Archives for June 1, 2021

Explore the beauty of the world’s Coral Reefs in an exhibition at The Aquarium of the Pacific this summer

Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities features more than one dozen exhibits / Pictured: day octopus in coral reef habitat. Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific.

Take a voyage around the world to explore colorful coral reefs, the animals that call them home, and the threats they face along with solutions in the exhibition Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Programming and exhibits include the reimagined Tropical Pacific Gallery, animals such as a green sea turtle and glowing corals, and films about coral reefs, including one for the immersive Honda Pacific Visions Theater. The Aquarium invites you to take in the majesty of coral reefs as you learn about their importance and how to protect them through the relaunch of Coral Reefs: Nature’s Underwater Cities May 28, 2021 through April 2021.

While coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean floor, more than 25 percent of all marine fish species depend upon them. Coral reefs are the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems, filled with colorful fish and invertebrates that are found nowhere else on Earth. Tens of millions of people rely on them for their livelihoods, and billions of people could potentially depend upon them for the life-saving, medicinal secrets they may contain. But these important ecosystems are at risk. Coral Reefs examines this topic and what we can do to help.

To create the exhibition, the Aquarium redesigned its Tropical Pacific Gallery to focus on various aspects of coral reef habitats and showcase new animals. Some of the animals that are highlighted include numerous species of coral, sea turtles, sharks, rays, and diverse reef fishes such as pufferfish, filefish, parrotfish, and flashlight fish. The Aquarium has also added new animals to this exhibition for the relaunch, including sexy shrimp, the crown of thorns sea star, and pajama squid.

Learn how coral reefs form, how corals represent a mutually beneficial partnership between a colony-building ocean animal and algae, and discover the coral life cycle. Find out how so many animals live in close communities on coral reefs and how some species control the balance. Meet the seabird animal ambassador, Sula the red-footed booby, and find out about her species’ relationship to coral reefs. Sula is one of two known red-footed boobies living at a zoo or aquarium.

In addition to more than a dozen exhibits representing various coral reef habitats and species, guests can take a virtual dive with a new multimedia experience in the Aquarium’s Honda Pacific Visions Theater. The Aquarium will also offer a Great Hall film showcasing the beauty of reefs, an interactive exhibit where guests can digitally color a coral reef animal and add it to a virtual tank, a coral art installation, and informative displays where visitors can learn more about the importance of corals and reefs to animals and to people and what can be done to help protect them.

Coral reefs are highly valuable to communities around the world. Besides serving as beautiful places to explore while snorkeling on a tropical vacation, coral reefs and the marine life they support serve many important uses for humans. Reefs help protect coastal communities by reducing the impact of storm surges. Healthy coral reefs support a diversity of marine life and are an important source of food for many nations, including the United States. They may also have uses that are yet to be discovered. Some corals and sponges contain compounds that may hold the cures for human diseases, yet 95 percent of the ocean, where these animals may be abundant, remains unexplored.

The exhibition culminates with displays that show what people around the world are doing to help coral reefs and what each of us can do to join their efforts. The Aquarium of the Pacific has been involved in various programs to help coral reefs and promote coral conservation. Aquarium experts have traveled to places like Guam to assist with coral reef restoration as part of an ongoing effort with SECORE (Sexual Coral Reproduction) International, which the Aquarium joined in 2013. The Aquarium supported the CORALASSIST project in Palau in 2019 to help with efforts to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services in the face of climate change. The Aquarium also acts as a rescue facility for confiscated corals for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has a coral propagation area to grow and care for corals.

Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific.

L.A. Zoo’s Annual Fundraiser – Beastly Ball – Happening Virtually on Saturday, June 5 at 6 p.m.

Photo Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo.

The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association (GLAZA) will host its preeminent annual fundraiser, Beastly Ball (#BeastlyBall), virtually on Saturday June 5 at 6 p.m. Lauded as “one of the most important fundraisers” by the Los Angeles Times, this long-running event, now in its 51st year, started as a glitzy Hollywood gala and has evolved into a virtual global celebration that welcomes viewers from around the world to tune in and support the Los Angeles Zoo. This star-studded event will be hosted by actor, comedian, and TV host Joel McHale and honors the philanthropic work of Actors Jackie Chan and Leila George, and will be filled with inspiring conservation stories; special celebrity guests; animal moments; an online auction; and musical performances by Weezer, REO Speedwagon’s Kevin Cronin, Slash with Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Stone Temple Pilot’s Robert DeLeo; and Poet Christopher Simms reading a poem he wrote called “The Return of the Earth/She;” and much more. Guests can watch the live event and/or participate in the silent auction at Tax-deductible patron packages start at $1,500. Patron package donors at the $10,000 and higher level will receive a hand-delivered Zoo-themed goodie bag with Lyre’s non-alcoholic spirits, John Kelly Chocolates, and Imagery Wine Estate wines along with a multi-course meal provided by Chefs Keith Corbin and Daniel Patterson of Alta Adams, which serves a distinct interpretation of soul food that blends traditional West African food and California cuisine. To learn more, and to purchase patron packages, please visit  

“Last year more than 21,000 people from around the globe joined the celebration, making it our biggest and wildest party to date,” states Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association President Tom Jacobson. “And with Joel McHale returning to host the event, it is guaranteed to be a laughter-filled evening of philanthropy, fun, favorite animals, and fabulous celebrity friends,” Jacobson goes on to say.  Action hero Jackie Chan’s high-flying stunts have made him a worldwide sensation, but it’s his off-screen work that embodies the actor’s spirit of generosity and humility that makes him a true hero. Named as one of the top 10 most charitable celebrities by Forbes magazine, Chan crisscrosses the globe to lend support for a myriad of causes, including wildlife conservation, and is a supporter and ambassador of Save China’s Tigers, which aims to save the endangered South China tiger through breeding and reintroduction into the wild. 

Australian-American actress Leila George, who’s a rising star currently on TNT’s Animal Kingdom, and seen previously in Mortal Engines and The Kid, has built a sizable reputation off screen for her philanthropic work. Working alongside her husband, Sean Penn, and his nonprofit relief organization CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), George has been active in setting up COVID-19 testing sites in New Orleans, Atlanta, Navajo Nation, NYC, Chicago and California. Last year, George raised funds for the conservation of wildlife, land, and communities when she produced and hosted the Australian Wildfire Relief Event  at the L.A. Zoo.“This year’s conservation honorees hail from different parts of the world and represent the diverse voices creating social awareness for the need to protect native species and wildlife habitat around the globe,” Jacobson states. “And with conservation at the core of what we do, this fundraiser supports GLAZA’s efforts to fund a myriad of programs including conservation, animal care, animal health, and education programs at the Los Angeles Zoo,” Jacobson goes on to say. The Beastly Ball will bring together legendary musical talent, including Southern California rock band Weezer performing Toto’s chart-topping song “Africa”; REO Speedwagon’s iconic vocalist Kevin Cronin performing two of the band’s biggest hits acoustically; and Zoo Trustee and veteran guitarist Slash with Def Leppard’s Phil Collen and Stone Temple Pilot’s Robert DeLeo collaborating on what’s sure to be an unforgettable performance.   Guests can contribute to the evening’s success by participating in the Ball’s online auction, which will feature a mix of one-of-a-kind experiences, travel packages, art, and more. Hundreds of items will be available to bid on, including:  A Hawaiian getaway that includes a 5-night Optimal Wellness Program at Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort and a 4-night stay at Four Seasons Lana’i A relaxing three-night stay at the Four Seasons Resort in Tamarindo, Mexico. Includes breakfast. Play the ultimate game of softball on the field at Dodger Stadium. Two teams of 15 players each will sit in the home and away dugouts. Get rocking with two VIP tickets to The Stadium Tour featuring Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts; meet Mötley Crüe’s Vince Neil prior to the SoFi Stadium Tour Show (September 4th) and receive a $500 gift card to For the first time ever, the Beastly Ball will have a dedicated art auction featuring an eclectic mix of celebrity, local, and international artists, who contributed over 65 unique and original pieces of art ranging from sculpture and paintings to prints and photographs. The theme of this year’s art auction is nature, wildlife, climate change and our blue planet and will include works by actor and comedian Mike Myers and the late American poet and writer Allen Ginsberg; as well as Los Angeles-based artists Narb Avedissian, Juan Bastos, Javiera Estrada, Peter Liashkov, Dan McCleary, Michael Microulis, Ramone Munoz, Melora Walters, and more; and international artists Peggy H. Lee, Kat Serediuk, Kevin Sloan, and Hannah Ward, among others.  To RSVP, preview the auction, make a tax-deductible donation, view and select patron packages, or watch live, please visit:  The Beastly Ball is generously supported by: Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Alta Adams, City National Bank, Imagery Estate Winery, John Kelly Chocolates, Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Spirits, and Welk Resorts.  

Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo.

A Quiet Place Part II * A Screaming Delight with Surprising Twists and Major Intensity

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Jude A. comments, “As much as Emily Blunt and John Krasinski have to be incredibly silent, A Quiet Place Part II is a screaming delight with surprising twists and major intensity. Just when you think you can’t get enough of these mind-boggling jump scares, the film provides new creative plot lines that make you jump left and right. The film does lack a major conclusion, which doesn’t really give viewers closure, and it leaves you with the thought, “Wait, the movie’s over?”  Samantha B. adds, “One of the best things about A Quiet Place Part II is the talent! I believe every actor and actress featured in this amazing film deserves a standing ovation. My favorite actress is Emily Blunt who is excellent in her role as Evelyn Abbott, bringing layers to her character and displaying her character’s growth as the movie progresses.” See their full reviews below.

A Quiet Place Part II
By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

As much as Emily Blunt and John Krasinski have to be incredibly silent, A Quiet Place Part II is a screaming delight with surprising twists and major intensity. Just when you think you can’t get enough of these mind-boggling jump scares, the film provides new creative plot lines that make you jump left and right. The film does lack a major conclusion, which doesn’t really give viewers closure, and it leaves you with the thought, “Wait, the movie’s over?”

As you can guess, A Quiet Place Pat II picks up after the events of A Quiet Place. The film follows the Abbott family after they leave their previously destroyed home. When they discover a nearby outlander named Emmett (Cillian Murphy), they attempt to work with him so they can face the challenges outside their known world to survive the day. This sequel broadens the universe in ways that we could have never known in the first movie. 

When it comes to a horror film, of course you need plenty of monsters. The increased amount of screen time the aliens have in A Quiet Place Part II is immensely more than the first movie. The visual effects department stepped up their game, really improving the CGI with plenty of detail, and making the aliens look a lot more realistic. With the number of aliens being amped up, of course the amount of action is too. The film includes as much action as you could possibly have in a 90 minute runtime. 

The one word that describes A Quiet Place Part II is – intense. The sequel adapts its genre from horror to more of a thriller, with an emphasis on thrills. Certain parts of the film can be very extreme and make your heart pump out of your chest. It might seem scary on the outside, but on the inside, it demonstrates themes of family and friendship. It also expresses the importance of trust, and how you should bestow it upon new people in your life.

Topping an outstanding first movie is an almost impossible task, but director John Krasinski proves it to be possible by making A Quiet Place Part II superior to the first movie. Without a doubt A Quiet Place Part II is dialed up 100% from the first movie, improving the alien screen time and CGI that the debut movie lacked. Therefore, I give A Quiet Place Part II 5 out of 5 stars and recommend the film for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. You can find A Quiet Place Part II in your local theater on May 28, 2021.

A Quiet Place Part II
By Samantha B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

A Quiet Place Part II returns to the Abbott family minus Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) who dies in the first movie trying to save his family from aliens attempting to take over the world. It appears the aliens have returned to the Abbott’s small town where, once again, any noise will lead to certain death. But there is hope after the discovery of an old friend in hiding.

This outstanding horror film sequel by John Krasinski exemplifies how cinematography and lighting can make a film ten times better. This is especially clear in one of my favorite scenes in which Evelyn Abbott (Emily Blunt) is standing in her flooding nursery, with paper falling off the walls, and dim red lights wrapped around her soaked dress.  The camera angles really make this scene much more majestic and tragic. Also, the cinematography captures the CGI figures perfectly. It is terrifying and chilling how realistic these creatures look, drawing the audience into this truly unique film.

One of the best things about A Quiet Place Part II is the talent! I believe every actor and actress featured in this amazing film deserves a standing ovation. My favorite actress is Emily Blunt who is excellent in her role as Evelyn Abbott, bringing layers to her character and displaying her character’s growth as the movie progresses. Also, the CGI used to create the antagonizing creatures truly stands out. It feels as if the creatures are there with the actors during the shoot, which is both terrifying and impressive at the same time.

The main messages of A Quiet Place Part II are to have bravery and perseverance. Examples of those qualities can be seen when protagonist Regan Abbott (Millicent Simmonds) goes off on her own, leaving her mother and two brothers behind in search of an island rumored to have other survivors. Some things to be aware of in A Quiet Place Part II are gore, jump scares and some other instances of horror that would not be appropriate for a younger audience.

I give A Quiet Place Part II 5 out of 5 stars. I loved it! I would recommend this film for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. You can find A Quiet Place Part II at your local movie theater starting on May 28, 2021.

Hollywood.con * Comedic, Mysterious And Informative

An actor steals the identity of a producer, and is hurled into Hollywood’s next Mayan film. In the jungle of Mexico she is mistaken as a member of a cartel. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Mikella G. comments, “I like Hollywood.con because it is a comedic film that is very informative about Guatemalan culture. It contains a lot of funny scenes and is very entertaining.” See her full review and interview with director / star Mikella Boorem below.


By Mikella G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

I like Hollywood.con because it is a comedic film that is very informative about Guatemalan culture. It contains a lot of funny scenes and is very entertaining.

This film starts off profiling a struggling actress living in Los Angeles. However, after an unexpected turn of events, the protagonist Mika (Mika Boorem) finds herself in Guatemala, working on her first ever producer job. Throughout her time there she experiences many ups and downs, and eventually finds herself. While in Guatemala, Mika and her team encounter some competition in making their film. They must work together to stay competitive, while learning how to respect the values of other cultures.

Something that I really like about this movie is how they include a mix of genres in one film. Not only is it comedic, but it is also mysterious. I love mysterious films and, including humor, makes it that much better. Another thing that I enjoyed are the fun little special effects that are included every so often. They have the right amount to create a fun dynamic, without making it become a live action film.

The message of this film is to always stay true to yourself, even during competitive times. This film does include some profanity.

I give Hollywood.con 3 out of  5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Hollywood.con is available now on Amazon Prime!


By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Launchpad is an emotional and uplifting collection of Disney short films that are great for teens and
adults. Every one of the six movies features excellent acting, impressive cinematography, great special effects and storylines with meaningful themes.

Launchpad includes six different shorts, each with its own unique plot. American Eid and The Last of the Chupacabras are both centered around religion; American Eid is about a young girl finding out she has to go to school on the Muslim holiday, Eid. The Last of the Chupacabras  is about a lone Mexican-American trying to keep her culture alive. Growing Fangs is a fantasy about a half-human/half-vampire trying to hide her identity from both worlds. Let’s Be Tigers is about a young girl, Avalon (Otmara Marrero) trying to process the loss of her mother while she is babysitting for a 4-year-old. Dinner Is Served follows a Chinese student trying out for the top position at a fancy restaurant. The Little Prince(ss) is a story about a young boy who loves ballet and whose best friend’s dad comes to talk to his parents about his “girlish behavior.”

With emotional and deep storylines, these short films need great acting to convey the strong messages of the films. These actors deliver. Every character is portrayed by a passionate actor that deeply understands their character and performs with passion. Even for films with no dialogue, you can understand what they are thinking and feeling. Otmara Marrero who plays Avalon in Let’s Be Tigers, delivers an unforgettable performance as such a sorrowful character. The change as she plays with Noah (Dash McCloud) is visible as the film develops. In American Eid, Jenna Qureshi, who plays Ameena’s older sister, Zainab, also delivers a stunning performance, making her teenage, trying-to-be-cool character relatable in every way. The cinematography is equally excellent. The special effects in the fantasy films are wonderful, particularly in Growing Fangs with its vampire effects. Magic is the main component in this one, but there are other effects as well. The stories are all well-written. Some of the shorts are heart-breaking and emotional, while others are more uplifting and creative. There’s a variety of wonderful ideas spread throughout.

These shorts have many themes, some overlapping others. A central point for all of them, is to recognize other people for what they are, not for how they appear.

I give Launchpad 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18 plus adults. Launchpad can be viewed on Disney Plus beginning May 28, 2021.