising * Goes Above And Beyond Sonic’s Top Speeds, Delivering An Entertaining Action-Packed Story

It’s a Sonic you haven’t seen before Wherever he goes and whatever he’s up against, Sonic the Hedgehog is aided by his sidekick, Tails, and his friend’s

Knuckles, Amy, and Sticks and, of course, attacked by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Eggman. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “You have “got to go fast” in this new action-packed DVD  Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising! with everyone’s favorite super-powered hedgehog Sonic Boom. This DVD is running with 600 miles per hour speeds, fantastic animation and plenty of action-packed scenes.” Kyla C. adds, “The highlight of this collection of re-released episodes is definitely the animation. It’s bright, detailed, and full of imagination. It’s a little kid’s dream world! I applaud the animators, voice-over actors and foley artists on their spectacular work. One thing that definitely has room for improvement is the storyline.” Christine R. KIDS FIRST! Adult reviewer wraps it up with, “Sonic is back in Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising with his usual wise-cracking, fast-talking…well, fast everything! …Sonic fans won’t be disappointed with these action-packed animated stories.” See their full reviews below.

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Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising
By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

https://youtu.be/kZ9b1cwcdhk

 

You have “got to go fast” in this new action-packed DVD  Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising! with everyone’s favorite super-powered hedgehog Sonic Boom. This DVD is running with 600 miles per hour speeds, fantastic animation and plenty of action-packed scenes. While it has amazing animation and action-packed scenes, unfortunately, it doesn’t have the best dialogue and didn’t grip me as much as I thought it would.

Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising starts off with our favorite hedgehog team, Sonic (Roger Craig Smith), Tails (Colleen O’Shaughnessey), Knuckles (Travis Willingham), Rose (Cindy Robinson) and Sticks (Nika Futterman) as they are attacked by everyone’s favorite eggtastic villain, Dr. Eggman (Mike Pallok). Later, Sonic and friends encounter a couple of recently crash-landed robots, and the team learns of a mysterious robot world in the sky. One day the robots suddenly go evil! The team must uncover the mystery and save the robots of this world.

I am a long-time fan of Sonic the Hedgehog. I was nervous about viewing this DVD because I have high standards for this character. I was not disappointed. I would like to give major congratulations to the Animation Director Riash Tadeo Shahnawaz for overseeing and creating such beautiful animation with a beautiful set of characters. My criticism of this DVD is with the dialogue. The dialogue is extremely basic and doesn’t really go into as much depth. I feel that if the writers took a little more time to work on the script, it would be a lot better.

This DVD is entertaining for children, with comedic action and plenty of jokes that young kids will understand. The characters DVD provide very important examples for children, like the importance of charity, teamwork and more. It also promotes many morals. When something gets in your way, problem-solve and think out of the box to reach your goal!

Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising goes above and beyond Sonic’s top speeds, and provides an entertaining, action-packed story that all children will enjoy, but lacks clever and gripping dialogue. I give Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 12. You can find Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising in stores or at your digital retailer. Check it out.

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Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising!
By Kyla C., KIDS FIRST Film Critic, Age 11

https://youtu.be/6ViNx1276VA

 

This colorfully animated Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising! DVD is great for young kids! The voice-over actors add silliness and comedy to the scenes, and the theme song and other sound effects are great elements as well. Plus the animation is truly incredible. There isn’t much of a story, and the one there is, is a bit difficult to follow with all of repetitive action and combat.

This DVD includes (eight) fifteen-minute-long episodes all together. Four of them are part of the same general story. Sonic (Roger Craig Smith) and all of his friends have to decide which robots to befriend, knowing that whomever they don’t choose become their enemies. The other four episodes are individual but similar in the way that Dr. Eggman is the Antagonist.

The highlight of this collection of re-released episodes is definitely the animation. It’s bright, detailed and full of imagination. It’s a little kid’s dream world! I applaud the animators, voice-over actors and foley artists on their spectacular work. One thing that definitely has room for improvement is the storyline. The animation and acting are great, but a TV show needs a story, even if just for each individual episode. Most of the time I only see fighting and have no idea what is going on. Although this might be great for younger kids, who are just interested in seeing their favorite characters come to life, older kids will probably get bored after a few minutes. Overall, this the greatest, but also possibly the only flaw of these select episodes.

The message is that teamwork and friendship are important. Sonic and his friend have to use teamwork to face off against Dr. Eggman and his robot bad guys. There are some arguments, but the protagonists work it out and learn their lesson, the way little kids should take away that lesson. This is okay, but I think actually saying the lesson to be learned helps people understand it better. There is only some mild cartoon violence, but nothing inappropriate or extremely violent takes place.

I give Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising! 3 out of 5 stars and recommend the DVD for ages 4 to 7. The DVD is available now so look for it.

Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising
By Christine R., KIDS FIRST!

https://youtu.be/M5QuMYz0oe8

Sonic is back in Sonic Boom: Robot Uprising with his usual wise-cracking, fast talking…well, fast everything! This DVD includes eight episodes (four of these are parts of one story) and runs for 90 minutes. It begins with the story “Robots from the Sky” in which Sonic and his friends Tails, Knuckles, Sticks and Amy must defend themselves when a past mistake turns into a robot civil war. Robots from Morristown, a robot utopian planet, try to recruit others. Unknown to them, they are infected with malware and are controlled by a vengeance-seeking robot. The robot uprising theme continues in the episode entitled “Strike!” in which Dr. Eggman’s robot minions become fed up with their maltreatment and decide to strike until their demands are met. With help from Amy, the robots and their evil overlord come to a compromise…but not necessarily in the way she had hoped. In “Evil Dr. Orbot” Dr. Eggman needs to pass a test to get his evil permit–but forces one of his robot lackeys to take it for him. After Orbot downloads the textbook, he begins devising his own evil plans. Will he replace the evil genius Dr. Eggman? Sonic fans won’t be disappointed with these action-packed animated stories. I recommend this for ages 5 to 12 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Reviewed by Christine R., KIDS FIRST!

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