Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – An Effortless Blend of High-Octane Action and Charismatic Leads

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a fun Fast & Furious spinoff with the series’ effortless blend of high-octane action and charismatic leads. Fans of the beloved series and action movies in general must check this out. It has something for everyone.” Brad M. adds, “This new film is so action-packed it rarely has a dull moment. If you are looking for an entertaining night full of laughter, this is the movie to watch.” Kendall M. wraps it up with, “From the special effects to its storyline, you would not want to miss this. This movie is an action-packed, thrilling and comedic film makes you wonder what’s coming next.” See their full reviews below.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

By Arjun Nair, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a fun Fast & Furious spinoff with the series’ effortless blend of high-octane action and charismatic leads. Fans of the beloved series and action movies in general must check this out. It has something for everyone.

The film follows series’ favorites, lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and the lawless Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as the two “frenemies” must team up to stop the cybernetically modified super-soldier Brixton Lore (Idris Elba). Amid all this carnage are even some family reunions involving Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) and Hobbs’ own Samoan relatives.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, are the main highlight here, with the two as polar opposites of one another. Still, the actors work well together and their bickering and bantering is buoyed by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce’s script. The pair even impress in action scenes with Johnson’s hard hitting knockdowns and Statham’s suave martial arts. Vanessa Kirby, as Hattie Shaw, gives the duo a run for their money. She proves capable in the many action scenes and holds many quips with Hobbs. Their flirtatious banter and Deckard’s awkward reactions are some of the film’s funniest. Unfortunately, her contributions to the plot are very loosely strung, but her character is delightful to watch. Same goes for Idris Elba, as Brixton Lore, who owns up to his character’s craziness. Elba really has a way with things, making even the most clichéd characters engaging. There are multiple surprising big-list cameos, which I can not spoil. All really add to the movie’s layers of self-awareness and comedy, and make the movie much more engaging to watch.

David Leitch, as the director, brings new life to the franchise, providing more variety in action, from fisticuffs to shootouts to over-the-top car chases. The veteran director of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, he really knows how to make each sequence engaging and unique. The finale in Samoa is one such example. My favorite scene is the “pick a door” fight scene in Lore’s compound. Impressive choreography and well-timed comic relief from Johnson and Statham elevate this scene. Unfortunately, at two hours, the movie is a bit too long and some sequences towards the end feel like filler and really drag. On top of that, the marketing for this film really spoils some of the best action beats and comedic moments. It’s a shame that a poor marketing campaign ends up hurting some of the film’s surprises. Thankfully, they hide some things, like those surprise cameos.

The message of this film is in the franchise’s core values about family. Hobbs’s choice to reconnect with his family, despite past disagreements, proves this. I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, due to intense action sequences, suggestive references and language. The movie releases in theaters on August 2, 2019, so check it out.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

By Brad Martin, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a hilarious new spin-off movie for the Fast & Furious franchise. This new film is so action-packed it rarely has a dull moment. If you are looking for an entertaining night full of laughter, this is the movie to watch.

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) form an unexpected partnership while attempting to save the world from a deadly bio-weapon. The cyber-genetically-enhanced criminal Brixton (Idris Elba) will stop at nothing to ensure the evolution of humanity through this deadly bio-threat. The two heroes must settle their long-standing rivalry in order to save the human race.

The all-star cast came together to make an incredible film. The banter between Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw is super amusing and had viewers erupting with laughter. Jason Statham was born to play the role of Deckard Shaw. He is an extremely convincing actor who gave me everything I wanted and more from his character. The plot of the film is intriguing for the first half of the movie, but I found the second half to be more slow and dull. A small problem I encountered while watching the film was believing the villain. Every time he seems to get knocked down, he stands right back up, without a scratch on his genetically-engineered body. It would be more realistic to see him become progressively more damaged throughout the movie while fighting this action-filled war. On a separate note, the special and visual effects are dazzling and bring life to this action film. The fight scenes are brilliantly crafted as well. I was happy to see this movie and it definitely has the opportunity to create a sequel.  They use the last chunk of the film to set the basis for a future film. 

The message displayed in this film is about the importance of teamwork. When people bicker amongst each other, it is unproductive, but if they work together they can accomplish the seemingly impossible. This message carries over into our lives for how we get along with people in our own community. Parents should be aware that this movie has a fair amount of violence and foul language.

I give Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw 3 out 5 stars and recommend for ages 13 through 18. Make sure to check out this film when it storms into theaters August 2, 2019. Movie fans, you won’t want to miss it!

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Kendall, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a spot-on well produced and directed film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. From the special effects to its storyline, you would not want to miss this. This movie is an action-packed, thrilling and comedic film makes you wonder what’s coming next.

The storyline is about two rivals, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who are forced to team up to defeat the emerging threat of Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cyber-genetically-enhanced terrorist, armed with a deadly virus. This virus can potentially destroy planet Earth and all of humanity. Hobbs and Shaw must work through their differences to save the world once again.

Some things that really stand out in this film are the production, the screenplay and the editing. Big ups to director David Leitch and screenwriter Chris Morgan for making that happen. It is truly thrilling and amazing to watch and enjoy. Of course, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Idris Elba give us excellent performances as well. I should also point out Vanessa Kirby who plays Hattie and Helen Mirren who plays Queenie as their performances need mention too.

The message of the movies is that “no matter what differences you have with people, you still have to work together to make the world a better place.” If we focus on being mad at each other, we are not making the world better, we’re making it just angry and sad. So, I resonate with the message. You should know that there is quite a lot of profanity and some rude humor.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. Make sure you check it out when it opens in theaters August 2, 2019.

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About Camping!

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Selene W. comments, “This DVD features the incredibly talented and funny Martin Short as the voice of the Cat in the Hat!  The illustrations and animation are what you would expect from the Cat in the Hat’s world and I especially enjoyed the fantastical wilderness scenes. ” Morgan B. comments, “I absolutely love all the different things I learned about from this DVD! The animation is spot on in this show which brings out a lot of cool stuff.” Alejandra G. adds, “ This series is very enjoyable for kids to watch. The plot is well designed for kids to understand and relate to the stories.” Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “What a great DVD to get you in the mood for the upcoming summer vacation! I’m a big fan of the Cat in the Hat and his shenanigans. This one does not disappoint!” See their full reviews below.

The Cat in The Hat Knows a Lot About Camping!
By Selene Weiss, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Looking for adventure this summer?  Look no further than the new DVD The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Camping!  Join The Cat in the Hat, Nick, Sally and Fish on their trip to Fish’s family reunion.  Along the way, they are joined by the Little Cats as well as an appearance by Thing 1 and Thing 2!  Plenty of trouble ahead for this group.   

On the way to Fish’s family reunion, his fancy new fishbowl starts to leak.  The Cat in the Hat tries to fix this problem for his friend and as usual lands the group in more trouble.  The “thingamajig” heads to a crash landing and Thing 1 and Thing 2 appear to help their friends.  The group starts on a wilderness trek to help Fish make his way to his family when they discover the joys of nature.   

This DVD features the incredibly talented and funny Martin Short as the voice of the Cat in the Hat!  The illustrations and animation are what you would expect from the Cat in the Hat’s world and I especially enjoyed the fantastical wilderness scenes.  The river scenes, in particular, are my favorite animation on this journey. 

The message of this adventure is to enjoy the great outdoors and don’t get lost in your screen-time.  Interacting with people, things and the world around you is more important than viewing life on a screen.  The Little Cats learn this lesson several times on this DVD. 

I rate this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 12.  The DVD is available now so look for it.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Camping!
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 10

I like this DVD because it is very entertaining and useful.  The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Camping has a duration of one hour and you can watch it in English or Spanish.

This DVD is about two kids named Nick and Sally pretending to camp in their backyard on their first day of summer vacation.  The Cat in the Hat (Martin Short) comes to visit them with his friend Fish who has a family reunion at the time.  The Cat in the Hat tells Nick and Sally that he is going to set up a camp at Fish’s family reunion.  Nick and Sally are very excited because they really are going camping. The Cat in the Hat takes his hat off and his three little cousins come out of the hat, Little Cat A, Little Cat B and little Cat C.  During their journey to Fish’s family reunion, The Cat in the Hat teaches the kids and the little cousins a lot about nature, insects and the beautiful landscape, with the help of a special electronic device.  Meanwhile, Fish is worried about his special suit not getting ruined during their journey to the reunion and his fancy fishbowl not getting muddy (so he can show it off to his family).  Unfortunately, this trip is not going the way Fish wanted to go.

The animation on this DVD is the same as other Cat in the Hat movies.  The songs are catchy and pleasant to listen to.  The show features Martin Short, from The Three Amigos, as the voice of the Cat in the Hat.  My favorite scene is when the Cat in the Hat, Fish, Nick and Sally are flying in the air in the Thingamajigger singing “Go, go, go, go on an adventure.”

The moral of this show is “no matter how you dress, how you look, or what you have, your family will  love you for who you are.”  Family doesn’t care about your appearance or your possessions.

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 8.  Adults can watch this with their kids and might even learn some tips about camping. The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Camping! is available now, so you can enjoy it as much as I did.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Camping!
By Alejandra G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

To start off, this DVD impacts children in a positive way with its great vocabulary and important lessons that are taught in each episode. This series is very enjoyable for kids to watch. The plot is well designed for kids to understand and relate to the stories. I can understand why kids are attracted to it. The way the show is made, with all the colorful objects and cute plots draw the kids in quite easily and, in that moment, their life seems interesting.

All the episodes on this DVD have different stories and plots, but the format and the meaning is pretty much the same. All the adventures are different, but every one teaches the lesson that you can play and have fun in nature enjoying the most awesome sights. You can have a great time without damaging the environment yet, you still need to respect and take care of it. Along with that, the viewer experiences some great adventures that are unforgettable. 

My favorite scene is at the end of one episode when The Cat in the Hat, Nick, Sally, Fish and all his family gather together in one musical finale extravaganza where they are all celebrated as true adventurers. I like this scene because it is very creative, has great songs and the little musical finale is so well organized. It definitely gets children’s attention since it really stands out. <p>The important message gleaned from these episodes is that people and children can have fun without electronic devices. This DVD teaches kids about the wonder in nature. It shows how phones, computers and other electronic devices are not more fascinating than the activities you can do in nature. It shows you how to share quality time with the people you love and learn about your surroundings.  This DVD is available now so, go check it out. It’s just in time for summer vacation.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Camping!
By Denise B., KIDS FIRST! Juror

What a great DVD to get you in the mood for the upcoming summer vacation! I’m a big fan of the Cat in the Hat and his shenanigans. This one does not disappoint! It’s entertaining for the whole family and children, ages 3 to 9 will love it! I like that all the characters such as the Fish are included in this fun outdoor adventure. It also has a great storyline from the beginning to end and it’s just so fun to watch. I found myself laughing out loud more than a few times. I also like that it is rather original and the animation and soundtrack are great. I give this 5 out of 5 stars and think that the adults will also enjoy watching this one with their young children. This is available now, be sure to go check it out.

The Day Henry Met: Season Two – Explore Life and Friendship. Be Curious. Learn from Others!

Every day Henry meets something new! I wonder what Henry’s going to meet today? Henry is a 4-year-old boy who always wants to learn and find out more. In each episode, Henry has a friendly chat with whatever he meets and discovers something new…”Hello, Caterpillar. How do you turn into a butterfly?”  “Hello, Bear. What is hibernation?” “Hello, Telescope. What is a constellation?” No matter what Henry meets, they’re always delighted to talk, laugh and share their amazing world with him. After finding out so many amazing things about his new friends, Henry lets his imagination run wild and imagines himself. As a Paleontologist discovering dinosaurs. As a skateboarder learning how to jump, flip and grind. As a showjumper to help a horse win a top prize. As a teacher learning all about school. As a detective solving cases. And more! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Selene W. comments, “Henry is an inquisitive and playful little boy who loves to learn!  Every day he meets new friends, whether they are a human, animal or an object, they are all of interest to him.”  Ethan P. adds, “I like this DVD because the music is very catchy and the episodes are short and entertaining… The moral of these episodes is not let people, well, in this case, things, underestimate your abilities to do something you want to do or be.  Henry is always positive; he can do whatever his imagination tells him to do.” Siaki S. wraps it up with, “I like this DVD and it reminds me to be more like Henry – be creative, active and enjoy the moment that is given to us. Henry reminds us to never give up and that is true in life.” See their full reviews below.

The Day Henry Met: Season Two

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Henry is an inquisitive and playful little boy who loves to learn!  Every day he meets new friends, whether they are a human, animal or an object, they are all of interest to him.  The Day Henry Met DVD has 26 episodes to inspire curiosity.  Who or what will Henry meet next?

My favorite episode is The Day Henry Met… A Dinosaur Bone as I love the museum setting and the fact that he travels back in time.  This episode is both educational and fun.  There are so many good moments in this series including The Day Henry Met… a Violin, a Tennis Racquet and an Ice Cream Van.  Can’t forget The Day Henry MetA Comic BookSuper Henry appears to make the city safe and happy.  Love all the fun characters and situations in this episode. 

The voices in this series reflect all of the diverse characters that Henry meets and really bring the characters to life.  This series, directed by Gary Gill, is playful and will appeal to younger children.  The illustrations are reflective of children’s drawings and are quite appealing.  It is so imaginative that it makes you view the world around you in a different light as Henry talks to whomever or whatever he meets each day.

The message of this series is to explore life, friendship, be curious and learn from those around you.  There is something to learn in every situation, even if you are with a dustbin or a sponge!

I rate this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 8.  Reviewed by Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. For more reviews by youth, visit kidsfirst dot org.

The Day Henry Met; Season 2
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 10

I like this DVD because the music is very catchy and the episodes are short and entertaining. The Day Henry Met; Season Two has 26 episodes of cute little stories.

The storyline is about a 4-year-old, red-head boy named Henry, who has a big imagination.  In every episode, Henry meets something new.  He talks to different objects, animals or things.  Once Henry interacts with the objects such as a violin, a skateboard, a camera, a horse or a bear, these things or animals make Henry’s imagination go wild.  For example, Henry imagines such things as being a conductor or a detective.  Henry also wants to learn and find out more about the objects he interacts with.  At the end of each episode, Henry’s mom calls him and Henry’s imagination ends by him saying goodbye to the objects he was talking to.

The animation style of this DVD is simple and plain, looking as if it is hand drawn. Basically, all the objects have eyes and a mouth, including the house.  What caught my attention is that Henry has a voice like a 12-year-old.  He sounds much older than a little kid.  I like how friendly his chats are with the different animals and objects.  The episodes are so short that I didn’t lose interest while watching them.  My favorite episode is “The Day Henry Met A Dustbin” because, out of all the episodes, this particular one is the most realistic one for my age.  Henry wants to be a garbage man so he can help his trash can and all the other trash cans in his neighborhood to be emptied, because the garbage man who had that route is sick and cannot pick up the trash that day.

The moral of these episodes is not let people, well in this case things, underestimate your abilities to do something you want to do or be.  Henry is always positive; he can do whatever his imagination tells him to do.

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 8, but adults can watch it with their kids and might find it interesting.  This DVD is available now, so look for it.

The Day Henry Met Season 2

By Siaki S., KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, Age 16

This series of episodes is definitely full of laughs and fun to watch, which I didn’t expect it to be. It took me by surprise.  This DVD is definitely colorful, entertaining and a big “yes” to capture younger kids’ attention spans quickly. The show is produced and directed by Susan Broe and Gary Gill who are definitely tuned into the younger audience.

This story follows a little 4-year-old boy, Henry, who is eager and excited about life and learning new things. He’s always discovering interesting facts and tactics in every episode. One of my favorite episodes is called “Running Shoes,” because Henry becomes an athlete, as well as an opponent to the running shoes, to help the running shoes compete against himself in the 100 meter dash and finish the competition. Although the shoes are just a pair of shoes, he wants to give the shoes meaning. As Henry is inches away from winning, he scurries over to the running shoes to put them on and finish the race.

I like this DVD and it reminds me to be more like Henry – be creative, active and enjoy the moment that is given to us. Henry reminds us to never give up and that is true in life.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 10, as well as adults. Adults will enjoy it all the messages that remind us to be better and always try harder – to be just like Henry in many different ways. This DVD is available now, so look for it.

The Lion King – A Work Of Art That Lives Up To The Original In A New Way

Simba idolizes his father, King Mufasa, and takes to heart his own royal destiny on the plains of Africa. But not everyone in the kingdom celebrates the new cub’s arrival. Scar, Mufasa’s brother — and former heir to the throne — has plans of his own. The battle for Pride Rock is soon ravaged with betrayal, tragedy and drama, ultimately resulting in Simba’s exile. Now, with help from a curious pair of newfound friends, Simba must figure out how to grow up and take back what is rightfully his. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Brad M. comments, “There are a multitude of dazzling aspects in The Lion King, but the most stunning is the heavy and effective use of CGI. From the beginning to the end of the film, the computer-generated imagery creates animals that are incredibly realistic and authentic.” Elle C. adds, “This CGI masterpiece brings a new twist to the story visually, as well as musically. The opening scene sets the tone for the whole movie, bridging the original animation with this new live action take, into one beautiful panoramic view of the film’s setting.” Zoe C. adds, “There are stunning visuals, a powerful story of betrayal, coming of age, re-birth and the circle of life. The idea of what it really means to be a king and all the original sentiment is intact. I love all the animals and think it is really impressive how they filmed this movie.” Calista B. wraps it up with, “There’s no denying that the original Lion King from 1994 is a classic. Gorgeous animation, amazing story and absolutely timeless music… How can you remake something that’s already so timeless? Well to me, the end result is okay at best.” See their full reviews below.

The Lion King

By Brad M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

The Lion King is a hilarious and entertaining new Disney movie! This work of art lives up to the original animated version of The Lion King in a new and engrossing way. If you are a fan of Disney or just love movies in general, you will be infatuated by this new incredible film.

This movie follows heir to the throne, Simba, as he learns about ruling his Kingdom in the heart of the African savanna. The king of the lions, Mufasa, wants nothing more than peace in the savanna and to protect his son. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way. Mufasa’s diabolical brother, Scar, is hungry for power and blood. This hairy beast will stop for nothing in order to obtain the throne. Simba and his new-found friends must act fast to put an end to his malicious uncle’s plans.

There are a multitude of dazzling aspects in The Lion King, but the most stunning is the heavy and effective use of CGI. From the beginning to the end of the film, the computer-generated imagery creates animals that are incredibly realistic and authentic. This new lively take on a classic story is incredibly refreshing and engaging. Another factor I immensely enjoyed was the voice acting. Billy Eicher, who plays Timon and Seth Rogen, who plays Pumbaa, are absolutely hilarious. Every other line spoken from their mouths had me dying of laughter. Chiwetel Ejiofor, the actor who plays Scar, is perfect for his role. He left the audience completely despising his character, which is perfect for a villain the caliber of Scar. The only moment in the film that is slightly disappointing is the song Hakuna Matata. I think it is too different from the original version and not as intriguing. On a separate note, the writers wrote a touching and adorable script. I was delighted by the father-son relationship between Simba and Mufasa. The interactions and playful nature seen through their characters is heart-warming.

The Lion King reveals that bravery is an important attribute, but is only effective when executed in a selfless manner. This underlying message is valuable for our everyday lives. Parents should be aware that this film has a fair amount of violence.

I give The Lion King 4 out of 5 stars and highly recommend to kids ages 8 through 18. Make sure to check out this film when it pounces into theaters July 17, 2019. Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

The Lion King
By Elle Cohen, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

The live-action adaption of The Lion King is bound to be a Disney classic. This CGI masterpiece brings a new twist to the story visually, as well as musically. The opening scene sets the tone for the whole movie, bridging the original animation with this new live action take, into one beautiful panoramic view of the film’s setting. The entire film looks so realistic that it’s almost like a nature documentary.

The well-known storyline hasn’t changed much:  Mufasa (James Earl Jones) is the head of his pride and the King of “all that the light touches” in the African Serengeti. His son, Simba, (the younger, JD McCrary and mature, Donald Glover) is brave, but mischievous. Simba’s Uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is bitter and angry that Simba is the heir to his brother’s throne. In order to get Mufasa and Simba out of the way, Scar manipulates the hyenas into joining forces. He then arranges an “accident” to kill Mufasa and take over the kingdom. Scar blames Simba for Mufasa’s death, and Simba runs away—but it’s Mufasa’s love and wisdom that brings Simba back to assume the throne. 


The intense and serious aspects, and the comedic scenes, come together to create a beautiful balance. James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mufasa, bringing the comforting and strong tone we expect from the leader of the pride. His touching relationship with his son is the centerpiece of this film. Meanwhile, Ejiofor’s, Scar, performs “Be Prepared” as a powerful villainous anthem, interpreting the character as  very complicated and intense. Florence Kasumba’s turn as Shenzi is also a fierce and threatening leader of her pack of hyenas.

The comedic acting is brilliantly funny.  The comedy duo of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen as Timon and Pumba, are the highlights of the movie. Their playful banter brings  a sharp wit to some of the most intense scenes in the film.

While hyenas Keegan Micheal Key and Eric Andre’s dysfunctional comedy shone a spotlight on the hyena crew, John Oliver’s Zazu was a funny take on Mufasa’s right hand bird.

The real star of the show is the incredible CGI animation that brings these animals to life. Their expressions and movements are so realistic and animal-like, but the personification of these seemingly wild animals seems so natural. Cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel of The Right Stuff, and Jon Favreau, director of The Jungle Book, make sure the entire movie was visually stunning.

The songs from the original movie feature heavily, and while they are performed and produced in a more pop-oriented way, the score is more sweeping and orchestral. Classics like “ Can You Feel the Love Tonight?,” and “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” are  performed by pop stars Beyonce and Donald Glover, and produced by Pharrel Williams. Hans Zimmer provides a dramatic score, that works with the feeling of the new film.

The message in this film is that we may doubt ourselves, but it’s important to remember who we are, and that our friends and family can help remind us.  There are some violent and intense scenes, so I wouldn’t recommend it for very young viewers.  But kids from ages 6-18 would enjoy it, as well as adults. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars, because Disney has created a brand new, can’t-miss classic.

The Lion King will be released on July 19 in theaters nationwide.

The Lion King
By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

There’s no denying that the original Lion King from 1994 is a classic. Gorgeous animation, amazing story and absolutely timeless music. So making a remake was understandably going to be tricky.  How can you remake something that’s already so timeless? Well to me, the end result is okay at best.

I almost feel like I don’t need to explain the plot as it’s the same story as the original. There are barely any changes and, even then, the changes are very minor. So if you’ve seen The Lion King (1994)  then you’ve seen The Lion King (2019). However, there’s one major change that in my eyes makes the remake suffer significantly and that’s the graphics.

I should preface this by saying I do prefer animation to CGI “realistic graphics” because I feel animation just looks better. But my main concern is that realistic graphics ruin the storytelling greatly. The Lion King is a very emotional story. And when you have such an emotional story you need to connect and feel for the characters. The original was able to pull this off perfectly with fantastically detailed facial expressions. Unfortunately, because of the realistic graphics, the characters in The Lion King (2019) show little to no emotion. This kills basically every important scene, as I didn’t feel invested in it. I kept thinking to myself –These lions do not look interested in what’s happening. The realism also has another consequence: I could not tell the difference between the lions at times. At times I thought is that Nala or Simba’s Mom? Because the original is animated, they can differentiate the lions through things like their fur color, eyes and facial structure. The CGI remake does not have this ability.

It also felt like the creators tried cutting down on the more “animated” scenes. The Mufasa ghost scene doesn’t have Mufasa’s spirit appear; instead they just have his voice come from the clouds and sometimes lightning will strike to form his face. I feel seeing his full appearance is more powerful.

The songs suffer as well. “Be Prepared” is severely cut down which is disappointing, because it’s a favorite song from the movie. The “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King” segment in the original has all this crazy choreography that integrated the various animals in unique ways that can only be done in animation. In the remake they just run around. I was actually somewhat bored, if it wasn’t for John Oliver as Zazu.

I give this movie 2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18. The Lion King (2019) comes out July 19, 2019.

The Lion King

By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

I love this film! There are stunning visuals, a powerful story of betrayal, coming of age, re-birth and the circle of life. The idea of what it really means to be a king and all the original sentiment is intact. I love all the animals and think it is really impressive how they filmed this movie.

The story of The Lion King is about a little cub named Simba who is going to become king. One day, a wild stampede puts Simba’s life in danger and his father, Mudasa, dies after he rescues him. Mudasa’s evil brother Scar makes Simba believe it is his fault and forces him to abandon the kingdom. Simba carries guilt and feelings of not being brave when he runs away, leaving everyone, including his best friend Nala behind. He goes to a new land where he meets Timon and Pumba and they become the best of friends. His life is good, but lacks purpose. From there, Simba’s friend Nala comes to find help and meets Simba after so many years. Scar’s reign is despicable and all the animals are trying to stop Scar’s evil plans. Simba needs to become the king he was meant to be.

I love the comedy in this film. I also love how, in one scene, they play a little piece of “Be Our Guest” – that’s actually my favorite scene in the film and it is not in the original. I definitively think this is a perfect visual recreation of the original. I love that they chose The Lion King to be the next Disney Classic to turn into live action. Lately, Disney been only doing Princess stories, so I like that they chose animals this time. I absolutely adore the animals and I feel like they fascinate you during the entire film. This is not a reinvention of the story; it is pretty much just taking the original to the real world. The way the live action blends with digital imagery is fantastic. This photo realistic Africa on the big screen is splendorous.

There are so many messages in the film: stay true to yourself, being compassionate is more important that being powerful, and we can’t change our past. It is very inspiring to hear again “Hakuna Matata.” These words have been an important motto for people since the original Lion King was released in 1994. The song was composed by Elton John and was nominated for an Oscar. There’s a new Elton John song – “Never Too Late,” and other surprises in this new one. All the beloved classic songs play in this 2019 version, which makes the audience very happy.

I give this film 5 of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 6 to 13, and adults as well. Never forget: Hakuna Matata. The Lion King 2019 opens July 19, 2019, so look for it.

Spider-Man: Far From Home – Bigger and Better than Its Predecessor

Following the events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man must step up to take on new threats in a world that has changed forever. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Spider-Man: Far From Home is bigger and better than its predecessor, Homecoming and another exciting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Far From Home is a blast that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and is a nice palette cleanser after the despair of Endgame and Infinity War.” Veronica S. adds, “The performances and the comedy are this film’s high points. Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and Tom Holland as Peter Parker absolutely steal the show and are both a pure joy to watch. This is Gyllenhaal’s first Marvel flick, and it looks like he was born to be in one. Spider-Man: Far From Home, like most Marvel films, is hilarious; all the side characters had several lines that got the entire theater laughing.” Madison M. chimes in with, “The message of Spider-Man: Far from Home is that the world doesn’t need another you, it needs someone who can be better. Throughout the movie Peter is constantly reminded of Tony Stark (Iron Man) after his death in Endgame and Peter feels that he needs to be the next Iron Man. Then Happy reminds him that no one could ever be Iron Man and that Peter needs to be a better Spider-Man.” Newcomer Navah W. wraps it up with, “The special and visual effects that take place are beyond awesome! They include four of the five elements of science – earth, fire, water and wind. The fighting scenes that take place in the cities that the students visit cause so much destruction of boats, bridges, buildings, cars and planes that it made me think, “Wow! Does this really get destroyed during the making of this movie?” See their full reviews below.

Spider-Man: Far From Home

Benjamin Price, Kids First! Film Critic

Spider-Man: Far From Home is bigger and better than its predecessor, Homecoming and another exciting entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Far From Home is a blast that’ll have you on the edge of your seat and is a nice palette cleanser after the despair of Endgame and Infinity War.

With pressure from being a superhero mounting every day, Peter Parker, a.k.a. Spider-Man (Tom Holland), needs a break. He’s ready to go on a school trip through Europe and confess his feelings for classmate MJ (Zendaya). Peter’s easy going summer is mangled when creatures called Elementals attack the first stop on his trip. Peter is appointed by the head of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury to assist Quentin Beck in taking the monsters down. Beck, a.k.a Mysterio, is ready to sacrifice anything to vanquish the Elementals after they destroyed his home and killed his family. Peter sets out to protect his friends and the world at large from the coming supernatural threat.

Tom Holland plays a great Spider-Man. Far From Home relies on him being likable and relatable and this time around, somewhat vulnerable too. Holland does all of these things really well. This film doesn’t work if you’re not invested in Peter Parker, but lucky for us, this version is perhaps the best incarnation of the character yet. The awkward, yet sweet interactions between Peter and MJ are a highlight of this film.

Far From Home has a fun atmosphere, even when the stakes are tense and thrilling. The comedy is sharp and witty, but the emotional nuance of Peter’s arc is well-executed. Peter has to face the responsibilities of being a “friendly neighborhood Spider-man” and step up to fill the void left by his recently fallen mentor and friend Tony Stark, a.k.a Iron Man. Stark expected the best from Parker and trusted him with numerous gadgets and resources to continue to do good after he was gone. Parker has to live up to those expectations, while also mourning the loss of his friend.

I recommend this for ages 12 to 18 for some violence, peril and language. Spider-Man: Far From Home is a great teen comedy with a touch of science fiction, romance and heroism. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend you see this film when it swings in theaters July 2nd.

Spider-Man: Far From Home
By Veronica S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Spider-Man: Far From Home is one of the most exciting movies in theaters right now. Its thrilling action will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire runtime, and you’ll leave the cinema smiling. This is the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it truly did not disappoint.

This film follows your “friendly neighborhood Spider-Man”, aka Peter Parker, leaving New York City to go on a school field trip throughout Europe. On his trip, he plans to spend time with his friends, tell his crush how he feels about her, and go sightseeing around the several countries he’s visiting. But his plan will soon come to a halt when Nick Fury warns him about a new threat coming to Earth. With the help of a new superhero named Mysterio, Peter Parker will have to decide whether to enjoy his teenage years and have fun on his trip or to save the world, risking his identity in the process.

The performances and the comedy are this film’s high points. Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio and Tom Holland as Peter Parker absolutely steal the show and are both a pure joy to watch. This is Gyllenhaal’s first Marvel flick, and it looks like he was born to be in one. Spider-Man:  Far From Home, like most Marvel films, is hilarious; all the side characters had several lines that got the entire theater laughing. Something else I admire about this film is how well it encapsulates teenage life and all of the awkward, exciting, and confusing moments being a teenager brings. The film portrays teens very realistically, and I have to commend the director, Tom Watts, for this. The special effects are marvelous, especially in scenes dealing with Mysterio.

With many highs, this film also has its lows. My main problems with the movie are the heavy exposition scenes and the dialogue. The way it feeds the audience information and tells backstories is poorly written which makes the scenes feel unnatural. The predictability of the story took me out of the film several times, but the movie still contains many moments which utterly shocked the entire audience. Although it has its lows, the highs fully outweigh them.

All in all, Spider-Man:  Far From Home is a fun-infused thrill ride that you will not want to miss. If you enjoy the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you will absolutely adore this one. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11-18, but adults will also appreciate it. Check it out in theaters on July 2, 2019. 

Spider-Man: Far from Home

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

What I like about Spider-Man: Far from Home are the special effects, the quality of the storyline, the fight scenes and the fact that Spider-Man is my favorite superhero! I can’t just point out one specific part. The MCU never disappoints.

Spider-Man: Far from Home is about the after-math of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame and how everyone that is destroyed in the snap that they call “The Blip” comes back the same age. It’s been five years so, instead of their being 21 and graduated, they are still 16 and have to re-do their sophomore year of high school. So, the school year ends and the class is going on a summer vacation to Europe. Peter doesn’t want to be Spider-Man on this trip, but coincidently Nick Fury happens to need Peter’s help as Spider-Man. He fights along Quentin Beck (Mysterio) and, while in the comics Mysterio is the bad guy, it seems his role is reversed in this movie. While all this is happening, Peter is trying to tell MJ (the girl he really likes) how he feels.

My favorite part of Spider-Man: Far from Home is when Peter walks with MJ to give her a gift and tell her about how he feels. As he gets ready to tell her, she interrupts and asks him if he is Spider-Man. It’s a very funny scene.

The message of Spider-Man: Far from Home is that the world doesn’t need another you, it needs someone who can be better. Throughout the movie Peter is constantly reminded of Tony Stark (Iron Man) after his death in Endgame and Peter feels that he needs to be the next Iron Man. Then Happy reminds him that no one could ever be Iron Man and that Peter needs to be a better Spider-Man.

I give Spider-Man: Far from Home 5 out of 5 stars. It is a great cinematic movie with great performances and is a lot better than Spider-Man: Homecoming. I recommend it for ages 13 to18, plus adults because of the language and violence. Make sure to go see Spider-Man: Far from Home in theatres everywhere when it opens Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

Spider-Man: Far from Home
By Navah Wallace, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11

The live action thriller movie Spider-Man: Far from Home is mind-blowing and hilarious! I definitely enjoyed this movie. The action-packed fights between the superheroes are explosive, like bombs going off everywhere. The characters travel to adventurous places and weird sci-fi things begin to happen.   

The storyline follows Peter Parker preparing for a high school field trip with his classmates to exciting cities in Italy and France. Peter is planning to finally wow MJ, the girl he really likes. However, he becomes frustrated when he is called on a mission as Spider-man and tries to avoid the mission by “ghosting” Nick Fury’s calls. Ultimately, that does not work and he finds himself trapped and forced into the mission.

The special and visual effects that take place are beyond awesome! They include four of the five elements of science – earth, fire, water and wind. The fighting scenes that take place in the cities that the students visit cause so much destruction of boats, bridges, buildings, cars and planes that it made me think, “Wow! Does this really get destroyed during the making of this movie?” However, I realized later it is simply special and visual effects, because I have learned that drones are used to make you think something is really happening when it is not. In addition to all the action, I also wondered if the superheroes did their own stunts or if there are multiple stunt doubles. Therefore, I did some research and found out that there are several stunt performers.

The message in this movie is about illusion versus real. In other words, everything is not what is seems to be, and people will believe anything, so trust no one. My favorite part of the movie is when Peter Parker gets to shoot his shot with MJ. You should know that there is some profanity and risky situations that kids may try to imitate, so parent guidance is suggested.

I give Spider-Man: Far from Home 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. I also think adults will be amazed and enjoy it as well. It opens in theaters nationwide July 2, 2019, so be sure to check it out.

Yesterday – An Unbelievable Plot and a Film Filled With The Beatles Music

Jack Malik is a struggling singer-songwriter in an English seaside town whose dreams of fame are rapidly fading, despite the fierce devotion and support of his childhood best friend, Ellie. After a freak bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack wakes up to discover that The Beatles have never existed. Performing songs by the greatest band in history to a world that has never heard them, Jack becomes on overnight sensation with a little help from his agent. KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer Kimbirly O. comments, “Imagine a world without music from The Beatles. As I type these words, I realize how far-fetched this sentence appears and, as a music lover, it’s preposterous! The Beatles have influenced thousands of musical artists who followed in their hallowed footsteps post-Liverpool. While unbelievable, this is the premise behind Director Danny Boyle’s (Oscar-winning Director, Slum Dog Millionaire) latest film, Yesterday.” KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. adds, “This new world that Jack now lives in, is crazy. It does not have The Beatles. And John Lennon is alive. Can you imagine?  The movie is creative in many ways, including using locations that inspired several Beatles’ song titles such as Eleanor Rigby’s grave and Penny Lane.  My favorite character is Ellie, Jack’s manager. She is sweet, funny and beautiful. My favorite part is when Jack searches for The Beatles on the Internet.” Ethan P. wraps it up with, “This is a very entertaining and funny movie!  This film has two hours of comedy, romance and music.  I really enjoyed watching this movie and listening to some of The Beatles classic songs.” See their full reviews below.

Yesterday
By Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Imagine a world without music from The Beatles. As I type these words, I realize how far-fetched this sentence appears and, as a music lover, it’s preposterous! The Beatles have influenced thousands of musical artists who followed in their hallowed footsteps post-Liverpool. While unbelievable, this is the premise behind Director Danny Boyle’s (Oscar-winning Director, Slum Dog Millionaire) latest film, Yesterday. When a 12-second global power outage occurs, Jack Malik (Himesh Patel, EastEnders) is riding his bicycle, collides with a bus, and lands in the hospital with serious injuries. During his recovery, he casually utters statements, which are song lyrics from the Fab Four, and no one gets it. His confusion leads him to Google, where Jack types “The Beatles,” only to received definitions of beetles. Try as he may, he can find no reference of The Beatles anywhere and, throughout the film; we learn other brands are also nonexistent in this alternate universe, such as Coke. Jack suddenly realizes he is the only person on Earth who remembers The Beatles.

Things get very interesting as Jack has always been a struggling musician. Think kid’s birthday parties, lackluster music festivals and coffee shops. He is lovingly looked after by his lifelong friend Ellie (Lily James) who is also his manager, roadie and his only faithful supporter. If this level of closeness was not enough, we also witness unrequited attraction between the two main characters and, since the script comes from Richard Curtis (Love Actually), we know where this is headed.

Jack decides to learn the songs of The Beatles and make them his own – and he finds success! So much success, Ed Sheeran (playing himself) discovers him. Along with the pop superstar, comes his agent (Kate McKinnon), a money-grubbing, tremendously offensive yet also a funny woman who thinks she found the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow. Things don’t quite ‘Come Together’ entirely.

Things get ridiculous as Jack and Ed Sheeran embark on a world tour and meet a few interesting people along the way. The song selection is impeccable with “‘Help” providing an accurate reading of the song’s rarely spoken meaning, appropriate to the character and plot. The “Long and Winding Road” of the film is truly a musical journey.

I give this film 3 of 5 stars for the some of the casting, the humorous interludes, Kate McKinnon’s performance, UNBELIEVABLE MUSIC (kudos to whoever had to manage clearances for this film – WOW!) and female empowerment. This film will appeal to ages 12 to 18 and introduce or re-introduce the music of The Beatles to younger generations. This writer found herself toe tapping, singing along and loving all the memories this music holds. Check it out when it opens in theaters June 28, 2019.

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

This movie is very entertaining. It has great songs, great singing and a little romance. The acting really pulled me into the story.

Yesterday is about a man named Jack who wants to become a famous singer. While riding his bike, the world’s power goes out and Jack gets hit by a bus. After recovering, his friends give him a new guitar and he tries it out by singing a song by The Beatles. His friends have never heard the song before or even know who The Beatles are. So, Jack gets an idea to claim those songs as his own, so he can become famous.

This new world that Jack now lives in, is crazy. It does not have The Beatles. And John Lennon is alive. Can you imagine?  The movie is creative in many ways, including using locations that inspired several Beatles’ song titles such as Eleanor Rigby’s grave and Penny Lane.  My favorite character is Ellie, Jack’s manager. She is sweet, funny and beautiful. My favorite part is when Jack searches for The Beatles on the Internet. 

The message of Yesterday is to follow your dreams, put love first and tell the truth. It has a bit of bad language and a lot of drinking, but hey, it takes place in England, so I guess that is to be expected. It has some negative behavior and other risky things that kids might try to do.

I give this movie 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 11 to 18. Adults will like this as well. This movie is in theaters June 28, 2019.

Yesterday
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 10

This is a very entertaining and funny movie!  This film has two hours of comedy, romance and music.  I really enjoyed watching this movie and listening to some of The Beatles classic songs.

Yesterday is about a British musician name Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) who writes his own songs. Jack is not a successful musician and is about to give up his career as a singer/writer, but his long time friend Ellie (Lily James) encourage him to continue with his dreams to keep writing and singing.  One night, while Jack is riding his bike, the entire world suffers a 12 second blackout.  Jack gets hit by a bus and sent to the hospital.  For some reason, after the global blackout, The Beatles are erased from history; they don’t exist.  No one knows who The Beatles are except Jack.

The combination of comedy, romance and music is really good.  Not only does Himesh Patel sing all The Beatles songs himself, he has an extraordinary voice and plays several instruments as well. My favorite part of this movie is seeing Ed Sheeran as himself.  Ed visits Jack and invites him to sing with him.  Ed’s manager Deborah (Kate McKinnon, Saturday Night Live) is extremely funny.  She becomes Jack’s manager and helps him make a great album singing The Beatles’ songs.  Jack becomes super famous. 

My favorite scene is when Jack sings “Help!” on top of a roof, in front of huge crowd.  I also love the cast, because they are all very funny. For example Jack’s best friend Rocky is played by Joel Fry, who is hysterical and James Corden plays as himself and he is always very funny to watch. . 

The moral of this movie is not to lie.  In the movie Jack lies by telling the world he wrote all the songs and becomes famous.  Also, he is in love with Ellie and doesn’t have the courage to tell her.  Lying can get you into more trouble than you are already in.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 9 to18. This movie comes out in theatres June 28, 2019. Look for it.

Llama Llama Best Summer Ever! – Tons Of Fun, Appealing To Young Kids And Families

Llama Llama springs to life in these heart-warming tales based on the award-winning book series by author and illustrator Anna Dewdney.  Join Llama Llama, Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat as they explore their safe, friendly hometown and make childhood memories. On this DVD, join Llama Llama as he camps, boats, floats and swims his way through his BEST summer ever!  Adventure and learning awaits with Llama Llama and pals! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever! is so entertaining to watch. It has adorable characters, fun animation, great music and lots vibrant content.  The short episodes are the perfect length to keep young children entertained.” Selene W. adds, “Llama Llama is an animated series full of family values and nature adventures!…There are eight episodes on the new DVD Llama Llama BEST Summer Ever! Llama Llama has exciting adventures with his family and friends which include valuable life lessons at the beach, camping and around the town.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer Jennifer V. wraps it up with, “Through Llama Llama and his friends Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat, kids will learn how to problem-solve, work as part of a team, help others, develop friendship and enjoy their families with awesome summer activities such as making lemonade, camping, boating, swimming and kite flying.” See their full reviews below.


Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever!

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

Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever! is so entertaining to watch. It has adorable characters, fun animation, great music and lots vibrant content.  The short episodes are the perfect length to keep young children entertained.

This DVD is about Llama Llama and his friend having the time of their lives on their summer vacation. Episodes include Let’s Go Camping, Beach Day, Boat Float and Last Day of Summer. Wherever Llama Llama goes, there will always be fun.

The Llama Llama animated series is so cool, because they are based on the award-winning book series by author and illustrator Anna Dewdney.  There are several lovable characters including Llama Llama, Nelly Gnu and Luna Giraffe. This DVD is approximately 90 minutes long with eight episodes.  My favorite episode is Last Day of Summer, because it shows that even if the weather is bad you can still have fun indoors during the summer.

There are a lot of positive messages in this DVD including keeping a positive attitude when your plans change unexpectedly and, if you go with the flow and have a positive attitude, the outcome can still be fun.  We also learn that a little bit of practice can make you feel more confident and that if you feel as if you are not getting enough attention from your parents, just know that they still love you. This DVD has no bad language and there is nothing risky or dangerous that kids might try to do.  However, there are scenes showing jealously.

I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. This DVD is available now. I totally recommend this DVD for your kids.

Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever is a DVD filled with episodes that are full of family values and nature adventures!  This heartwarming animated series is based on the beloved children’s books by Anna Dewdney who also illustrated the books.  There are eight episodes on the new DVD Llama Llama BEST Summer Ever!

Llama Llama has exciting adventures with his family and friends which include valuable life lessons at the beach, camping and around the town.  The series features Jennifer Garner as the voice of the loving Mama Llama.  My favorite episode is “Last Day of Summer” where Llama Llama seizes the day with friends and goes to the park to fly kites and ends up using imagination when the weather complicates their plans.  Change can be exciting and fun!

The message of this series is to learn from family and friends and to enjoy  childhood.  Change can be tough but you can always enjoy time with family and friends.

I rate this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 6.  The DVD is available now.

Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever
By Jennifer V., KIDS FIRST! Juror

Llama Llama’s Best Summer Ever! DVD is tons of fun and will appeal to kids and families. It’s a bright and happy animated series that is based on Anna Dewdney’s books about an adventurous llama and his circle of family and friends. This DVD has eight episodes with an option to play all the episodes or select them one at a time at an approximate run time of 90 minutes of lively entertainment.

The series employs bright colors, fun animals and engaging story lines that align with the daily activities that many kids are involved in, to capture their interest. The cute story lines deliver positive messages. For example, Llama Llama’s kite is torn on the last day of summer and his mom teaches him resourcefulness. There’s no need to buy a new one, we can fix this one and it will be better than before. The writing structure is straightforward and geared towards its target audience. The continuity and style reinforce each episode’s message, teamwork, resourcefulness and helping others. The series uses vocabulary that appeals to young kids. For example, when Llama Llama’s kite is torn his mom states that she will help him make a swirl-o-rama kite!

Through Llama Llama and his friends Nelly Gnu, Luna Giraffe, Euclid the Sheep and Gilroy Goat, kids will learn how to problem-solve, work as part of a team, help others, develop friendship and enjoy their families with awesome summer activities such as making lemonade, camping, boating, swimming and kite flying. The series visually appeals to kids with its bright colors and cute animal friends. The DVD cover is appropriate and appeal as it features Llama Llama and his friends. There is also a listing of each episode included, with a picture next to it representing what the episode is about.

There are educational benefits as kids are taught about problem solving and teamwork. For example, Llama Llama wants to help his friend buy a new bike tire, so he opens a lemonade stand to earn the money. His friends help him improve his product and help with marketing it. Additionally, kids are shown that everyone can be included even if they don’t do the same things. i.e. Euclid the Sheep shows up when everyone’s flying kites. He doesn’t have a kite, but he can make calculations on wind, temperature and time to help the other kites fly. There are several messages in this series about teamwork, resourcefulness, friendship, family and helping others. The DVD menu has an option to watch all the episodes or select them one at a time. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 11.

The Bravest Knight – Incredibly Charming, Super Cute And Really Fun

The new series The Bravest Knight is breaking boundaries, featuring a household with two dads (Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew), making it one of the first children’s television series with an openly gay main character. Following the inspiring and perseverant former pumpkin farmer, Sir Cedric, now grown and married to the prince of his dreams, “The Bravest Knight” recounts personal tales of his journey. Sir Cedric shares his story with his adopted 10-year-old daughter Nia, on how he transformed from day-time farmer to full-fledged knight. Nia, who is training to become a brave knight herself, learns important values such as honor, justice and compassion; proving that knighthood is much more than slaying dragons. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B.  comments, “This show is incredibly charming, even though there are currently only five episodes available. It’s super cute and really fun.” Sahiba K. adds, “The Bravest Knight, directed by Shabnam Rezaei, is a perfect opportunity for younger audiences to learn important life lessons in adventurous ways! The fairytale setting, featuring knights and trolls, creates a fun and imaginative world for children to become immersed in. Each episode contains multiple messages that are explained as a short lesson at the end.” Will C. wraps it with, “The message of this series is summed up in the theme song: “Be the real you, be the true you, it’s the bravest thing you can do.” There are some positive messages about teamwork, caring for others and avoiding stereotypes.” See their full reviews below.

The Bravest Knight
By Calista Bess, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This show is incredibly charming, even though there are currently only five episodes available. It’s super cute and really fun.

The show follows a knight named Sir Cedric, who is retelling the story of how he became a knight to his daughter Nia, who wants to be a knight as well. The episodes focus on Cedric teaching Nia important morals and lessons about being a knight. While the main focus of the show seems to be teaching lessons, there is also an overarching story based on how Cedric became a knight.

The animation in this series is very simplistic, but very adorable. The style gives me the vibe of a children’s book. Which fits the fairy tale theme and overall tone. There really isn’t much else I have to say about the animation other than I really enjoy it.

Now arguably the most notable aspect of this show so far is the representation. On the surface it seems like a simple enough kids show, however I was excited to learn about the amazing diversity in the cast. I mentioned that Cedric has a daughter. Well it turns out that Cedric is married to another man and Nia is his adopted daughter. Not only that but Cedric’s husband Prince Andrew and their daughter are both people of color. While Andrew and Nia are the major examples of representation, there does appear to be themes of discrimination with the troll characters. Cedric’s companion on his quest is a troll named Grunt and there are two instances where other characters assume the worst or are rude to Grunt because he’s a troll. I think the theme of discrimination is presented really well and in a subtle way. I’m a firm believer that children are able to handle complicated subjects in media, so I always get kind of happy when I see media treating kids as smarter than most people give them credit for.

However, the representation is not all there is to this show. After all, this show is not mainly about the diversity. Although I must say, I think the characters so far are really fun and likeable. Nia is adorable and fun while Prince Andrew, who kind of plays the role of the straight man to balance out Nia and Cedric rounds out the central trio very nicely. Cedric is a bit of a basic protagonist but it’s clear he’ll develop as the series goes on, which is always a good sign.

I give this show 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. And episodes are currently premiering on Hulu.

The Bravest Knight

By Sahiba Dogra, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

The Bravest Knight, directed by Shabnam Rezaei, is a perfect opportunity for younger audiences to learn important life lessons in adventurous ways! The fairytale setting, featuring knights and trolls, creates a fun and imaginative world for children to become immersed in. Each episode contains multiple messages that are explained as a short lesson at the end.

The story follows Nia (Storm Reid), a “not-yet-knight,” who strives to learn the skills to become a real knight. Her father, Sir Cedric (T.R Knight) teaches her lessons that are necessary to achieve knighthood. Through his tutelage, Cedric tells Nia stories of his own childhood with his best friend Grunt (Chance Hurstfield). These stories often follow tales of when Sir Cedric was a “not-yet-knight” and the adventures he faced.

The animation made me feel as if I was in a pop-up fairytale book. In the beginning of each episode, trees or hills appear to move in such a way that the focus on Nia or their home becomes clear. The animation resembles the way that pop-up story books become clear when the page flips. This illusion continues throughout the episode as the characters are drawn simplistically. However, the background is more detailed with a wide variety of colors and ornamentation wherever Cedric and Nia’s adventures take them.

My favorite part is how there is an overarching story that continues throughout several episodes. In Cedric’s stories, young Cedric is determined to help Grunt find the troll who ousted Grunt from his bridge. Every episode contains a clue that brings them closer to achieving this goal. This form of storytelling intrigued me and made me want to watch the next episode. In contrast, there are elements of the screenplay that made me lose interest at times. Grunt and Nia have personalities that separate them from the other characters in the show. Cedric, the main character, lacks such a personality and he is less compelling to watch. Nevertheless, Grunt and Nia’s characters make up for this downside and it will not be noticed by younger audiences.

The messages of the series are about not giving up and that things are not always what they seem. I give The Bravest Knight 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 8. Be sure to check out The Bravest Knight on Hulu when it launches June 21, 2019.

The Bravest Knight

By Will Chuhta, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

The Bravest Knight is a sweet and fun animated series for younger kids. Each 12 minute episode is funny and entertaining and held my interest even though I’m a little older than the target audience.

The Bravest Knight is about Sir Cedric and Prince Andrew and their adopted daughter Nia. Nia really wants to be a knight like her dad, each episode has a story Sir Cedric tells her about when he was also a “not-yet knight.” Young Cedric has a troll friend named Grunt who accompanies him on his adventures. Together, they save people from a witch, enter a jousting tournament and escape a giant’s vault in the clouds.

My favorite part of this show is the character Grunt, the troll. He gets the best lines and got a few laughs out of me. The animation uses nice colors that will appeal to kids and the music really fits the style of the show. The voice actors, both young and old, are great at bringing their characters to life.

The message of this series is summed up in the theme song: “Be the real you, be the true you, it’s the bravest thing you can do.” There are some positive messages about teamwork, caring for others and avoiding stereotypes. There’s a bearded fairy named Lucy who replies that names belong to people, not genders, when Grunt the troll asks if he has a girl’s name.

I give this series 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 8. Adults probably won’t mind watching it with their kids if they ask them to. The Bravest Knight is available for streaming on Hulu starting June 21, 2019.