Archives for July 2, 2016

The BFG – A Fantastic Fantasy!


Based on the book by Roald Dahl and directed by the iconic Steven Spielberg, a girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ryan R. comments, “I enjoyed watching the new Disney film, The BFG… I love the film for its CGI, which makes the animations look incredible and I also enjoyed its comedic moments.” Morgan B. adds, “The BFG’s character and graphics are shock and awe to me. His job as a dream catcher is in danger and I think I just found my new career goal – catching dreams and using them to make other people happy.” Brianna B. concludes, “The visuals are obviously something that stand out to me the most. They are clear, bright and engaging. They make the gap between the animated BFG and the real life character of Sophie very small.” See their full reviews below.
By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

This movie has giants, dreams, friendship and compassion all rolled up into one two-hour long movie that is a wonderful experience. The BFG’s character and graphics are shock and awe to me. His job as a dream catcher is in danger and I think I just found my new career goal – catching dreams and using them to make other people happy. The BFG is a complicated, humorous character with many aspects to him. Brilliant director Steven Spielberg adds yet another great movie to his resumé.

This must-see summer hit opens nationwide July 1, just in time to spend a hot summer day in a cool theater near you. It is more of a drama then a comedy even though you will laugh throughout the film. The movie is based on the book by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. I have added this book to my summer to do list.

The CGI animation in this film is top-quality and award winning. The scale between the humans and giants has been done before but in this film, it is truly extraordinary. The thought and details shown in every scene captivate you into believing you are on screen in this new make believe world. Giants, the dream country and giant country all come to life. The flipping of the world upside down and entering dream country is a memorable scene and my favorite. It is one of the many places you will find yourself wishing really existed or think that perhaps it does it somewhere.

The characters have incredible depth to them. Ruby Barnhill’s (Sophie) performance is extraordinary. Most of her scenes are in CGI and she had to use her imagination when acting out those scenes. She is the lead of this film and carries it well. There are few real humans until the second half and her connection with the BFG is heartwarming. Sophie is a kind, brave and sharp orphan who finds herself dwarfed in the world of giants.

Mark Rylance (The BFG) is fascinating, remarkable and a top notch actor. You can tell that he is kind and he sticks to what he believes in. He doesn’t care about what the other giants think about him he just wants to care for a little girl and catch dreams. I like how he thinks that it is wrong to eat humans. At least there is one giant we don’t have to run from. He is comical and humorous and his take on the English language will have you laughing out loud as the audience did when I watched this film. His new words will add to your vocabulary and have you smiling when you recall them.

The BFG meets the one and only Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) and the Queen herself would be proud of her performance, as I would definitely bow down in her presence. I find her beautiful, interesting, fair and funny.

When The BFG gives the Queen, her assistances, the guards, crazy dogs, Sophie and everyone in the room a taste of his favorite drink and everyone in the room starts whiz popping, it is hysterical. I loved this scene. Everyone in the theater could not stop laughing and I just joined in right along with them. The dogs in this scene are ridiculously entertaining when they skid along the floor while tooting away.
I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18. This is a family friendly film which kids will enjoy. Be forewarned that the scenes about bullying are unsettling and the huge giants look very lifelike and might scare younger kids. Some of them are mean. I give this film 5 out of 5 giant dream catcher stars.

By Ryan R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I enjoyed watching the new Disney film, The BFG. We get to see the works of three great storytellers together. Director Steven Spielberg collaborated with Walt Disney Studios to bring Roald Dahl’s classic book “The BFG” to life and turn it into a wonderful film. I love the film for its CGI, which makes the animations look incredible and I also enjoyed its comedic moments. In this film, we meet Sophie, an orphan who hates the all girls’ orphanage she is living in. Then one day, she spots the elderly big friendly giant (The BFG) who takes her away to Giant Country because he doesn’t want her to tell other people that she saw him. At first, Sophie is scared because she thinks he is going to hurt her but then she realizes that the giant is actually really friendly, unlike the other giants. The Big Friendly Giant is considered an outcast by the other giants because he refuses to eat children or people as they do. Sophie has an idea to enlist help from Queen Victoria to help keep the Big Friendly Giant safe and capture all the man eating giants from Giant Country. To see how the story unfolds, go see this film.

I appreciate the animations of this film because they are vivid, detailed, realistic and child friendly. The faces and the size of the giants are amazing. I also like this film because of its humor. It is great! I guarantee that this film will make you laugh at some point during the movie. I also like the designs of the scenes. They look extremely realistic – so much so, that you could easily think it is a real place. I love how the characters change throughout the film. However, what I didn’t like in this film is that there are a few scenes that are too intense for younger viewers. Also, some scenes got a little boring. But besides that, this film is fantastic.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend it to kids ages 6 to 18 and I think adults will like this as well. I also recommend this to people who like family, action, adventure and comedy movies. Make sure to see BFG, which opens July 1 in theaters nationwide.

Brianna Hope Beaton, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

This 2016 colorful film based on the book by Roald Dahl is great to watch and gives you a small look into where dreams come from. The 3D effects draws you into the film and make the characters much more fascinating with its dept, texture and a variety of colors.

Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a young girl that comes in contact with the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance-Voice) who, in spite of his frightening looks, we find to be a kind and good natured person. He is assumed to be an outcast by the rest of the giants due to his refusal to eat children like they do.

The visuals are obviously something that stand out to me the most. They are clear, bright and engaging. They make the gap between the animated BFG and the real life character of Sophie very small. Steven Spielberg directs this film so, of course it is authentic and believable. It has dark moments that are spread throughout the film that parents should be aware of when taking their young children to see it. This film highlights the admirable qualities of perseverance and bravery as it tells the story of a girl and a giant in a perilous world. My favorite character is the BFG because of his childlike demeanor. His speech brings softness and an innocent aspect to his character which makes him less of a monster and it accentuates how different he is from the rest of the antagonistic Giants. The BGF for the most part focuses on the relationship between Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant, but other characters include Mary (Rebecca Hall), Mr.Tibbs (Rafe Spall), The Queen (Penelope Wilton), and Bloodbottler (Bill Hader).

My favorite scene is when Sophie shoves herself into a disgusting green vegetable to hide from one of the giants. While she tries to get out of it, we see her feet, then her legs and more – covered in a green slimy substance, until she is fully out. This scene brought about sounds of disgust and laughter from the audience. That’s why it’s my favorite. Actress Ruby Barnhill plays her part extremely well. She acts just like any other ten year old kid with tons of questions and lots of curiosity. She is full of energy.
The BFG gears itself towards younger audiences and has a recurring theme about dreams coming true. One of my favorite inspirational quotes by Stephen Spielberg is “I don’t dream at night. I dream at day. I dream all day. I’m dreaming for living.” That message happens throughout the film as well.

I recommend this great family film for ages 7 to 14 and rate it 4 out of 5 stars. Even though I enjoy watching this film, I do feel that a couple of scenes are too long or unneeded altogether. The BFG opens in theaters on July 1st, so please check it out.


CinemAbility – Fantastic Historical Depiction


This moving documentary examines the ever-changing portrayals of disability story lines in film, TV and the web to see if the media has had a hand in transforming the societal inclusion of people with disabilities. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “I love this film because it doesn’t just look at Hollywood as discriminating against handicapped people. Instead, it looks at movies and movements that have really pushed for equality and it also features handicapped actors who tell the viewer how Hollywood can make improvements.” See his full review below.
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

There are many documentaries about the history of Hollywood, but none cover an important topic like this one this. CinemAbility shows the real history of handicapped actors in Hollywood and how many things need to be changed in the way they are treated.
This is an educational documentary that will leave you inspired and interested. It also has some humor from actors who are interviewed and many older classic films. The film starts in the late 19th century showing the first handicapped people in films. It goes all the way up to recent films. Many actors talk about their opinions on the matter and what it is like being handicapped. The documentary shows you some films that heavily mock the handicapped as well as films that represent handicapped people very well.
I love this film because it doesn’t just look at Hollywood as discriminating against handicapped people. Instead, it looks at movies and movements that have really pushed for equality and it also features handicapped actors who tell the viewer how Hollywood can make improvements. Its 98 minute length fits very well and keeps the viewer’s attention the whole time. The most inspirational point in this film is that it is directed by Jenni Gold, who is handicapped herself. She excels at showing that, no matter what people look like on the outside, they are first and foremost people on the inside with their own dreams and aspirations.
My favorite scene is when they talk about Ray Charles, a powerful musician who has been blind all his life. Ray, despite his disability, led a very productive life and became a very powerful and successful man. He proved that he is in charge of his life which is unique and interesting. Jamie Foxx also talks about what it was like to play Ray Charles and to be blind for twelve hours a day. It was inspirational and interesting to listen to him speak.
CinemAbility does have some mature topics, so I recommend it for ages 10 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars for fantastic directing, entertaining elements, interesting and educational material and a unique concept. I have to mention that it took close to 10 years to complete this film and was mainly possible due to a partnership between the Geena Davis Institute on Gender Media and Gold Pictures, a company founded by Jenni Gold. This film is playing in select theaters now.


AQUARIUM EXTERIOR TO BE TRANSFORMED BY MURAL DURING 2016 POW! WOW! LONG BEACH FESTIVAL The mural will highlight ocean life in conjunction with the Aquarium’s new Vanishing Animals exhibit and will be painted by a world-renowned artist from Portugal


The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific has been selected as a site for the 2016 POW! WOW! Long Beach festival, which brings world-renowned artists to the city to paint several large-scale murals over the course of one week (July 11 to 15, 2016). The Aquarium’s nearly 2,600-square-foot front wall will be painted by Portuguese street artist Pantonio (Antonio Correia). The mural will be on view at the Aquarium for several months until demolition begins for the construction of the Aquarium’s Pacific Visions wing. The mural will be informed by the Aquarium’s new Vanishing Animals exhibit, which educates the public about the potential for mass extinction in the ocean and what to do to prevent it. In addition, the Aquarium’s popular Night Dive event on July 14 will be POW! WOW!-themed and feature programming with participating artists and activities on the front lawn in view of the mural. “Art helps people make an emotional connection to the social and environmental issues of the day. It is our hope that this mural will leave a lasting impression with our visitors and inspire them to act on behalf of marine life facing extinction,” said Jerry Schubel, president and CEO, Aquarium of the Pacific.


Pantonio, who hails from Lisbon, Portugal, is a street artist whose work is characterized by dark blue and black imagery reminiscent of the ocean and organic life forms. Born in the Azores, he draws inspiration from the black rocks and ocean surrounding the islands. His work frequently refers to the sea, with sardines, cod, octopuses, ropes, boats, and even mermaids serving as subjects. His work also often carries social messages, echoing modern crises and aiming to disrupt the establishment. In April he painted a mural on one of the main streets of Chernobyl in the Ukraine to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the nuclear disaster. In 2014 he painted what is considered Europe’s largest mural in Paris’s 13th district, covering a wall 217 feet tall and 50 feet wide.


POW! WOW! originated in Honolulu, Hawaii, and has since expanded to include cities in many countries around the world, including Japan, Israel, Singapore, Jamaica, Guam, New Zealand, and Germany. POW! WOW! festivals include gallery shows, lecture series, schools for art and music, creative community spaces, concerts, and live art installations.


The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing our planet are explored by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders in search of sustainable solutions. The Aquarium is dedicated to conserving and building nature and nature’s services by building the interactions between and among peoples. Home to more than 11,000 animals, Aquarium exhibits include the Ocean Science Center, Molina Animal Care Center, and the new Horses and Dragons and Vanishing Animals exhibits. Beyond its animal exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages, from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists. The Aquarium has won a 2015 Travelers’ Choice Award for Aquariums, as awarded by TripAdvisor® travelers.

Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific. Photo Credit: Pantonio.


DISNEY’S PETE’S DRAGON MEETS DINOS, DANCING AND FUN FOR FAMILY JAM AT THE L.A. ZOO After-Hours Visit to L.A. Zoo Features "Pete's Dragon Photo Op," DJ Dance Party, Kids’ Karaoke, Crafts, Games, Food Trucks, Up-Close Animal Encounters, Keeper Talks, Access To Dinosaurs: Unextinct At The L.A. Zoo Exhibit and More

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FAMILY JAM AT THE L.A. ZOO, an after-hours opportunity for families to let their sense of adventure run wild, is set for Saturday, July 9, 2016, 6 to 9 pm, at the Zoo, with the theme “Dinos, Dragons & Dancing.”  Spotlighting Disney’s upcoming theatrical release Pete’s Dragon, the event includes a one-of-a-kind opportunity to follow clues in search of gifts, a family photo-op, and the chance to see the Zoo’s very own resident Komodo and bearded dragons.  Live music, karaoke, a DJ Dance Party, crafts and games are part of the fun, along with a Paint Party providing the opportunity to commemorate the Family Jam experience with a canvas to take home.  There are also up-close encounters with some of the Zoo’s smaller residents, keeper talks and viewing of some popular animal exhibits.  Headlining the entertainment is Close Encounters, a live karaoke band, and dinner or snacks are available for purchase from popular food trucks.  Visitors start the evening with “oohs and ahhs” as they come face-to-face with the life-size, lifelike prehistoric creatures of Dinosaurs: Unextinct at the L.A. Zoo.  They’ll leave the event, which is sponsored by 99 Cents Only Stores, Disney’sPete’s Dragon, and Solar Optimum, with souvenirs (available while supplies last), smiles and memories to last a lifetime.

Among the food trucks at Family Jam are Kona Ice Truck, Lobsta Truck, Rice Balls of Fire, The Lobos Truck, the Grilled Cheese Truck, Paradise Ice Cream and Austyn’s.

The landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing 1.75 million visitors each year, is home to a diverse collection of 1,100 animals representing 250 different species, many of which are rare or endangered.  Its lush grounds on 113 acres feature the LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles); Elephants of Asia; Campo Gorilla Reserve; Rainforest of the Americas, an extraordinary collection of endangered and exotic mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians living in spaces that exemplify their natural habitat in the rainforest biosphere; Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel; Chimpanzees of Mahale Mountains, home to one of the largest troops of chimpanzees in the United States; Red Ape Rain Forest, where visitors can walk among orangutans; the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo; one of the largest flocks of flamingos in any zoo in the world; a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants; and much more.  Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), whose members meet rigorous professional standards for animal welfare, the Zoo has achieved renown as an international leader in the preservation of endangered species and a conservation center for the care and study of wildlife.  The private, non-profit Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA), which has supported the Zoo in partnership with the City of Los Angeles for more than five decades and provides funding for and operates seven essential Zoo departments, has 60,000 member households representing more than 240,000 adults and children.  As evidence of the Zoo’s popularity, GLAZA attracts one of the largest membership bases of any cultural organization in Los Angeles.

A reimagining of Disney’s cherished family film, Pete’s Dragon is the adventure of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just so happens to be a dragon.  Pete’s Dragon stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Oscar® winner Robert Redford.  The film, which is directed by David Lowery, is written by Lowery & Toby Halbrooks based on a screenplay by Malcolm Marmorstein and produced by Jim Whitaker with Barrie M. Osborne serving as executive producer.  Disney’s Pete’s Dragon opens in U.S. theaters on August 12, 2016.

Programing subject to change.

The Los Angeles Zoo is located at 5333 Zoo Drive in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways.
For Family Jam tickets, which are $25 per adult and $20 per child, or $22 and $17 for GLAZA members, visit  For additional information, call (323) 644-6001.  Ticket prices include admittance into the Dinosaurs: Unextinct At The L.A. Zoo exhibit.  Food and beverages are not included in the ticket price.

Photo Credit: Jamie Pham. Credit: Los Angeles Zoo.