Archives for May 17, 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd – True to the book and a Brilliant Performance by Carey Mulligan

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In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance. Willie J. comments, “When I saw that BBC had a hand in producing this picture I immediately knew a few things, 1) it would have a down tempo pace, 2) The acting would be good and 3) that the cinematography would be good. I was right about all three.” See his full review below.


Far from the Madding Crowd

By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16


I had not read the book nor heard of the film Far From the Madding Crowd when I saw it. So, this review is from the point of view from someone with no prior background knowledge of the source material. Please keep that in mind, fans of the book.
When I saw that BBC had a hand in producing this picture I immediately knew a few things, 1) it would have a down tempo pace, 2) The acting would be good and 3) that the cinematography would be good. I was right about all three. Nevertheless, I had no expectations for the script which was inconsistent.


There are times when the dialogue flows well. The conversations fit the tone and nothing is over-the-top dramatic. And then, there are times when I rolled my eyes at the cliché lines. It’s that type of romance movie. It became apparent to me though, that the dialogue is specified to show character and relationships rather than good conversation. The dialogue succeeds in moving along the plot and expanding on the characters’ situations rather than creating conversational scenes. I can understand that, especially considering the genre of the movie. Yet, it still proved a bit problematic.


This film stars Carey Mulligan as an independent, head-strong protagonist and, what a wonderful job she does. She takes what could have been a very one-note character and makes her complex. Bathsheba (the protagonist) could have easily been portrayed as stubborn and inconsistent, but is instead portrayed as someone fighting for her equal rights as a woman and as a woman dealing with emotions for the first time. And, just her luck, she gets three men to fall in love with her. How about that for first relationship dealings?


The supporting cast does a fine job with a few hiccups. The standout among them is Michael Sheen who takes his supporting part and almost steals the show from the leading lady. Matthias Schoenaerts provides a steady consistency as the moral compass of the film and plays the untainted, instantly likable love interest well.


As for the aesthetics of the film, I was not disappointed. There are scenes of beautiful landscapes and breathtaking shots that aren’t necessarily needed, but are surely wanted for the eye-candy effect. They provide good transitions and help keep the pace of the movie in tact.


Because of the acting, cinematography and overall investing quality this film has over an audience, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. I’ll end on this note: I spoke to a couple of people at the theater after the film who had read the book. I asked them how accurate the film is and if it does the book justice. They both confidently said, “yes.” So, if you’re a fan of the book and were iffy about seeing the movie, I hope that testimonial might influence your decision to see this movie. This is in theaters now so, enjoy.


Credit: KIDS FIRST! Coming Attractions.

Pitch Perfect 2 – Perfect Comedy for Girls Night Out


The Bellas return in this sequel to Pitch Perfect. After a humiliating command performance at Lincoln Center, the Barden Bellas are taken out of the ACA-Circuit. In order to clear their name, and regain their status, they take on a seemingly impossible task: to win an International competition no American team has ever won. In order to accomplish this, they need to strengthen the bonds of friendship and sisterhood and blow away the competition with their amazing aca-magic. Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Hailee Steinfield, it a comedy ripe for girls night out!

Pitch Perfect 2

By Keefer C. B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14


This is a fun and compelling sequel. The Barden Bellas are back! Because of a embarrassing performance they become a laughing stock and, in order to restore their title they, enter a world competition which no American team has ever won.

If you loved Pitch Perfect then you are going to enjoy this film even more. Pitch Perfect 2 has updated music, new characters and a lot of laughs. You can see the first film to get in touch with the characters and story, but it’s not necessary.

The highlight of the entire film is the musical performances. Think of the last film and multiply it by 1,000. The Barden Bellas are now a tiny fish in a big pond up against acapella groups from all over the world. Even the famous group Pentatonix have a cameo appearance. This allows the film to showcase grand productions from all corners of the Earth.

The cast embrace their roles and voices. This is a character driven franchise. Like the first film, you have to buy into the absurdity of these over-the-top characters in order to enjoy it. After you do that, you will find the comedy funny and can fall in love with these characters. Actors like Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and many others make this film what it is. I also have to mention the comical cameos from Snoop Dogg, Davis Cross and even Keegan Michael Key who add to the amusement of this film.

The comedy style is shock humor and pop cultural references. This leads to a lot of jokes being hit or miss. Most of the shock humor comes from the two announcers, Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins. Their comments are insulting but the comedy comes from the fact that these people could not exist and still keep their jobs.

My favorite character is Emily (Hailee Steinfeld), the newest addition to the Bellas team. I love Steinfeld as an actress and I usually associate her with dramatic roles and not much for comedy. This film shows that not only can she carry a note but also be very funny.

I have a tie for my favorite scene. The first one is when the Bellas’ German rival team, Das Sound Machine performs at the world competition with Light’ em Up by the Fallout Boys. The other scene is equally good because it is Fat Amy singing a love song to her boyfriend, Bumper (Adam DeVine). One scene is epic, the other hilarious. Both are absolutely incredible.

The moral of this story is,  “Stay in touch with your true voice.” The Bellas, as a team, loose who they are, so they go to a retreat to understand each other. With the help of an old Bella member, they find their voice and become the great team they were before.

I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to 13- through 18-year-olds  There is adult humor and language that younger audiences shouldn’t watch, but for the older crowd it’s a  thoroughly entertaining film. This film opens in theaters May 15.

Pitch Perfect 2

By  Lainey A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13


I love this film because it is very funny and made me laugh constantly throughout the whole movie.  Pitch Perfect 2 employs enjoyable aspects from the original Pitch Perfect such as phenomenal music and amazing costumes, wicked humor, the commentators Gail (Elizabeth Banks) and John (John Michael Higgins) who are quite funny and the beautiful Beca (Anna Kendrick).

It is a bit racist in how it shows the three girls. Lilly (Hana Mae Lee) is an Asian who is more like a cartoon character than having any real personality.  Cynthia-Rose (Ester Dean) is a gay African American and Flo (Chrissie Fit) plays a South American.

This movie is about seven girls, soon to be eight, who make up the Bellas, an acapella group from Barden University.  They are known for their singing and dancing.  When they are performing in front of President and Mrs. Obama, Fat Amy has an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. After much ridicule from the press, the group is suspended and is unable to compete or recruit any new members.  They are devastated and intent on winning the Acapella World Championship in Copenhagen in order to regain their competitive status. They have to compete against the German group, DSM (Das Sound Machine) which is definitely their biggest competitor.  The Bellas are joined by a new member, Emily (Hailee Steinfield), whose mom (Katy Sagal) was a previous member of the group.

Pitch Perfect 2 is directed and produced by Elizabeth Banks. The screenplay is very well thought out and the plot is easy to follow. It has several subplots that help keep the action moving.  The actors are hilarious in this repeat performance.  Rebel Wilson really stands out as Fat Amy because she is completely over the top and steals every scene she is in.  There are lots of cameo appearances which keeps the viewer looking for familiar faces.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and strongly recommend it for ages 13 to 18 years old, due to the crude humor and sexual innuendos.

Credit: KIDS FIRST! Upcoming Attractions.


Crispy Treats for the Celiac-Aware New Brownie Thins from PARTNERS are a Must-Try this May!


New Brownie Thins from PARTNERS, A Tasteful Choice Company are made with cassava flour and contain no corn, soy or rice. A blend of five ancient grains makes Brownie Thins a crunchy, non-GMO snack that tops off any spring celebration.  I received samples and they really taste good! These are perfect for those family members and friends that need to eat Gluten-Free products.

Following are some tips (from our friends at PARTNERS) for hosting your gluten-free friends and family in May:


  • Leave salad dressings and sauces on the side – gluten can hide in surprising places, and it’s best to let each gluten expert determine what they can eat.
  • Make sure you have some inherently gluten-free treats on hand. Vegetables, cheeses and nuts are great snacks for everyone, and gluten-free friends won’t feel like they’ve disrupted the menu.
  • Check your labels – wheat-free does not necessarily mean gluten-free.
  • Prepare and serve gluten-free foods in a clean area of your kitchen, to ensure no traces of gluten make their way to particularly sensitive folks.

Visit the PARTNERS Free for All Kitchen line for additional gluten-free and non-GMO goodies to add to your May celebrations: Olive Oil & Sea Salt, Roasted Garlic & Rosemary, and Olive Oil & Herb crackers.

Self Disclosure: I received free samples of the PARTNERS Brownie Thins to facilitate this post.