Archives for December 25, 2019

Little Women * Love Seeing Powerful, Sensitive, Smart and Gentle Young Women

Writer-director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) has crafted a Little Women that draws on both the classic novel and the writings of Louisa May Alcott, and unfolds as the author’s alter ego, Jo March, reflects back and forth on her fictional life. In Gerwig’s take, the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women each determined to live life on her own terms — is both timeless and timely. Portraying Jo, Meg, Amy, and Beth March, the film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, with Timothée Chalamet as their neighbor Laurie, Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as Aunt March. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “I really enjoyed this coming of age film, mostly because of the genuine performances, but also how these young women are so powerful, sensitive, smart and gentle. I also think in an era of super heroes, galaxies and futuristic sci-fi films with special effects, this classic story reminds us of the power of good classic literature and simple characters.” Joshitha X adds, “Little Women, the new adaptation of the well-known novel, incredibly portrays the revered classic!  Little Women is also very satisfying to watch; I find myself lost in the aesthetics of the film, no matter the ambiance of the scene.” Will C. wraps it up with, “There are a lot of good things about the movie Little Women, but I don’t think the filmmakers had 10-year-old boys like me in mind as their audience. Parts of the movie are fun to watch, but I got lost when the scenes switched back and forth in time… By watching this movie, however, I did get a good understanding of how people lived around the time of the Civil War.” See their full reviews below.

Little Women

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Little Woman (2019) is the eighth film adaptation of the classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. I really enjoyed this coming of age film, mostly because of the genuine performances, but also how these young women are so powerful, sensitive, smart and gentle. I also think in an era of super heroes, galaxies and futuristic sci-fi films with special effects, this classic story reminds us of the power of good classic literature and simple characters. I read the original book a long time ago, so when I found out the movie was coming out, I was very excited. This adaptation is well done and touching.

This movie is about four sisters in America in the aftermath of the Civil War. Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) occasionally get into fights, especially the youngest with the oldest, but they all bond and share a simple life together. They are united, but they have unique and different personalities. The story goes back and forth in time and the time reference in the film is unclear, which makes the story difficult to follow at times. 

One the sisters, Jo, is trying to pursuit an art career. She loves to write books and is having trouble actually getting her book published or even come up with some new ideas. The film shows how the sisters interconnect with the book storytelling, while the sisters are trying to figure out their lives and how to deal with all the chaos in their lives. In the film we see them all under the same roof and how their life evolves as adults when they don’t live together anymore.

All the performances are very good. I particularly like Eliza Scanlen as Beth who has a fascinating arc. I also love the performance of Timothée Chalamet as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence he who falls in love with Jo but is Beth’s love when he first appears in the sisters’ lives. Chalamet and Ronan worked together previously in Lady Bird from the same director (Greta Gerwig) and they create a whole different dynamic in this film.

Laura Dern plays Marmee March, mother of the four sisters. Her caring portrayal is more supportive mom than a matriarch since these young ladies are definitively leaders of their own lives. Dern nails the tone that this character requires.

I really like the music by amazing film composer Alexandre Desplat. Director Greta Gerwig manages to retell the classic story in a new way, keeping the essence of a story that has captivated people over the years. It is soft, subtle and perfect for new audiences. I really like the costumes and color palette. Each and every scene is beautiful to watch, particularly the ones at the beach, perhaps because the romanticism of the sea.

Little Women shows girls who are independent, able to succeed without a partner and bond in a special way. I give it 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 17 and adults as well. 

Little Women open in theaters nationwide on December 24, 2019. Check it out.

Little Women
By Joshitha B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Little Women, the new adaptation of the well-known novel, incredibly portrays the revered classic!  Little Women is also very satisfying to watch; I find myself lost in the aesthetics of the film, no matter the ambiance of the scene. Credits to Yorick Le Saux for the captivating cinematography. The wardrobe is detailed for the timeline that the clothes are meant to reflect, designed for our enjoyment by the skilled costume designer Jacqueline Durran. Moreover, the plot is fast moving and engagingly interesting, paired with timely humor and realistic tragedy.

Little Women is the tale of four sisters with alluring traits that set them apart. Joe passionately writes, Meg is a born actress, Amy gathers her dreams as an artist, and all that remains is the musical prodigy, Beth. These girls grow up in a society with an ever-present stigma against independent women. With the system rooting against them, how will a woman prove herself worthy of more than a delicate romance?

The harmony of the talent is intriguing, as each character portrays their own inner struggles. The character development is by far the most impressive aspect of this film, especially when the cast individually represent their characters as more than just little pieces of Jo March’s story. The characters of Little Women come to life in their struggles as females within a sexist society, intertwining their experiences as the story weaves together. The casting is undeniably the cause of anticipation for this movie; Oscar-nominee Timothee Chalamet as Theodore “Laurie” Laurence, and award-winning Saoirse Ronan as Joe March amplify the natural realism of the story. And comic relief plays a large role in this film. My favorite humorous scene is when the frame shifts from an emotional scene to a view of Amy sticking her foot in a bucket of clay, claiming that she must make a mold of her pretty feet for Laurie. Overall, every part of the movie proves to be essential to the message of the film.

Speaking of message, Little Women shows that a person is the only one who can deem their own worth and their limits. A woman is not made to be sold off into marriage; she will choose her future whether the world accepts it or not.

I give Little Women 5 out of 5 stars. With mature themes from all corners of this film, I recommend this for ages 12 to 18, plus adults.  You can find this sensational movie in theaters near you, December 25, 2019.

Little Women

By Will Chuhta, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

There are a lot of good things about the movie Little Women, but I don’t think the filmmakers had 10-year-old boys like me in mind as their audience. Parts of the movie are fun to watch, but I got lost when the scenes switched back and forth in time, and I had started to lose interest by the end of the movie. By watching this movie, however, I did get a good understanding of how people lived around the time of the Civil War.

Little Women is a fictionalized version of the early life of author Louisa May Alcott, and how she took her own personal experiences and turned them into a popular book in the late 1800s. The setting is mostly in Massachusetts, but there are some parts in New York City as well as Paris. There are four sisters, and the movie frequently switches back and forth in time for about seven years following their adventures, which is confusing at times. The sisters face various difficulties and have conflicts with each other, but they also help each other. Three of the sisters have love interests, so there are some male characters. However, most of the screen time features the women.

Little Women has some funny parts, but nothing very memorable. My favorite part is the realistic depiction of New York City, because I kind of felt as if I was there. Younger viewers will definitely recognize actress Emma Watson from the Harry Potter movies as Meg. Some viewers will recognize Saoirse Ronan as Jo and Timothee Chalamet as Laurie. Overall, one of the best things about this movie is the period costumes that seem very realistic.

The message of this film is that people should try to reach their goals even when there is adversity, and perseverance can pay off, as demonstrated by the main character Jo, trying to get her writing published. Younger kids might be troubled by brief scenes of sibling violence and a near drowning, but it’s rated PG and there’s not really any inappropriate language or content.

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, as well as adults. I think girls will appreciate this movie more than boys. You can see Little Women in theaters everywhere starting December 25, 2019

Spies in Disguise * Mimicking Slick Spy Films With Lots of Comedic Effects

Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is…not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo is forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic…pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Sahiba K. comments, “Spies in Disguise is a slick spy film that mirrors James Bond, but at the same time sticks to its own authenticity. Several of the scenes are adopted from action and spy movies like Skyfall, but I was impressed by the way that they are altered for comedic effect. Despite its silliness at times, Spies in Disguise manages to be entertaining with a perfect blend of emotions.” Mia G. adds, “Even though Smith’s performance is hilarious as always, Holland steals the show as the voice of Walter.  He brings warmth to the film much like he does with his rendition of Spider Man.  Walter is the heart of the movie. He teachers Sterling valuable lessons about how to care about others, work as a team, and make the world a better place.  Holland’s endearing and lovable voice-over brings the movie together. Instead of it just being a funny action film, the movie becomes a funny, sweet action film.” See their full reviews below.

Spies in Disguise

By Sahiba Kaur, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Spies in Disguise is a slick spy film that mirrors James Bond, but at the same time sticks to its own authenticity. Several of the scenes are adopted from action and spy movies like Skyfall, but I was impressed by the way that they are altered for comedic effect. Despite its silliness at times, Spies in Disguise manages to be entertaining with a perfect blend of emotions.

The story follows the typical conundrum of a framed spy trying to redeem his image. Lance Sterling (Will Smith) is a #1 spy who is beloved by his agency, but when a mission goes terribly wrong, he finds himself the agency’s most wanted criminal. With help from a tech specialist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland), Sterling learns valuable lessons through his journey for redemption.

The animation and the screenplay are key to making this story intriguing. For instance, every spy film has a car chase and so does this one. Yet, this car chase involves a pigeon controlling the getaway car. It is one of the funniest scenes and, since the animation has a realistic look, the chase is exciting and imaginative, yet not too absurd. Additionally, there is impeccable attention to detail. In the same chaotic car scene, there is a slow motion scene where a calculator in the car is tossed upside down to reveal the numbers turning into the word “help.”

My favorite part about this film is what makes it unique: its message. Walter Beckett is a kind, nerdy individual who teaches his friend, Sterling, that every fight does not need to be fought with violence because we are all just people who make mistakes. This theme makes the film lovable and differentiates it from any other spy film. Furthermore, the film does not take itself too seriously which actually strengthens the comedy. I found myself giggling most when the film exaggerates the cliches that are so typical to spy films such as the car chases, trips to exotic places and the slow motion action. Another message of Spies in Disguise is that you do not have to do everything alone.

I give Spies in Disguise 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18, plus adults. Please check out Spies in Disguise for a fun adventure when it opens in theatres on Christmas Day, December 25, 2019.

Spies in Disguise
By Mia Gonzalez, KIDS First! Film Critic, age 9

Spies in Disguise is a fun-filled, action movie that’s not just for the birds! It stars two of the most currently popular and talented actors, Will Smith and Tom Holland, who entertain us from beginning to end.

The animated movie begins with a little bit of background about Walter Beckett, Tom Holland’s character, and Agent Lance Sterling, Will Smith’s character.  Walter Beckett grows up alone and often isolated, despite being a genius and inventor for the C.I.A. He struggles to make friends and is often referred to as “weird.”  Agent Sterling thinks he has it all, as the best and most respected C.I.A. agent, but he does not work well with others and does not know how to be part of a team.  He doesn’t even bother remembering his coworkers’ names! The two unlikely friends pair up out of necessity and eventually realize how much they need each other. 

During the movie, Agent Sterling becomes a pigeon, which is of course, hilarious! Smith’s voice-over of Agent Sterling is perfect. He brings his usual suave, debonair qualities that we often see Smith portray in many of his movies. During his time as a pigeon, his outrageous comedic chops brings the theater to laughter.  Smith is truly an entertainer.

Even though Smith’s performance is hilarious as always, Holland steals the show as the voice of Walter.  He brings warmth to the film much like he does with his rendition of Spider Man.  Walter is the heart of the movie. He teachers Sterling valuable lessons about how to care about others, work as a team, and make the world a better place.  Holland’s endearing and lovable voice-over brings the movie together. Instead of it just being a funny action film, the movie becomes a funny, sweet action film.

The message of the film is that you can defeat all by working together as a team.  Agent Sterling becomes a better agent and person when he allows Walter to help him, and he learns how to effectively defeat the enemy without violence.   

I rate this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4-18.  Adults will love it as well.  The family friendly film opens in theaters on December 25, 2019. 

The Two Popes * Fascinating Topic, Filled with Humor and Great Performances

Offers an intimate story of one of the most dramatic transitions of power in the last 2,000 years. Frustrated with the direction of the church, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) requests permission to retire in 2012 from Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins). Instead, facing scandal and self-doubt, the introspective Pope Benedict summons his harshest critic and future successor to Rome to reveal a secret that would shake the foundations of the Catholic Church. Behind Vatican walls, a struggle commences between both tradition and progress, guilt and forgiveness, as these two very different men confront their pasts in order to find common ground and forge a future for a billion followers around the world. Inspired by true events. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “I love this movie. Even though the subject of this movie is based on a religious story, it is filled with humor, sport and a fascinating storyline. The acting is also magnificent and the best part of the movie.” See her full review below.

The Two Popes

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I love this movie. Even though the subject of this movie is based on a religious story, it is filled with humor, sport and a fascinating storyline. The acting is also magnificent and the best part of the movie.

The Two Popes is inspired by true events telling the story of Pope Benedict being elected following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005 and Pope Francis being elected in 2013 when Pope Benedict resigned.  During this time, the Catholic Church is losing followers and is in the midst of various scandals.  Cardinal Bergoglio, who ultimately becomes Pope Francis, is one of Pope Benedict’s harshest critics as he is frustrated with the Catholic Church and wants to retire.  Pope Benedict invites Cardinal Bergoglio to Rome not to discuss his retirement, but to discuss other matters, including a scandal that the Catholic Church is facing that could ruin its stability.

I liked this movie a lot more than I thought I would and I learned a lot about the Papal election process. Even if you are not Catholic, you will still like it. The movie also uses real footage of some of the events.

Jonathan Pryce (Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict) are absolutely brilliant playing their parts.  As a bonus, they even look like the real-life popes that they are playing. My favorite character is Pope Benedict because he slips a joke in whenever he can – even if the joke is not funny.

The message of The Two Popes is that it’s okay to have different opinions and if you work hard enough together you can find common ground. This movie has some bad language, some disturbing violent images and some discussion of child abuse.  It is rated PG-13.

I give this movie 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend this for ages 12 to 18, and adults will really like this movie. This movie is on Netflix December 20, 2019.

Mandy, Dec. 26th Pet of the Week!

Mandy poses like a canine model. She’s kind, loving, affectionate and full of spunk. Because she’s patient and intelligent, she’s learned most commands well. Mandy was hoping she’d make it home for the holidays, and there’s still New Year’s Eve! She’s the perfect forever-after date for someone looking for a companion. Meet Mandy at the P. D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village, 7700 East Spring St., (562) 570-PETS. Ask for ID#A34517.

(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)

Credit: Courtesy of the P.D. Pitchford Companion Animal Village.