Archives for April 2020

L.A. Zoo Presents Virtual Beastly Ball, May 15th

Everyone Welcome to Attend L.A. Zoo’s Signature Event, Filled with Fun and Philanthropy on National Endangered Species Day; With Special Guests, Animal Appearances, Live Music, Silent Auction and More; Hosted by Joel McHale.
Guest Stars Include:
The Kratt Brothers, Chris and Martin Kratt

Stars of the pioneering, Emmy-nominated Wild Kratts and Zoboomafoo educational TV series

Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers
Authors of the New Your Times Bestseller Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health and the critically acclaimed Wildhood: The Astonishing Connections Between Human and Animal Adolescents
April 23, 2020 (Los Angeles, CA) — The Beastly Ball is going virtual this year.  The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s annual fundraiser is critical to the fulfillment of the Los Angeles Zoo’s mission, which advocates for animal conservation and habitat preservation for some of the world’s most rare and vulnerable species; including the California condor, southern mountain yellow-legged frog, and peninsular pronghorn.  
Now in its 50th year, this star-studded event has brought together celebrities, industry experts, city officials, and zoo supporters for a wild night of food, fun, and fundraising.  For the safety of all during the COVID-19 crisis, this year’s event will take place online, rather than at the Zoo.  For the first-time ever, the Beastly Ball will be free for everyone to attend on Friday, May 15 at 6 p.m. PDT.  Hosted by Joel McHale, the show will include L.A. Zoo staff, ambassador animals, live music, silent auction, and will highlight the Zoo’s many conservation successes.  Partner restaurants are participating, offering recipes and special discounts for Beastly Ball attendees.  

Viewers may attend virtually on our website, as well as join in on Facebook Live and YouTube Live.   For more details, please visit:
Friday, May 15 at 6 p.m. PDT  
Watch live on our website, LAZoo.orgFacebook and YouTube 

Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo.

The Half Of It * Beautiful Story About Love, Friendship And Longing

When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn’t expect to become his friend – or fall for his crush. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “The Half of It is certainly a beautiful story about love, friendship and longing. It is a very relatable story about the process of discovering love and what comes with it. The acting is splendid and writer/director Alice Wu is very assertive in both capacities.”  Ruby A. adds, “The Half Of It is a film that virtually anyone can enjoy. It’s hilarious, unique, and has many intersecting relationships that keep you guessing what will happen in the future. The small-town setting helps the story feel more relatable. The personalities of the characters blend well and the progression of the plot makes sense.” Calista B. Wraps it up with, “The Half of It is interesting, however I feel like it could have been much better. I like it, yet I think there is a lot of missed potential.” See their full reviews below.

The Half of It

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

The Half of It is certainly a beautiful story about love, friendship and longing. It is a very relatable story about the process of discovering love and what comes with it. The acting is splendid and writer/director Alice Wu is very assertive in both capacities.

The story follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), a shy and introverted, straight “A” student, in her senior year, helping a friend, Paul, to capture the attention of the girl of his dreams, Aster. Initially, Ellie writes just one letter, but the story evolves into an exchange of text messages before their first date. During the journey, the characters discover the truth of the stress and challenges of courtship.

The film starts with a beautiful, artsy animation and excellent voice over work, guiding us into the mysteries of love at a very young age. The Half of It is a very well narrated story, keeping you intrigued, making you wanting to know more about the characters and how they will end up. The editing and music are very interconnected and they work in perfect harmony, turning into amazing storytelling.

I enjoyed the acting and the honesty of Leah Lewis’ portrayal of a very timid, but determined girl. I love Paul naiveté and his struggle to communicate and show his emotions and how his innocence contrasts with Ellie’s intelligence. Despite their differences they become friends, which is one of my favorite aspects of the film. I also love Collin Chou who plays Ellie’s dad. He barely speaks English but he’s really funny. He portrays a very loving and kind man and wants what’s best for his daughter. Ellie’s Dad loves classic films and, throughout the movie, there are several references to art in different disciplines like painting and poetry. This makes the film feel very grounded. “The Best Part,” as Ellie’s Dad refers when interrupted when watching his cinema classics, is when Ellie and Aster are in a secret lake and just talking. The scene itself is beautiful and the acting feels so natural. I love how this scene is shot and found it really relaxing.

The Half of It is not the typical high school movie, because in almost every high school movie there is a popular girl, a shy nerdy girl with lots of clichés and no substance. But in this movie the characters are real, current and deep.

The message of this film is “be the best version of you.” Ellie used to be an artist and one of the things she learns is that “you can have a good painting, but to make it a great one you need to make a bold stroke.” I think what she means by “bold stroke” is the best version that you can possibly be of yourself. Also we hear that “love is the journey we pursue with determination.”

This film is wonderful! I could watch it a million times and still be entertained. I give The Half of It 5outof 5 stars and recommended it for ages 12 to 18. The Half of It opens on Netflix May 1, 2020.

The Half Of It

By Ruby A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

The Half Of It is a film that virtually anyone can enjoy. It’s hilarious, unique, and has many intersecting relationships that keep you guessing what will happen in the future. The small-town setting helps the story feel more relatable. The personalities of the characters blend well and the progression of the plot makes sense.

Netflix’s The Half Of It takes place in a small town by the name of Squahamish, following a girl named Ellie Chu. Ellie is in high school and has a way with words. Although she is talented, she is made fun of frequently. One day, Ellie is riding her bike and her classmate, Paul Munsky, asks her to write his crush, Aster, a love letter. Ellie is skeptical and annoyed, but she agrees to help him out. Little does she know that she will become his friend and fall for his crush at the same time.

Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis), Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer) and Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire) make a great cast of main characters. Paul and Ellie (despite their differences) make a great team when trying to impress Aster. I love so many parts of this movie, however I have to choose a favorite! The acting really is something else. The cast is really amazing and, when you watch it, you feel an emotional connection to them. There is one specific person from the cast who does an exceptional job – Leah Lewis. She embodies the role of a reserved and skeptical-of-everything teenager very well.

The lesson from this film is that acting like your true self is for more valuable than the person you may want others to perceive you as. This way, others can love you for just being you. The movie is most definitely successful in portraying this. It is a very positive and uplifting message. This movie promotes the positive social behaviors of friendship and helping other people. However, there is quite a bit of bullying towards the main protagonist, Ellie, that occurs. There is a slight bit of swearing, but nothing too severe, and some alcohol use is shown.      

The Half of It

By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Half of It is interesting, however I feel like it could have been much better. I like it, yet I think there is a lot of missed potential.

The movie follows Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) who makes money by charging other students for essay help. One day, a jock named Paul (Daniel Diemer) asks her for help writing a love letter to his crush Aster (Alexxis Lemire). However, as Ellie continues to help Paul win her over, she ends up also falling for Aster.

A big aspect of this film is the LGBT twist. As someone who cares a lot about representation, this intrigued me. However, I have mixed feelings about the way this movie goes about its representation. I can’t elaborate much as that would lead to spoilers, but let’s just say the actual LGBT romance is a little lackluster and mostly overshadowed by the straight romance. This isn’t really an issue for most of the film, however this heavily affected my opinion on the ending. I usually try not to compare pieces of media, however I want to compare this film to Love, Simon. An issue I’ve noticed when it comes to LGBT representation is the prevalence of tragedies and dramatic stories. Either that, or stories where the LGBT character doesn’t have a happy ending. This is why Love, Simon was such a hit with the LGBT audience, because it is a wholesome, romantic comedy that embraces its gay representation. And considering The Half of It is also pushing the gay aspect in marketing, it could have been a lot better. The Half of It is far from the worst when it comes to unsatisfying representation, but it definitely has room for improvement

However, the representation is not the only aspect of the film. As this is a comedy, how is the humor in this movie? Honestly, I really like a lot of the comedy in this film. I like the way Ellie and Paul play off each other and there’s many well executed visual gags and recurring bits. I also really like the friendship between Ellie and Paul. Despite the fact that they’re technically romantic rivals, you really buy their friendship as they have a great chemistry and you want them both to be happy in the end. 

I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18. It comes out on May 1, 2020. Look for it.

Cali, April 30th Pet of the Week!

Cali, 8 years old, is a beautiful, smart, loyal and loving soul. She’s your typical lounge buddy, stealing your attention whenever possible for tummy rubs or head pats. As you can see in her photo with her foster, Cali’s affectionate and caring, and she’s sweet to all people she meets. She has a calm energy and perfect manners in the house: no begging or jumping on the furniture. She saves her get-up-and-go for her walks! Cali’s a strong gal and needs some confidence on the other end of the leash and is a bit reactive to other dogs and cats, so caution and guidance are must-haves! But she’s very responsive to commands, so redirecting her isn’t too much of a challenge. We know she’ll only get better with time as she learns the behaviors that you want from her. Cali’s taking part in Live Love Animal Rescue’s effort to put shelter dogs into foster homes during the pandemic. If you want to give her a forever home, find her profile on Live Love’s page at, and fill out an adoption application there.

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)

I Still Believe * A Sincere and True Love Story With Subtle Messages

The true-life story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp and his journey of love and loss that looks to prove there is always hope. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The message of this film is to always keep the faith and stay close to those you love. They make us for who we are, and unfortunately, tragic things can happen. It’s best that we stay close and not waste any day with them.” See his full review below.

I Still Believe
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

I Still Believe is a sincere and true love story, held down by clichéd dialogue and plot development. The subtle messages and radiant leads stick their landing without feeling preachy. Adults and kids will admire this faith-based tale, perhaps in a matinee and a box of tissues.

This story brings the true-life story of Christian music star Jeremy Camp (KJ Apa) and his remarkable journey with his wife Melissa (Britt Robertson). Their faith in God is tested when Melissa is diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Still, Jeremy believes there is always hope and a faith worth sharing through his music and memories.

The two leads share great chemistry allowing for a believable relationship. KJ Apa, as Jeremy Camp, steps into the shoes of the Christian music singer, through his original music and devotion towards his wife Melissa. Speaking of which, Britt Robertson, as Melissa, is the best performance nailing the emotional gravitas of the real-life counterpart’s plight. She fares much better in emotional scenes, and while KJ has great screen presence, he could improve his emotional chops. Both characters absolutely deliver a heart-warming dynamic that makes the ending all the more tragic, but also reminiscing. Nathan Dean, as Jean-Luc, adds a love-triangle dynamic that feels more at home in a CW show than a dramatic real-life story. Still, his character is charismatic and relatable in his struggles. Gary Sinise, as Tom, is Jeremy’s father, adding more heart to Jeremy’s unwavering love and choices.

Directors Andrew and Jon Erwin return after directing the Christian film I Can Only Imagine. The Erwins have a good grasp on not being preachy and instead, focus on the human relationships that bind. However, this film’s first half panders with one instance of egregious product placement, unbecoming of its more mature second half. It feels tonally inconsistent in spite of KJ and Britt’s natural chemistry. There’s a scene involving a broken jar of pickles where the film becomes thoughtfully complacent about its conflicts. This is where the film began to click, and it ends up being moving and lyrically heartwarming.

The message of this film is to always keep the faith and stay close to those you love. They make us for who we are, and unfortunately, tragic things can happen. It’s best that we stay close and not waste any day with them.

I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 due to strong thematic material. The movie is available now on Amazon Prime and elsewhere. Be sure to check it out.

My Spy * Wonderful Story About Friendship and Love In the Most Unusual Circumstances

Nine-year-old Sophie catches JJ, a hardened CIA operative, spying on her family during a routine surveillance operation. In exchange for not blowing his cover, JJ begrudgingly agrees to show the precocious girl how to become a spy. What at first seems like an easy task soon turns into a battle of wits as Sophie proves you don’t need much experience to outsmart a seasoned agent. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Lindalee R. comments, “My Spy is so good because I love the friendship and love that develops between the characters JJ (Dave Bautista) and Sophie (Chloe Coleman)! They start off as strangers and then, throughout the movie, JJ teaches her how to be a good spy, and she teaches him how to be a kinder person as their relationship grows stronger and they become friends. See her full review below.

My Spy
Lindalee R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

My Spy is so good because I love the friendship and love that develops between the characters JJ (Dave Bautista) and Sophie (Chloe Coleman)! They start off as strangers and then, throughout the movie, JJ teaches her how to be a good spy, and she teaches him how to be a kinder person as their relationship grows stronger and they become friends. Not only does JJ have a change of heart and but eventually he develops feelings for her mom.

My Spy is the story of a CIA agent who is secretly watching a family in order to try and get information connected to a big case he is on. One of the people he is watching is the little girl, Sophie, who discovers J.J. and that he is spying on her and her mom. In exchange for not revealing his secret, Sophie makes him teach her how to be a good spy.

One of my favorite parts of My Spy is when JJ goes on a date with Sophie‘s mom and starts dancing. Because his character is so serious and he’s such a large person, it’s very funny to see him trying to do all these trendy dances…because he does it so terribly! Honestly, it kind of reminded me of my dad dancing.

For those who like Dave Bautista in Guardians of the Galaxy you will love him in this movie. Chloe Coleman has a very bright acting future—she is such a kind person both on and off camera, and she has such an amazing on-camera presence.

A quick note to parents:  My Spy does contain some adult language (and in some songs played during the movie.) So while younger kids may enjoy it, parents should decide if their kids are mature enough to see a movie with moments of profanity.

My Spy is full of action, fun, comedy and love. I give My Spy 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 10 to 18, and adults will love it too! Available on Amazon Prime now.  

What To Look For When Hiring a Wedding Magician

Your wedding day is your special day. Many people love the entertainment of a wedding magician. Here is what to look for when hiring a wedding magician.

How will your wedding stand out?

Guests are tired of wishing wells, the hokey pokey, and bland wedding cake.

If you really want your wedding to be memorable, why not hire a wedding magician?

Magicians enthrall crowds with their talent, creativity, unusual tricks, and artistry, and can be a great addition to your wedding day.

Read on to learn what to look for when hiring a magician, helping you find the perfect entertainer for your perfect day.


As with any wedding specialist you’ll hire, such as your florist and catering, look for reviews or testimonials online. Your big day is so important and you can’t risk anything going wrong, so only hire a magician that has a solid track record of impressing and entertaining.

Although many magicians include testimonials on their website, also look for unbiased, 3rd party review sites, or ask trusted friends or neighbors for recommendations.

Recommendations can also give you information on their background, what style of magic they do, and what sort of crowds they usually perform for.

Background Check

Will your magician be left alone around children, valuables, or access to your reception venue? If so, you want to make sure the person you hire is trustworthy.

Most qualified entertainers will have no problem showing you their working with children or background checks, for your peace of mind. The safety of your guests is important, so don’t be nervous to ask for this information upfront.

Your magician may also have their own public liability insurance, which could be required by your wedding venue.

What Type of Wedding Magician Are They?

Magic is such a varied field – what type of wedding magician you looking for?

If you want to entertain children, you may want someone with a focus on games, balloon animals, and kid-friendly tricks.

Or, some magicians use comedy as part of their shows, which can be entertaining, while others prefer a quiet mystery.

Some prefer traditional magic tricks, others love card games and sleight of hand, so make sure you find someone who can offer what you’re looking for.


Look for wedding magicians who are within your budget. Being a magician is a highly skilled task that may dedicate their lives to pursuing, so expect to pay fairly. Rates vary but may run between $150-500 per hour.

Some magicians may have a minimum time requirement, such as a few hours, to make it worth their while.

It’s worth paying more for a quality magician, as there’s nothing worse than seeing an audience disappointed by stale or boring tricks. If you hire an incredible magician for your wedding, guests will be talking about it for years to come!

Hire Your Perfect Magician Today

A wedding magician will bring excitement, laughter, and thrills to your wedding. It’s a great choice to hire an expert magician to perform at your reception.

Now that you know what to look for, find a magician who suits your requirements and budget, and start looking forward to your big day!

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7 Ways You Can Encourage Your Cat To Play With You

Cats hate boredom, just like humans do. They can entertain themselves without human intervention, but we can engage them in playfulness and curiosity with us. Try these 7 ways to convince your cat to play with you.

1.    Toys:

Play with him more. Yes, you. And find the right toys. Use trial and error with different kinds of toys that can stimulate your cat. You can try different kinds (e.g. bouncy or fluffy), different types (e.g consider battery-operated toys), and when you find one that they like, try buying different colors of the same kind of toys. Cats will usually like things that mimic prey such as string (a mouse’s tail), hair (mice), or a feather (a bird), which are regular household things. Maybe things that make a noise like rattles, or things that are soft and don’t make a noise like a fuzzy pink mouse.

2.    Food:

Ditch the cheap and low-quality food. Feed them treats that reward healthy behaviors and food that invigorates them like Purina’s Friskies Indoor Delight dry cat food. This kind of food will feed and aid their hyper and playful energy, from 1 to 18 years old. You might notice that your older cats will act like the kittens that they once were. The dry cat food has various flavors, like chicken, salmon, cheese, and garden greens. Also with trial and error, try to see which flavor your cat might prefer.  Note: An overweight cat might not play because of his lack of energy, so giving him the correct diet will help them reach an optimal weight and health to help them to be more energetic to play.

3.    Routine:

Same time of the day. Maybe they like the same time of the day to nap so maybe they would like the same time of the day to play. Maybe routine with their playhouse will tire them out right before their nap.

4.    Play Area:

Do they like playing on the furniture or buy a playhouse with space to jump to the different levels, climb on the ladder, hide in the boxes, play with a toy mouse, or scratch its claws. Just make sure that your cats have vertical space and scratching posts. You can choose to include a household mat, rug, or carpet during your playtime.

5.    Instincts:

When a cat “plays”, he wants to pounce, stalk, hunt, and act out his natural, instinctual, and predatory behaviors. To stimulate this predatory and natural instinct to hunt, you can use various toys (#1), play around with speed, throw things to catch their “prey”, or even try out a light beam from a flashlight. Anything to engage him.

6.    Engage Their Senses

  1. Auditory (A): This a learning style that engages hearing or noises. Cats might like scratches, meows, and chirps.
  1. Visual (V): This is a learning style that engages sight. You can take advantage of ready-made YouTube channels that can stimulate your cat(s). Cats might enjoy other cats meowing and playing. Bird videos in the background of your play area because they might be engaged and enjoy being close to their prey. You could even set up a bird feeder (e.g. a hummingbird lantern) right outside your window.
  1. Kinesthetic (K): This is a learning style that engages touch and movement. Unfortunately, age can prevent cats from playing games or even natural movement because of arthritis, etc. Sadly, high-energy games become less interesting once a kitten reaches 5 months old. A cute trick is to act like a cat and to play with their toys and their games for them to teach them how to play again. Lastly, I would revert to Toys (#1) and Play area (#5).
  1. Smelling: Why does a cat act so funny after smelling catnip? If interested and adored, the cat might act like they are on Ecstasy and rub up against or chew on the herb nepeta cataria, called catnip. The chemical compound nepetalactone in the plant attracts and affects cats. The stimulant might produce a “high” (as in hyperactivity) in your cat that mimics the trigger of feline pheromones causing them to drool, roll around, flip over, and purr more than usual.
  1. Tasting: When eaten, catnip will be used as a sedative versus smelling it (d).  See Food (#2).

In conclusion, when trying to convince your cat to play with you, provide them with physical and mental stimulation. Try to engage them with all kinds of their senses with trial and error – different kinds of toys, food, routine, their play area, and the five basic human senses.

Homer, April 23rd Pet of the Week!

Surely what you need by now is a great, big smile in your house. What Homer needs is a great, big heart that will welcome him home! Homer is a 4-year-old pit bull, and his larger-than-life smile will brighten the days ahead. So will his playfulness, sweetness and inspirational attitude of contentment. Plus he’ll get you out of the house for a walk—it’s OK to do, you know. Because the shelter is closed to the public, adoption appointments are conducted through email, so contact to meet Homer Ask for ID#A641893.

(The usual suspects contributed to this rescue)