Archives for February 2021

Minari * Earnest Portrayal of Immigrants -Intricate Storyline, Poignant Score and Outstanding Cinematography

A Korean American family moves to an Arkansas farm in search of its own American dream. Amidst the challenges of this new life in the strange and rugged Ozarks, they discover the undeniable resilience of family and what really makes a home. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.”  See his full review below.

Minari

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

Minari, a semi-autobiographical and earnest portrayal of an immigrant family, written and directed by Isaac Lee Chung, tugs at viewers’ heartstrings and is surely a 2021 must-watch. The incredible starring cast, intricate storyline, poignant background score and perfectly punctuated cinematography all combine to make this Korean and English feature a beautiful masterpiece.

The name of the film, Minari, is another name for Korean watercress, which is key to the plotline. When the story begins the Yi family had immigrated to the U.S. from Korea years ago; Jacob (Steven Yeun) and Monica (Ye-Ri Han), parents to David (Alan Kim) and Anne (Noel Cho), are chicken sexers by profession. The family moves from California to the Ozarks for new opportunities. Specifically, Arkansas, where they are greeted by their new yet run-down mobile home and by Paul, an eccentric evangelist. As they settle into their new home, problems in the family begin to set in. In the name of bringing back a bit of the family spirit, Monica invites her mother, Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn), to come and stay with them. The foul-mouthed, cards-playing, yet adorable halmeoni (grandma in Korean) arrives and totally shakes things up, bonding with the grandkids over growing minari, playing cards, and watching wrestling. When tragedy strikes, though, the family is put through a resilience test like never before.

Lee Isaac Chung took inspiration from his own childhood growing up on his parents’ plot of land to create this film; it’s personal, and it shows. This film is a “the summer when everything changed” type of story . Steven Yeun is, as always, masterful in encapsulating the minimal emotions and laconic speech of his character. Veteran Korean actress Yuh-Jung Youn is my other favorite in this film; her character’s feisty-yet-lovable grandma persona truly fits. She’s an unwavering icon of the South Korean film industry and her experience shows. Also, the cinematography team for Minari, as well as the editing team, have worked meticulously to create a seamless viewing experience that accentuates emotions, waits for just long enough to switch scenes, and adds the perfect level of drama to every scene. Minari as a whole makes it feel like you’re peeking into the Yi family’s life—it’s breathtaking.

The Sundance Award-winning film Minari is a priceless portrait of resilience within family, of sticking together even through the hardest times, and of enjoying the smallest things in life. Minari has some mild language and there are certain religious elements that parents should watch out for.

I give Minari 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18, plus adults. Minari releases in theaters on February 12, 2021, and On-Demand February 26, 2021.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things * Heart-Warming Teenage Love Story In A Time Loop

Two teens live the same day repeatedly, enabling them to create the titular map. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is an American science fiction romantic comedy-drama film directed by Ian Samuels, from a screenplay by Lev Grossman, based upon his short story of the same name. It stars Kathryn Newton, Kyle Allen, Jermaine Harris, Anna Mikami, Josh Hamilton, Cleo Fraser, and Jorja Fox. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S., comments, “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a fun film with amazing stunts, a heart-warming teenage love story, a time loop and even a really cool 4-D cube drawing! The idea in this story of having infinite do-overs to create the perfect day is fascinating. Putting it all together, this film is a great combination of action, light romance, adventure, and comedy.” Mikella G. adds, “I really like The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, because it has an interesting story line that makes you think differently about life. It teaches viewers a very important life lesson, as well as making you feel something while you’re watching. It’s simple but complex, and overall just a really cute and enjoyable movie.” See their full reviews and interviews with talent below.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is a fun film with amazing stunts, a heart-warming teenage love story, a time loop and even a really cool 4-D cube drawing! The idea in this story of having infinite do-overs to create the perfect day is fascinating. Putting it all together, this film is a great combination of action, light romance, adventure, and comedy.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things features Mark (Kyle Allen) who gets stuck in a time loop and is living the same day over and over again. Every night at midnight, he falls asleep and wakes up with the previous day starting over again. In the mist of the time loop, one day he meets a mysterious girl named Margaret (Kathryn Newton) who is stuck in the same time loop. They end up on an adventure all around the city finding the “tiny things” that make up that one perfect day, while trying to decide if and how to break the time loop.

I enjoyed watching Mark and Margaret’s friendship develop and all the wild things they do without suffering consequences since they are in the time loop, like drive a tractor down the street. My favorite part is when they completely trash a model home, knowing the time loop would put it back the way it was. Another part I love is when Mark shows his dad the tattoo he got. It’s funny because he shows it to his dad right before he goes back into the time loop so his dad won’t remember. The Map of Tiny Perfect Things has some really great stunts in it, too. One stunt I thought was cool was when Mark throws his water bottle at a closing door and makes it through!

The message of this film is that sometimes the most perfect things in life may be the smallest things. One great lesson Mark’s character shows is how to care about others. I loved seeing him remember all the ways he can help people in his town each day and spread kindness. A couple of things adults should look out for in this film include places with Margaret drinking and mild cursing.

I rate The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 years old. Adults will like it, too. Don’t forget to check out The Map of Tiny Perfect Things on Amazon Prime Video, February 12, 2021.

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things

By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

I really like The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, because it has an interesting story line that makes you think differently about life. It teaches viewers a very important life lesson, as well as making you feel something while you’re watching. It’s simple but complex, and overall just a really cute and enjoyable movie. Plus, it’s a good length, not too long or short.

The storyline follows two characters, Mark (Kyle Allen) and Margaret (Kathryn Newton), who are basically trapped in time. The same day repeats over and over again, and they can’t ever die due to the fact that time has stopped. When Mark and Margaret finally meet each other, they go around the town looking for the “Tiny Perfect things,” hoping this will un-trap them from this time dimension. Throughout their time together, they discover new things about each other, and how special the little things in life really are.

I really enjoyed the film’s storylines of the two main characters. They have their own opinions on life. Also, the casting for this is terrific. Kyle Allen and Kathryn Newton are both believable as their characters and own their roles. Kathryn’s execution of Margaret is impeccable. She really makes the character stand out, and doesn’t hold back. We see all the different sides of the character. Margaret makes us look at things from a different perspective. Kyle also has great execution of Mark. You can really feel all of his frustration and anger. It’s almost as if we are there with him. They definitely locked me in while I was watching, and my thoughts never wandered. I also enjoyed the special effects, which are perfect for the film. Throughout the movie there are little things that they incorporate that really add to the dimension of the film. For instance, there are multiple scenes where they show us examples of tiny perfect things. This not only contributes to the lesson of the film, but also makes you realize the value of life, and how most of us are just going through the motions. It reminds us how special life really is.

The message of this film is to never take life for granted, and be grateful for the little things in life. You never know when you can encounter a drastic change, so always live life to the fullest while you can. Be aware that this film does have some profanity. However it’s pretty mild.

I give The Map of Tiny Perfect Things 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 21, as well as adults. You can watch The Map of Tiny Perfect Things Worldwide starting on February 12, 2021 on Amazon Prime.

Aquarium offers frog’s kisses for your loved ones this Valentine’s

Red-backed poison dart frog / Photo credit required: Robin Riggs

What happens when you kiss a frog? You can show your loved one how much you adore them this year with the Aquarium of the Pacific’s Valentine’s Day special programs. You can make a small donation to support the Aquarium’s Animal Care and Conservation Program, and the Aquarium will send your valentine an eCard from one of their amphibians. Choose from the Madagascar marbled rain frog, the Panamanian golden frog, the Solomon Island leaf frog, or the red-backed poison dart frog.

The Aquarium also invites the public to visit its outdoor areas over the holiday weekend and shop in its stores for Valentine’s Day gifts. Advance reservations are required to visit and safety protocols are in place.

WHEN: Now through Sunday, February 14, 2021

WHERE: Aquarium of the Pacific, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802 / For the Frog’s Kiss, please visit: https://support.aquariumofpacific.org/Valentines

COST TO VISIT: General admission: $19 per person (adult, senior, and child) and free to children under age three and Aquarium members / Advanced reservations required for everyone

PUBLIC INFO: (562) 590-3100 or aquariumofpacific.org  

Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific.

AQUARIUM: The nonprofit Aquarium of the Pacific is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important challenges facing our planet are explored by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders in search of sustainable solutions. The Aquarium is dedicated to conserving and building nature and nature’s services by building the interactions between and among peoples. Home to more than 12,000 animals, Aquarium exhibits include Shark Lagoon, the June Keyes Penguin Habitat, Lorikeet Forest, and the Molina Animal Care Center. Beyond its animal exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages, including lectures by leading scientists, through its Online Academy. The Aquarium offers memberships with unlimited FREE admission for 12 months and other special benefitsConvenient parking is available for $8 with Aquarium validation. To make a donation to help support the Aquarium during the pandemic, please visit pacific.to/aop2020.

How to Divorce a Financially Abusive Spouse

Divorcing a financially abusive spouse generates problems, but there are plenty of resources available that are designed to help you make a clean break. Financial abuse is considered domestic abuse, and many people are terrorized by the behavior of their abusers.

Textbook examples of financial abuse include:

  • Controlling another person’s access to money
  • Using someone’s assets without permission for personal benefit
  • Confiscating a spouse’s paycheck
  • Forcing a spouse to pay all the bills
  • Denying access to joint assets, like bank accounts, credit cards, etc.
  • Intercepting mail to scan financial documents
  • Denying or minimizing work to keep someone dependent
  • Borrowing money without asking
  • Destroying your credit by running up bills in your name
  • Threatening to report the spouse for misuse of social benefits.

The list goes on, but the underlying idea behind all these behaviors is to render a spouse dependent on the other for the basic necessities of life while denying access to the funds needed to get away.

Victims of rampant financial abuse often have poor credit, spotty work records, and mounting bills that have not been paid in months or years. The effects are very similar to financial terrorism and include going hungry, not having decent clothes, and feelings of inadequacy because of the implied emotional abuse.

Why Financial Abusers Operate as They Do

Financial abusers seek control over their victims to prevent them from leaving home or marriage. Maintaining control over the family assets is viewed as a way to prevent the victim from leaving, getting a good-paying job, attending school to earn a better living, or assemble the resources to leave the marriage.

In short, the victim is not allowed to gain any inch of independence because that would represent a significant threat to the abuser’s ego.

Financial Abuse in a Marriage

Financial abuse between spouses occurs to keep the victim from leaving or as a form of control. Male abusers deny their spouses enough food to eat and clothes to wear while others rain down both physical and emotional abuse on the victim for being inadequate in some way.

The good news is that if you are married to a financial abuser, there are steps that you can take to regain control of your life:

  • Get help immediately. Most states have abuse hotlines and social services for both male and female victims of financial abuse. Check out the resources offered by the local chapter of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. You can also contact the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund for a list of state resources you need to get out of the marriage.
  • Protect your resources. Keep any personal resources safe by calling your credit card companies, bank, and creditors and changing your PIN number or access codes. Change any passwords used on your phone or personal computer.
  • Refuse to sign any contract with an abuser. Don’t sign for any loan or credit card together.
  • Research your state’s laws on marital assets. Some states handle debts incurred as the shared responsibility of both partners. If you fear that your partner might be trying to steal your resources, don’t get married or talk to a lawyer first about protecting your assets.
  • Know your rights. Some states have laws that guarantee your right to take time off work to go to court for abuse issues.
  • Get a copy of your credit report. You have the right to check your credit report for free, and the information revealed might be crucial in detecting whether your spouse has opened accounts in your name or tried to ruin your credit.
  • Save money. It would help if you tried to save some cash to tide you over when you decide to leave your home and file for divorce. If that’s not possible, many abuse groups provide a haven for abused victims. Getting out is what’s essential – especially when the financial abuse is coupled with physical violence.

Getting Ready to Break Away

No domestic violence guide can give an abused spouse the motivation to get away from the toxic relationship, but the first step toward financial and emotional freedom is the awareness that the situation is wreaking havoc on your self-esteem, that you deserve better, and that your partner may never change.

Once you realize this, secretly work toward your financial freedom by building a cash cushion, talking to a therapist, creating a network of reliable family and friends, and hiring an experienced domestic abuse lawyer for a clean separation.

Valentine’s Day Books for the Kids!

BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE by Nancy Tillman: Bestselling author Nancy Tillman celebrates the lifelong bond between parent and child in this testament to a parent’s protection and support of their child through all ages and stages.  This is a delightful story and a must-read for young children of all ages! It would make a great bedtime story book!

SEE TOUCH FEEL: LOVE by Roger Priddy: With touch and feel elements on every spread to help with sensory learning, SEE TOUCH FEEL: LOVE is the ideal Valentine’s Day purchase for young children. I found that it is not easy to find Valentine’s Day books for very young children but I completely recommend this one! It is perfect for ages 12 months and up!

I DREAM OF POPO by Livia Blackburn; illustrated by Julia Kuo: This delicate, emotionally rich picture book celebrates a special connection that crosses time zones and oceans as Popo and her granddaughter hold each other in their hearts forever. This is a really sweet story!

Find them all here and where to purchase. You can also find them on Amazon.com.

Self Disclosure: I received free copies to facilitate this post. Images were also provided.

Delicious Goodies for Valentine’s Day!

Tidbits Fun Bites Treat yourself and your loved ones to guilt-free treats thanks to the team at Santte Foods who have spent years developing a line of healthy meringue bites that offer a sweet treat without the guilt. Tidbits Fun Bites Meringue Cookies are sugar-free, lactose-free, gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol-free, and non-GMO. Tidbits bite-sized treats that come in a 40-piece resealable bag and come in the following flavors: Cookies and Cream, Cappuccino, Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla. Tidbits Fun Bites: https://www.tidbits.fun/collections/regular-line (They are also offered in KETO friendly, Diabetic-friendly and CBD). They are all quite delicious and perfect for Valentine’s Day!

Mama Geraldine’sMama Geraldine’sGourmet Cookies: Italian Wedding, Key Lime and Pecan Cini-Minis are a delicious addition to any sweet date night in! Choose Cheese Straws or get a variety like the Bodacious Sampler that also includes their Gourmet Cookies too: https://www.mamageraldines.com

Self Disclosure: Samples were received and images were provided.

A Glitch In The Matrix * Rare Documentary That Asks A Question It Knows It Can’t Answer

Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher tackles this question “are we living in a simulation?” with testimony, philosophical evidence and scientific explanation in his for the answer. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “A Glitch In The Matrix is a radical, uniquely-presented look at simulation theory in the digital age – specifically, how those who prescribe to the notion that we’re all living in a simulation came to those beliefs and how this belief affects their outlook. Dense, but accessible, directed by Rodney Ascher, it’s the rare documentary that asks a question it knows it can’t answer.” See the rest of his review below.

A Glitch In The Matrix

By Benjamin P., Kids First! Film Critic, Age 15

A Glitch In The Matrix is a radical, uniquely-presented look at simulation theory in the digital age – specifically, how those who prescribe to the notion that we’re all living in a simulation came to those beliefs and how this belief affects their outlook. Dense, but accessible, directed by Rodney Ascher, it’s the rare documentary that asks a question it knows it can’t answer.

In the late 1970s, famed author Phillip K. Dick, known for his sci-fi stories, gave a talk where he laid out his theory that we are living in a simulation. This becomes the entry point into the maw of simulation theory, its depth only outmatched by its complexity. A Glitch In The Matrix utilizes a famed and celebrated movie as its main frame of reference in exploring its theme — The Matrix, a film that put simulation theory into the mainstream. Ascher’s film investigates where stimulation theory stemmed from, how its tenets and principles have been echoed throughout history by everyone from Plato to Elon Musk to current times.

The conceit of A Glitch In The Matrix can’t so much be explored as marveled at, and the possibilities of a simulated reality tinkered with, and so that’s exactly what it does.  This film boldly depicts this proposed reality entirely through CG animation and clips from popular culture that have dealt with similar ideas. I respect that a film about simulations indulges so heavily in them.  For example, many people who speak in the film have their identities shielded by virtual avatars that filter their perspectives, enhancing the feel of a simulation. This method of using simulation techniques in a film about simulation gets very “meta,” but, in doing so, adheres to and honors the film’s topic and not in a show-offy or self-congratulatory way. 

I have respect for any movie that seeks to make you question the world you live in.  Socially and politically, A Glitch In The Matrix does that quite literally. If you’re looking for a documentary that finds the key to its main topic and deconstructs it bit by bit, this isn’t that, but if you’re willing to go on a bit of a journey through a school of thought via the lens of a capable filmmaker that challenges what you think about your own reality, sit down, give this a chance and enjoy it. A Glitch In The Matrix is left incomplete almost by design, but somehow that works to its charm.

I give A Glitch In The Matrix 3 out of 5 stars and an age rating of 14 to 18 for some simulated violence and the description of a violent crime. It just premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it will be available in theaters and at home on February 5, 2021.

The Snoopy Show * Classic Peanuts’ Fans Will Love This. New Adventures; True Characters

The world’s most iconic dog is ready for his close-up. Dive into new adventures with the happy-dancing, high-flying, big-dreaming beagle, who’s joined by best friend Woodstock and the rest of the “Peanuts” gang. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “The new hit series, The Snoopy Show! The Snoopy Show has everything a classic Peanut’s fan will enjoy. The show looks incredibly like the original comic series, as if the animators took an old comic strip and put it on your home television! In addition, the writers made an outstanding effort to make every character stay true to their original passions and personalities.” See his full review below.

The Snoopy Show

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

Time to break out the classic Peanuts dance moves because today we are celebrating the new hit series, The Snoopy Show! The Snoopy Show has everything a classic Peanut’s fan will enjoy. The show looks incredibly like the original comic series, as if the animators took an old comic strip and put it on your home television! In addition, the writers made an outstanding effort to make every character stay true to their original passions and personalities. Instead of making the characters go on the same repetitive adventures (like a lot of cartoons do), The Snoopy Show brings brand new adventures sure to make you want more and more.

The Snoopy Show follows everyone’s favorite beagle, Snoopy (Terry McGurrin), with each episode including different stories surrounding him. Episode stories range from Snoopy writing his own autobiography to exploring the origin story between Snoopy and Woodstock.  Just when you think there can’t possibly be another amazing adventure, The Snoopy Show  consistently delivers new and original stories that all ages can enjoy.

The primary component of this creative revival that made me smile is the animation and art. The art director, Joseph Holt, surpassed any expectations of the show living up to its classic art style by making it authentic and original. The Snoopy Show is also extremely well voice cast because of how each character’s voice sounds like its predecessor. Out of all the Peanuts film content over the years, like The Peanuts Movie, The Snoopy Show really impresses me because of how writers can continue to find new angles to explore the characters and always put them in new entertaining scenarios.

The Snoopy Show is the perfect new show for kids. It has a lot of comedic content in an appropriate way, fun adventures, and lessons/morals for viewers to learn every episode. The show explores themes such as family, friendship, and gratefulness. One of the key morals taught in the show is to always be grateful for the people around you, and to never take people for granted; it also communicates the message that sometimes you just need someone you love to make you smile.

The Snoopy Show soars higher than Charlie Brown’s kite with a miraculous, nostalgic art style and new adventures all ages can enjoy. Similar to how Peppermint Patty scores five out of five goals in hockey, I am giving The Snoopy Show 5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 4 to 18 plus adults, because who doesn’t love Peanuts? The Snoopy Show premieres Feb 5, 2021 on Apple TV+, so make sure to check it out!