Archives for March 2018

Tomb Raider (2018) – A Most Enjoyable Video Game Adaptation!

Lara Croft is the fiercely independent daughter of an eccentric adventurer who vanished years earlier. Hoping to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Croft embarks on a perilous journey to his last-known destination — a fabled tomb on a mythical island that might be somewhere off the coast of Japan. The stakes couldn’t be higher as Lara must rely on her sharp mind, blind faith and stubborn spirit to venture into the unknown. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “…one of the more enjoyable video game adaptations. The acting and the direction provide the same sense of adventure and excitement as the video game. This is sure to be a must-see watch for fans of Lara Croft or anything adventure related.” Morgan B. adds, “Mysteries, stupendous graphics, a terrific story and action all make this one awesome film! I love the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Tomb Raider has just topped it. The ending had me breathless.” See their full reviews below.

By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Tomb Raider is one of the more enjoyable video game adaptations. The acting and the direction provide the same sense of adventure and excitement as the video game. This is sure to be a must-see watch for fans of Lara Croft or anything adventure related.

The story follows Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander), an intelligent yet reckless thrill-seeker, who embarks on an adventure unlike any other, when she finds evidence of her father’s disappearance. Seeking to solve the mystery of Richard Croft (Dominic West), Lara enlists the help of Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a ship captain. However, their adventure lands up in the worst when their ship crashes to Yamatai. Lara soon finds herself in the hands of Matthias Vogel (Walton Goggins), a rival archeologist who will do anything to unlock the tomb within Yamatai. Realizing the tomb will unleash global genocide, Lara must find a way to stop Vogel while discovering secrets about her father.

Alicia Vikander, as Lara Croft, is my favorite character and splendidly presents the character of Lara Croft and her struggle/rise to become the well-known “Tomb Raider.” Her acerbic wit and vulnerability add a relatable extension to the character. Dominic West, as Richard Croft, excellently delivers his love for Lara and adventure. His mystery adds to plot, which leaves you wanting to know more about it at every turn. Daniel Wu, as Lu Ren, is a capable and funny companion to Lara and he shows a caring need to help the poor. Walton Goggins, as Matthias Vogel, portrays a threatening, yet over the top performance as the main villain, and it works for the most part. His involvement in the Croft conspiracy is interesting as well.

Roar Uthaug incredibly directs the movie with a knowledge of the video games, resulting in a brisk pace from one scene to the next. My favorite scene is when Lara has to find a way out of a plane which is slowly falling off of a river bank. It is extremely intense and it reminded of me of fun, innovative levels from the Uncharted and Tomb Raider games. My problem with the movie is, despite a superb first half, the second half falls from an overreliance on CGI and over-the-top scenarios, often leading to unintentional comedy. It feels jarring when compared to such a first half.

The message of the movie is to always be hopeful, as this allows Lara to keep fighting, even in the toughest of times. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 because of its intense action. The movie releases in theaters on March 16, 2018 so check it out.

Tomb Raider
By Morgan B. Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Mysteries, stupendous graphics, a terrific story and action all make this one awesome film! I love the original Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Tomb Raider has just topped it. The ending had me breathless.

The astonishing graphics are crazy. The ancient tomb is amazing. Everything looks so realistic and very magical. I would love to travel through it and see the wonders inside. Another scene that has a lot of fantastic graphics is the one where Lara Croft and her new companion are caught in a humongous storm. The water looks stormy and crystal clear and I loved this scene because I felt cold and scared while watching it.

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the kind of girl that you don’t want to mess with. After all, she raids tombs and runs after villains, and these happen to be her best qualities. Also, she has a kindhearted, lovable side that wants her father back desperately after his mysterious disappearance seven years ago. She shows both sides of her personality and makes sure that she isn’t too nice or too mean. Lara Croft is also a good role model for girls who want to stand up for themselves and people who want to learn self-defense. These are the reasons why she is my favorite character. Yes, she knows how to shoot a bow and arrow. Watching all of the various fighting styles and action scenes Alicia Vikander is able to pull off is entertaining.

My favorite scene is when Lara Croft and Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) are trying to escape the tomb and the tomb collapses. I also loved the fact that Lara shows a bit of both sides in this scene because she fighting and also knows that a dreadful fate awaits her father.

The story line is easy to follow and a bit cliché, but worth watching due to the scenery and of course the treasure hunt. The treasure and the underground cave are amazing discoveries. Watch your step because each step is a risk. After all, you might right set off a booby trap or two. The end leads you to believe that there will be more Lara Croft stories in the future.

This is a great first film to reintroduce this powerful female adventure seeking, action figure. The 2001 Lara Croft is very self-assured, tough, smart and fearless.  In this movie, she is very young and not sure of herself, but she is a quick learner, although a bit naive. She has room to grow until she becomes the Angelina Jolie version. 2018 she is still not sure of herself

Tomb Raider has a few messages. They include: standing up for yourself when you’re in danger, helping others when they are in need, being yourself and not being afraid to do the impossible.  Another message is the value of a good education which helps Lara solve puzzles throughout the tomb.

I give this film5 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. Tomb Raider does have a lot of violence and intense action which is bit too much for younger kids. Tomb Raider comes out in theaters on March 16,  2018 so be sure to check it out.


Photo credit: © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc.

Take a Musical Journey to the Land of Yangalele with Papa Siama and Auntie Dallas First Children's Album Release from Siama Matuzungidi, Available on March 23

With their lively interactive world music concerts and “instrument petting zoos” around the Twin Cities, Congolese-American artist “Papa Siama” Matuzungidi and singer/emcee “Auntie Dallas” Johnson are introducing children to African culture, rhythms and music. Inspired by happy experiences with their growing young fan base, Siama and Dallas will release an album of new original rumba songs and rhythms called Land of Yangalele this spring.


As Siama says in the opening track, “Welcome to Bas Congo, land of yangalele, smiles, games, dancing and music.” These capture the feeling of the all-ages sing-alongs which Siama remembers from his childhood in rural Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo. After dinner, generations of family and friends would sit outside under the stars to share songs and stories together.

Congolese guitar man Siama (“see-AHmah”) enjoyed a prolific soukous career in Africa during the 1970s and ‘80s. Over his two decades in the United States, Siama has emerged as one of Minnesota’s foremost voices of global roots music. His intricate guitar style, spirited vocals and feel-good songs make him a crowd favorite. Dallas Johnson’s robust background in music, storytelling and community arts organizing makes their all-ages shows distinctly educational and interactive as well as entertaining.

Using traditional instruments and lyrics in English, Swahili, Lingala and Kikongo, this new recording provides listeners an opportunity to learn about a vibrant African culture through engaging music.  Dallas’ strong female voice adds just the right harmony to Siama’s deep vocals and Siama performs most of the instruments himself, employing acoustic guitar and bass as well as traditional instruments like balafon (calabash marimba), mbira (thumb piano), and Jamaican rumba box.  Dallas adds fun flavors like penny whistle and toy piano and David Tullis drives the sound with conga drums.

Audience participation is expected from the very first track, “Welcome Bakongo Chant,” and continues with “Monkey Game”, “Ko Yimbi Ko” (No Hawk, No) and “Auntie’s Song” (Yangalele). “It’s So Easy To Make a Song” and “ABCD” celebrate a child’s power to create and learn, a love for the natural world is evident in songs like “Sweet Water,” and a yearning for peace and freedom shines in, ”When We’re Free” and “Nalingi Bosembo” (Peace Lullaby).

The colorful album liner notes include lyrics and guitar chords, a glossary (“Yangalele” means happiness in Kikongo), an African map, pictures of instruments, and a fun quiz to enhance the educational fun relating to these 10 tracks. Discover more and download the lyrics and a coloring page by award-winning cover illustrator Kayla Harren at

Land of Yangalele is available directly from now, and it will be available from various retailers on March 23. Music videos and several public family concerts are planned at Twin Cities libraries and community venues this spring.

Watch a special Twin Cities PBS program about Siama’s life and music here or watch him playing mbira with singing birds near the headwaters of the Mississippi River on his YouTube channel.

This music is fun and lively and I really recommend this one for younger children! They will enjoy dancing to this CD!~SoCal City Kids.

Self Disclosure: Information and images were provided by Sugar Mountain PR. I also received a free CD but only feature CD’s that I recommend. 

L.A. Zoo’s Big Bunny’s Spring Fling

BIG BUNNY’S SPRING FLING at the Los Angeles Zoo celebrates the season with three bountiful days of “EGG-citing” adventure from Friday, March 30, to Sunday, April 1, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fun for youngsters includes opportunities like a wild flower and vegetable seed-planting craft station presented by 99 Cents Only Stores, bunny nose and whisker face painting, entertainment by Kiddle Karoo’s Easter Adventure Show at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., strolling costumed “Spring Fairy” characters, photos with a “Big Bunny” character for a nominal fee, and two special keeper talks throughout the Zoo at 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. For more family fun, join the Spring Dance Party from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with special games and audience participation at 11:30 a.m.,1:30 p.m., and 3 p.m. Rounding out the activities are an “EGG-ucation Station” to give inquisitive guests a chance to learn about rabbit senses, communication, and grooming habits and special up-close Animals & You presentations at 10:4511:45, and 12:45 featuring bunnies and other fuzzy critters.

Programming subject to change.

Friday, March 30 through Sunday, April 1, 2018, 10 4 p.m.
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens,
5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90027
All Big Bunny’s Spring Fling activities are free with paid Zoo admission, which is $21 for general admission (ages 13 to 61), $18 for seniors (ages 62+), and $16 for children (ages 2 to 12). No ticket is required for children under age two.  Admission for Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association members is free.
Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), which holds member institutions to rigorous professional standards for animal welfare, the Los Angeles Zoo is renowned as an international leader in the preservation of endangered species and a conservation center for the care and study of wildlife. Drawing nearly 1.8 million visitors each year, the L.A. Zoo 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 a botanical collection comprising over 800 different plant species with approximately 7,000 individual plants. The Zoo is located in Griffith Park at the junction of the Ventura (134) and Golden State (5) freeways. The Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For information, call (323) 644-4200 or visit the L.A. Zoo website at


GLAZA/ Jamie Pham

Shawn Colvin ‘The Starlighter’ can be found on Amazon! Fun music that young children will love!

GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin released her Amazon Originals album this past February, The Starlighteran album of songs adapted from the children’s music book “Lullabies and Night Songs.” The Starlighter is available exclusively for purchase and stream on Amazon Music.


Two other music videos – of the title track, The Starlighter,” and “Minnie and Winnie” – have been released so far. These videos are based on Victorian paper theatres and the illustration style of children’s books from the same era, and were created by the Manchester, UK/Los Angeles-based motion design studio WeFail. Each scene contains over one hundred layered illustrations, and every element in the video was drawn using a digital tablet before being animated by hand.

This is fun music that young children will love! ~SoCal City Kids.


More about The Starlighter

As an eight-year-old girl growing up in Vermillion, South Dakota, Colvin’s mother and father presented her with “Lullabies and Night Songs,” a children’s music book that joined famed 20th century American composer Alec Wilder’s arrangements with the fantastical artwork of “Where the Wild Things Are” author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. In 1998, on the cusp of becoming a parent herself, she returned to its pages for her album, Holiday Songs and Lullabies, which featured updated takes on several selections from Wilder and Sendak’s book.

Now,19 years later, she has revisited the book once again for her newest release, The Starlighter, Colvin’s tenth solo effort overall. The album finds the GRAMMY-winning singer, songwriter and guitarist reaching into her past in the service of crafting a fresh and thoroughly unique offering—one that resonates with the warmth and tenderness of poignant familial experience and remembrance.The Starlighter’s 14 tracks are a mix of traditional numbers and children’s standards, all of them culled from the pages of Wilder and Sendak’s transformative book.

The selections from “Lullabies and Night Songs” that Colvin chose for The Starlighter run the gamut from traditional fare like “Hush Little Baby” and “Raisins and Almonds,” to “Minnie and Winnie,” with prose by 19th century Poet Laureate of Great Britain Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and “Cradle Song,” including lyrics by celebrated English poet William Blake. As for how she went about choosing which pieces to adapt, Colvin admits it wasn’t easy. “There wasn’t a dud among them,” she says. “But we wanted to give the record some dynamics in terms of the feel, so we made sure to choose some upbeat songs, because I sort of tend toward the melancholy, slower, more hypnotic tunes.”


More about Shawn Colvin



Shawn Colvin by Joseph Llanes


The Starlighter arrives on the heels of two recent, acclaimed releases from Shawn Colvin. In June 2016, Colvin and longtime friend Steve Earle united on the duo album, Colvin & Earle. An expanded 20th anniversary release of A Few Small Repairs, Colvin’s seminal breakthrough album, was also released in September 2017. Colvin marked the occasion by undertaking a seven-week U.S. tour in which she and her band performed the album in its entirety.


This month, Colvin has embarked on a multi-city tour with Lyle Lovett. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit

Connect with Shawn Colvin
Website – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – Youtube





The Starlighter

Track List


1. The Starlighter
2. Raisins and Almonds
3. Go Tell Aunt Rhody
4. Minnie and Winnie
5. Sleep, Baby, Sleep
6. Many Millions Years Ago
7. The Huntsman
8. The Cuckoo Is A Pretty Bird
9. Night
10. The Journey
11. Bobby Shaftoe
12. The Nut Tree
13. Hush, Little Baby
14. Cradle Song

Credit: Sugar Mountain PR. Images were also provided and a CD may have been received. 

Love, Simon – Exceptional Love Story About a Closeted Gay Teen

Nick Robinson stars as Simon in Twentieth Century Fox’s LOVE, SIMON. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.

Everyone deserves a great love story, but for 17-year-old Simon Spier, it’s a little more complicated. He hasn’t told his family or friends that he’s gay, and he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous classmate that he’s fallen for online. Resolving both issues proves hilarious, terrifying and life-changing. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Calista B. comments, “I am not a big fan of love stories. I find them very cliché and not that enjoyable to watch. This movie is an exception! I actually really like the romance in this movie.” See her full review below.

Love, Simon
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

I’m not the typical 14-year-old girl. I am not a big fan of love stories. I find them very cliché and not that enjoyable to watch. This movie is an exception! I actually really like the romance in this movie.

This film is about a closeted gay teen named Simon (Nick Robinson) who, after learning about another gay kid on a school website, begins to search for him while also figuring out how to come out.

The most important aspect of this movie is, of course, the fact that this is a gay love story. I feel like this movie handles the whole thing very well and very respectfully. It’s a very positive and inspirational film. But it’s also a gay love story in mainstream media. This is not an Indie film. It is a story about LGBT love that is in wide release. I believe this movie makes a very big step in normalizing LGBT characters in mainstream media, made specifically for teens.

But this movie isn’t just amazing for that. I love this story in general. It’s kind of a mystery and comedy with a little touch of love. Who is Blue? You really get into the mystery. I remember tensing up and whispering to myself whenever I was scared for the characters. I became so invested in them and hoped it was the person I wanted it to be. It is also about friendship and how fragile our friendships can be and how we use and treat people.

The characters boil down to one trait as their whole personality, but I still liked them. I would have liked to see more depth in Simon’s friend circle. I like Abby’s (Alexandra Shipp) character the most. She’s Simon’s newest friend who has just moved from D.C. and it seems like every guy is interested in her. But she is not the typical “hot teen, mean girl,” she is kind. Simon, of course, is a total show stealer. Not surprising at all, Simon is a charming character who you wish you were best friends with too. You just want him to find Blue so he can be happy because, as the movie posters say, “Everyone deserves a great Love Story.”

My only issues with this movie come down to how weird the theatre teacher and the vice principal are. They are a little over the top. While I liked Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell), she swore at students (which isn’t allowed), even though they deserved it. And, it felt as if the vice principal (Tony Hale) clearly wanted to be seen as cool, but he ends up being way too invested in people’s love lives.

All in all, I love this romantic comedy and give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It comes out March 16, 2018 so be sure to check it out.


Love, Simon – Exceptional Love Story About a Closeted Gay Teen.

Why Taking Care of Yourself Is So Important

Life can become incredibly overwhelming at times. We can often lose sight of the importance of taking care of ourselves with so many other things to attend to. Yet we cannot serve everyone else or accomplish everything we need to if we are not in complete physical, emotional, and mental health. Below are some tips to help keep yourself in the best shape possible so that you can take on each day with enthusiasm and energy.

  1. Get a Great Night Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important facets of self-care, yet it is often overlooked. For those who experience chronic back pain sleeping can be even more difficult. However, you shouldn’t let your pain hold you back from sweet dreams. Purchase a specialty mattress designed to assuage back pain today.


  1. Make Sure You Are Financially Stable

If there are things in your life that are causing you significant stress, then you need to deal with them so that you can live your life to the fullest. Finances are one very common source of stress in people’s lives. One low stress way to diversify your portfolio is to engage in online stock trading.


  1. Take Time to Unwind

Life is never going to slow down and wait for you, so you need to schedule time for yourself. Engage in fun things that aren’t productive from time to time. Your overworked brain and body will thank you. If you don’t know what you’d find fun you may want to try an online casino or an online slot machine.


  1. Find a Hobby

If you’re constantly worrying about other people’s desires and what other people need, then you will never be truly happy. Take time to explore things that you are interested in. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that you could earn money from, but it could be. Many people consider blog writing as a way to express themselves while acquiring extra income. If you would like to go with this suggestion, then you will need to find a website hosting provider. After that decide your brand, style, and content, and you’re on your way.


  1. Improve Your Sight

Diminished sight can complicate one’s life dramatically. Constantly having to squint, strain, and fumble for glasses or contacts can add stress, lost time, and money spent on one’s life. Even if you were born with extremely poor eyesight, you don’t have to live life like this any longer. Consider Lasik surgery today if you never want to have to worry about your sight again. Make your life happy and stress-free with perfect eyesight after laser eye surgery.


  1. Don’t Lose Sight of the Life You Want to Live

Many people say to never focus on material things, yet sometimes they can greatly improve our lives and our well-being. If there is something you truly want, then depriving yourself of it will only diminish your quality of life. For instance, if you are not satisfied with the home you currently live in, find a new residence. Don’t just choose any home; choose one that meets as many of your qualifications as possible. If it would make you happy to provide your children with a safe outdoor playing space, then have one installed.  Don’t go crazy financially if it would put you in a precarious position or require you to go into immense debt. Yet it’s important to not only think of being frugal if you don’t have to be. It is okay to indulge yourself, especially if it will enhance your quality of life for a long time.

Life is short, so we need to enjoy it and live it fully rather than just letting it pass us by. However, we can only do that if we pay attention to our needs and desires as well as our health. Evaluating your current state of mind, body, and heart periodically will help to make sure that you are on the path to a fulfilling life.


Life is all about balance. We can’t constantly indulge ourselves for we will never achieve anything, yet we can’t constantly toil for we will never find any joy or happiness. However, in this age of workaholics, the latter tends to be much more prevalent. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all of life’s trials and tribulations, then try implementing one of the above suggestions. You will feel much better if your life is balanced between work and pleasure. While it is important to work hard, it is also crucially important to take care of yourself.

Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day With Good Greens Garden Lites® Offers Veggies Made Great Superfood Veggie Cakes, Blueberry Oat Muffins And Ninja Power Muffins

 Garden Lites®, the delicious vegetable company and the leader in unique veggie-rich foods, is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with a lineup of incredibly “green” products, all offering veggies made great. Consumer demand across the U.S. keeps growing for Garden Lites products, which always have vegetables as the first ingredients.  The total line is made with only clean/simple ingredients, is non-GMO certified, gluten free, nut free and always delicious. 

This St. Patrick’s Day, share the luck of the Irish with three Super Green delicious, nutritious powerhouse foods from Garden Lites including:


•  Garden Lites Blueberry Oat Muffins: You’ll never believe the first ingredient in Garden Lites Blueberry Oat Muffins is zucchini!  Heat them in a microwave to enjoy a chocolate lava cake experience or a delightful blueberry packed muffin, both for only 120 calories. All Garden Lites Muffins are Non-GMO and deliciously moist and a great source of fiber.  They are also all allergy-friendly, gluten, and nut free.


•  Garden Lites Superfood Veggie Cakes: These green veggie cakes are incredibly good for you and packed with nutrient-rich superfood veggies like kale and cauliflower. Each veggie cake is packed with veggies, gluten free, non-gmo and nutritionally smart. Though it may be daunting to eat your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, a great way to accomplish this goal is to make it easy. Garden Lites products are ready in a few minutes, with the muffins ready in 30 seconds, so now you can enjoy the benefits of vegetables with the delicious convenience of our foods.

I actually tried these Garden Lites Superfood Veggie cakes and I really like them! They are a hit in my house! I will definitely be buying these again soon! I like that they are great for an afternoon snack! 


•  Garden Lites Power Ninja Muffins: This wholesome treat will make your kids’ friends “green” with envy! Your child will love the fun characters, you’ll love the fact that zucchini is the first ingredient. Only 80 calories each, Garden Lites Ninja Power Muffins are Allergy-friendly; Gluten, Dairy & Nut Free! Perfect for lunchboxes.

About Garden Lites:

Garden Lites has a variety of products and increased distribution in the freezer section across the country. Some of the best selection can be found at Kroger, Meijer, Target, Costco, Shop Rite, Publix, Stop & Shop, Giant, HEB, Ralph’s, Fry’s, Whole Foods, and many more retailers and online for home delivery at The line also has the Good Housekeeping Nutrition Seal of Approval, which is the first health-conscious, lifestyle-aware seal in the food and beverage industry.

Self Disclosure: I received free samples to post. Images and information were also provided. 

Rocky, March 15th Pet of the Week!

OK, play the theme song—it’s Rocky! He’s a boxer, of course, but unlike the human Rocky, he’s a sweetie and loves children. He does very well with other dogs, too, in the play area. He’s 11 years old and was an owner surrender, and in keeping with our St. Patrick’s Day special deal—$20 to adopt a senior pet—we’d love him to live out his golden years in a happy home. So would Rocky. Meet him on the shelter side of the Companion Animal Village at 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A603425.

(The usual suspects—and some unusual—contributed to this rescue)

Credit: Courtesy of the Companion Animal Village.