Archives for December 2020

Xena, Dec. 30th Pet of the Week!

Xena is a 5-year-old sweetheart of a Rottweiler. She has special needs—she’s blind—but the emphasis is on “special.” Xena’s a lovebug with her bright smile and easygoing disposition—just what’s needed for the new year! Here she is with her seeing-eye human, shelter volunteer Gary. Want to be her eyes? She sure will be your heart! Because the shelter is closed to the public, adoption appointments are conducted through appointment, so call 562-570-PETS or email PetAdopt@longbeach.gov to meet Xena. Ask for ID#A652438.

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)

Lilly’s Light: The Movie * A Fun Loving Adventure With Wonderful Songs and Messages

Lilly’s Light is a fun-filled and heartwarming family musical, starring Lilly, (Sherry Hursey, Home Improvement, Bring It On) a loving foster mom and keeper of an enchanted lighthouse. Using joy, love, laughter and song as her tools, Lilly shows everyone that “Life is Full of Possibilities!” It is an inspiring and uplifting adventure that will capture the hearts and minds of children and adults everywhere. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kayla A. comments, “The heartfelt film Lilly’s Light: The Movie is perfect for young children. I love this movie because of the elements of magic and hope that are embedded throughout. Also, the message is clearly delivered through catchy songs.” Rosemary K. adds, “The film’s message is about joy, bravery and making the best out of what one has.”  Giana N. adds, “Lilly’s Light: The Movie is a musical that shows people that they always need someone. The characters are fun and the songs have great messages. This film is enchanting and heartwarming.”  Avery P. wraps it up with, “The recurring message is that life has endless possibilities and you should stay true to yourself. Lilly had to survive and help herself by making a family out of friends. By doing this she has many lessons to teach others. You should know that the film does include topics about orphans and foster kids. You also should know that your child may sing these songs over and over again!” See their full reviews below.

Lilly’s Light: The Movie

By Kayla A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The heartfelt film Lilly’s Light: The Movie is perfect for young children. I love this movie because of the elements of magic and hope that are embedded throughout. Also, the message is clearly delivered through catchy songs.

This film follows a caring foster mother named Lilly and the keeper of a magical lighthouse. The real fun begins when members of Lilly’s crew of children discover The Big Book of Little Adventures in the lighthouse basement.  Inside the book, the talking pelican messenger Pel-Mel shows them Daniel, a poor orphan who isn’t open to new people in his life. Lilly and her crew take him on a magical adventure where they meet the Wizard of Hog and Sir Oinks A Lot. But will Daniel loosen up and open his heart to new friends?

I really like how the film delivers strong messages through positive, uplifting and inspirational songs. This family-friendly musical is filled with colorful and playful sets that really engage young children.  Sherry Hursey who plays Lilly acts with such passion and joy; she is like Mary Poppins in training! 

This film conveys many uplifting messages, but the one that spoke to me most is: you have the power to change the way you think.

I give Lilly’s Light: The Movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 7 who will absolutely love this film and be begging for a sequel. Lilly’s Light: The Movie is currently streaming via Gathr At Home for children and families to watch and sing-a-long together.

Lilly’s Light: The Movie
By Rosemary K., KIDS FIRST!  Film Critic, age 12

I really appreciate that it took a lot of hard work and effort to make Lilly’s Light: The Movie. Sherry Hursey co-wrote and produced the film, as well as performs in the lead role. It is very creative and is like no film I’ve ever seen before and is suitable for young children. However, the storyline and themes may be a bit confusing for them. The film has a lot of wavering fantasies and unrealistic things mixed with realistic, half-funny jokes. 

The storyline follows a girl who is raised an orphan, Lilly (Sherry Hursey) who, as an adult, opens a foster care center in a lighthouse where she takes children on wonderful and magnificent journeys and brings joy to everyone’s life. She helps a boy find happiness and imagination and takes all the children into an imaginary world that they make a scrapbook of to show people in the future.

Even though I didn’t resonate with the storyline, the special effects and animation are well executed. There are beautiful transitions between the scenes and the music is very original and enjoyable. There are speaking animals, which are convincing and really funny. My favorite part is when they are in an imaginary pig-style version of Camelot with talking pigs that make jokes. This part is overall hilarious and ties together the deeper parts of the film.  It is a bit corny and some of the dialogue isn’t very realistic and doesn’t draw you into the story. 

The film’s message is about joy, bravery and making the best out of what one has. 

I give Lilly’s Light: The Movie 3 out of 5 stars recommend it for ages 6-13, plus some adults.  People who really like unique and out of the ordinary fantasy films will particularly enjoy it. Lilly’s Light: The Movie is currently streaming via Gathr At Home for children and families to watch and sing-a-long together.

Lilly’s Light: The Movie

By Giana N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 9

Lilly’s Light: The Movie is a musical that shows people that they always need someone. The characters are fun and the songs have great messages. This film is enchanting and heartwarming.

Lilly’s Light: The Movie is about a woman named Lilly, played by Sherry Hursey, who was a foster kid as a child. When Lilly becomes an adult, she uses a lighthouse to create a home for other foster children. A young boy named Daniel, played by Vitor Philipe, just lost his grandmother, his only known family member, making him a foster kid too. Lilly invites him to the family, but he declines and says he doesn’t need anyone. But, Lilly and the kids take Daniel’s book bag to keep him at the lighthouse long enough to convince him that he needs them after all.

The writers of Lilly’s Light: The Movie uses storytelling to tell about the adventures of the foster kids. The scenes switch back and forth between the past and the present as the story is told. The set of the movie is colorful and appealing. For example, the colors of the furniture in the lighthouse give the house an artistic vibe. All of the songs in this film have a positive message. For example, the song “Life Is Full of Possibilities” gives us the message that anything can happen in life. I like the talking goose, but the part I like the most is when Daniel realizes that he needs Lilly, because even though his grandmother is no longer with him, he has a new family now.

The message of Lilly’s Light: The Movie is family isn’t just your relatives, but it’s the people who love and care for you. There aren’t any inappropriate things to look out for in this film. This is actually a family-friendly film.

The music and the message of Lilly’s Light: The Movie makes this film worth watching. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 5 to 13. Lilly’s Light: The Movie is currently streaming via Gathr At Home for children and families to watch and sing-a-long together. Be sure to check it out!

Lilly’s Light: The Movie

By Avery P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Lilly’s Light: The Movie is a very whimsical film! It is especially creative and has many great messages and entertaining content.

The storyline is about Lilly (Sherry Hursey), who was stranded from her parents at sea and is raised by a fisherman, Uncle Fitz (LeRoy White). Lilly grows up to become a foster mom to three young children. She easily helps others and eventually takes in more kids including Daniel (Vitor Philipe). Lilly reads to her foster kids about all the adventures she has had with other kids.

I enjoyed the fun personalities of all the characters. Everyone is very bubbly. The singing and musical fun is entertaining and lighthearted. The songs are motivating and very catchy. Some songs are a little slow, but for the most part it is upbeat. There are many fun talking animals which is very appealing. I also like the computerized characters that come to life.  The background music is magical with lots of sound affects showing off certain moves, songs and games. The film is adventurous and playful. The costuming is especially creative and colorful. There is a point in the film where Lilly and the kids switch to a different time period. The costuming in this era has many medieval renaissance dresses and clothing. The background and setting starts in a colorful, magical lighthouse with has tons of cool inventions. My favorite thing is that the movie promotes imagination and inventions. The film may be a bit long for its intended audience.

There are multiple messages from the film.  The recurring message is that life has endless possibilities and you should stay true to yourself. Lilly had to survive and help herself by making a family out of friends. By doing this she has many lessons to teach others. You should know that the film does include topics about orphans and foster kids. You also should know that your child may sing these songs over and over again!

I give Lilly’s Light 2.5 out 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. Lilly’s Light: The Movie is currently streaming via Gathr At Home for children and families to watch and sing-a-long together.

Mr. Iglesias, Season 3 * Good Message, Encourages Us To Realize The Importance Of Teachers

Mr. Iglesias is an American comedy streaming television series that premiered on Netflix on June 21, 2019. The series stars Gabriel Iglesias who executive produces alongside Kevin Hench, Joe Meloche, and Ron DeBlasio. In August 2019, the series was renewed for a second season which premiered on June 17, 2020. Season 3 comes out December 8, 2020. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “Mr. Iglesias is a streaming TV series with a great moral message and a lot of potential. The story follows Mr. Iglesias (Gabe Iglesias), a high school teacher who wants nothing more than to help his students thrive.” See her full review below.

Mr. Iglesias, Season 3

By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Mr. Iglesias is a streaming TV series with a great moral message and a lot of potential. The story follows Mr. Iglesias (Gabe Iglesias), a high school teacher who wants nothing more than to help his students thrive. He works to help his students through their interpersonal issues while also working on his own anxieties.

This show is a sitcom, so how is the comedy? To be honest, the comedy is very hit or miss for me. And that’s mainly because this show uses a laugh track. I found it a bit annoying and it consistently broke my immersion. I also don’t understand why this show needs a laugh track in the first place. It’s a very outdated tactic and it makes the show feel outdated as a result. Though, the pop culture references definitely don’t help. There are some genuinely funny lines despite this flaw, but it’s still something that really bothered me.

The characters are also hit or miss. I like a lot of the students, especially Grace (Gloria Aung) and Marisol (Cree Cicchino) as I felt they have a lot of development throughout the show. However, Mr. Iglesias’s co-workers are mostly annoying. Paula (Sherri Shepard) especially bothered me the more episodes I watched, which is unfortunate since Sherri Shepard is a great comedy actor. Her very inappropriate humor feels so jarring and it made me feel uncomfortable at points. Weirdly enough, Carlos (Oscar Nunez) actually grew on me. Despite how comically evil he is at first, once he tones down his hatred for children, he becomes a very entertaining straight man. Mr. Iglesias himself is consistently entertaining. He definitely steals the show most of the time. Despite this, I’m not a fan of the way he is presented in the show. The character version of Gabriel Iglesias is presented with very few flaws, and characters regularly comment on how his biggest flaw is how nice he is. It feels unnatural and too perfect.

Mr. Iglesias has a good message and encourages us to realize that teachers are incredibly important to the lives of children— we should celebrate that importance. The upcoming third season is the best season of the show. Despite fewer episodes, the jokes are a lot funnier, and there’s a lot of character development in the third season. So if you are already a fan you will definitely be happy with what’s coming next.

I give Mr. Iglesias 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. Season 3 comes out December 8, 2020.

Greenland * Adventure! Intense! This is the Film for You!

A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garritys experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “A family fights for survival as a planet-killing comet races to Earth. John Garrity (Gerard Butler), his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and young son Nathan make a perilous journey to their only hope for sanctuary. Amid terrifying news accounts of cities around the world being leveled by the comet’s fragments, the Garritys experience the best and worst in humanity while they battle the increasing panic and lawlessness surrounding them. As the countdown to global apocalypse approaches zero, their incredible trek culminates in a desperate and last-minute flight to a possible safe haven.” See his full review below.

Greenland

By Jude A., KIDS FIRST Film Critic, age 14

Are you interested in an adventure? Are you ready for an intense ride of a lifetime? Well if so, Greenland is the movie for you! This film tests the limits of our society and portrays something everyone is scared might happen:   The apocalypse. Greenland completely immerses you in its intensity, and also in incredible acting performances and visually stunning scenes.  

Greenland starts off following a man named John Garrity (Gerard Butler)  who learns of a comet named Clark that will be passing by Earth. Clark seems to be all fun and interesting until it is not!  Fragments of Clark begin hitting Earth, wiping out cities, counties, and billions of lives. John discovers a safe haven, and he vows to get his family to it no matter what obstacles they face.

One of the biggest challenges about making a film about the apocalypse is making it look realistic. The visual effects department made everything look as if it was real, especially when it comes to scenes with comet fragments hitting Earth. Director Ric Roman Waugh also set up the story in such a way that it really makes the viewer wonder, how far would I go to protect my family?

Greenland delivers everything you would expect about an apocalypse movie along with stunning visual scenes. My concern with this film is that it lags in the middle making you aware of the two-hour runtime. Some scenes feel not unnecessary,  and that the story could work perfectly without them. Also, Greenland pushes the boundaries of a PG-13 film because of the major intensity and gore. Throughout the film—with society on edge and people taking advantage of the crisis—gun violence, murder, and cursing frequently occur. Every child has a different maturity level, but even as a mature 14-year-old, I found some parts of this film difficult to watch at times.

I give Greenland 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18 plus adults because of the intensity and violence. You can find Greenland digitally on December 18, 2020.

FIRST NIGHTS AROUND THE U.S. CELEBRATE THE NEW YEAR — 2021 STARTS HERE!

December, 2020. Monterey, CA. Ring in the New Year with a First Night first!  This special program for New Year’s Eve will bring you around the country and feature music, art, dance, and poetry from Florida to Illinois and onward to California. First Nights are coming together, virtually and free, to showcase our local performers. Built around the four pillars of First Night (Art, Celebration, Community, and New Year’s Eve), we will have a historic event for the entire family to enjoy. First Night Monterey will feature performers that are also streamed from Springfield, IL and St. Petersburg, FL.

Due to the ongoing COVID -19 pandemic, we cannot bring our communities together in the traditional way that brings joy to so many. But, we can come together to share the holiday, make our resolutions for the New Year, and ring in 2021 with the hope, unity, and optimism we are all ready to embrace.  

To enjoy all of the family fun, plan to attend virtually.

At a Glance:

What: First Night Monterey 2021 featuring performers from two other First Night celebrations streamed from Springfield, IL and St. Petersburg, FL. The event premiers and airs only on December 31st.

When: December 31, 2020 from 6pm-Midnight PST

Kids’ Night Out activities begin at 3 pm PST.

Where: Premiering on YouTube.com/FirstNightMonterey

Also: Fun Pre-Event First Night Monterey Activities also featured starting December 20, 2020, including a 2020 Public Art Scavenger Hunt in Historic Downtown Monterey if you’re visiting Monterey to be done at your own schedule

Daily updates on the website: www.firstnightmonterey.org

Cost: First Night is all about community and you can access the link to the event on our website. We do have buttons and this is a way to receive this year’s button by making a donation.

For more information:  www.firstnightmonterey.org or call 831-233-2092.

About the First Night Celebrations

Join First Night Monterey, to enjoy kids’ night out, music from around the country, and some interactive art activities. Thousands will come together to enjoy First Night in the comfort of their own homes with entertainment from these three special First Night celebrations. 

Our virtual celebration will bring you and your family the best of entertainment and a fun, joyful way to welcome 2021 together.   

CELEBRATE NEW YEAR’S EVE MONTEREY STYLE  Wherever You Are!

Since 1993, Monterey’s First Night has been a New Year’s Eve celebration of artistic performances, the joy of families, and the beginning of a new year. In keeping with this Monterey tradition, the First Night celebration will joyfully bring in 2021 with an array of performances that will be broadcast on YouTube.com/FirstNightMonterey.

Share your resolutions for the new year and your celebrations from home by using #firstnightmonterey, #celebrate21 in your posts. Happy New Year!

Join First Night artists and performers to say adieu to 2020 and welcome in 2021 with all of the possibilities that a new year implies.  This year, First Night Monterey is a Virtual Online Celebration that will transport you into a world of wonder and imagination.  Over 18 performances will showcase the very best artists and performers from Florida to Illinois to Monterey.

First Night Monterey premieres Kids’ Night Out, featuring dance, art and storytelling.  Evening Festival of the Arts begins at 8:00pm with performances running until midnight, when you’ll welcome in the New Year with an exciting finale of fireworks and a Rock and Roll band performance.

Love music?  There’s music for everyone’s taste. The smooth jazz sounds from Monterey Jazz Festival’s Next Generation Jazz Band, and the Gerald Clayton Quartet, a four-time Grammy nominated artist. The Yvette Gonzales-Nacer Trio features Broadway star, actress and singer who brings a soulful eclectic classic Latin sway. A perennial favorite of First Night, the Black Irish Band returns performing in an historic 1800 building and the soothing sounds of Heartstrings will have the entire family toe tapping. Other favorites include MC Lars, Dirty Cello and East of Eden with Kiki Wow in her final Monterey concert.

Leading up to New Year’s Eve, First Night has several fun activities for the entire family. Our 2020 Scavenger Hunt is a great way for First Night’ers in Monterey to spend time outdoors with the family.  Our public art scavenger hunt will take you on an adventure through the downtown streets of our 250-year-old Historic Monterey. Along the way, you’re invited to take selfies and load them on the First Night Monterey Facebook and Instagram pages.

Making NYE party favors, we will have an assortment of art activities for the kids and adults! Make a celebration hat, a noisemaker, and create your own art as you watch the clock count down to the New Year.

Donate and receive a fun First Night Monterey New Year’s Package: First Night Monterey 2021 Buttons, designed by Yvonne Rendon, a CSUMB student, are available and there are a variety of ways to get yours. First Night Monterey welcomes your donations to keep this important annual event going for years to come. Make a donation of $40 – $100 and we will mail or you pick up buttons, NYE hats, horns, and everything to celebrate the beginning of 2021.

Credit: First Night Monterey.

Wild Mountain Thyme * Picturesque Countryside, Sweet Irish Love Story

John Patrick Shanley, who created the classic MOONSTRUCK, brings his sweeping romantic vision to Ireland with Wild Mountain Thyme. The headstrong farmer Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) has her heart set on winning her neighbor Anthony Reilly’s love. The problem is Anthony (Jamie Dornan) seems to have inherited a family curse, and remains oblivious to his beautiful admirer. Stung by his father Tony’s (Christopher Walken) plans to sell the family farm to his American nephew (Jon Hamm), Anthony is jolted into pursuing his dreams in this comedic, moving and wildly romantic tale. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Wild Mountain Thyme is an Irish romantic-comedy. It is set in Ballina, County Mayo, a lush Irish countryside with picturesque farms, impressive coastlines and lovely farm houses.  You will enjoy this sweet Irish love story.” See her full review below.   

Wild Mountain Thyme

By Katherine S. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Wild Mountain Thyme is an Irish romantic-comedy. It is set in Ballina, County Mayo, a lush Irish countryside with picturesque farms, impressive coastlines and lovely farm houses.  You will enjoy this sweet Irish love story.   

This movie follows the story of the farmer Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt). At a young age she is love-struck with her neighbor, Anthony Reilly (Jamie Dornan). Anthony spends his days ignoring the flirtations of his admirer.  Tony Reilly (Christopher Walken) is not convinced his son Anthony is capable of managing the family farm and threatens to sell it to his American nephew, Adam (Jon Hamm). This motivates Anthony and he becomes determined to keep the farm. Rosemary finds herself in an unexpected love-triangle between Anthony and Adam.

Wild Mountain Thyme is directed by John Patrick Shanley and was adapted from his Broadway play Outside Mullingar. The story is based on John Patrick Shanley’s own Irish family. Though I really appreciated the story, it might not appeal to many kids my age as much as it might appeal to older teens and adults. I really enjoyed the music in the film, which is composed by Amelia Warner, Jamie Dornan’s wife.  One of my favorite songs is “Will Ye Go, Lassie Go,” also known as “Wild Mountain Thyme.” This song plays an important role in this movie. The movie stars several very accomplished actors; Emily Blunt portrays a fiery and independent farm girl, Rosemary. Jon Hamm nicely portrays Adam, a wealthy American bachelor from New York who is on a mission to find an Irish wife. Jamie Dornan plays Anthony as a insecure and awkward farm boy. Christopher Walken role as Tony Reilly, the bickering father brings out his subtle and clever sense of humor.  The Irish accents are well executed. I might recommend they add English subtitles though, because it can be hard to decipher what they are saying.

The main messages of the movie are be true to yourself, follow your dreams, squabble less and love more. There is some bad language and some drinking.

I give Wild Mountain Thyme 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. This movie is scheduled to come to theaters on December 11, 2020.

Stillwater * Endearing Cast, Stories From All Around The World

Based on the Caldecott Honor Children’s book series Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, Stillwater is produced by Gaumont and Scholastic Entertainment and centers on siblings Karl, Addy and Michael, who are typical kids with typical kid challenges – meaning that sometimes even the smallest things can feel insurmountable. Fortunately for these three, they have Stillwater, a wise panda, as their next-door neighbor. Through his example, stories and gentle humor, Stillwater gives the children a deeper understanding of their feelings as well as tools that help them face their own day-to-day challenges. Stillwater also brings newfound fun and adventure for the three, opening their eyes to the quiet wonders of the world around them, and guiding them to their place within it.  KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Stillwater is a unique offering this winter, combining stories from around the world with an endearing cast, as well as profound morals. This superb bundle will surely be attractive to young viewers!” See his full review below.

Stillwater

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

Stillwater is a unique offering this winter, combining stories from around the world with an endearing cast, as well as profound morals. This superb bundle will surely be attractive to young viewers!

Stillwater revolves around siblings Karl, Addy and Michael who have a unique anthropomorphic mammal as their neighbor – a wise panda named (surprise, surprise) Stillwater! Stillwater loves tai-chi, trying new things and eating bamboo shoots. Plus he seems to have the answer to any question the three kids ask. Thus, they have a very special friendship and bond with Stillwater; his stories help shape their perspective on life, the worl, and their relationships with others.

James Sie, Judah Mackey, Eva Binder and Tucker Chandler make up the main cast of this film. Binder and Chandler, who play Addy and Michael respectively, are secondary characters, whose performances don’t necessarily take center-stage, but still are quite skillful. Speaking of center-stage, Sie, who plays Stillwater the zen-friendly panda, puts on a superb performance. He succeeds in capturing the essence of what (at least, I think) a panda would sound like if it could speak, with his deep and sonorous voice. Sie was a great choice to play Stillwater, who discusses Chinese and East Asian culture in the show since he himself is of Chinese descent. I also love Judah Mackey’s portrayal of Karl, the inquisitive, sensitive youngest child in the family, who has a special affection for his panda friend. Mackey, along with many of the other characters in the film, help the show maintain its momentum because of their strong performances. A tip of the hat is in order for all the writers of the show, as well as the animators and producers behind it, as they seamlessly and intricately detail Stillwater the panda’s famed stories with backdrops of Chinese villages, Indian temples, Central American forests and adorable cartoonish animal characters from all regions. The inclusion and appreciation of cultural elements, specifically from Asia, is refreshing and exactly what we like to see! The score of the show also really stands out, as the serene notes of the Xiao, sitar and guitar help accent all of the six episodes’ action-packed scenes.

Each episode of this show promotes a different, positive message. These include perseverance, patience, recognizing your inner talent, overcoming your fears, teamwork and being there for those you love. Stillwater promotes positive social behavior and is a great family watch.

I give Stillwater 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 7. Stillwater is releasing on Apple TV+ on December 4, 2020.

Domino, Dec. 22nd Pet of the Week!

It’s nearly Christmas, with New Year’s Eve following close behind, and here’s Domino, all dressed in his proper tuxedo and white silk cravat. He’s all dressed up with nowhere to go. You can fix that—this handsome guy’s holiday wish is to find his furever home. Domino’s only 2 years old, and he’s easygoing, gentle and loving—just what you need to warm up your holiday. Because the shelter is closed to the public, adoption appointments are conducted through email, so contact PetAdopt@longbeach.gov to meet Domino. Ask for ID#A652285.

(This rescue encouraged by the usual suspects.)