Archives for September 5, 2021

Sustainable Wine+Dinner Series Returns to The Los Angeles Zoo on Sept. 23rd with Landmark Vineyards

Photo Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo
The Los Angeles Zoo is excited to announce its Sustainable Wine+Dinner series, presented by City National Bank, will return on Sept. 23 with Landmark Vineyards. This intimate evening will feature a conversation on the critically endangered berrendo, commonly known as the peninsular pronghorn, and the Los Angeles Zoo’s cross-collaborative work with Peninsular Pronghorn Recovery Project in Baja California Sur, Mexico. After a visit to the Zoo’s berrendo habitat for a discussion led by Director of Animal Programs Beth Schaefer, guests will enjoy a sumptuous five-course dinner prepared by L.A. Zoo’s Executive Chef Eileen Aguilera and expertly paired with Landmark Vineyard wines. Landmark Vineyards produces handcrafted, ultra-premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from some of the State’s finest vineyards. A representative of Landmark Vineyards will be on hand to introduce each wine and discuss the importance of sustainable practices in California agriculture. These informative, yet fun, evenings are hosted to help foster a real-world connection between the attendees and the Zoo’s vital conservation work. The second dinner in this series will be held on Oct. 21 with Honig Vineyard and Winery.  This is a 21+ event. Space is limited and reservations are required. For entry, guests must present proof of vaccination or negative COVID test result within 72 hours of event date. Face coverings will be required during some portions of the evening’s program. All ticket sales are final. WHEN: Sept. 23 and Oct. 21, 2021 WHERE: 5333 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, Calif. 90027 COST: $175 per person; Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association members save $10 TO LEARN MORE: https://www.lazoo.org/plan-your-visit/special-experiences/sustainable-wine-dinner/ 

Credit: The Los Angeles Zoo.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings * Most Mystical and Beautiful Movie In History!

Marvel Studios’ “Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings” stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, who must confront the past he thought he left behind when he is drawn into the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization. The film also stars Tony Leung as Wenwu, Awkwafina as Shang-Chi’s friend Katy and Michelle Yeoh as Jiang Nan, as well as Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Heather S., comments, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the most mystical and beautiful movie in history! The music, the special effects and the acting all take you to another world. The film leaves you wanting a Morris of your own.” Jolleen M. adds, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel’s first Asian solo-superhero movie does not disappoint. The dynamic relationships between the characters combined with the incredible actors create a powerful, heart-rending movie about the value of family. In addition, the humorous segments contrast with the intense scenes to make this film so well rounded.” See their full review below.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

By Heather Suarez, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the most mystical and beautiful movie in history! The music, the special effects and the acting all take you to another world. The film leaves you wanting a Morris of your own.

The storyline follows a young man named Shang-Chi (Simu Liu). His father is a one thousand-year-old man and conqueror nicknamed The Mandarin (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), who has only ever used the infamous and all-powerful Ten Rings for evil. When the Mandarin is set to unleash infinite evil on the universe, Shang-Chi has to stop his father.

This movie is a cinematic experience. The fighting and choreography are out of this world. The long slow motion shots make the audience feel as if they are in a video game. Simu steals the show; every fight scene is flawless with his fluid movements and it proves just how hard he worked on his character for this film. Every audience falls in love with Shang-Chi; he’s funny, with perfect comedic timing and he knows the balance between peace and violence. He encapsulates what the majority of young adults feel – like not being able to find their place in the world. The movie makes fans feel as if they’ve known Shang for years. It has wonderful flashbacks, which give the audience glimpses of his past, his pain and how his fears have shaped who he is. The film gives a wonderful all-around scope of this character that feels like a friend we’ve known all our life. It makes fans excited to see Shang-Chi again. Shang and his sister Xu Xialing are an iconic duo. They’re both powerful and, while there’s some tension due to their past, they put everything aside and let love shine through. Xialing is a role model, officially joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most powerful women. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is perfect for AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) representation in cinema. It represents Chinese culture powerfully, shows what it’s like to be an Asian-American in modern day USA, not to mention that Simu is Marvel Studios’ first Asian-American superhero. Simu and Shang-Chi are writing history while also inspiring children and fans all around the world. The film delivers on all grounds; the cameos are shocking and leave you on the edge of your seat. Trying not to shout during the two post credits scenes prove to be a challenge. By the end of the movie, I wanted to sing the song “Hotel California” at the top of my lungs.

This film reminds you to search for who you are and let your past guide you to who you want to be. Ever since his mother died, Shang has been trained by his father to use violence. When he arrives at his mother’s village, he learns how to find peace within himself and the world around him. He learns to trust himself and to use the rings for good.

I give Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18 plus adults. It is available only in theaters September 3, 2021.<p> By Heather Suarez, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

By Jolleen M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Marvel’s first Asian solo-superhero movie does not disappoint. The dynamic relationships between the characters combined with the incredible actors create a powerful, heart-rending movie about the value of family. In addition, the humorous segments contrast with the intense scenes to make this film so well rounded.

The story begins with Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) living a normal life in San Francisco working as a valet driver with his best friend. Then he is attacked on a bus and forced to confront his past. He explains to his best friend that his father, Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung), is the feared, immortal man who leads the Ten Rings Organization. The Ten Rings are a weapon so powerful that Wenwu was able to conquer all the land and riches that he wanted. Shang-Chi ran away from home at a young age, because he didn’t want to be another one of Wenwu’s murderous pawns. Now, Wenwu is looking for him and his sister, to bring them back home.

Simu Liu plays Shang-Chi’s dual personality exceptionally well. Towards the end of the film, Shang-Chi exudes a completely different persona than the one we saw at the beginning of the film. Another prominent actor that I enjoyed is Awkwafina who plays Katy; Katy adds so many hilarious moments that make the film more enjoyable. Of course she is also extremely talented at acting and portrays Katy as a loyal and courageous friend. Ben Kingsley as Trevor Slattery also adds comedy. Awkwafina, Ben Kingsley and Morris (an adorable, faceless, fluff-ball beast) make an incredible comedy trio. CGI is a major component of this film and has the potential to make or break the entire experience. The CGI does not disappoint. In fact, this has to be some of the best CGI that I’ve seen in the entire MCU franchise; MCU has killer CGI every single time, so this is a bold statement. Not only are there numerous magical beasts that come to life, but the water itself seem to come alive as well. The Ten Rings also seems to have a mind of its own – speeding off one moment and lightly dancing in the next. It is also incredible to discover how these rings can be used for more than just fighting. The costumes are absolutely gorgeous and, just like the creatures, so unique. Within the village, the warriors’ armor is made of dragon scales, which defends them from their ancient nemesis. In the city, the people rock the cyber punk style. And, in San Francisco, the attire is authentic to the 21st century. My favorite part is the ending. I was incredibly pleased with how everything ends. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so you’re just going to have to see for yourself.

The message of this film is centered around the power of familial love and the power of finally opening up your heart. The value of family is displayed through the challenges that the characters go through. Their relationships are what keep them strong. The power in opening up your heart is experienced through Shang-Chi. The only thing holding Shang-Chi back from reaching his true potential is the hate and guilt he held deep within his heart. Once he lets all of that go, he is freed.

I give Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters September 3, 2021.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and will most likely go back to watch it again. Go check it out.

The Lost Leonardo * Fascinating Story With Insight Into The Economics And Politics Of The Art World

The Lost Leonardo is the inside story behind the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive painting ever sold at $450 million. From the moment the painting is bought for $1175 at a shady New Orleans auction house, and the restorer discovers masterful Renaissance brushstrokes under the heavy varnish of its cheap restoration, the Salvator Mundi’s fate is determined by an insatiable quest for fame, money and power. As its price soars, so do the questions about its authenticity: is this painting really by Leonardo da Vinci? Unravelling the hidden agendas of the richest men and the most powerful art institutions in the world, The Lost Leonardo reveals how vested interests in the Salvator Mundi are of such tremendous power that truth becomes secondary. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ayden P. comments, “Based on the title I expected to watch a story about a lost and found painting and where it is today. Instead, I discovered a documentary that taught me about the strength of one’s beliefs, art restoration practices, economics, politics and possible fraud.” Benjamin P. adds, “The Lost Leonardo recounts one of the most expansive and expensive stories the art world has ever seen. This documentary has a knack of looking at this painting’s recent history from a different angle every 20 minutes or so, revealing a whole different facet of the fervor surrounding this single piece of art and how the conversation around it became about so much more than the painting itself.” See their full reviews below.  

The Lost Leonardo
By Ayden P., KIDS! FIRST Film Critic, age 12

The Lost Leonardo is an interesting documentary about a lost Leonardo Davinci painting of Christ. Based on the title I expected to watch a story about a lost and found painting and where it is today. Instead, I discovered a documentary that taught me about the strength of one’s beliefs, art restoration practices, economics, politics and possible fraud.

The Lost Leonardo begins with an art sleeper hunter (an art speculator who scours the market for undervalued art), Ben Lewis, finding a painting in New Orleans. Ben reaches out to his art world contacts, which eventually leads him to Dianne Mundi. Dianne Mundi is married to a well known art conservator and Dianne is known for her art restoration. Dianne restores the painting, and she begins to believe it is a lost original Leonardo DaVinci. A group of art experts meet at the National Museum and agree that the painting is authentic. What follows next is a convoluted story about the true nature of the painting and how people’s beliefs about the painting allow it to be capitalized on and possibly politicalized more than once.

The film is filled with art experts, journalists and even federal agencies. The film catches your attention because it has multiple layers. For example, just when you think viewing the painting as either authentic or a good copy is problematic, other reasons for thinking one way or the other are shared. Because of the prestige of the individuals calling the painting a true Da Vinci, it commands a high selling price. The film gives a lesson in how prices of items can be inflated. Also, how easy it is to hide one’s money in art since the laws aren’t as restrictive with art purchases as they are with other things. Last, it explores what a piece of lost art can mean to a person or a group of people, and possibly to a country and the cost they will pay to have it.

The message of the film is that people can convince themselves of anything, even if those beliefs come at a high cost. Throughout history various beliefs have kept people together and apart. 

I give The Lost Leonardo 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. The dialogue and themes are a bit much for younger kids to follow, but a teen might enjoy it with the company of adults that can explain certain terms used in the film. The film is available in theaters now.  

The Lost Leonardo

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

The Lost Leonardo recounts one of the most expansive and expensive stories the art world has ever seen. This documentary has a knack of looking at this painting’s recent history from a different angle every 20 minutes or so, revealing a whole different facet of the fervor surrounding this single piece of art and how the conversation around it became about so much more than the painting itself.

This odyssey of art and commerce begins in a warehouse, where a painting called the Salvator Mundi from one of the masters of the field, Leonardo Da Vinci, was thought to have been lost to time and languishes before being discovered by two art dealers who look for paintings that are worth more than they seem. Little did they know, they just stumbled upon their greatest find in that respect. They purchased the painting for 10,000 dollars and had it restored, in hopes that the work was that of Da Vinci’s. The restorer’s work supported that conclusion and, with that, a whole new journey with it begins. It ends up selling for hundreds of millions of dollars after it travels the world and comes into contact with everyone from the general public, to art critics, to experts, to Russian billionaires, to wily art dealers and world leaders.

Director Andreas Koefoed seems to understand the potential of what he has at his fingertips here – betrayal, treachery, power, greed – it’s a winning concoction. For all the goodwill it earns in the riveting way it unfolds, The Lost Leonardo lacks a stylistic backbone to hold the whole thing together. It relies heavily on one-on-one interviews with experts, critics, and those that played in Salvator Mundi’s discovery, restoration and sale. Those interviews bear no intimacy to them, which works in giving objectivity to the events documented, but their implementation grows tiresome. Koefoed has little else up his sleeve to tell this story and, for one about art and one of the most prolific pieces in a long time the world over, that’s more than disappointing. This film about Salvator Mundi lacks imagination and creativity and is quite staid, which distracts from the gold mine Keofoed has here. Mundi’s story certainly is anything but boring; so it’s unfortunate that it is told that way.

I give The Lost Leonardo 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. Nothing in the movie is objectionable, beyond some nudity shown in the artwork. If you’ve got an interest in the business of art or the work of Da Vinci, this one’s for you. But more than that, the directions this story takes are so unpredictable that I think it makes this documentary easy to recommend to anybody. The Lost Leonardo comes out in theaters August 27, 2021.

9/11: Inside The President’s War Room * A Remarkably Detailed Documentary About 9/11 Attacks

9/11 from the President’s perspective, with exclusive access to information from the one’s that had to take decisions during the World Trade Center’s attack. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “In 2021, we will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the greatest American tragedies of the 21st  century, the September 11 attacks. To help educate the public about exactly how this horrific event unfolded, the remarkably detailed documentary 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room was created.” See his full review below.

9/11: Inside The President’s War Room

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

In 2021, we will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the greatest American tragedies of the 21st  century, the September 11 attacks. To help educate the public about exactly how this horrific event unfolded, the remarkably detailed documentary 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room was created.

Going minute by minute, hour by hour, 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room offers two narratives, following the president’s actions, thoughts, and movements, and the developing situation in New York City. 

President George W. Bush was interviewed for this film and his impeccable memory of the day and skilled delivery make the documentary even more unique. His impassioned vow to bring Al-Qaeda to justice, his struggle to keep his anger in check, and his helplessness as he was flown around the country to avoid a rumored attack on Air Force One show exactly how novel this crisis was. The film includes high-quality archival footage and the perspectives of individuals like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Ted Olson, as well as the president and vice president’s chief of staff. I’ve never seen a more thoroughly researched and impeccably pieced-together documentary. The many perspectives from all these individuals contribute to a strong narrative that captures you from minute one. Each interview is compelling and the editing cuts between medium shots of the individuals and archival footage, creating an immersive and truly “in the room” experience. The background music complements the film’s somber tone. 

9/11: Inside The President’s War Room is a portrait of resilience, tact, patience and leadership.  There is some  mild profanity in the film as well as some footage of the Twin Towers collapsing with screams in the background.

I give 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. 9/11: Inside The President’s War Room is available now on Apple TV+ .