Archives for June 11, 2021

Americanish * A Breath Of Fresh Air Looking At Rom-Coms Through A New Lens

The 2021 CAAMFest Audience Award-winning film debut by Iman Zawahry takes place in Jackson Heights, Queens where two sisters and their fresh-off-the-boat cousin try all the conventional ways to earn the love and respect of their mother. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Abigail L. comments, “Although still containing classic rom-com clichés, this film introduces diverse cultural and ethnic characters and story arcs to American film audiences. Writer and director Imam Zawahry highlights the strength of feminism and family ties as she explores the ups and downs of women in the work force and romance.” See her full review below.

Americanish

By Abigail Liu, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Americanish is a breath of fresh air as it looks at romantic comedy through a new lens. Although still containing classic rom-com clichés, this film introduces diverse cultural and ethnic characters and story arcs to American film audiences. Writer and director Imam Zawahry highlights the strength of feminism and family ties as she explores the ups and downs of women in the work force and romance.

Set in New York City, the lives of three Pakistani women are thrown into turmoil while they endure career, family, romance and culture clashes. Maryam (Salena Qureshi), a college student who dreams of attending Harvard Medical School, worries about her MCAT score and navigates her crush with her study partner, Shahid (Kapil Talwalkar), who happens to be married. Meanwhile, Maryam’s older sister, Khala (Lillete Dubey), attempts to score a work promotion and ignores the advances of a well-intentioned police officer. Their cousin, Ameera (Shenaz Treasury), moves in with their family from Pakistan in search of a doctor to marry, but her budding friendship with the local store clerk (Godfrey) risks putting a damper on her plans.

This film successfully shows the struggle of balancing cultural traditions with personal ambition through love and marriage, careers and family. When reading the summary of this story, it first seems overused and bland, but it is quite the opposite –  the message conveyed in the film is meaningful and empowering. The acting feels unconvincing at times, but the film’s message makes up for it. Even though there are a lot of Hollywood romantic comedy clichés found in the film, there are moments that are genuinely humorous and funny. My favorite part is the separate, but connected, stories of the three women. As the story progresses, they grow closer as they find themselves relating to one another in their disappointments with romance.

Americanish teaches women of all ages that it is never too late to find love and that being a woman can mean whatever you want it to be, whether that is becoming a successful businesswoman, a doctor or a loving wife. Parents should be aware that this film contains implied sex, references to adult minor language and references to sexism and racism.

I rate Americanish 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. This film can be viewed now at select festivals.

Gabby Duran & The Unsittables * On The Edge Of Your Seat With So Many Mysteries In Every Episode

Disney Channel’s out-of-this-world live-action comedy series “Gabby Duran & the Unsittables” has return for a second season on Disney Channel and DisneyNOW. The series stars multitalented actress and musician Kylie Cantrall as Gabby Duran, a teenaged girl who inadvertently lands a job babysitting an unruly group of VIP extraterrestrial children disguised as everyday kids. In season two, a resourceful and courageous Gabby faces even bigger challenges as she continues to protect her alien charges while also navigating the everyday emotional rollercoaster of middle school. The season picks up immediately after a cliffhanger with Gabby’s mom, Dina, on the verge of learning Gabby’s secret, which the intrepid teen will have to stop in order to avoid catastrophic outcomes. Other adventures this season will include a robot replica Gabby-bot running amok, an alien friend who turns into a “Predator” when she becomes emotional, and a quest to recover Principal Swift’s home after it’s shrunken down to the size of a dollhouse by an extraterrestrial prankster.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Makena P. comments, “I love Gabby Duran and the Unsittables so much because it has an effect that keeps you connected with the show the whole time. It has so many cliff hangers; you’re always wondering what will happen next; your always on the edge of your seat. I like that there are so many mysteries in each episode and that something new happens in every episode.” See her full review below.

Gabby Duran and the Unsittables

By KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Makena Parel, Age 12

I love Gabby Duran and the Unsittables so much because it has an effect that keeps you connected with the show the whole time. It has so many cliff hangers; you’re always wondering what will happen next; your always on the edge of your seat. I like that there are so many mysteries in each episode and that something new happens in every episode.

The storyline is about a young girl named Gabby Duran (Kylie Cantrall) who gets picked by Principal Swift (Nathan Lovejoy) who is an alien and wants Gabby to babysit aliens. This job is so important and, if anyone finds out aliens are real, then that would destroy the earth. Principle Swift needs Gabby to keep this a secret from everyone; she can’t tell anyone about aliens or her baby sitting job. Keeping that big of a secret might be a little hard for Gabby

This show is filled with lots of animated characters and other things that aren’t there in real life. They use the characters so well, and have amazing ways to incorporate them into the show. It’s cool how some aliens that Gabby is babysitting like Jeremy (Callen Farris), Kail (Mia Bella) and Sky (Elle McKinnon) have different powers. This isn’t a great sentence. First, avoid using the term “is amazing” as it doesn’t tell us anything. I was impressed by how the actors portrayed aliens that are uncertain about how to behave as human impersonators. Considering how young the cast is makes it doubly impressive. 

I enjoyed all of the other cast members, especially Coco Christo who plays Olivia Duran, because she’s so young and plays her part as Gabby’s sister so well. My favorite episode has to be the one with Cry Baby Duran, because it really shows the part of her and her friends being in middle school. The drama really starts to show and gets inside Gabby’s head and she is determined to find out who started the rumor. The other thing I found really interesting is how different directors (Joe Nussbaum and Leslie Kolins Small) direct different episodes, which gives the show great variety. For example, Joe Nussbaum directs 9 episodes and it is interesting because it must have been hard to for Kylie Cnatrall to adjust to the different directing styles. Then, Leslie Kolins Small directs 6 episodes and it captured my interest because all the episodes really turned out the same even though they all have different styles of directing, Kylie Cantrall and the directors worked together to make a great show.

The message of this series is that lying isn’t a good thing, but when there are lives on the line, you have to do your best to help everyone. Lying can turn into a big mess, so don’t let that fool you. This series shows that some people are not worth the risk and people don’t always love the idea secrets. Tell them before they find out for themselves.

I give Gabby Duran and the Unsittables 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 14. The new season comes out on Disney + on June 6, 2021.  

In the Heights * Wonderful Feel Good Summer Movie with Great Music, Dancing and Storyline

In the Heights centers on a variety of characters living in the neighborhood of Washington Heights, on the northern tip of Manhattan. At the center of the show is Usnavi, a bodega owner who looks after the aging Cuban lady next door, pines for the gorgeous girl working in the neighboring beauty salon and dreams of winning the lottery and escaping to the shores of his native Dominican Republic. Meanwhile, Nina, a childhood friend of Usnavi’s, has returned to the neighborhood from her first year at college with surprising news for her parents, who have spent their life savings on building a better life for their daughter. Ultimately, Usnavi and the residents of the close-knit neighborhood get a dose of what it means to be home. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Did you love the musical In the Heights and want more? Well, your wish has come true and you can have more because In the Heights is now a movie! It has the same great soundtrack and is even more action packed.” See her full review below.  

In the Heights

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Did you love the musical In the Heights and want more? Well, your wish has come true and you can have more because In the Heights is now a movie! It has the same great soundtrack and is even more action packed.

In the Heights is about Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), a bodega owner, and his disappearing neighborhood in New York City, specifically Washington Heights. Small businesses are moving away; people are leaving; and Usnavi is going back to his home in the Dominican Republic to help his family. What will happen when Usnavi leaves?

This movie is based on the book by Quiara Alegria Hudes and musical, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda – both titled with the same name. The music is phenomenal and very memorable because it makes you want to get up and dance. While writing this review, I still have all the songs stuck in my head.  Lin-Manuel Miranda also plays the Piragua Guy. Along with the music, the choreography is outstanding, particularly the group choreography – a mix of hip-hop and Latinx styles. Everyone is in sync and energetic. The scenes are very detailed, artistic and beautiful, with so much color. The acting is beyond amazing and every character is so believable and loveable. Anthony Ramos, as Usnavi, stands out and seems very genuine. Melissa Barrera, as Vanessa, shows so much perseverance for her dreams. Leslie Grace’s Nina is passionate as she deals with her character’s conflicts. My favorite character is Abuela Claudia because she is so loving to all, and she reminds us to have paciencia y fe (patience and faith). The characters speak Spanish at times during the film, so it helps if you have some knowledge of the Spanish language, but it’s not essential to enjoying the movie.

The main message is that sueñitos (little dreams) aren’t always easy; you have to work for them. In the Heights addresses some serious topics like attending college and dealing with racial bias as a minority. This movie has some profanity and suggestive references.

I give In the Heights 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It is available in theaters or on HBO Max June 11, 2021.