rannynm

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John Lewis: Good Trouble
(2020)

This inspirational documentary is a must see! Weaving stories about the role John Lewis has played in our history
There is an old African proverb: "When you pray, you move your feet." The proverb resonates powerfully in this quote from John Lewis' memoir, Walking in the Wind: "As a nation if we care for the beloved community, we must move our feet, our hands, our hearts, our resources to build and not tear down, to reconcile and not to divide, to love and not to hate, to heal and not to kill. In the final analysis, we are one people, one family, one house, the American house, the American family."

John Lewis is a powerful writer. I read Walking in the Wind several years ago, and it had a powerful impact on me. John Lewis: Good Trouble, the documentary, makes that same powerful impact: It brings his story to life! As in his memoir, the film reveals the man behind the legend.

I was moved to tears by the footage from the 1960s. I was beginning my teenage years back in 1963. Television was still a young medium, and it showed us all that was going on in the world daily. I was learning about the world and its ways in the '60s-the injustices, the fight for dignity, freedom, equality and decency. These were my middle school years, my high school years, formative years brought back to life as I watched this film.

History repeats itself until we learn. John Lewis: Good Trouble follows John Lewis throughout his young life in Alabama, working on his parent's farm, feeding chickens, picking cotton. Mr. Lewis' narration of waking up early, hiding under the porch to wait for the school bus, running onto the bus to get to school to his wonderful teachers where he says he read everything, is a powerful visual image. I love what one of his sisters says about John wearing a tie and carrying the Bible to school every day. John was a serious student. He wanted more in his life. Clearly, he wanted to make a difference in our country for racial justice for African American people. His tireless work and dedication started as a college student. From SNCC leader to Congressman from Georgia, John Lewis fought the good fight for voter's rights, for civil rights, for the right to eat at the same restaurant as white people, for integration, not segregation. His marches, his belief in nonviolence and commitment to the cause have continued for 65 years.

One story that Henry Gates Jr. tells about John Lewis' great-great grandfather getting his voting card back in the 1800s has a powerful twist. So many stories, so much history where he worked so hard from the time of Dr. Martin Luther King to President Barack Obama to now!

This inspirational documentary is a must see. John Lewis: Good Trouble weaves an important story about an exceptional man, shows us our history from the '60s to today, and demonstrates the part John Lewis played, and continues to play, as the fight for racial justice and equality is at a pivotal moment in time with the Black Lives Matter movement.

I give John Lewis: Good Trouble 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it for 9 to 18-year-olds to learn about an effective leader and his plight-and to understand even further the times we are currently living through. I also recommend it to adults, to remember all that has transpired through the years, to reflect and act on how we can all move forward once and for all to make the change that is way long overdue. It will be released July 3, 2020 on Apple TV. Be sure to look for it.

Reviewed by Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Adult reviewer

Nabospionen
(2017)

Non-Traditional Animation; Brave Female Protagonist; Good Message
Agathe-Christine: Next Door Spy is totally unique! The different style of this animated film from Denmark is not traditional, so it makes the film stand out. The storyline of the film is not like other animated films, either. Although the movie has some definite faults, it is sure to be a knockout because of its lead character Agathe-Christine (voiced by Simone Edemann Mogelbjerg).

This film centers around Agathe-Christine, a young girl who recently moved into a new neighborhood. Agathe, however, is not a standard girl of her age (10). She dreams of being a detective. As robberies occur in the town's kiosk, she takes the opportunity to uncover the mystery and prove she is a great detective.

Agathe, or AC, brings wonderful female power to the screen. She's brave and does not let anyone tell her what she can and cannot do. When the going gets tough, she stands strong and continues to prove that she can crack the case. She's very intelligent and creative, not letting her age drag her down. She proves that age is just a number and that the sky's the limit. She's a total powerhouse, and a character every young girl deserves to see in a film.

As for the film's faults, some of the characters are weak-Agathe is really the only strong character. The others are very obnoxious. Her mother is annoying and Agathe's pet, Varanen, is incredibly irritating. Their dialogue is a cookie cutter example of overly-simplified animated films for younger audiences.

The message of the film is to never let anyone give you boundaries, and that you can do anything you set your mind to. Agathe sticks to this message throughout the entire movie. . I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 15. There are some tiny warnings for this film. A few strong words are used, however, there are not any strong or sensitive topics dealt with.

Reviewed by Heather S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

Feel the Beat
(2020)

Wonderful Summer Feel Good Movie. Light comedy, wonderful dancing
Feel the Beat is the first feel good movie of the summer! It's a heartwarming light comedy about starting over, life choices, community, ambition and the importance of working together. All in under two hours of entertainment!

Feel the Beat starts when we see April (Sofia Carson) on her way to a Broadway dance audition where the choices she makes impact her future in an unexpected way. We feel her ambition as well as rejection and heartbreak. April leaves her life in New York City to return home to New Hope, Wisconsin. As she tries to hide in her hometown, April is pulled into the local community once again by her old dance instructor Miss Barb (Donna Lynne Champlin) who brings much light and laughter into the movie through her life coaching.

My favorite character is April; Sofia Carson is magical in this role. I love watching her dance throughout this movie as well how she expresses the emotion and humor of her character. My favorite scenes are at the National Dance Finals, but I don't want to spoil the story by disclosing why. Suffice it to say that there is a lot of gentle comedy during the various dance competition scenes throughout the film and the supporting cast of dancers and their parents really add to the comedy and story. April's love interest Nick (Wolfgang Novogratz) is sweet and supportive in his role and together they have great chemistry without embarrassing younger viewers.

Dance is an important character in this movie and Kevin Wilson and Hailee Payne, the choreographers, create some fun scenes in the various dance competitions. Costumes, under the supervision of Carol Wong, add to the depth of story as we see the New Hope Dance Team progress from competition to competition in skill, attire and confidence.

The message of this film is that your imperfections not only make you unique, but spectacular - and what a message that is. The movie also shows the importance of loyalty and commitment as we see April learn and grow throughout her journey.

I rate Feel the Beat 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18, and adults will enjoy it as well.

Reviewed by Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

Four Kids and It
(2020)

Realistic CGI, fun story. Family Friendly
Inspired by E. Nesbit's 1902 serialized novel called Five Children and It, the movie Four Kids and It is a wonderful fantasy film for all ages that brings the story alive. The CGI seems so real that I believed the Psammead (the creature in the film played by Michael Caine) was actually alive and right there with the actors on the set.

Full of adventure, Four Kids and It is about two families. Each family has two kids and all four kids want their birth parents to get back together. When the two split families meet up for a vacation, the kids find out their parents are dating each other and they absolutely freak out. While being forced to play with each other and to get to know one another, they meet a magical sand creature called a Psammead who tells them that he can grant each of them wishes, but only one a day. Also, the wishes expire at sunset.

Throughout this movie the four kids get to know each other better, become much closer and start to bond more like a real family. There is a man named Tristan Trent (Russell Brand), who lives in a mansion on the island that they all go to for their vacation. For generations, Tristan's family were hunters of rare and unique living creatures on Earth. Tristan and his ancestors have been trying to find the legendary Psammead for decades. When the kids come to the island, he knows that he could use them to track the creature down. If he can lure out and capture the creature, he can finally add it to his family's collection of trophies...and hopefully get in a wish or two as well!

The scenes with the kids each coming up with their own magical wishes and living them out for the day are fun. It also made me wonder what I would wish for if I only had a day to experience a wish.

The message of this film is to be careful what you wish for, but also that sometimes change happens and no matter how bad it seems, that it can offer up new opportunities and maybe create something better than you ever had before.

I give Four Kids and It 5 out of 5 stars, and I recommend it for ages 6 to 18, and adults will love it too! I know my parents sure did.

Reviewed by Lindalee R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

Think Like a Dog
(2020)

Great characters. I especially love that you can hear the dog speak
I like Think Like A Dog because it has an interesting story about a boy named Oliver (Gabriel Bateman) who can suddenly hear everything his dog is saying. It's funny to hear what his dog, Henry, has to say. I always wonder what dogs think, so it is fun to find out what Oliver's dog has to say to him. I like everything about this film.

The storyline follows Oliver working on his science fair project. His friend from China, Xiao (Minghao Hou), gives Oliver an upgrade for his science project and, the next day, Oliver can hear everything his dog Henry is saying. Henry helps Oliver deal with his family. His parents, Lukas (Josh Duhamel) and Ellen (Megan Fox) are thinking of splitting up and selling their house and Oliver doesn't know about this until Henry tells him and he confronts his parents. There's a bit of a twist when it comes to Mr. Mills (Kunal Nayyar), who judges the science fair. He turns out to be totally different than what I originally thought. He wants to be the most famous scientist in the world, but you have to watch the film to see if he's successful, and whether Henry and Oliver save the day.

The characters in this film are super funny. The actors really portray their characters well. Oliver (Gabriel Bateman) plays a very believable smart, but shy guy. And Henry, his furry friend, is probably the funniest character in the movie. I wish he were my pet! The camerawork by Giles Nuttgens are flawless; it really seems as if you're in the same room as the characters. My favorite part of the film is when Oliver asks a girl named Sophie (Madison Horcher) to the school dance. I won't give away whether or not she says yes, but it's cute how nervous Oliver appears, and how much he needs his dog to help him get the courage to ask her.

The message of the film is to trust yourself and your dog's instincts. Surprisingly, your dog might know what's best for you more than you do. Even if your dog can't talk, it can still make you happier - and possibly save your life. I don't have a dog yet, but I am always begging my mom for one.

I give Think Like A Dog 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 17, plus adults. Reviewed by Cadence G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

Scoob!
(2020)

Storyline Is Creative There Is Wonderful Character Development
Grab your Scooby Snacks and get ready for a Scoob-tasic adventure. Zoinks, this movie is terrific! The storyline is creative and entertaining and there is wonderful character development that is unique to this movie versus the cartoon episodes we all grew up with.

Scoob! is about the never-before-heard origin of the Mystery Inc. gang and how Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby Doo (Frank Welker) met. After a montage of solving mysteries, we see the gang wanting to expand and we get to follow them on their biggest mystery yet. Only their friendship can save them.

I LOVE The Scooby Doo Franchise! And Scoob! is no exception. I remember watching the show and wondering how the Mystery Inc. gang got together. And now, in Scoob! we finally learn the answer. The animation is super vivid and creative. Everywhere you look, there is an "Easter Egg." For example, the names of streets and stores are names of people associated with Hanna-Barbera. The cast includes children of some of the adult actors. The characters' voices are cast to perfection. Frank Welker has a fantastic snack-loving dog voice and has been the voice of Scooby Doo for nearly 20 years. Will Forte has a hilarious hippy voice; Amanda Seyfried (Daphne) has a magnificent, kind and caring tone in her voice; and Gina Rodriguez (Velma) has an excellent voice portraying wit, intelligence and quite a bit of sarcasm. My favorite character is (SURPRISE) Scooby, because he is such a sweet dog and, as Frank Welker says, "When he talks, I'm not even sure I am listening to a dog talking like a human, or a human talking like a dog." I agree. But a close second is the villain of the movie (no spoiler here) because his name, his voice and his appearance are just perfect for a bad guy.

The key message of this movie is about the power of friendship. This movie has mild bad language and some magic scenes that may be scary for a younger audience.

Jinkies, I give Scoob! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. Adults will love this as well. Scoob! is available online May 15, 2020. #SCOOBMOVIENIGHT By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Scoob!
(2020)

Storyline Is Creative There Is Wonderful Character Development
Grab your Scooby Snacks and get ready for a Scoob-tasic adventure. Zoinks, this movie is terrific! The storyline is creative and entertaining and there is wonderful character development that is unique to this movie versus the cartoon episodes we all grew up with.

Scoob! is about the never-before-heard origin of the Mystery Inc. gang and how Shaggy (Will Forte) and Scooby Doo (Frank Welker) met. After a montage of solving mysteries, we see the gang wanting to expand and we get to follow them on their biggest mystery yet. Only their friendship can save them.

I LOVE The Scooby Doo Franchise! And Scoob! is no exception. I remember watching the show and wondering how the Mystery Inc. gang got together. And now, in Scoob! we finally learn the answer. The animation is super vivid and creative. Everywhere you look, there is an "Easter Egg." For example, the names of streets and stores are names of people associated with Hanna-Barbera. The cast includes children of some of the adult actors. The characters' voices are cast to perfection. Frank Welker has a fantastic snack-loving dog voice and has been the voice of Scooby Doo for nearly 20 years. Will Forte has a hilarious hippy voice; Amanda Seyfried (Daphne) has a magnificent, kind and caring tone in her voice; and Gina Rodriguez (Velma) has an excellent voice portraying wit, intelligence and quite a bit of sarcasm. My favorite character is (SURPRISE) Scooby, because he is such a sweet dog and, as Frank Welker says, "When he talks, I'm not even sure I am listening to a dog talking like a human, or a human talking like a dog." I agree. But a close second is the villain of the movie (no spoiler here) because his name, his voice and his appearance are just perfect for a bad guy.

The key message of this movie is about the power of friendship. This movie has mild bad language and some magic scenes that may be scary for a younger audience.

Jinkies, I give Scoob! 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. Adults will love this as well. Scoob! is available online May 15, 2020. #SCOOBMOVIENIGHT By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind
(2020)

Shows the legacy Natalie Wood left behind in the film industry
Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind is a wonderful biography telling the story of Natalie Wood's life in a raw way from the perspectives of multiple people. The film gets into lots of details and aspects of her life. By the end, the audience knows all about who Natalie Wood was.

The film is composed of old video and audio clips of Natalie Wood as well as multiple interviews, some of which are conducted by Wood's daughter, Natasha. The clips follow in somewhat of a chronological order, but the film doesn't start off at the beginning of her life. It covers details and facts about her entire life, but skips around, going to different parts. It focuses on her success as a child, her family's struggles, her love life, and the drama surrounding her death. The documentary also highlights all of her achievements in her film career.

The people featured in the documentary represent Natalie Wood's extensive circle of family and friends. Their interviews tell their perspectives of Natalie and her life. Included are her daughters, the family nanny, her husband and people who worked with her.

I thought it was interesting the way that they decided to skip around to different phases in her life. Normally documentaries pursue a chronological order, starting from the beginning and following through to the end. In contrast, this documentary is really effective in the way it skips around, because it gives the audience a bit of background information before returning to explain some aspect in deeper detail. I liked this because it allowed me to get a general idea first of what Natalie Wood was like and then what she experienced. I could see how people viewed her from the outside and then, the film delves deeper into a closer perspective by her friends and family.

My favorite parts are the home videos of Natalie Wood with her children. These clips make you realize that, even though she was under the pressure of the spotlight all the time and looks perfect, she is a human being with a life too.

The purpose of this documentary is to honor Natalie Wood and show people how great a life she lived. Some people focus more on the tragedy of her death and overlook her legacy in the film industry.

I loved watching and learning more about Natalie Wood's wonderful story. I give Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18. Even adults will enjoy learning from this documentary.

Reviewed by Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Reporter

Wendy
(2020)

Based on the story of Peter Pan, the 2nd half is better than the first
This film starts out kind of boring and lacking in substance. However, halfway through the plot suddenly goes completely bonkers and I'm struggling to figure out if the plot goes bonkers in a positive or negative way.

This movie is based on the story of Peter Pan, except it focuses on Wendy. The story follows Wendy and her twin brothers, James and Douglas, as they hop onto a train and end up on a magic island where kids don't age. However, things begin to get serious when Wendy learns of an old man on the island.

I mentioned how the film starts out lacking substance. This issue is mostly due to the pacing, which is probably my biggest issue with the film. The scene where the kids get onto the train to the island feels like it comes out of nowhere, despite the fact that there is some build up. And even though it's established that Wendy seeks adventure, I don't really get the impression that she is ok with running away. Her sudden fascination with the train is confusing and feels like a scene or two that would further establish her adventurous and reckless side has been removed. The middle of the movie also feels like certain scenes were cut off too soon. For example, when Wendy and her brothers run into Thomas, a kid from their town who ran away to the island when Wendy was a baby, they question why Thomas looks exactly the same as when he disappeared, and then the scene immediately ends. And after that scene, they rarely interact with Thomas and instantly go back to playing. It feets odd to me that the kids seem to forget about the fact that they just reunited with a missing kid from their town and he hasn't aged a day.

While the first half of the film feels very light on action, there's a very sudden shift in tone that honestly, made me uncomfortable, but in a good way. From that point forward, the film is a significantly more enjoyable experience. Unfortunately, I have issues with the ending. Obviously, I can't go into specifics, but let's just say that the ending raises more questions than answers. I don't have a problem with ambiguous endings, but when you're more confused because of said ambiguity, then I take issue.

I rate this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 15. It came out in theatres on February 28th and the film is now out on digital.

Reviewed by Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Reporter

My Spy
(2020)

Love the friendship that develops between Dave Bautista and Chloe Coleman's characters
I thought My Spy was so good because I loved the friendship and love that develops between the characters JJ (Dave Bautista) and Sophie (Chloe Coleman)! They start off as strangers and then, throughout the movie, JJ teaches her how to be a good spy, and she teaches him how to be a kinder person as their relationship grows stronger and they become friends. Not only does JJ have a change of heart and but eventually he develops feelings for her mom.

My Spy is the story of a CIA agent who is secretly watching a family in order to try and get information connected to a big case he is on. One of the people he is watching is the little girl, Sophie, who discovers J.J. and that he is spying on her and her mom. In exchange for not revealing his secret, Sophie makes him teach her how to be a good spy.

One of my favorite parts of My Spy is when JJ goes on a date with Sophie's mom and starts dancing. Because his character is so serious and he's such a large person, it's very funny to see him trying to do all these trendy dances...because he does it so terribly! Honestly, it kind of reminded me of my dad dancing.

For those who like Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy you will love him in this movie. Chloe Coleman has a very bright acting future-she is such a kind person both on and off camera, and she has such an amazing on-camera presence.

A quick note to parents: My Spy does contain some adult language (and in some songs played during the movie.) So while younger kids may enjoy it, parents should decide if their kids are mature enough to see a movie with moments of profanity.

My Spy is full of action, fun, comedy and love. I give My Spy 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 10 to 18, and adults will love it too!

Reviewed by Lindalee R., KIDS FIRST! REPORTER

Adventure Boyz
(2019)

Interesting story, filled with action and adventure.
I like Adventure Boyz because it has a good, interesting story. This film is full of action and adventure. It is cool how the two boys, Sam and younger brother Jake (Rory Ford, Felix Ford) work together to solve a mystery. I like how the boys' dad is a speedway racer, because that is something I'm not ever around. I also like the mom, because she is very protective of her kids. You can tell she loves them very much.

The story starts off with a news reporter reporting that 50 diamonds has been stolen in the castle. This grabbed my attention right away. When the two brothers are biking, they find a hideout where the diamonds hidden. That is just the beginning of their big adventure. The boys get chased by two bad guys pretty much throughout the movie and have quite a few close calls. They have to fend for themselves because their mom is away and their dad winds up in jail. It's really up to them to set things straight.

I love one of the bad guys in the story-one of the antagonists. He has a great personality, because he is always getting distracted by things and it's funny when he gets off task. The other antagonist is the complete opposite; he is very focused and very serious about his job. My favorite part is when one of the bad guys is admiring flowers. It's ironic because, earlier on in the film, he tells his partner he never wanted to be a criminal, he wanted to be a gardener. The message of the film is to trust yourself. Sam sometimes has moments when he doubts himself and then, he learns to be more confident and does the right thing. I know when I'm more confident, I tend to do better at something, like when I'm singing, dancing and acting. There is one scary part, the abduction scene, when someone is tied up and has duct tape over his mouth.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 14, but even older kids and some adults may like it.

Reviewed by Cadence G., KIDS FIRST! reporter

Slay the Dragon
(2019)

Inspiring to watch, especially for those interested in social justice, politics and changing the world
Slay the Dragon is an educational film that allowed me to learn more about gerrymandering. As someone who enjoys politics and social justice, I had an interesting experience with this movie. At the beginning of the movie, I knew little to nothing about gerrymandering. However, by the end, I knew quite a lot about this topic. I was educated, but I cannot say I was thoroughly entertained. It is hard to make a documentary film about gerrymandering that is fun and intriguing for the masses. Watching the film wasn't a tedious process, so there's that.

Slay the Dragon follows the story of a young woman, Katie Fahey living in Michigan, who decides to make a change by rallying a group together to create a proposition preventing gerrymandering in Michigan. Gerrymandering is the ability for politicians or powerful government officials to change state lines and districts in order to prevent certain candidates from winning votes from specific groups of people. Simultaneously, we learn about the history of gerrymandering and how it was used to create our current political climate. Gerrymandering was used by democrats in the 80s and now it's mainly used by Republican politicians. Throughout the course of the film, we see Katie's trials and tribulations as she continues to fight for what she believes in - helping make the voting process fair.

Slay the Dragon is an inspiring film to watch, especially as a young girl interested in social justice, politics, and changing the world through the process of lawmaking. Katie's journey was a rollercoaster and her passion is extremely admirable. It is satisfying to see her story play out in this documentary. People like Katie give me hope for the future and remind me that anyone is capable of making change, no matter how big or small. The film is also very well produced. The only negative aspect is that it didn't fully capture my attention all the time. A lot of the film showcases repetitive statistics. I understand that it is difficult to make a documentary of this nature. Although I was not fully captivated, I respect the hard work and effort put into making this film. I learned a lot about gerrymandering and feel inspired and reassured, so the filmmakers accomplished something positive.

Slay the Dragon is loaded with positive messages. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for kids ages 12 to 18, due to some language.

Reviewed by Ella L., KIDS FIRST! reviewer

Onward
(2020)

Easily one of my favorite Pixar films. Touching story, beautiful world building
As of now, this film is easily one of my favorite Pixar films. I adore the touching story and especially the world building. Overall, Onward is an amazing film.

Onward takes in a world much like our own, except it's populated with fantasy creatures. We follow two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot as they discover magic still exists and thus go on a quest to revive their father for one day.

So, first the animation. I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. Since it is Pixar, the animation is absolutely outstanding. But, I specifically want to discuss the world in which Onward takes place. There are so many creative and diverse character designs and representations of mythological creatures (which I appreciate as a mythology fan). The world building is probably some of the best I've ever seen. I have contemplated the idea of a suburban fantasy, so I'm really happy seeing that idea brought to life. There's a lot of really funny gags surrounding this idea, such as an historically accurate "Dungeons and Dragons" and unicorns becoming the equivalent of raccoons. You can tell the artists really enjoyed designing the settings.

However, the world is not the only enjoyable aspect of this film. The characters are especially fun. The two brothers, Ian and Barley, have amazing chemistry. This is probably thanks to their voice actors - Tom Holland playing Ian and Chris Pratt playing Barley. They already have a connection from the Marvel movies, so their relationship feels real. But Ian and Barley aren't the only great characters in this movie. I would say my personal favorite character is The Manticore, played by Octavia Spencer. The Manticore is probably the funniest character and I really like her friendship with the brothers' mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Speaking of which, Onward is really funny. There's a specific scene involving The Manticore that caused me to laugh probably the hardest I've ever laughed at a Pixar movie. There are also a lot of gags involving the fact that the world is populated with fantasy creatures.

And as expected from a Pixar film, it's pretty emotional. And, given the context of the plot, I feel this might be one of Pixar's most heart wrenching films. When you think about it, who wouldn't want to bring someone back, even for one day?

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18. Reviewed by Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Reporter

To the Beat!: Back 2 School
(2020)

Hilarious and entertaining. Never a dull moment. Great writing.
To The Beat! Back 2 School is a hilarious and entertaining new feature film! This film is so fun and there is never a dull moment. If you are looking for an engaging drama-packed movie, this is the one for you.

Tensions at Valley Performing Arts grow high when the twins, Mackie and Mia, return from spring break. The students are put to the test when offered the opportunity to audition for one of three scholarships to the Triad Conservatory of Fine Arts in New York City. Between the huge scholarship, Mia's new boyfriend and Mackie's newfound friend in her longtime rival, Avery, things are bound to heat up.

There are a bunch of incredible aspects to this film. One of my personal favorites is the writing. Susan Bernhardt and Jillian Clare crafted an incredible story that has plenty of plot twists and turns to make it engaging to watch. The actors are extremely believable in their roles at Valley Performing Arts. Sydney Bourne, who plays Cassidy, is insanely talented. I love when actors and actresses that play villains can make me genuinely dislike their character enough to stir emotion within me, and Sydney Bourne was able to do just that. One small problem I found with To The Beat! Back 2 School is that since I hadn't watched the first movie, the first few minutes were a little bit confusing, due to my lack of background knowledge. I really enjoyed how the soundtrack for the movie keeps the scenes lively and energetic. Another thing I thought kept the movie lively was the stellar choreography. Every dance scene is visually appealing and kept my eyes glued to the screen.

To The Beat! Back 2 School shows us that people can change and we should not to judge a book by its cover. Making instantaneous assumptions about a person doesn't tell you much about them. In order to understand a person, you should get to know them first. Another valuable message is taught is about respecting other people for who they are, as a person and not based off of their talent.

I give To The Beat! Back 2 School 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend for kids ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Make sure to check out this film March 10th, 2020 on VOD and DVD. Trust me, you won't want to miss it!

Reviewed by Brad M., KIDS FIRST! reporter

Riding Faith
(2020)

Never Give Up or Lose Hope!
This film is most appropriate for people who are Christians. The plot is quite slow moving and repetitive. The topic of arguments between characters does not change much. It is definitely not mysterious in any way and there aren't many surprises. Although the message is quite uplifting and can help any person.

The storyline entails a mother Rebecca, a father Mike, and their teenage daughter Grace, who move to a large, countryside ranch. But everything goes downhill when Grace's father is deployed in the military and passes away in battle. After this, she and her mom struggle to pay the mortgage and must do anything to save the farm, including hold on to hope, have faith and believe that not all is lost.

Grace (Grace Van Dien) is a very emotionally driven character. She cares so much about the ranch and will do anything she can to make sure that she and her mom can keep it and continue to live a full life together. What really stands out about Hope Ranch is the music. The tempo and instruments in each scene tie together in a way that is expressive of emotion and the events that either follow or are presently happening. It happens to be my favorite part as well. It helps the element of varying emotions shine and helps viewers to connect more with the storyline and the situation that the characters are in.

The message of this movie is that you should never give up or lose hope, and that if you persevere through tough times, it will only make you stronger than ever before. It is definitely successful in portraying its message. The message is most certainly positive and uplifting. There isn't any negative language or behavior. This film definitely promotes the admired social behavior of helping others in need and sticking together in times of difficulty, which is an effective choice, as it helps other people in desperate situations.

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults.

Reviewed by Ruby A., KIDS FIRST! reporter

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
(2020)

Reflects the real world dynamics of teens fumbling their way through high school
To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You is adorable! It reflects the real-world dynamics and choices of teenagers finding their way through high school. The story line is imaginatively written, and the cast fit perfectly in their roles.

The movie starts out with Lara Jean, a 16-year old high school student, going on her first "real" date with her boyfriend, Peter. In sixth grade, Lara Jean wrote two love letters - one to Peter and a second to another boy named John, that she also had a crush on. Her sister Kitty sends the letters to both boys now four years later. When John and Lara Jean meet again, they become good friends and John reminds Lara Jean about the letter and that he really likes her a lot. Now, she is stuck in a dilemma and must figure out who she likes more, and this is where the comedy starts.

The acting in this movie is really strong! Lana Condor plays Lara Jean and she realistically displays the complexities of getting through high school as a teen. I'm glad I'm not a teenager yet. Other strong performances come from Jordan Fisher, who plays John Ambrose as a kind, caring sweet boy, and Holland Taylor as Stormy who is flat-out hilarious and has great sense of style. The entire cast delivers a convincing performance and were so much fun to watch. My favorite character is Kitty, because she is a great matchmaker and is so mischievous.

The key messages of this movie are to enjoy the moment and that relationships will often change. This movie has mild profanity, mature content, and risky behaviors, including a scene that has playing cups and later driving. The movie is not really suitable for those who are not yet in high school.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18.

Reviewed by Katherine S,, KIDS FIRST! reporter

Cunningham
(2019)

Explores the artistic development by legendary dancer Merce Cunningham
Cunningham is an immersive documentary about the early years and artistic development of legendary American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. The film is thought-provoking and artistically beautiful. Cunningham is a work of art in and of itself and a journey exploring the development of modern dance.

The film highlights Merce Cunningham's dancing from 1942 to 1972. Artistic innovation and expression is its central theme. Time and space play important roles in the movements between the dancers themselves and their interaction with various settings. The settings for the various dances are as important as any character in the film; I particularly enjoy the outdoor performances with their natural environment. The movie is available in 3D, but I previewed this film in 2D and found it quite moving.

Dance is a very visual experience and director/editor Alla Kovgan gives us a breathtaking story. I love the blending of archival footage and live action in the film, which is perfection and gives you a feeling for the time period. The choreographic collaboration by Jennifer Goggans and Robert Swinston for this documentary is on point and brings another critical element to this story. The music adds emotion and depth with original music for the film composed by renowned Volker Bertelmann.

The message of this film is about exploring self expression and collaboration with others. Merce Cunningham saw his dancers as individuals first and dancers second. He valued their opinions and collaborated with many other artists in various fields such as his long standing friend, composer John Cage and with the iconic Andy Warhol.

As a dancer, I rate this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, as well as adults and dance enthusiasts.

Reviewed ;by Selene W,, KIDS FIRST! reporter

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made
(2020)

Live action with CGO elements, like the polar bear, which make him seem real!
I really enjoyed Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made. It is live-action with CGI elements, mainly the polar bear, Total, which makes him seem very real-and so cute! Timmy is very funny in how he acts like a little adult. Throughout the whole movie Timmy believes he is working on something very important, one of his biggest cases yet.

The storyline follows an 11-year-old boy, Timmy (Winslow Fegley) who lives with his mom in Portland, Oregon. Timmy runs a detective agency, Total Failure Inc., along with his partner, an imaginary 1500 pound polar bear and his sidekick Rollo Tookus. Timmy believes he is the best detective in town and gets involved in all kinds of cases trying to solve mysteries, such as his stolen Segway.

One of my favorite parts of Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is when his friend Rollo bumps into a door when he is running because he is wearing a fencing mask and he can't see. Part of the reason the comedy works so well is that Timmy stays very serious and seemingly grown-up in spite of all the hilarious situations he gets into.

The message of this film is to embrace your imagination and to never let anybody stop you from making your dreams come true.

I give Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18 and adults will really love it too. It's really for the whole family.

Reviewed by Lindalee R., KIDS FIRST! reporter

The Half of It
(2020)

Beautiful Story about Love, Friendship and Longing
The Half of It is certainly a beautiful story about love, friendship and longing. It is a very relatable story about the process of discovering love and what comes with it. The acting is splendid and writer/director Alice Wu is very assertive in both capacities.

The story follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a shy and introverted, straight "A" student, in her senior year, helping a friend, Paul, to capture the attention of the girl of his dreams, Aster. Initially, Ellie writes just one letter, but the story evolves into an exchange of text messages before their first date. During the journey, the characters discover the truth of the stress and challenges of courtship.

The film starts with a beautiful, artsy animation and excellent voice over work, guiding us into the mysteries of love at a very young age. The Half of It is a very well narrated story, keeping you intrigued, making you wanting to know more about the characters and how they will end up. The editing and music are very interconnected and they work in perfect harmony, turning into amazing storytelling.

I enjoyed the acting and the honesty of Leah Lewis' portrayal of a very timid, but determined girl. I love Paul naiveté and his struggle to communicate and show his emotions and how his innocence contrasts with Ellie's intelligence. Despite their differences they become friends, which is one of my favorite aspects of the film. I also love Collin Chou who plays Ellie's dad. He barely speaks English but he's really funny. He portrays a very loving and kind man and wants what's best for his daughter. Ellie's Dad loves classic films and, throughout the movie, there are several references to art in different disciplines like painting and poetry. This makes the film feel very grounded. "The Best Part," as Ellie's Dad refers when interrupted when watching his cinema classics, is when Ellie and Aster are in a secret lake and just talking. The scene itself is beautiful and the acting feels so natural. I love how this scene is shot and found it really relaxing.

The Half of It is not the typical high school movie, because in almost every high school movie there is a popular girl, a shy nerdy girl with lots of clichés and no substance. But in this movie the characters are real, current and deep.

The message of this film is "be the best version of you." Ellie used to be an artist and one of the things she learns is that "you can have a good painting, but to make it a great one you need to make a bold stroke." I think what she means by "bold stroke" is the best version that you can possibly be of yourself. Also we hear that "love is the journey we pursue with determination."

This film is wonderful! I could watch it a million times and still be entertained. I give The Half of It 5 out of 5 stars and recommended it for ages 12 to 18.

Reviewed by Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critics. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

I Still Believe
(2020)

A sincere and true love, faith-based story, somewhat trite
I Still Believe is a sincere and true love story, held down by clichéd dialogue and plot development. The subtle messages and radiant leads stick their landing without feeling preachy. Adults and kids will admire this faith-based tale, perhaps in a matinee and a box of tissues.

This story brings the true-life story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) and his remarkable journey with his wife Melissa (Britt Robertson). Their faith in God is tested when Melissa is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Still, Jeremy believes there is always hope and a faith worth sharing through his music and memories.

The two leads share great chemistry allowing for a believable relationship. KJ Apa, as Jeremy Camp, steps into the shoes of the Christian music singer, through his original music and devotion towards his wife Melissa. Speaking of which, Britt Robertson, as Melissa, is the best performance nailing the emotional gravitas of the real-life counterpart's plight. She fares much better in emotional scenes, and while KJ has great screen presence, he could improve his emotional chops. Both characters absolutely deliver a heart-warming dynamic that makes the ending all the more tragic, but also reminiscing. Nathan Dean, as Jean-Luc, adds a love-triangle dynamic that feels more at home in a CW show than a dramatic real-life story. Still, his character is charismatic and relatable in his struggles. Gary Sinise, as Tom, is Jeremy's father, adding more heart to Jeremy's unwavering love and choices.

Directors Andrew and Jon Erwin return after directing the Christian film I Can Only Imagine. The Erwins have a good grasp on not being preachy and instead, focus on the human relationships that bind. However, this film's first half panders with one instance of egregious product placement, unbecoming of its more mature second half. It feels tonally inconsistent in spite of KJ and Britt's natural chemistry. There's a scene involving a broken jar of pickles where the film becomes thoughtfully complacent about its conflicts. This is where the film began to click, and it ends up being moving and lyrically heartwarming.

The message of this film is to always keep the faith and stay close to those you love. They make us for who we are, and unfortunately, tragic things can happen. It's best that we stay close and not waste any day with them.

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 due to strong thematic material. Reviewed by Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 18

Stargirl
(2020)

Amazing movie that encourages you to be yourself and not let anyone tell you who to be
Stargirl is an amazing movie that encourages you to be yourself and not let anyone tell you who else to be. This movie could make a great impact on the world and it has such a powerful and positive message with the ability to inspire many people.

Stargirl is about a boy named Leo Borlock (Graham Verchere) and a girl, Stargirl (Grace VanderWaal) who, after many years of being homeschooled, decides to attend a regular school and the two of them begin a connection. When Stargirl shows up at the school, positive things start happening, like the football team winning games, which it hadn't for YEARS)! But, when Stargirl makes a choice that causes the school to lose the championship football game, everyone turns on her and it's up to Leo to save Stargirl and win back everyone's love for her.

One of my favorite parts is when Stargirl sings Happy Birthday to Leo at the beginning of the movie, because that's when he starts noticing that this girl is different and wonders what she knows about him. What a surprise to have a complete stranger serenade you on your birthday, in front of the whole school! I also love the moment when Stargirl runs out of her house as Leo is leaving and kisses him. She's like, "Oh no, what do I do now?" and runs back into her house. I think that's so cute and funny and I love that he gets so giggly and happy about it. It is so adorable.

The message of this film is simple enough - be true to yourself and never let anybody tell you who to be or what to do, because you'll be unhappy with yourself in the end.

I love Stargirl and give it 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 10 to 18. If you're in high school you'll be able to relate to at least one of the many likeable characters in this movie. And, Disney fans, as well as adults will LOVE this movie too. There's something for the whole family in this film. Make sure to have a box of tissues near by when you watch it. You just may need it for both the heartwarming and joyful moments. This movie is streaming on Disney+ beginning March 13, 2020.

Reviewed by Lindalee R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by tweens and teens, visit kidsfirst dot org

Bloodshot
(2020)

Unique storyline, awesome action, great stunt scenes
I like Bloodshot because it has a unique storyline, awesome action and great stunt scenes. This film keep your attention throughout the entire movie.

Bloodshot is about a solider named Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) who gets killed in action and is brought back to life by an innovative scientist named Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), who fixes wounded soldiers by augmenting what the soldier lost in battle. One soldier, named Jimmy Dalton (Sam Heughan), lost his legs in battle so Dr. Harting gave him robotic legs. Ray lost his life and Dr. Harting replaced all of his blood with nanites, which can rebuild any part of his injured body.

My favorite part is the elevator shaft fight scene when Ray, Jimmy and Tibbs (Alex Hernandez) are fighting on top of the elevator. The digital effects are awesome, like how the nanites heal Ray every time he gets hurt. The graphics are perfect. The costumes look like army gear with special devices attached. There is some foul language and violence. The cast fits each character, especially Vin Diesel who perfectly playa Ray Garrison.

The moral of this movie is that not everything is what it seems. You have to see the film in order to understand the moral.

I give Bloodshot 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults.

Reviewed by Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

Emma.
(2020)

A Cheerful Adaptation of Jane Austen's Beloved Novel.
Emma is a cheerful adaptation of Jane Austen's beloved novel. Readers of Jane Austen can rejoice as her characters come to screen. Others might not find this to be their cup of tea.

In this adaptation the "handsome, clever and rich" matchmaker Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor Joy) pursues her adventures through matches and romanticism to find love.

Anya Taylor Joy, as Emma, gives the best performance. Anya has grown from a being newcomer and this demanding performance proves that, allowing for eloquent speaking and characterization. Her conversations with other characters are straight out of the classic Victorian tale; keeping in mind, she is American. Her love interests are Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley, a dashingly critical friend, and Callum Turner as Frank Churchill, a rich gentleman. I also enjoyed Mia Goth as Harriet, as she helps Emma find her match.

Director Autumn de Wilde is artistic, but the pacing could be tighter. This is a slow movie as several scenes are long, drawn-out conversations. I feel this aspect is best achieved in books, though some movies can capture the audience's attention like that. This movie really must be your forte for it to be enjoyable. The character's parlance is always olden English, and there is a loss of stakes. The score by Isobel Waller-Bridge is authentically Georgian capturing the grounded roots of genteel women living in England.

The message of this film is to not rush love, as Emma and Harriet let time prove its worth after hasty pursuits. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, due to brief nudity, even though younger kids might not be interested in watching this.

Reviewed by Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

The Call of the Wild
(2020)

Mixed feelings. Some CGI Scenes are Brutal! Great story though.
My feelings about this movie are quite mixed. On one side, the use of CGI helps to portray the strong emotions of the dogs. On the other hand, there are many scenes containing brutal animal abuse that many audiences will find disturbing and unsettling. The storyline, however, is incredibly well-structured and detailed.

The Call of the Wild is about Buck, a fearless, strong dog who has been through so much in his life. After being shut out on the porch of his California home, Buck's name is called and he finds himself in the hands of a dog seller, who locks him inside of a box for transport. A while later, he is recruited as a puller for a dogsled that delivers mail in Alaska. After a journey full of twists and turns, Buck discovers a whole new world with someone he loves and trusts by his side.

Some of the lead characters include John Thornton (Harrison Ford) Perrault (Omar Sy) and of course, Buck. What really stands out is the CGI that is essential in expressing the emotions of the animals. It is really effective in this aspect of the story. The dogs look almost human! With such emotion in their eyes, and their actions, there is barely anything that humans can't relate to. (Except for the furriness!) My favorite part of this movie is in fact the CGI. The difference it makes in it is emotionally impactful and helps the audience feel attachment to the characters, and love for them too. It improves the quality and aesthetic which makes the viewing experience vivid.

This movie strongly conveys a message of how perseverance is enlightening and can make anyone a stronger, more intelligent person who can take on more difficult challenges than ever before. It is definitely successful in signifying this empowering lesson through symbolism and emotion, and definitely reminds me to push through the problems that I run into in life. There is something that the audience should look out for. There is some extremely aggressive behavior that is inflicted upon animals, and between other characters. Several weapons are used, such as a whip, a bat, and guns. Minimal amounts of blood are shown. There really isn't any bad language, however.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. REviewed by Ruby A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic.

Sonic the Hedgehog
(2020)

Based on one of my favorite game characters, this hits it out of the park! Loved it!
I like this movie because is based on one of my favorite game characters. Sonic The Hedgehog is a live-action film-except for Sonic who is a CGI character (Ben Schwartz)-based on the global blockbuster video game franchise from Sega

The story of Sonic the Hedgehog follows Sonic, a small blue hedgehog who has super-speed powers. When Sonic was younger, his owl guardian gave him a bag of rings to help him escape to different planets in case anyone discovers and kidnaps him because of his powers. One night, after he comes to Earth, he is playing baseball by himself and he gets upset because he realizes he is very lonely. Sonic runs in circles as fast as he can because he is upset. He is so fast that blue energy comes out of his body causing the whole town to black out.

This power outage causes big problems for Sonic who is pursued by a crazy military man named Dr. Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) or Dr. Eggman, as Sonic calls him. Fortunately for Sonic, the town's sheriff (James Marsden) catches him and helps protect him from Dr. Robotnik.

The graphics in the movie are excellent, and, with the new Sonic design, it looks like Sonic is real. The new design works better than the Sonic design Paramount Pictures had before redoing this movie. The special effects are impressive too, such as Sonic's blue lightning which also looks real. Ben Schwartz did and very funny voiceover for the Sonic character. He is really full of energy.

The moral of this movie is that you are never alone in the world. There will always be someone for you to be your friend, to talk to and to be by your side when you need it. When Sonic is feeling alone, Sheriff Tom, or The Doughnut Lord, as Sonic calls him, takes Sonic to protect him and help him get to the Mushroom planet where Sonic needs to go.

Sonic the Hedgehog is filled with a lot of action and fun. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. If I could, I would give this movie 100 out of 100 stars. I recommend it for ages 5 to 18 plus older adults.

Reviewed by Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

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