Archives for February 22, 2017

The Great Wall

When a mercenary warrior (Matt Damon) is imprisoned within the Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of the world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront the unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.

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The Great Wall

By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

The Great Wall is a fun monster movie and a good visual treat.  I really like the special effects, cinematography and costume design in this movie. This is one movie that monster movie fans will appreciate.

This movie is about William (Matt Damon), a traveler who comes to China with his friend Pero (Pedro Pascal) to find black powder. When they try to enter the Great Wall, the Chinese soldiers of the secret military group, Nameless Order, capture them and escort them to General Lin (Jing Tian) who holds them captive. A wave of alien monsters, known as Taoties, attacks the Great Wall. William and Pero heroically fight and save the order and earn the respect of the General, but they plan to betray the Nameless Order with the help of Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), another foreigner in search of black powder. Torn between joining his friends by betraying the Chinese and taking on the responsibility of saving them from this monster attack, William must make a choice.

Matt Damon portrays a believable noble warrior who needs to make a correct choice to redeem himself. Pedro Pascal, as Pero, is my favorite character as he delivers a show-stealing performance with a mixture of comedy and villainy. Jing Tian excellently presents her patriotism and the trust she has towards her people. Willem Dafoe nicely presents a greedy man who will do anything for the black powder.

The special effects for the creatures by Andrew Baker are well executed with many impressive details. During the battle scenes, the creatures look real with excellent slow motion shots. The cinematography by Stuart Dryburgh and Xiaoding Zhao is colorful with outstanding shots of the desert and the Great Wall. My favorite scene is the first battle scene because of the organized battle tactics of the Nameless Order. My only issue with the movie is that some of the line deliveries are a little off.

The Great Wall has a good message about redemption. William is, by no means, a true role model, but he is able to redeem his wrongs by helping the Chinese. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18 as some battle scenes may be too frightening for younger audiences. This film opens in theaters on February 17rd, so go and check it out.

The Great Wall

By Carla Paz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12


I like the movie The Great Wall because of its beautiful cinematography, great acting and its message. However, I don’t like that the writers lean toward a romantic relationship between two of the main characters that never happens. The romantic relationship in The Great Wall movie is unneeded.

The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau, is an epic, historical, fictional, action-adventure film, telling the story of how two adventurers, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are searching for black powder. After being attacked by some weird monsters, they end up at a Chinese military base.  The leader, Commander Lin (Jing Tian), running the military group named “The Nameless Order” is trying to keep China safe from beasts that attack every 60 years.

The cinematography is spectacular. The scenes and landscapes are stunning.  There is a beautiful scene when William and Tovar ride their horses through the mountains. I saw this movie in 3D and it felt as if I was actually there. In one of the scenes, William falls off the Great Wall and I got scared since it felt so real. The CGI of the monsters looks very realistic. When the monsters attacked, I felt as if they were over me.

This film has a star-studded cast. Matt Damon, who playing the lead role of William, shows his fighting and darts skills. I like the scenes of him battling the enemy with his combat skills. I also like how the actor for Commander Lin acted as a fierce fighter with amazing expert skills. Tovar is very entertaining with his funny comments and saying words in Spanish in the middle of some situations.

My favorite characters are Commander Lin and Tovar. Commander Lin is very independent and fierce in a time when women are expected to stay home and take care of their children without any power. Tovar is a very humorous, even in serious situations.

There are multiple messages in this film. One message is to be strong and not to have fears. This film also teaches girls to be confident, fierce and to fight for your people.

I recommend this movie to ages 12 to 17 since it does contain some mild profanity and moderate portrayals of violence. I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars. You can find this movie in theaters now so, go check it out!


My Little Pony – Still Great For Kids With Bright Colors, Simple but Hilarious Jokes and Educational Morals.


Join Twilight Sparkle and her best pony pals as they explore one of the most beautiful places in Equestria. In the Crystal Empire, Twilight must find out if there is a spy in the empire. She also dedicates herself to helping a reformed pony learn the magic of friendship. Meanwhile, the Mane Six will work together to ensure a ceremony for Cadences and Shining Armor’s new baby goes as planned. With the power of friendship, there is nothing the ponies can’t do! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “I love watching the My Little Pony series and this season does not disappoint. I was captivated by the unique plot and relatable characters.” Linda D. adds, “These episodes are educating, exciting and captivating. I felt happy throughout the entire film and learned more about friendship.” Imani B. wraps it up with, “It is a very positive story. I always have a strong liking towards this group of ponies’ adventures because of their fun and exciting personalities. Friendship is the main theme of this collection…” See their full reviews below.



My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Exploring the Crystal Empire

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14




I love watching the My Little Pony series and this season does not disappoint. I was captivated by the unique plot and relatable characters. This new season has around 110 minutes of fun and exciting adventures that are both entertaining and educational.


The main purpose of My Little Pony is to educate both kids and adults about friendship and everyday issues. It teaches these lessons in a variety of ways, with each and every episode having its own independent adventure that contains hilarious comedy and even action from time to time.


There are five episodes total on DVD and they all focus on adventures around the Crystal Empire, a city in the My Little Pony world. Each adventure is completely different from the others. One is a time travel adventure, another is about protecting the Crystal Empire from freezing weather and another is about making friends with a creature that everyone assumes to be a monster. Despite the differences in each episode, they are all entertaining, unique and have wonderful messages behind them.


The production quality of this animated series has never gone down, but instead continues to improve. One key thing that surprises me most is the plot and the message behind the plot. This season fantastically creates new and interesting elements to continue the exciting journey of the characters. Speaking of characters, the voice-over work is still as emotional, original and natural as it was in the first episode.


Out of the five episodes, my favorite is the last one called The Times They are A Changeling. In this episode, one of the characters discovers a creature known as a changeling that can take the form of any other character. Unlike the rest of his species, he is not driven by hate and anger. The changeling struggles to prove to others that he is not a monster but just someone who wants a friend. This is a fantastic moral because it talks about how one specific person does not reflect what their entire race or nation is doing and should not be judged for the actions of others. It is a marvelous message that I feel is very important for both kids and adults to listen to in today’s world.


My Little Pony is still great for kids, with bright colors, simple but hilarious jokes, and educational morals. But this series also appeals to adults with its compelling stories, relatable characters and morals that can apply to adults as much as they do to kids. I give My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Exploring the Crystal Empire 5 out of 5 stars for its beautiful animation, wonderful episodes, entertaining plot and compelling morals. This DVD is available now so, go check it out.



My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Exploring the Crystal Empire

By Linda D., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12


I love this My Little Pony DVD! These episodes are educating, exciting and captivating. I felt happy throughout the entire film and learned more about friendship. This film follows an alicorn, a unicorn and a pegasus, named Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and her pet dragon, Spike (Cathy Weseluck) on their adventures in saving Equestria and the Crystal Empire.

In the first episode, Twilight Sparkle and Spike go on a quest to save the friendship between the ponies from Starlight Glimmer. Starlight Glimmer goes back in time to make sure Rainbow Dash (Ashleigh Ball) never creates a sonic boom. Twilight Sparkle has to figure out a way to stop Starlight Glimmer and save the friendship between the ponies.

In the second episode, the eight ponies attend a Crystalling for Twilight’s baby brother, Shining Armour (Andrew Francis) who is also an alicorn. A baby, named Flurry Heart, cannot control her powers and destroys the crystal heart, a major part of the Crystalling ceremony. The team now must work together to fix the heart before the ceremony begins. In the final episode, an unexpected friendship forms between Spike and the feared changeling.

The greatest feature of this film is the value of friendship. I learned many lessons, including how you can be friends with anyone, how you can reconnect with old friends, and how you can make a friend of an enemy. Another great quality of the film was the many different personalities of the ponies, which simulated the diversity of the real world. My favorite character in this film was Rainbow Dash because she is loyal, strong, and courageous. My favorite part is when Twilight Sparkle and her friends first meet Flurry Heart, because she is so cute and everyone surprisingly finds out she had strong magical powers.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars because I was both informed and entertained by Twilight Sparkle and her friend’s adventures. I would recommend this film for ages 4 to 10 because children this age may be excited to learn about friendship from mystical creatures. This film is out on DVD now, so make sure to watch it.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Exploring the Crystal Empire

By Imani Baptiste-Green, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15




I really enjoyed My Little Pony: Exploring the Crystal Empire. It is a very positive story. I always have a strong liking towards this group of ponies’ adventures because of their fun and exciting personalities. Friendship is the main theme of this collection of five episodes and a sing-along. Viewers are invited to join the Equestria crew for fun filled magical adventures filled with great spirit, along with interactive scenes which younger ages will enjoy.


Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and her friends go on an adventure to explore the wonderful Crystal Empire. They are encountered by old enemies and obstacles, but are able to make new friendships along the way.


I have two scenes that are my favorites. The first is when Twilight finally connects with Starlight resulting in her to change her unfriendly ways and learn the true meaning of friendship. This is a very good representation showing how people are able to change no matter what the circumstances. Also, it represents how new friendships can be made within or without conflicts. My other favorite scene is the sing-along with all of the Equestria girls. I really like the songs because the ponies explain how friendship can change the world and make it a better place. Without friendship, the magic in Equestria isn’t complete! Some other positive aspects of the movie are how every episode deals with friendship and the growth of it. Also, every episode has vibrant colors, great animation and, of course, a great cast!
The message prevalent in this DVD collection is about how strong friendships are for the entire world. Twilight Sparkle, along with her other friends, make is very clear throughout the film how powerful their friendship is. They discuss how they would not know what they would do without each other. Friendship is a powerful source of magic that the kids learn about throughout this film which makes it so fun and magical.


I rate this film 4 ½ out of 5 stars for its wonderful animation, bright colors, music and interesting storyline. I recommend this film for ages 5 through 10 because of its kid friendly theme. Parents will enjoy watching this as well because it is very family friendly. My Little Pony: Exploring the Crystal Empire is available now on DVD.





Face-To-Face Giraffe Feedings Debut at L.A. Zoo




Daily 11 am and 2:30 pm,
Weather Permitting

Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens

 What’s it like to stand face-to-face with a giraffe?  Find out daily at the Los Angeles Zoo’s new interactive Giraffe Feedings at 11 am and 2:30 pm, which officially debuts this month as part of the Zoo’s yearlong 50th anniversary “ZooLAbration.”  At Giraffe Feedings, guests learn about the world’s tallest land mammal from Zoo Education Specialists, who share facts about the Masai giraffes’ daily lives at the Zoo, where they can eat 70 to 80 pounds of up to 100 different species of plants a day and feed for 16 to 20 hours.

“Standing 16-20 feet tall, giraffes have always been a favorite as they tower over our guests,” says Dan Keeffe, Curator of Education. “But now at the L.A. Zoo, guests of all ages can get up close and personal with one of our Masai giraffes, look into her eyes, and even hear her snort.  When she extends her 14-inch long tongue to grab the food right out of your hand, it’s an unforgettable experience that fosters a deeper connection to a species that needs our help.”

Once classified as being of “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of giraffes moved one step closer to “Endangered” in December, 2016.  Due to threats such as habitat loss and poaching, giraffe populations in Africa are declining precipitously, leading the IUCN to now classify them as “Vulnerable.” Not only do the L.A. Zoo and other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) supply funding for field conservation efforts aimed at protecting threatened animals like the giraffe, AZA institutions are uniquely positioned to provide information and insights on reproductive biology, behavior, nutrition, animal health, and genetics that are invaluable to these efforts.

Giraffe Feedings are $5 per person with paid Zoo admission, which is $20 for general admission (ages 13 to 61); $17 for seniors (ages 62+), and $15 for children (ages 2 to 12) for non-members.  Guests can purchase tickets (cash only) for the Giraffe Feedings at the exhibit just prior to start times for the activity, which is subject to weather-related changes, especially on rainy days.

The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens marks its 50th anniversary with a yearlong “ZooLAbration” of its November 28, 1966, opening that spotlights not only its key role as a world-class destination and an important community asset but also its critical successes in conservation, quality of life and premier care for animals.  Having recently completed a $172 million master plan which significantly improved the Zoo facility, the 50th anniversary coincides with the early planning stages of a new Master Plan for the future.  The landmark Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, drawing nearly 1.8 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, as well as a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants.  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 L.A. Zoo’s lush grounds on 113 acres feature 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; 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 LAIR (Living Amphibians, Invertebrates, and Reptiles); Elephants of Asia; Campo Gorilla Reserve; and one of the largest flocks of flamingos in any zoo in the world.  Among other highlights are an extraordinary, hands-on Hippo Encounter; the Winnick Family Children’s Zoo and Muriel’s Ranch animal contact area; the Tom Mankiewicz Conservation Carousel; a variety of daily opportunities to learn more about animals, including close-up visits, special feedings and intriguing talks; and much more.  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.

The Los Angeles Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways.  5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA  90027.  Free parking is available.  For additional information, contact (323) 644-4200 or visit


Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo.

Mason Regional Park Welcomes Babychella Family Art & Music Festival March 12

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The County of Orange and OC Parks are pleased to welcome the inaugural Babychella Family Art & Music Festival at Mason Regional Park in Irvine on Sunday, March 12 from 12 – 4 p.m. This free, family-friendly event invites parents and children to enjoy entertainment and activities in the park’s picturesque springtime setting.


Babychella Family Art & Music Festival will offer a variety of engaging activities for children including story time, face painting, and an interactive bubble village. Find a spot on the grass near the main stage and enjoy beloved songs and fun-filled sing-alongs fit for the whole family.


Participate in mommy, daddy and me yoga, pose for pictures in themed photo booths, and take part in various hands-on arts and crafts. Discover the newest trends from popular baby brands on-site and hear from family-oriented educational speakers. A kids’ costume contest will award a $200 gift card for the best bohemian festival style.


Eats from local food trucks will be available for purchase. Bringing blankets and lawn chairs is recommended. Restrooms and baby changing areas will be available. Activities planned are perfect for children five years and under, but enjoyable for all ages. The festival will take place rain or shine.

Babychella is also excited to have a private breastfeeding area as well.

Presented by OC Parks and produced by Hampton Productions. For more information visit

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March 12 – Babychella Family Arts & Music Festival

12 – 4 p.m.

Event Cost: FREE

Parking: FREE

Location: William R. Mason Regional Park

18712 University Drive Irvine, CA 92612


Contact: (949) 923-2220

Credit: OC Parks.  Photo Credit: Rachel Gist.

Murphy is Pet of the Week!


Goodness and Murphy will follow you all the days of your life if you take home this dear, lovable little senior. Murphy seems to be a pit bull/boxer mix, and he’s nothing but good. He gently takes treats from your hand and also loves to play. Murphy wants you to know that being 8 years old doesn’t mean he has to dump the frisky! Meet Murphy on the shelter side of the Companion Animal Village at 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A568772.


(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)


Credit: Courtesy of the Companion Animal Village.