Archives for December 20, 2013

Holiday Gift Suggestions from Toy State!




CAT Construct Dough Deluxe is just too cool for those ages 2+. It includes one can of dough and it makes custom “l” beams and other construction shapes!  This one is just too much fun! Available in Dump Truck and Excavator. Find out more at Toy State!

Maximum Boost Green

The Road Rippers Maximum Boost is great for ages 3+ and features motorized drive with a rocket boost function. It has really cool sound effects, lights and sounds! What more could a little kid want?! It really is very cool! Find out more at Toy State!


Self  Disclosure: I received free toy products to feature as Holiday Gift Suggestions but any opinions expressed are my own.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Rings True to the Book KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions,


The second installment from the Tolkien novel, The Hobbit, released recently features the dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, as they continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Raven D. has this to say about the film, The stunning 3D visuals really bring the work of Tolkien to life and, I think the darkness of this film fits a lot better with the “Lord of the Rings” series than the first film did.” Raven’s full review is below.

The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Reviewed by Raven D., age 16, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic



“The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” is the second installment of the three part series adapted from the best selling novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. A prequel to the epic trilogy “Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit” follows young Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, as he accompanies Gandalf and the Dwarves on a quest to rid their home of the evil dragon Smaug. In “The Desolation of Smaug,” the Dwarves, Bilbo and Gandalf find themselves not only having to face the evil dragon that destroyed the DwarfKingdom, but they also have to deal with the threat of the Orcs, the Elves and the Necromancer. Thorin, the exiled Dwarf King is desperately trying to free his people of the dreaded Smaug, but greed begins to overtake him when he starts to focus his attention on a precious stone that is being guarded by the dragon. Will the Dwarves and Bilbo be triumphant in their epic quest, or will they awaken a power greater and more evil than they could have ever imagined.


I really enjoyed this movie. I wasn’t very impressed by the first Hobbit film that was released in 2012, but “Desolation of Smaug” is incredible. The stunning 3D visuals really bring the work of Tolkien to life and, I think the darkness of this film fits a lot better with the “Lord of the Rings” series than the first film did. I really like the fact that they are making three movies off of the one book because I think if they tried to cram everything into one movie it would be way too much. I love the soundtrack in this film. The film has some really beautiful visuals and they are capture the original feel of the Tolkien series while also throwing in some really fun and upbeat tunes.


My favorite character is Bilbo Baggins because I absolutely adore Martin Freeman. He is such a versatile actor and can play very serious roles while also bringing in playful and comedic qualities. Martin also plays Watson in the BBC series “Sherlock” which is one of my favorite TV shows and I just love everything he’s in. He really embodies the character Bilbo and it’s very interesting to see the way Bilbo changes from the last film. His character development is great and Martin Freeman does a phenomenal job taking on that role.


My favorite scene is when Bilbo encounters Smaug for the first time. The exchange between the two characters is very interesting because Smaug seems very curious about Bilbo and doesn’t immediately attack like you expect and Bilbo does everything he can to distract Smaug by complimenting him and talking circles around him. The whole scene has a lot of suspense but it’s also very playful. I also love the look of Smaug and the CGI for him is incredible. They capture his features in such a wonderful way. You can really tell what he’s feeling by the faces he makes and the very human expressions he has.


I recommend this film for ages 13+ because there is a lot of action, violence and suspenseful situations. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and it is definitely a must see if you are a fan of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. So be sure to catch “The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug” in a theater near you!


Credit: KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions


QUEEN MARY’S ULTIMATE NEW YEAR’S EVE ‘VOYAGE’ One Night To Visit The Queen Mary’s Top Destinations

NYE 2014

Since pulling into Long Beach Harbor in 1967, the Queen Mary’s travel days have been confined to history…until now.  The eve of December 31st will relaunch the retired ocean-liner to her voyaging days with a one-night world cruise – The Ultimate New Year’s Eve Voyage.  “Passengers” will be transported to the vibrant streets of India, carnival nights in Brazil, the extravagant Moulin Rouge in France and Times Square in New York before returning to the ship’s beginning, a village in Scotland. For those who’ve dreamed of celebrating the New Year abroad – now you can, without ever leaving Long Beach.

The sights, sounds and tastes will transform throughout the night, as the ship’s horn announces the arrival in a new Port of Call.  Bombay’s henna, hookah pipes and spice-filled cuisine will give way to Samba and the brightly feathered dancers of Rio’s Carnival.  As one festival ends, the sound of the Rockettes kick off another fete, transporting revelers to a Manhattan state of mind.  The skyline fades as the horn signals France and the decks of the Queen Mary overflow with can-can skirts and Kir Royals.

Fireworks usher in 2014 as the Queen Mary visits its birthplace, Clydebank, Scotland.  The Ultimate New Year’s Eve Voyage reclaims the Glory Days with an all-night celebration not to be forgotten.  “Cruise-goers will be exposed to a world of entertainment and adventure, without ever leaving Long Beach.  Music, costumes, cocktails, food and activities all expertly chosen to create a New Year’s soiree like no other,” says Steve Sheldon, Director of Entertainment Events.

Tickets for the Ultimate New Year’s Eve Voyage begin at $99 with the “Tourist Class” boarding pass which includes general admission to the ship’s “Tourist Class” decks, salons and bars, strolling entertainers, live bands and DJs, plus a party favor and view of the midnight fireworks.  Optional upgrades include dinner, bottle service and New Year’s Day Brunch.  Once aboard, cruise-goers can choose from a variety of dining options, including American diner creations, exotic Port’s of Call strolling tastings, an extravagant international buffet and five-star feasts at Sir Winston’s.  Revelers must be 21 and over.  Advanced reservations highly recommended.

Unique Bottle Service packages featuring each destination are available.  For more information, pricing, hotel packages and more details visit: or call 877-342-0742.

About the Queen Mary 

Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco décor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. The Queen Mary features award-winning restaurants, historical attractions, numerous special event salons and 314 staterooms.


Great Stocking Stuffers can be found at the SwaagStore! Selfie Remote Control for iPhone 3/4/4S and 5 and iPhone 4/4S Armband

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Looking for stocking stuffers or even some great gift suggestions for the New Year? Have you visited the Swaag Store online? The Selfie Remote Control for iPhone 3/4/4S and 5 is a great suggestion for those on your holiday shopping list. The list price is $19.99 but their price is $14.00 and it is available in Blue, Green, and Pink. I received one in blue  and it is so easy to use! It’s basically a Camera Cable Remote Release Controller for your iPhone but it really does a great job for those selfie photos! The iPhone 4/4S Armband is great for walking, running or even lifting weights! This one is a Must-Have for those getting more active and healthy New Year’s resolutions! Retails for $24.99. Find these products and so many more at the SwaagStore!

Self Disclosure: I received products for free to feature as holiday gift suggestions but any opinions expressed are my own. Photo Credit: SwaagStore.

“Saving Mr. Banks” Reveals the Drama Behind the Making of the Film “Mary Poppins” KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions,


Disney’s beloved film, “Mary Poppins” has quite a dramatic behind the scenes story that is told in this film. We get an inside look at how author P. L. Travers reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney during production for the adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins. And, it is an interesting turn of events that eventually wins Ms. Travers over. As KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Keefer B (age 13) says, “We learn it’s going to take Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) a lot of hard work to get Ms. Travers to share our favorite flying nanny, ‘Marry Poppins.’” Keefer’s full review is below.


Saving Mr. Banks

Reviewed by Keefer C. Blakeslee, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Video review available here.


This is a deeply emotional and inspiring untold story of “Mary Poppins.” The premise is based on the true journey of  Pamela L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of  the book. We learn it’s going to take Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) a lot of hard work to get Ms. Travers to share our favorite flying nanny, Mary Poppins.


This film is totally character driven. Tom Hanks is the first actor to portray Walt in a mainstream film.  Tom trained for this by visiting “The Walt Disney Family Museum” and talking with Disney’s former employees including his daughter Diane Disney Miller. Tom is Walt!  He captures the dream, drive, and love for life that Walt believed in and you buy every word he says. They also respect Walt’s wishes of never showing him with a lit cigarette. Of course, any leading man has a leading lady and we have a phenomenal portrayal of Ms. Travers by Emma Thompson. Emma trained, like Tom, by listening to the recording of the script read-through and practicing the way Pamela spoke. What adds up is a fantastic performance. You feel her emotion and why she is a stick-in-the-mud. This film’s cinematography is spot on. It takes place over time from 1906, with vintage clothing and horse carts, to 1961, with old cars and urban settings. The way they shift from time period to time period is flawless.


My favorite scene is when Mrs. Travers observes the film for the first time. You see all of the emotional scarring that she has kept inside her whole life, come out. I can say that Emma’s performs this amazingly well.


Honestly, it’s hard to pick my favorite character. Surprisingly I choose Ralph (Paul Giamatti), Mrs. Travers’ chauffeur. He’s the first person who Pamela likes and once you see this film you’ll understand how big of an achievement that is. Paul’s warm and humble performance has an affect on me that is unexplainable.


The moral of the story is, don’t let the past rule your present. Pamela has a hard time giving “Mary Poppins” up and, with her sad childhood, you can see why. However, she needs to understand that it’s time to let it all go.


I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to12-18 year olds. This film is little more emotionally heavy than the trailer shows. It’s a lighthearted film, but sensitive kids may have difficulty with some scenes. This is playing in theaters now.


Credit: KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions