Books for October! Here are some great Halloween suggestions!

A MISCHIEF OF MONSTERS by Roger Priddy: Join different monsters as they play together—making silly noises and actions for children to copy.
This is such a cute book that is perfect for younger children ages 2-4.
Looking for a book for children a little older? This one is sure to be a hit! SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES by Christian McKay Heidicker, illustrated by Junyi Wu: Debut author Christian McKay Heidicker draws inspiration from Bram Stoker, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe for this thrilling portrait of survival and unforgettable tale of friendship.
I love this next one! It would make the perfect Halloween gift for young children! WIPE CLEAN ACTIVITIES: SPOOKY HALLOWEEN by Roger Priddy: SPOOKY HALLOWEEN is packed with fun puzzles to complete, bewitching games to play, monstrous pictures to doodle, and has plenty for kids to do this Halloween.
This last one is perfect for back-to-school time for those in grades 3-5. CODE THIS GAME by Meg Ray, Illustrated by Keith Zoo: CODE THIS GAME! teaches kids to build a strategy action game called “Attack of the Vampire Pizzas!” where the player must prevent tomato-sauce-eating vampire pizzas from getting into delivery boxes.

Look for all of these books this month!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books. Images were also provided. I only feature books that I highly recommend.

Monsters Are Afraid of Babies is the perfect Halloween book for your little ones!

Show kids there’s nothing to be afraid of this Halloween with the delightful picture book Monsters Are Afraid of Babies by Nicholas Tana, illustrated by Jessica Abbot and Elise Leutwyler.  

I found this book quite delightful and recommend for young children this Halloween!

In this humorous and boldly colorful read, children follow a boy who frightens the creatures in the closet with the help of his baby sister. Tana has created a universally meaningful message that disarms the figures that intimidate us. Monsters Are Afraid of Babies brings new perspective on the unknown, by humanizing those scary invisible creatures.

Lovers of Where the Wild Things AreGoosebumps and Pixar’s Monster’s Inc., will tingle with terror reading this spooky story with a relevant sentiment on fear and anxiety. Monsters readers will delight in each page turn, filled with eye-catching artwork and playful rhyme.

This book makes reading fun and would make a great gift for young children!

You can find it on Amazon.com!

Self Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to facilitate this post. Images and information were also provided.

Thank You, Mister Rogers: Music & Memories

This Fall, Both Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks Are at Home in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood!
 October 25th Release Marks the Start of ‘Thank You Mister Rogers’ Month

The rebirth of interest in Fred Rogers, which includes an upcoming Tom Hanks film, inspires a unique musical tribute that celebrates a special side of the man known as “America’s Favorite Neighbor.” A newly recorded collection of Fred’s songs, Thank You, Mister Rogers: Music & Memories, will be available wherever music is sold or streamed on October 25th.

Providing delightful listening for the whole family, the album embodies unforgettable performances by award-winning artists performing re-imagined renditions of Fred Rogers classics as well as uncovered gems from his 200-plus catalogue of songs. The cast includes Kellie Pickler, Vanessa Williams, Rita Wilson, Lee Greenwood, The Cowsills, Jaci Velasquez, Jim Brickman, Jon Secada, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., Micky Dolenz, Tom Bergeron, and Sandi Patty. Significantly, Wilson joins her husband Tom Hanks “in the Neighborhood,” by way of singing a Fred Rogers song on this album. Hanks portrays the children’s television pioneer himself in the upcoming biopic.

The album’s arrival also ushers in “Thank You, Mister Rogers Month” – a time set aside to honor Fred’s legacy by encouraging people to act on his simple but eloquent message, “Be kind.” Nashville, Tennessee, where much of the album was recorded, is the first city to proclaim November as a time to “Be Like Fred.”

Fred Rogers wrote more than 200 of the songs made popular on his PBS television show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Two-time Grammy winner Dennis Scott produced the album, observing, “Fred was a gifted songwriter and understood how music could serve as an effective way to teach and share important life lessons. We hope that both adults and children familiar with Fred’s songs will enjoy hearing how well they lend themselves to a variety of musical styles and genres.”

The album includes some surprises, including Spanish lyrics put to the tune of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which features a heartfelt performance by Cuban-born pop artist Jon Secada. And TV spokesperson Tom Bergeron, best known for hosting “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and “Dancing with the Stars,” makes his singing debut with a jazzy rendition of “Some Things I Don’t Understand.” It’s also the first-time audiences will experience his talent as a gifted whistler. 

Actor, songstress Rita Wilson delivers a touching performance of “Sometimes People Are Good,” a sentiment also reflected in Tom Hanks’ on screen portrayal of Fred. Wilson aptly observes, “Mister Rogers’ melody and lyrics are beautifully integrated together. His words of kindness, acceptance, and peace are a classic message.”

David Newell, who portrayed Mr. McFeely on the show, describes the eclectic and joyful nature of this album: “Each song in this collection is different from the other…and each singer has made it their own. Fred would be delighted to know that his music lives on to new generations.”

Perhaps the talented and lovely Vanessa Williams describes the audience for Thank You Mister Rogers best, “As a child, you appreciated the songs but as an adult, you really appreciate his music.”

In the words of Fred Rogers, “It’s such a good feeling” to know that Thank You, Mister Rogers – Music & Memories will be available on CD and all digital platforms soon. Pre-release singles will launch on September 27th and October 18th. Mister Rogers fans are invited to submit their own happy memories of the show and Fred’s music at: http://www.thankyoumisterrogers.com. Fans may keep up to date on the #ThankYouMisterRogers release on Facebook and Twitter via@thankyoumisterrogers.

I had the opportunity to preview this CD and highly recommend especially to those who grew up watching Mister Rogers!

Credit: I received a preview CD and information and image were also provided. Thank you to Sugar Mountain PR.

Gabby Duran & The Unsittables * Unpredictably Funny Transformation Between Alien and Human

A girl finally finds her moment to shine when she inadvertently lands an out-of-this-world job to babysit an unruly group of very important extraterrestrial children who are hiding out on Earth with their families, disguised as everyday kids. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Milika L., comments, “Gabby Duran & The Unsittables is entertaining! The transformation between alien and human is unpredictably funny. The green Gorman had me anticipating the next alien. I am ready for the next episode.” See her full review below.

Gabby Duran & The Unsittables

By Milika Lomu, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 11

Gabby Duran & The Unsittables is entertaining! The transformation between alien and human is unpredictably funny. The green Gorman had me anticipating the next alien. I am ready for the next episode.

The story is based on the novel by Elise Allen and Daryle Conners. Kirby Buckets’ Mike Alber and Gabe Snyder serve as showrunners as well as executive producers alongside Just Add Magic’s Joe Nussbaum.

The series focuses on 12-year-old stylish and confident Gabby Duran (Kylie Cantrall) who constantly feels like she’s living in the shadows of her lucrative mother and brainy little sister. Gabby lands an out-of-this-world job as a babysitter to a group of peculiar, extraterrestrial aliens who are hiding on Earth disguised as everyday kids. Resourceful Gabby steps up to the challenge to protect these aliens and their secret identities. She proves to be the best sitter ever.

I was committed to the visual effects waiting to see what Jeremy, played by Callan Farris was going to morph into. Without giving too much away, whatever Jeremy eats he turns into. No doubt my favorite character is Gabby Duran played by YouTube sensation Kylie Cantrall. She is definitely setting trends in this episode. Her outfits from the neon orange distressed jacket to the aloha knee-length shorts give a 90’s vibe most definitely. One of my favorite scenes is when Gabby meets Jeremy for the first time and beats him up with a rake. There were so many funny scenes, but you will have to watch it. 

Besides the message that I need some knee-length purple camo shorts in my life… having a good attitude is crucial. Making the best of where you are is a game-changer. It’s emphasized the importance to always be yourself, because the right people will like you. I give this series 5 out of 5 stars and recommend this for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. My mom actually enjoyed watching this and she laughed along with me. Be sure to watch Gabby Duran & the Unsittables beginning October 11, 2019 on the Disney channel.

Abominable * Heartwarming Watch for Families. Excellent Voice Acting and Breathtaking Visuals

After discovering a Yeti on the roof of her apartment building, teenage Yi and her two friends embark on an epic quest to reunite the magical creature with his family. But to do so, they must stay one step ahead of a wealthy financier and a determined zoologist who want to capture the beast for their own gain. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Abominable is a heartwarming watch for families. Excellent voice acting and breathtaking visuals are the show-stealers. It truly has something for everyone.” Benjamin P. adds, “Abominable is electrifying to watch when it finds its own cinematic voice and personality, but it doesn’t ever fully escape from some predictable moments that keep it from reaching the potential glimpsed in its best scenes.” Ivey H. wraps it up with, “Abominable is a great animated film, fun for the whole family! It is very heartfelt. I really love its beautifully animated scenes, especially those with violin playing laced in. This film mixes both fantasy and adventure. The feel of the movie is soothing and delivers positive vibes.” See their full reviews below.

Abominable
By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Abominable is a heartwarming watch for families. Excellent voice acting and breathtaking visuals are the show-stealers. It truly has something for everyone.

The story follows teenager Yi (Chloe Bennet) as she encounters a young Yeti on the roof of her apartment building. She and her good friends, Jin (Tenzing Norgay Trainor) and Peng (Albert Tsai), name him “Everest” and embark on a quest to bring the magical creature home. But they will have to stay one-step ahead of Burnish (Eddie Izzard), a wealthy man intent on capturing a Yeti, and zoologist Dr. Zara (Sarah Paulson) to help Everest.

Chloe Bennet is great as Yi, with her voice work providing emotion and wit. I especially enjoyed her dynamic with Everest as the two start to relate with one another. This is really the film’s heart and best elements. Tenzing Norgray Trainor and Albert Tsai, as Jin and Peng, are great companions and provide effective voice work. Peng is always hilarious, providing comic relief, while Jin comes to his own in his effective character arc that captures the spirit of being brave. Eddie Izzard, as Burnish, utilizes his comedic charm and blunt accent to great degree. Sarah Paulson, as Dr. Zara, is also a formidable threat as there is more than meets the eye with her.

Jill Culton revitalizes DreamWorks Animation with a nice blend of adventure and comedy, which has engaging narrative choices. Some scenes are realized so beautifully; especially the one involving Coldplay’s Fix You. My favorite scene is Jin’s trip to Everest, as it captures his arc effectively and features a great sense of humor. However, the film loses steam by the end and drags quite a bit. You will feel the 90 minute runtime as the group sequesters. Also, I feel that complex themes dealing with loss and grief are sidelined by the amount of humor. And, it is a children’s movie after all, so I appreciate the effort to explore this territory.

The message of this film is in knowing when to reach out to others. Yi tries to accept others in her life by empathetically communicating. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 18. The movie releases in theaters on September 27, 2019, so check it out.

Abominable

By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

Abominable is electrifying to watch when it finds its own cinematic voice and personality, but it doesn’t ever fully escape from some predictable moments that keep it from reaching the potential glimpsed in its best scenes.

Co-produced by DreamWorks Animation and Chinese production company Pearl Studio, Abominable is set in China and follows Yi, a girl mourning the death of her father. She does numerous odd jobs to afford the trip she plans to take in her father’s memory. One day, up on the roof of her apartment building where she sneaks off to play her violin, she finds an escaped yeti that she names Everest. How he got there and what he’s capable of remain a mystery, but Yi makes it her mission to return Everest to his home and his family and protect him from the dangers on the way there.

The craftsmanship and detail of the animation is impeccable. Some of Abominable’s best moments are strengthened by the lush animation. A field of yellow flowers turns into a tidal wave, a chase over the rooftops of a vibrant, colorful China and clouds morphing into aquatic creatures that our characters ride towards a picturesque skyline. This film has plenty of imagery that will stick with you after the credits roll. Abominable has one visually engrossing setpiece after another.

I also love how integral music is in Abominable. Playing the violin is how Yi connects with her father after he’s gone and expresses what she’s feeling with every single note. The violin factors heavily into the score and is flawlessly graceful. Over the course of the film, Yi realizes her ability to do great things through her music and it’s an important facet of her development onscreen.

I wish the care and precision that go into the visuals and music were evident in the movie’s story. Abominable is at least the third family film about yetis within 18 months, coming after Missing Link and Smallfoot and it feels a tad derivative from the get-go. A mythical creature and human form a close friendship and imposing forces threaten to tear them apart. The formula works, sure, but Abominable rarely makes any changes to the basic blueprint or subverts expectations of where it’s headed.

I recommend Abominable for ages 4 to 15 due to scenes of mild peril and give it 3 out of 5 stars. This film will probably appeal to both young and old, but is geared more towards younger children. Abominable certainly has strokes of greatness, but you’ve seen this story told before. If you enjoy the film, stay through the credits for some fun photos. Abominable opens in theaters September 27, 2019.


Abominable
By Ivey H., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Abominable is a great animated film, fun for the whole family! It is very heartfelt. I really love its beautifully animated scenes, especially those with violin playing laced in. This film mixes both fantasy and adventure. The feel of the movie is soothing and delivers positive vibes. 

The plot is very deep, creative and well-thought-out.  The story follows a rare never-before-seen Yeti who escapes a mean zoologist and wealthy art collector. The art collector wants to display the Yeti to the world and yet the zoologist has her own plans. What will become of this lovable creature?

The Yeti escapes and finds his way to the rooftop of a young woman named Yi. She is an independent misfit going through a difficult time. Yi is played by Chloe Bennet who does an excellent job with the voice over and with the emotions of this young character. Yi lost her dad and she keeps herself busy in order to not think of her loss. When she discovers the Yeti, her life is forever changed. Yi decides to help the Yeti named “Everest” (Joseph Izzo) get back to his home. Even the neighbors get caught up into the commotion and accidentally end up on this journey with Yi. 

Yi’s family is so cute! I love the character Nai Nai played by Tsai Chin. It reminds me of my nanna and she is so comical. Peng is played well by Albert Tsai, creating a character so obsessed with social media and his phone, just like so many of us kids today.  There is a lot of great comedic timing from the actors and there are many beautiful scenes throughout. A couple of my favorite scenes happen when they face obstacles escaping the bad guys—especially, the fields of yellow flowers that turn into a tidal wave, and the tree that has amazing pink flowers and lights that bloom.  It’s a wonderful, magical scene with the violin playing along. There are beautiful historical sites and scenes depicted of real places in China. The colors are so bright and vibrant that you stay on the edge of your seat. The director and writer Jill Culton has created phenomenal animation that blew me away. 

I give Abominable 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. You should go to the big screen and check this out! The release date is September 27, 2019.

Oran Etkin’s “Finding Friends Far from Home” Album Release Show featuring the Timbalooloo Band

McCabe’s Guitar Shop3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CASunday, October 6 at 10:30 am:Parking information.https://www.mccabes.com/concerts/

Sing and play along with “Clara Net” and her friends, and hear the newly released songs from Finding Friends Far from Home: A Journey with Clara Net, the globe-spanning new album which is already gaining national acclaim and attention.

Credit: Sugar Mountain PR.

Ad Astra * A Roller Coaster Of Emotions That Takes Movie-going Beyond The Usual Thrill

Astronaut Roy McBride undertakes a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “This movie is not only a great story, Ad Astra is a roller coaster of emotions and a ride that makes the movie going experience beyond the usual thrill. It’s totally immersive and I enjoy that, and I recommend to experience it in IMAX for best results.” Calista B. adds, “This film is nothing like what I anticipated and I mean that in a good way. I had a lot of fun discussing the themes of this movie.” Katherine S. chimes in with, “Are you ready for a thrilling movie experience?  Ad Astra delivers this and more with terrific acting, great cinematography and amazing sound.” Madison W. wraps it up with, “Ad Astra has a very strange and artistic viewpoint of space. This film is personally not really my taste in film, but there are definitely moments that catch my eye. The way the visual effects pull this film together is completely mind blowing. They create the look of space and planets being realistic as if they are right in front of you.” See their full reviews below.

Ad Astra

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

I feel transported to the moon and Neptune! This movie is not only a great story, Ad Astra is a roller coaster of emotions and a ride that makes the movie-going experience beyond the usual thrill. It’s totally immersive and I enjoy that, and I recommend to experience it in IMAX for best results.

It put me at the edge of my seat and is so exciting. The pace, in general, is slow. But there are a lot of action peaks that certainly shake your emotions. The visuals are stunning and the acting overwhelming. Probably, what I enjoyed the most is that in this futuristic voyage, where imagination floats, the human condition remains grounded. 

In Ad Astra, astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) joins a mission in which he will be sent to outer space to find his father, who disappeared 30 years ago and is associated with a threat to humanity. Roy’s journey is also personal –  they have a dysfunctional father / son relationship, but share a strong bond for the love for outer space.

The car chase on the moon, when space pirates attack, is one of my favorite scenes. It is original and out of this world, literally. I also love the scenes when Roy is floating out of the spaceship.

The cinematography (Hoyte Van Hoytema) and visual effects are the most remarkable technical aspects of the film. The movie has a heart and Brad Pitt’s performance makes us remember that, despite all advances in technology and stunning visuals, the core will be always humankind. There are a lot of close-ups and drama, and the journey is not only beyond the frontiers of Earth, but inside of our souls. I did not find some secondary characters’ interactions as important as they should be. The music composed by Max Richter is very atmospheric and keeps us suspended.

Ad Astra is very unique because of the story; it’s not like any film you have seen in the past. I definitively recommend seeing this film if you love space, or maybe just want to see something different. One thing that I really liked is how futuristic it is, in a near future that is not that far from us.

I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18+. Finally, the message of this film is there’s no greater journey than knowing ourselves. Ad Astra opens in theaters nationwide September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Ad Astra

By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This film is nothing like what I anticipated and I mean that in a good way. I had a lot of fun discussing the themes of this movie.

The movie follows Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) as he’s tasked with finding his missing father (Tommy Lee Jones) in hopes of stopping a series of electrical surges that threaten the world.

Now, while the whole cast is pretty fantastic, a good majority of the film revolves around Roy McBride. There are a lot of scenes where he’s by himself while narrating. And these are probably the most interesting scenes in the movie. And it’s not just because of the acting. The film is filled with voice over narration from Roy and these narrations are very interesting to think about. Since Roy is essentially prohibited from emoting, the narration sort of acts as his solution to that. I think that works really well, especially since, when he actually does emote, even slightly, it hits you really hard.

Speaking of the narration, that, along with the incredible ambient music gives the tone a very eerie, atmospheric vibe which fits the feeling of isolation in the vastness of space and the monotone acting. There’s also a lot of ideas in this film that are really creative and worthy of discussion. For example, in this movie, there are commercial flights to the moon. So when Roy actually gets to the moon, you can see recognizable restaurants in the background, implying the moon is essentially a travel location. This is such a neat idea and something I really wish was expanded upon. Not only that, but this film has some really thought-provoking themes relating to legacies, searching for something greater and repressing your emotions. For most of the film, people see Roy in relation to who his father was. And these scenes, along with some spoiler-y moments, led me and my mom to have an entire discussion about how certain people will never be able to fully escape the legacy of their ancestors, as their ancestor and that ancestor’s name will always weigh on them. Not just that, but the way space is used as a metaphor for taking what you have in life for granted is intriguing.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It comes out September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Ad Astra

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

Are you ready for a thrilling movie experience?  Ad Astra delivers this and more with terrific acting, great cinematography and amazing sound. 

The film’s title draws its name from the Latin phrase “ad astra” and means “to the stars.”   This science fiction movie is about an astronaut named Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who goes into space to find his father (Tommy Lee Jones), who was also an astronaut.  When his father went to work on something called the Lima Project, he went missing and died, or so Roy thinks. He is called in and told that his father might be alive and is sent across the solar system to find him.

Ad Astra is so intense – almost too intense for me. The amazing performances from Brad Pitt, as Roy McBride, and Tommy Lee Jones, as Roy’s father, are so believable and they made want to both love and hate the characters by the end of the movie.  The special effects are realistic, and the sound is astonishing, as you can hear every move made. My favorite character is Roy because of his perseverance.

The message of the movie is: if something is hard, work through it. The intensity of the movie comes from some profanity, bloody images, dead bodies and violence (including some murderous actions). Obviously, these scenes include risky things that kids might try to do.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, as kids any younger might get scared (like me!). Adults will also like this movie. This movie opens in theaters September 20, 2019.

Ad Astra

By Madison Whitman, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Ad Astra has a very strange and artistic viewpoint of space. This film is personally not really my taste in film, but there are definitely moments that catch my eye. The way the visual effects pull this film together is completely mind blowing. They create the look of space and planets being realistic as if they are right in front of you. 

Ad Astra tells the story of Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who works for Spacecom. Roy sets out on an expedition across the solar system to find his father and his dad’s doomed expedition in order to solve a mystery that is threatening the universe. 

I would like to acknowledge Brad Pitt’s acting. Brad Pitt plays a major role in this film and, boy, he pulls it off outstandingly! You can definitely tell that he brings his all to bringing the concept to life.  However, the ending could have been a little bit more put together. I was a little confused throughout the whole movie and the ending did throw me off more than other parts.   Also, they could have given more information on a few characters—some randomly appear and leave which leaves you wondering what happened to them.

Ad Astra delivers a very inspiring message:  Never give up hope and keep fighting for what you love no matter what someone or the world tells you.

Ad Astra has some blood and gore, though there is hardly any profanity, except for one word and one gesture. I give Ad Astra 4 out of 5 stars. I recommend this film for ages 10 to 18 and adults would enjoy it. All in all, I recommend you check this film out.  Ad Astra is in theatres September 20, 2019.

Downton Abbey * Elegant, Well Narrated, Exquisite Performances

Downton Abbey is a 2019 British historical period drama film that acts as a continuation of the British television series of the same name. The film is written by Julian Fellowes, creator and executive producer of the television series, and directed by Michael Engler. Much of the original cast returns. The film, set in 1927, depicts an official state visit by the King and Queen to the Crawley family’s English country house in the Yorkshire countryside. As the Royal staff descend on Downton an assassin has also arrived and attempts to kill the monarch. The family and servants are pitted against the royal entourage, including the Queen’s Lady-in-Waiting who has fallen out with the Crawleys, especially the Dowager Countess, over an inheritance issue. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C. comments, “This is probably one of my all time favorite movies! Downton Abbey stands alone as a film and it doesn’t matter if you watched the TV series or if you are totally new to the story. It is elegant, well narrated and the performances are fascinating.” Selene W. adds, “The majesty of Downton Abbey is its own character in the film and there is gorgeous footage of the estate.  The entire cast is talented and noteworthy, but I particularly enjoyed the sarcasm of Violet Crawley, played by the indomitable Maggie Smith, as she is “an expert in every matter.” Morgan B. wraps it up with, “All the way from TV to new movie comes Downton Abbey, a place of joy and mystery as well as love and honor. As a fan of the show, I am so glad to see they made a movie and let us know how everything ends.” See their full reviews below.

Downton Abbey

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

This is probably one of my all-time favorite movies! Downton Abbey stands alone as a film and it doesn’t matter if you watched the TV series or if you are totally new to the story. I have not seen the TV series and enjoyed very much this long format installment. It is elegant, well narrated and the performances are fascinating. From the beginning, you are transported to early in the 20th century – the clock, the train, the letters. Very elaborate and detailed art direction combines with beautiful cinematography that makes this so pleasant to watch.

This is the story of the Crawley Family, a wealthy family that owns a state in the countryside in England, and all the employees that live with them. They are excited to receive the visit of the Queen and King of England, but their efforts to serve and all preparations are sabotaged by the monarchy protocol that insists the royals will bring their own servitude. During this very expected visit, all the people in Downton Abbey, from upstairs to downstairs, get involved in a series of events that ends up changing their lives.

We see the devotion and commitment every character has for this royal visit, which I found inspiring. Everyone is determined to perform their duties exceptionally well.  I loved the performances by Hugh Bonneville (as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham), Tuppence Middleton (as Lucy) and especially Maggie Smith (as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham). She is charming and funny.

The cinematography (Ben Smithard) and the sets (Donal Woods) revive the splendor of an era that I can’t believe existed not long ago. I love the costumes; they are rich and elaborate. John Lunn has composed beautiful music that is touching and intriguing at the same time and is a perfect fit for the movie. It is very classy.

The message of this film is that we all have to be true to ourselves and do what is important, for the passion of what matters. There are some jokes that I did not understand or are more suitable for grown-ups, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this very classic story.

I give Downtown Abbey it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 16+ because there are some mildly intense scenes. It opens in theaters September 20, 2019. Look for it.

Downton Abbey
By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11  


Looking for royal intrigue and aristocratic shenanigans?  Then, Downton Abbey is your cup of tea. 

This film is the continuing story of the Crawley Family who are the wealthy owners of Downton Abbey. The story unfolds as the entire family and their staff are in an uproar at the approaching visit of King George V and Queen Mary.  Their upcoming visit is a great honor, but also a challenge when the family and estate need to economize. There is much intrigue and maneuvering over wealth and power from inheritance disputes as well as currying royal favor.  Downton’s staff are in a fracas when the royal staff invades and take charge of the upcoming visit and there is much plotting below the stairs as well.  

The majesty of Downton Abbey is its own character in the film and there is gorgeous footage of the estate.  The entire cast is talented and noteworthy, but I particularly enjoyed the sarcasm of Violet Crawley, played by the indomitable Maggie Smith, as she is “an expert in every matter.”  Violet’s verbal jousting with Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) is my favorite storyline in this film.  The movie is directed by Michael Engler and the screenplay is written by Julian Fellowes. One can’t forget the majesty created by cinematographer Ben Smithard and production designer Donal Woods. Anna Robbins is the costume designer for the film and exquisite style takes on a role of its own.

The message of this film is about the importance of family and its continuity and traditions. The movie offers a glimpse into the past and the family’s efforts to maintain their traditions into the future.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 through 18, plus adults. Parents need to be aware that there is some mature content. Downton Abbey opens in theaters on September 20, 2019. Look for it as you will be utterly delighted. 

Downton Abbey

By Morgan Bertsch, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

All the way from TV to new movie comes Downton Abbey, a place of joy and mystery as well as love and honor. As a fan of the show, I am so glad to see they made a movie and let us know how everything ends. 

One of the things that Downton Abbey is known for is the costumes. Each one sparkles from head to toe and they all simply terrific. Each costume and actor looks elegant and yet, very simple at the same time. That in turns reveals their true personalities in the end.

All the characters are very unique and they all share one thing in common, a love for the place they live, Downton. Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), who can be very as stubborn at times, is the best person to call when it comes to needing a smart and witty person. I love that she can turn any situation into a funny one, in literally ten seconds flat.

Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) is the middle sister in family. She is very compassionate in times of need. This is one of the many reasons why she is such a great assist to her family and the people around her. Robert Crawley or the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) owns Downton and wears his title to the fullest extent. He is not only a great father, but also a great man and a very helpful person in general.

Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery) is my personal pick of choice, when it comes to whom to have as your friend at Downton. She is the heart and soul of this magnificent place and, when it comes to keeping things running, that is exactly what she does. Not only does she help around the house, but she also gives the best advice, which is exactly why I pick Lady Mary to the new leader of Downton.

My favorite scene is when the Queen of England is being served dinner by the House of Downton for the first time ever. This scene shows a lot about the people who work there and also a lot about the Queen herself.

One issue I have with Downton Abby is that it reveals too many details about what happened to the Crawleys as their life had moved on. I hoped that they would keep some of it secret, so that we could wonder about it for just a while longer. Maybe they could have made a sequel to this movie, if they hadn’t answered so much. I recommend this for ages 12 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. It opens September 20, 2019 in theatres.