Archives for November 21, 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – Fantastic Performances and Visuals. Serviceable Story.

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans of raising pure-blood wizards to rule over all non-magical beings, Albus Dumbledore enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a serviceable entry in the Harry Potter universe despite its many shortcomings. Fantastic performances and visuals complete some truly great and pivotal plot developments.” Jolleen M. adds, “I love all of the stories and plots from J.K. Rowling. She never fails to amaze me with all the different plot twists that she comes up with. Besides having a wonderful follow-up story that leaves the audience wanting more, the CGI is very detailed, yet still realistic.” See their full reviews below.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is a serviceable entry in the Harry Potter universe despite its many shortcomings. Fantastic performances and visuals complete some truly great and pivotal plot developments. Any Harry Potter fan might want to check this out, but go with lowered expectations.

The story follows the breakout of influential dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) as he seeks to enlist his army of pure bloods. He starts by manipulating the transformation of Credence (Ezra Miller). All sides are divided by this as many find that killing both will fix the issue and many believe that Grindelwald upholds what is right. All except for the moral Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) who believes in stopping both but not killing. As a result, a younger Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists him to work behind the lines as dangerous times approach testing the loyalties and love of all involved.

Eddie Redmayne, as Newt Scamander, is always entertaining with his quirky remarks and unswayable morals. Also, he attempts to reunite with Tina (Katherine Waterston) to humanize his central struggle to find company. Johnny Depp, as Grindelwald, empowers with his powerful voice and fear-inducing actions. His presence holds well even among the likes of Voldemort. Jude Law, as Albus Dumbledore, is my favorite character with a spot-on recreation of a younger Dumbledore even if he’s not in it for long. His wise remarks and enthralling character developments only left me wanting more. Zoe Kravitz, as Leta, is one of the most interesting characters with her fair share of story which leaves us craving for more regarding the mysteries of the lore. Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Dan Fogler and Ezra Miller return better than ever with twists and turns further developing their characters, even if a little too much time is spent on their side of the story.

David Yates expertly directs with an eye of awe for each of the magical settings visited. It is always a delight to see the early happenings of events and monuments such as Hogwarts. However, my favorite scene comes from the opening escape which rips and roars with wondrous sound design and sets the precedent for a truly epic villain in Grindelwald. Despite this, the movie comparably falls flat resulting in some boring sections of exposition with forced moments of fan service. The movie feels considerably crowded and in need of a more compelling story in some sections. Despite this, the exceptional first few minutes and last third redeem the story from being a total slump.

The message of the movie is to never lose your morals despite what could benefit you. Newt is a great example of this because he chooses what’s right in spite of Grindelwald’s powerful way with words. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 because of some intense action and themes. The movie releases in theaters on November 16, 2018 so check it out.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

I love all of the stories and plots from J.K. Rowling. She never fails to amaze me with all the different plot twists that she comes up with. Besides having a wonderful follow-up story that leaves the audience wanting more, the CGI is very detailed, yet still realistic. The sound immerses viewers even more into the story.

The story starts off with a very intense scene that starts the conflict and trouble. No spoilers though. After the introduction, it picks up three months after Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them left off. We are introduced to Newt’s brother who works for the ministry and his fiancé who had a childhood crush on Newt. We also discover that Jacob gets his memory back!

Eddie Redmayne comes back to play Newt. He embraces Newts’ quirky and kind side perfectly. Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol (Jacob and Queenie) come back even closer as a couple. They fight just like a real couple too. Ezra Miller (Credence) is back, but as an older, mature and independent adult. His ability to portray his rage while staying calm is impressive and also intimidating.

The CGI is quite realistic, but at the same time out of this world. All the different creatures are so unique. I love how immersive the entire experience is. The animation combined with the acting, sets and music allows everyone to enter a different world.

My favorite scene is when Credence transforms into his black, floaty form because he is angered. In this form, he tries to attack one of the wizards who killed the person he was trying to get information from. He uses all his might and strength to attack. He even damages the entire building they are in with his force. Even though Credence is very powerful, he is still unable to pierce the wizard’s shield. This scene is very intriguing to me because everything is so detailed. From Credence’s liquid, black form to the crushing of the building, everything is very realistic.

There are many different underlying messages in this film. One of them is about family. Newt and Theseus (Newt’s brother) haven’t always been on the best of terms. For a while they worked against each other because of their conflicting views. But inevitably, they ended up on the same side, because they both have good intentions. And even though they might have done some unforgivable things to each other, they still forgive each other.

I love that this film allows you to enter a new world. It is fantastic! I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to 18. Even adults will enjoy this intriguing film. This film is out now in theaters so go see it!

 

 

 

Photos ©Warner Bros Pictures. All rights reserved

 

The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That! Season 2, Volume 2 – Martin Short Rocks As Cat In The Hat In This Great Collection

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! follows the adventures of 6-year-old best friends, Sally and Nick, as they are whisked off on extraordinary voyages of scientific discovery with the Cat in the Hat.  Thanks to the Thinga-ma-jigger and our friends, exploring has never been more exciting! Enjoy the second volume of the second season of The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! In this volume set, kids will learn the answers to questions like what is the Earth’s atmosphere, why do we need bones, and how is paper made. The discoveries don’t end there! We learn how polar bears survive the arctic winter, how our ears work and so much more! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Sev’n F. comments, “. Not only is this a fun Dr. Seuss cartoon for all, but it is also educational. Have fun while learning about the earth’s atmosphere, the human skeleton, how paper is made and much more!” Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “This DVD does not disappoint! It has 20 episodes! Directed by Tony Collingwood, the Cat in the Hat (Martin Short) definitely shows us that he knows a lot about many things from names and locations of the planets in our solar system to how animals walk with more than two legs.” See their full reviews below.

The Cat In The Hat Knows A Lot About That! Season 2, Volume 2

By Sev’n F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

Calling all Dr. Seuss fans! Here’s two discs, 20 episodes, fully loaded of extraordinary voyages of two best friends. Not only is this a fun Dr. Seuss cartoon for all, but it is also educational. Have fun while learning about the earth’s atmosphere, the human skeleton, how paper is made and much more! So, let’s jump into our imaginary Thinga-ma-jigger and go go go on an adventure with Nick, Sally and The Cat in the Hat.

In each episode, I learned something I never knew before. In each of the 20 episodes, a lesson is taught through the journey of two best friends. It had me saying “wow, how interesting !” In one episode, I learned how paper is made. Who would have thought a tree, that I see every day in my young life, is chopped down to make paper? I use paper every day. This is what I liked about this DVD. I learned something new in each episode.

What is less appealing about this show are the settings and colors. It felt like this film was created back in the 80s. I thought it needed to be modernized to capture the attention of today’s young viewers.

My favorite characters are Sally and Nick. They are six years old and best friends. I like the bond they share in each episode. They communicate and work well with each other – team players, if you ask me. They have tons of fun and experience their journeys together. It truly shows the true meaning of best friends. I have a best friend and she and I love to take pretend voyages together.

Each episode has a different message, but the one thing they have in common are the lessons that are being taught through Nick and Sally’s voyages. In each show, you learn scientific knowledge. This is a neat way to gather your children together to sing along while taking an amazing educational journey. Knowledge is key and there’s no better way to learn but through a cool Dr. Seuss show.

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars. It is very educational and fun. The music had me bopping my head along with it. I would like it even better if it was more modernized. I recommend it for ages 3 to 14. My baby brother is three and he sung along with Nick and Sally. My mom is 39-years-old and she learned something about the human skeleton, that she never knew about before. This DVD is available now so, look for it.

The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That! Season 2, Volume 2
Reviewed by Denise A. B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I’m a big fat of The Cat in the Hat! I have been since I was a little girl. Now, as an adult, I’m still a big fan! This DVD does not disappoint! It has 20 episodes! Directed by Tony Collingwood, the Cat in the Hat (Martin Short) definitely shows us that he knows a lot about many things from names and locations of the planets in our solar system to how animals walk with more than two legs. It is entertaining, engaging and great for preschool and school-aged children, as well as their parents. Children will enjoy watching the Cat in the Hat and his friends Sally & Nick as they go on adventures to learn new things. One of my favorite episodes is about the solar system as the Cat in the Hat teaches Sally & Nick the order of the planets and their names. Martin Short as the voice of Cat in the Hat is perfect! I just love him. I also enjoyed the theme song. I give this 5 stars out of 5 stars, because I think it is a perennial hit. It’s engaging, entertaining and educational What more could you want! I recommend it for ages 3 to 12. Reviewed by Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror.

 

 

 

 

Oliver, Thanksgiving Day’s Pet of the Week

You want a Black Friday deal? How about a sweet, black dog! His name’s Oliver, he’s only a year old, and he’s loving, alert and playful. Look at him anticipate that tennis-ball toss! Of course, you’re likely reading this on Thanksgiving, so think about how a forever home will make Oliver thankful. And we can guarantee that you will be, too! Meet Oliver at the P. D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village, 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A616807.

(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)

 

Credit: Courtesy of our friends at P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village. 

Thanksgiving Family Fun! It's also time for holiday shopping and these products would make great gifts!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! Time for Families to spend time together and what about some fun family game time while the food is cooking? Or maybe for after the big feast!

Here are some of my favorites! They will also make great gift ideas this holiday season!

Nobody puts princess in a tower! 

Sparkle*Kitty is an adorably fun, social, and magical spell card game for all ages, sizes and genders. Once upon a time, a group of powerful princesses were captured and locked away in Cursed “No Cursing” towers by the evil queen Sparkle*Kitty! All their words and magic spells vanished and became sugar & spice… almost everything nice.  Luckily these are no ordinary princesses and you are no ordinary player! Take matters into your own hands and harness the simple and sweet words into special spell combinations to set yourself free! The first to escape, wins! (Available at Walmart for $20). This one is a lot of fun! I really had a blast trying it out! This one is recommended for ages 9 and up.

Looking for a fun game for the family with teenagers? This one is sure to be a hit! 

 Pressman Toy has teamed up with global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for the third installment of The Oregon Trail game series, The Oregon Trail: Journey to Willamette Valley. Based on the classic PC game, this Target exclusive board game will be hitting shelves this fall. Pioneers must gather their supplies and family members as they embark on the voyage from Independence, MO to Willamette Valley.
Unlike the cooperative nature of its original games, The Oregon Trail Card Game and The Oregon Trail: Hunt for Food, the newest game will be a competitive strategy board game with every wagon out for themselves. In addition, the new game is tile-based as players ford the trail, discovering a multitude of pathways with each gameplay. With 2 to 4 players, ages 14 and up, The Oregon Trail: Journey to Willamette Valley will require strategy and luck as players race and search for their fortune in the West.
This next one is a fun one for children ages 7+. It is a fast-paced game which is great for those with short attention spans! Boom, Bang, Gold is an exciting game with plenty of action in which speed and a good eye are important. The person who manages to collect the most nuggets in their gold chest at the end of the day wins the fast-paced hunt for gold.On a turn, everyone throws their dynamite sticks into the gold mine at the same time, then they all search (using only one hand) to remove face-up tiles from the mine and place the tiles on their personal shelf. If you spot a special tile with bat, rat, snake, or ghost, call “Watch out!” so that everyone else must place their hands on their head and call out “Help!” before continuing to play. When no more face-up tiles remain, the round ends. Retails for $29.99.

Find out more at http://www.habausa.com/boom-bang-gold/

I love these next two from Pressman Toy!

Want to test your code breaking skills? Mastermind is the game for you! Family members will take turns being the Codemaker and Codebreaker. The Codemaker sets a secret code, then the Codebreaker must use their smarts to unlock it.  For 2 players, ages 8 and up. I love that this is a challenging and fun game! You can find it at Amazon.com, Walmart and Barnes & Noble.

I think children will love playing this next one! Hydro Strike was a watery blast in the 80’s and is here to make a splash in 2018! Be prepared to get wet….unless you are the winner! In this head-to-head pinball game, you’ll need fast flipping fingers to shoot the ball into your opponent’s goal.  Score and your opponent will get sprayed in the face with water!  Since a sprayer is aimed at both players, strike quick when you play, or you’ll get the spray!  The first player to score 5 times wins. You can find at Amazon.com and Target. Recommended for ages 7+.

Here are some favorites from Blue Orange! 

Blue Lagoon, designed by Reiner Knizia, requires smart placement and anticipation to win. The area control and set collection game is won through the accumulation of points by collecting resources and settling on the islands. This one is a lot of fun!

 Suggested Age: 8 and up

         MSRP: $29.99

 

Scarabya is a tile-laying puzzle game designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, that includes unique gameplay and intricate components. By positioning pentomino tiles on individual boards, players create excavation zones of 1 to 4 squares that contain scarabs. The scarabs are then worth the size of the zone they are in.

Suggested Age: 8 and up

MSRP: $29.99

Age of Giants was an expected hit following the fame of Kingdomino, Spiels des Jahres winner in 2017. The expansion, to be played with Kingdomino or Queendomino, adds new challenges, brings a new level of player interaction, and includes a domino dispenser tower. It also allows for a fifth player to join.

Suggested Age: 8 and up

    MSRP: $19.99

 

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Have fun this holiday season and don’t forget to look for these games when you are out Holiday shopping!

 

Self Disclosure: I received free samples of the above games to facilitate this post and only feature games that I recommend. Images were provided.