Archives for March 18, 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. 

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.