Archives for August 10, 2021

Queen of the Beach * A Gritty, Honest Portrayal Of A Child Laborer’s Journey To Achieve Her Dreams

While on vacation in Goa, India, Canadian filmmaker Chris McDonell turns his camera on Shilpa Poojar, a 9-year-old beach hawker hustling tourists to buy clothes and jewelry from her seaside shop. Funny, charming and skilled beyond her years, she is a migrant worker from the unique Banjara people and the primary breadwinner for her family. Forging a connection in this chance encounter, Chris returns 3 times over the next 7 years to capture Shilpa’s story of sacrifice and survival and help her achieve her childhood dream of going to school – a relentless effort that will test them both along the way. See his complete review below.

Queen of the Beach

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

A gritty, honest portrayal of a child laborer’s life and her journey to achieve her dreams, Queen of the Beach is a touching documentary film highlighting a global issue in an emotionally-sensitive, thorough, and unique way.

Christopher McDonell is a Canadian filmmaker on a month-long project in India, following some missionaries from his church on their trip. He makes a quick stop at Anjuna Beach in Goa, where he meets nine-year-old Shilpa, a child laborer who is the sole breadwinner in her family. Tenacious and witty, Shilpa instantly forms a bond with McDonell and he returns three times over the next seven years as Shilpa’s “brother,” visiting her village and learning more about her tribe, the Banjaras’, way of life. He makes it his mission to help Shilpa realize her childhood dream of attending school in her small village in Karnataka; over the course of the film, both Shilpa and Chris must overcome several obstacles to reach this goal.

This is one of the most engaging documentaries that I’ve come across; Shilpa and her friends are vibrant, sweet individuals with layered personalities. Her smile lights up the screen and there’s never a dull moment; McDonell’s sprightly narration ensures that the pace of the film never drops even when they face some dead-end challenges. Since McDonell poses deep, personal, and tough questions to Shilpa, her friends, and her family, viewers come away from the film feeling like they really know her and her world. Even though the film was shot over the course of seven years, footage taken in 2009 does not feel drastically different from footage taken in 2015; the production quality of this documentary is spectacular throughout the 100 minute duration.

Queen of the Beach is all about making your dreams come true and never giving up even when life throws you a curveball. One thing to watch out for in the film: some mentions of pedophilic activity that occur on the beach at night, and McDonell catches some of this on film. Thematically, this film is for teenage audiences and older as it deals with child labor.

I give Queen of the Beach 5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Queen of the Beach premieres August 15 (Indian Independence Day) both on digital and on demand from Under the Milky Way Productions.

Jungle Cruise * Filled With Humor And Adventure; Inspired By The Famous Theme Park

Join fan favorites Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt for the adventure of a lifetime on Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE, a rollicking thrill-ride down the Amazon with wisecracking skipper Frank Wolff and intrepid researcher Dr. Lily Houghton. Lily travels from London, England to the Amazon jungle and enlists Frank’s questionable services to guide her downriver on La Quila–his ramshackle-but-charming boat. Lily is determined to uncover an ancient tree with unparalleled healing abilities–possessing the power to change the future of medicine. Thrust on this epic quest together, the unlikely duo encounters innumerable dangers and supernatural forces, all lurking in the deceptive beauty of the lush rainforest. But as the secrets of the lost tree unfold, the stakes reach even higher for Lily and Frank and their fate–and mankind’s–hangs in the balance.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Starring such talented actors as Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall, the film is inspired by the famous theme park ride and liberally incorporates details from it as well, like the boat captain’s terrible puns and a reference to the “back side of water.” It’s a great family film!” Calee N. adds, “I love how the Jungle Cruise makes the magic of the riverboat attraction from Disneyworld come alive. The humor and adventurous nature of the movie held my attention throughout the film. Movies with bold and funny female leads have always been my favorite.” See their full reviews below.

Jungle Cruise

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Take a trip to the Amazon Rainforest in Disney’s new, beautifully produced film Jungle Cruise. Starring such talented actors as Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt and Jack Whitehall, the film is inspired by the famous theme park ride and liberally incorporates details from it as well, like the boat captain’s terrible puns and a reference to the “back side of water.” It’s a great family film!

Set in 1916, Jungle Cruise opens in London, during a meeting of scientists. McGregor Houghton (Jack Whitehall) is presenting to the crowd as his sister, Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), goes about her mission to collect a precious artifact from the archives. She ropes her brother, a rare gay character in the Disney universe, into the adventure she’s been chasing since her childhood, determined to journey into the Amazon to an area called Lágrimas de Cristal and find a magical healing tree called the Tears of the Moon. Lily hates the rough-around-the-edges, scam artist Frank (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) as soon as she sees him, but she grudgingly agrees to employ him as their skipper down the Amazon, with the conniving German aristocrat Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons) nipping at their heels. Many adventures follow and the characters, as different as they may seem, grow close as a chosen family. There’s also a pretty unusual supernatural backstory.

As with any Disney film, the production quality of Jungle Cruise is incredibly high; each and every small detail in regards to the graphics and overall look of the film has been addressed thoroughly. This film’s previously-mentioned punchy one-liners delivered by Dwayne Johnson allude to this film’s origins in the theme park ride. The Rock undoubtedly, unquestionably puts on the best performance of the film, and his chemistry with Emily Blunt’s character is what truly carries the film through some slow moments when the script seems to lose purpose. Viewers begin to forget the overall goal of the mission as plots and relationships mix. However, this problem only shows up in the last third of the film. Another major star in the film is Jack Whitehall. His character is especially significant given that it’s one of the few instances where you can see an LGBTQ+ character on screen, and his struggles coming out in a rigid, heteronormative society are beautifully represented in a heart-to-heart with Frank. In summary, the cast and production quality take this film to a new level, while the script tends to bog it down.

Jungle Cruise promotes teamwork, grit, the victory of good over evil, and, my favorite message, that no matter how different we are, there’s always something we can unite over. We’re always stronger together.

I give Jungle Cruise 4.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Jungle Cruise premieres on July 30, 2021, in US theaters and for a fee on Disney+.

Jungle Cruise

By Calee N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

I love how the Jungle Cruise makes the magic of the riverboat attraction from Disneyworld come alive. The humor and adventurous nature of the movie held my attention throughout the film. Movies with bold and funny female leads have always been my favorite.

In the Jungle Cruise, Lilly Houghton (Emily Blunt) searches for an Amazon legend called the Moon’s Tears. Her goal is to find the legend in order to advance modern medicine. Lilly’s fearlessness takes her to the Amazon River, where she meets and hires the comical skipper, Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson), to take her on her quest. They soon realize that they are not alone in their pursuit of the Tears. Together they face the dangers of the Amazon River and encounter the supernatural.

The academic world did not support Lilly’s pursuit of the Moon’s Tears and she could not find funding or support. Her perseverance leads her on an adventure that she never envisioned. Although her strong willpower may be challenging to handle, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) and Frank accept her for whom she is. We also learn that Lilly’s brother rejected the calling of many females because he had other interests, and Lilly was the only person who embraced him for being himself.  I applaud director Jaume Collet-Serra for creating a high-energy, action-adventure film with a fun twist. The talented cast with Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson and Jack Whitehall are all superb. The music by James Newton Howard helps brings accentuate the action of the film. The Amazon River scenes and supernatural characters are very realistic looking, thanks to the camera work by Flavio Martinez Labiano and art direction by David Lazan.

The messages of this film are about determination and acceptance.

I give Jungle Cruise 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults.  Jungle Cruise premieres in theaters and on Disney+ July 30, 2021.

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