The Pay Day * A Supremely Well-Shot Entertaining Heist Film With Suspenseful Storyline

Set in a post-pandemic world, The Pay Day follows a broke and frustrated IT technician (Kyla Frye) who is charged by a crime boss (Simon Callow) to embark on a one-woman heist to steal valuable data worth millions on the black market. As if the dangerous pitfalls of her mission weren’t enough, the sting gets more complicated when a charming con artist (Sam Benjamin) interrupts her mission attempting to swipe the loot for himself.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “A supremely well-shot entertainer, The Pay Day is a perfectly pleasant film for those looking for a heist film, even though there are some stilted dialogues and scenes that drag.” Mikella G. adds, “A stand out in this movie is the suspenseful storyline. I could never anticipate what was going to happen next. Just as I thought I figured it out, something completely different happened. For example, Jennifer and Cameron’s (Sam Benjamin) relationship goes through many different levels, and just when I thought I understood where their relationship was going, it turns out completely different.” See their full review below.

The Pay Day

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

A supremely well-shot entertainer, The Pay Day is a perfectly pleasant film for those looking for a heist film, even though there are some stilted dialogues and scenes that drag.

The film follows a frustrated and recently-fired IT technician (Kyla Frye) who is charged by a crime boss (Simon Callow) to embark on a one-woman heist to steal valuable data worth $500 million on the black market.  Like all good heist films, it’s about people who feel neglected in society. Frye’s character is being evicted, and she feels that the whole world is against her. This opportunity to steal data is her chance to make it big. When a suave conman (Sam Benjamin) interrupts her mission to steal the loot for himself, matters grow even more complicated.

The cinematography in The Pay Day as well as the casting are two of the high points. Frye’s portrayal of a harried, desperate programmer looking for a way to make some cash is equally stirring and entertaining… though the film does focus on the latter more, due to the writing. This heist film sometimes wants to be a comedy and other times a romantic film, which makes it feel a little disjointed and somewhat like a series of sketches. For example, random flirting between Benjamin and Frye occupies 20 minutes of the film while Frye tries to extract files from a computer — whose, we don’t know yet. Speaking of random things, there are a bunch of odd elements in the film that seem either implausible or infantile to the point of being ridiculous, like a scene where a character survives a shot to the heart and another with a stilted and suggestive exchange about pomegranates. It’s largely the writing that makes the first half of the film drag, save for some scenes that really hit it out of the park. There are also tons of stereotypes thrown in, and some will make you cringe. For example a crime boss lounging with his cronies in a dimly lit bar; Pink Panther-esque background music; the typical green zeroes and ones speeding across the screen of a computer being hacked; and a scene where the protagonist sprints through sterile white walkways of every generic office complex.

The Pay Day promotes resourcefulness and resilience. There are some sexually suggestive scenes and discussions of smoking and alcohol.<p>I give The Pay Day 4 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The Pay Day releases in theaters on November 14, 2022.

The Pay Day

By Mikella Giustino, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Pay Day is a mysterious, intense film that is filled with questions and surprises. It is unpredictable, and has a crazy turn of events.

The Pay Day follows the life of Jennifer (Kyla Frye), a struggling computer tech trying to get out of debt. She is approached by Gates (Simon Callow) who runs big undercover money-making operations and he offers her a deal that she cannot resist. However, on Jennifer’s mission she discovers that there’s quite a bit of information that she was blind too, and she must learn to adapt to these quick changes and obstacles that are thrown her way.

A stand out in this movie is the suspenseful storyline. I could never anticipate what was going to happen next. Just as I thought I figured it out, something completely different happened. For example, Jennifer and Cameron’s (Sam Benjamin) relationship goes through many different levels, and just when I thought I understood where their relationship was going, it turns out completely different. This is a great aspect of the film, because it keeps the audience interested and engaged. Furthermore, the pace of the film is great; It held my attention the entire time, and doesn’t feel too long or too short.  At some points, the storyline gets confusing due to the structure of the film. There are a few flashback moments, and then it reverts back to preset time, but it’s not always clear that the switch is taking place so at times it feels like there is a lot going on. Lastly, each character is very strong; each has its own unique personality and the chemistry between all of them is evident.

The message of this film is that, when you listen to your heart, it will always lead you to do the right thing in the end. This film does have loud violent noises, including gunshots.

I give The Pay Day 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can watch The Pay Day in select theaters beginning November 14, 2022.

Transformers: Earthspark * An Action-Packed Adventure With Heartwarming Friendships And Strong Family Bonds

A new species of Transformers must find their place and purpose among Autobots, Decepticons, and the human family who adopts them.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Madeleine H. comments, “I like the series Transformers: Earthspark!   It is an action-packed adventure with heartwarming friendships and strong family bonds that I enjoyed with my whole family.” See her full review and red carpet interviews below.  

Transformers: Earthspark

Madeleine H. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

I like the series Transformers: Earthspark!   It is an action-packed adventure with heartwarming friendships and strong family bonds that I enjoyed with my whole family. 

Fans familiar with the Transformers franchise will enjoy the familiar characters and meet some new ones.  Anyone new to Transformers will quickly become acquainted with their history while discovering the first bots born on Earth along with a brother and sister duo, Robby Malto (Sydney Mikayla) and Mo (Zion Broadnax), who share a unique bond.  Robby and Mo recently moved from Philly to small town Witwicky where their mom, Dot Malto (Benni Latham) has taken a job as a park ranger[1]  and they have left their friends behind.  When Robby, frustrated with his new life, decides to bike back to Philly, his sister Mo, who is never left out of his adventures, follows along.  A strange encounter with Autobots and some unusual spiderbots has them tumbling off a bridge and discovering a secret cave.  Their curiosity and sense of adventure lead them to forming a bond with the first earthborn bots, Twitch (Kathreen Khavari) and Thrash (Zeno Robinson) who they are emotionally connected to.  Through some humorous activities and harrowing adventures Twitch and Trash become the vehicle bots that suit their personalities and are part of the Malto Family.

The production quality is superb with vivid animation and crisp colors; the images are so realistic. For example, the texture of Mo’s hair looks real. The voice acting is excellent with each character distinct and believable.  Robby is voiced by a female but sounds like a teen boy and when Mo and Robby take a tumble their grunts and groans sound believable. And of course, the action is exciting and explosive!  When the Transformers click into action the battles are fast and furious. The sound effects really enrich the story and propel the action. The Autobots whirl and rev into their Transformer selves. In terms of the storyline, the amazing bond that Robby and Mo share is special, and the strength and determination of Mo is truly inspiring. It’s so great to see a female protagonist take the lead.  Another strong female character is Skywarp (Nicole Dubuc); she is smart, self-assured and fierce.  There are old school favorites from previous films in the franchise like Optimus Prime (Alan Tudyk), Mr. Malto (Jon Jon Briones) and Bumblebee (Danny Pud) who I love seeing here.

The message in these episodes revolves around togetherness and learning to fit in. These episodes are sure to be great fun with the classic struggles with the Autobot Decepticons Transformers robots, the togetherness of the human Malto Family, and the first Transformers robots to be born on Earth – the Terrans, who are learning how they fit in.

I give Transformer: Earthspark 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12, plus adults.  Transformers: Earthspark premieres on Paramount + Friday, November 11, 2022.

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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever * The Beautifully Crafted, Heart Wrenching — Showcases The Power Of Identity, Culture, Family And Pride

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. © 2022 MARVEL.

In Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers in the wake of King T’Challa’s death. As the Wakandans strive to embrace their next chapter, the heroes must band together with the help of War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross and forge a new path for the kingdom of Wakanda. Introducing Tenoch Huerta as Namor, king of a hidden undersea nation.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Nyara A. comments, “The beautifully crafted film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is heart wrenching, but also showcases the power of identity, culture, family and pride. The costumes are intricate and gorgeous; the music is moving; and the acting is just spectacular. I felt captivated during every moment of the film…” Katherine S. adds, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the greatly anticipated sequel to Black Panther. This powerful and epic movie is action packed — introducing new worlds, new characters and new conflicts.” Jude A. adds, “Wakanda Forever is beautifully shot. It arguably may have the best cinematography seen throughout the MCU, and possibly out of all superhero films in general.” See their full review below.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

By Nyara A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The beautifully crafted film, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is heart wrenching, but also showcases the power of identity, culture, family and pride. The costumes are intricate and gorgeous; the music is moving; and the acting is just spectacular. I felt captivated during every moment of the film, and the nearly realistic world of Wakanda made me feel like I was there myself, even though it is futuristic and fictional.

The storyline follows Princess Shuri (Letita Wright) and the Wakandan army as they fight to protect Wakanda from a new force that threatens to attack their home. After the heartbreaking passing of King T’Challah (Chadwick Boseman), Shuri and her mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) are left with the weight of the country on their shoulders. They must band together with Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), General Okoye (Danai Gurira), and young scientist Riri (Domonique Thorne) as they constantly battle to save the only home they know from an otherworldly army, which threatens the secrets of Wakanda’s renowned Vibranium. Will they win this excruciating battle, or will Wakanda fall?

Letita Wright, as the protagonist, Princess Shuri, performs beautifully. Her acting choices and authentic emotion are captivating. While this film is dark and somber, there is still enough comedy to keep you chuckling, just at the moment when a little happiness feels most necessary. The music in this film is perfectly aligned with every sequence in the story – powerful in battle scenes; sorrowful at moments of loss; and uplifting in moments of triumph. Without the music, viewers would not be so easily transported into Marvel’s Wakandan world. The intricate and bedazzled costuming is gorgeous, displaying the marvelous variety of design from diverse cultures around the world. And last, but most certainly not least, the visual effects and CGI are spectacular. The beauty of Wakanda’s futuristic world and technology is so real that you can almost touch it.

There are many messages in this film, but two stand out to me the most. First, always trust your heart; it will lead you in the right direction no matter how many paths there are to stray from. Second, no one is ever truly gone; they will live for as long as their memory lives inside you. These messages are uplifting for everyone who needs comfort. Although there is violence in this movie, there is not much gore. The use of a variety of weapons makes this film more appropriate for older children and teens.

I give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. It releases in theaters November 11, 2022.  

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is the greatly anticipated sequel to Black Panther. This powerful and epic movie is action packed — introducing new worlds, new characters and new conflicts.

Following the unexpected death of King T’Challa, also known as Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) takes control of Wakanda, and with being the most powerful nation on the planet comes its challenges. But when vibranium, one of the most precious and powerful metals in the world, is found outside of Wakanda, tensions rise and a new, unknown enemy appears. What will happen to the rest of the world on the brink of war? Watch to find out.

This film is based on the first movie, Black Panther.  The storyline is separate enough that it isn’t necessary to watch the original to enjoy this, but I highly recommend watching it because it is a terrific film. The tragic and unexpected loss of Chadwick Boseman, who played the Black Panther, was devastating to the Black Panther franchise, so the writers had to get creative to continue the franchise. Also, they honor Chadwick Boseman is a very lovely way. I like how the Back Panther franchise has a bit more freedom to explore new places rather than stay so closely connected to the Avengers and other Marvel franchises or series. It is very engaging to explore a new world. The costumes and sets are extravagant and immaculate, and it is super interesting to dive deeper into Wakanda and Talokan, a new world introduced in this move. I found the plot and performances a bit darker and gloomier than the original film. The strongest acting comes from Letitia Wright (Shuri), Angela Bassett (Ramonda), Dominique Thorne (Riri) and Tenoch Huerta (Namor). All of the emotion for the returning cast members, especially towards King T’Challla’s death, comes from a very genuine place, because the cast and crew were so close to Chadwick Boseman; this makes the acting all the more realistic and alive. Dominique Thorne’s character, Riri, is introduced in this film and positions her upcoming show, Ironheart. Tenoch Huerta really captivates the audience with his character and hints at his possible further journeys into his kingdom and relationship with Wakanda. This movie also feature’s Rihanna’s first solo single in five years called Lift Me Up, and it is an absolutely beautiful song.

The messages of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever are to fight to protect the things you love and to be your own person. Parents should be aware that this movie contains violence and intense action scenes.

I give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Marvel and Black Panther fans will love this movie. It releases in theaters November 11, 2022.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

By Jude A., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

Winston Duke as M’Baku in Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER. Photo by Eli Adé. © 2022 MARVEL.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever provides an emotional and thrilling experience for all MCU fans, yet continues to set up the future while focusing on the past.  There has never been such a tribute film like Wakanda Forever within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel handles such a sensitive topic incredibly well by honoring Chadwick Boseman thoroughly, but still providing a classic Marvel adventure that all fans will enjoy. Wakanda Forever is beautifully shot. It arguably may have the best cinematography seen throughout the MCU, and possibly out of all superhero films in general.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever immediately addresses the largest question every fan has when entering the theatre. How will they cover the loss of Chadwick Boseman? The story starts off answering that question, while not going too in-depth (which is very respectful). In a world now struggling without a Black Panther, vibranium is discovered outside of Wakanda. This threatens the resources of vibranium for the people of Talokan (an underwater city of fish-like people). The King of Talokan, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), gives a threatening ultimatum to the Wakandans. They can either help the people of Talokan, or fight for what’s right. The emotional depth this film goes into really defines the line between acting and showing human emotion. For the cast, they lost a family member when Chadwick passed away; on screen, they aren’t acting. The actors behind the characters are also grieving for a man they loved. The audience can easily see this when watching the stellar performance from Angela Bassett, due to the theatre going absolutely silent and getting filled with goose bumps. Angela’s feelings are absolutely raw. Her performance will hypnotize audiences, through thick and thin. It is genuinely one of the first times that it has been thought that a Marvel performance could win a major award.

Wakanda Forever teaches the moral that grief isn’t beneficial until you move past it. As a result, the film has large themes of family, love and perseverance. Unlike other Marvel films, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is actually light with cursing and gore. Obviously the film still packs a punch with the average boatload of action, yet doesn’t go to crazy lengths to emphasize the violence behind the story. This allows the audience to focus more on what the film is indirectly teaching rather than what is being shown directly on screen.

I give Black Panther: Wakanda Forever 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. You can find Black Panther: Wakanda Forever sprinting its way into theatres on November 11, 2022. So make sure to check it out!

Trailer:

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventures * This Interactive Episode Keeps You More Entertained By Deciding What Happens Next

Based on the show Camp Cretaceous, Hidden Adventure is an interactive special series where the campers survive more danger put against them on Isla Nublar. After a big storm, food is scarce — and hungry dinos are everywhere. It’s up to you to help the Camp Fam survive in this thrilling interactive special.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Giana N. comments, “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventures is an interactive episode that gets you involved and keeps you more entertained by deciding what happens next. It’s fun to be able to choose what the characters do and what leads up to that because it’s not something you can do with a regular movie or show.” Kira O. adds, “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventure is super cool! I especially like how, at the start of the episode, you wake up in a Tarbosaurus nest where you have to escape and then choose what action to take to find the Hidden Adventure.” See their full reviews below.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventures

Giana N., KIDSFIRST! Film Critic, Age 11

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventures is an interactive episode that gets you involved and keeps you more entertained by deciding what happens next. It’s fun to be able to choose what the characters do and what leads up to that because it’s not something you can do with a regular movie or show.

This interactive episode is about Darius (Paul-Mikél Williams), Kenji (Ryan Potter), Brooklyn (Jenna Ortega), Yasmine (Kausar Mohammed), Ben (Sean Giambrone), Sammy (Raini Rodriguez) who are struggling in the aftermath of a huge storm that happened on the island. They have no food, no shelter and, to make matters worse, the dinosaurs have no food so the dinosaurs are out of control. The kids learn that someone has hidden food somewhere on the island and we have to make decisions for them to keep them safe and direct them to the food. 

This is a great episode to watch. Something that I like about this show is the teamwork and the communication between the group. Even in such a dire situation, they communicate and run their decisions with each other before making it. I also like how, even if things take a wrong turn, you can always undo your answer and try again. My favorite character is Darius because we are Darius’s thoughts and we make the decisions for him when he doesn’t know what to choose and when the others don’t know as well. Something that confuses me in the show is that, in the series before this, the group leaves the island – so how did they get back on the island? Regardless,  I was entertained the whole time and the concept is just a great idea.

The message of Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventures is that if you argue you won’t get anything done; you need to compromise and work together. At times in the episode you see the group get into arguments about what to do next, and that’s where your choices come in. You help them decide and you help stop their conflict. This show is totally family-friendly.

I give Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventures 4.5 out 5 stars and recommend it to ages 5 to 12. You can watch this on Netflix starting November 15, 2022. Be sure to check it out!

Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous: Hidden Adventure

By Kira O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Hidden Adventure is super cool! I especially like how, at the start of the episode, you wake up in a Tarbosaurus nest where you have to escape and then choose what action to take to find the Hidden Adventure.

Based on the show Camp Cretaceous, Hidden Adventure is an interactive special series where the campers survive more danger put against them on Isla Nublar. This interactive episode makes the viewer one of the six characters from series — you become Darius (Paul-Mikel Williams), the leader of the teens stuck on the island of Isla Nublar. As Darius, you must choose what actions to take to follow the clues across the island, survive the dinosaurs, and find a secret stash of food supplies.  You are hunted by a Tarbosaurus who wants to feed you to the eggs in her nest when they hatch.

The show is very well animated. When the dinosaurs roar they look very realistic and scary. The plot has a lot of mystery and suspense, like when the characters narrowly escape getting eaten by a Tarbosaurus or caught in a dinosaur stampede! The voice actors include Jenna Ortega as Brooklynn, Ryan Potter as Kenji, Raini Rodriguez as Sammy, Sean Giambrone as Ben, and Kausar Mohammed as Yazmine. The friendships between these teen characters bring enough tension and unpredictability to keep this familiar storyline moving and engaging. Brooklyn uses just the right amount of sarcasm, combined with Sammi’s naiveté, and Darius’ leadership to compliment Kenji’s arrogance and Ben’s skepticism. Just like the series, this episode finds the characters constantly facing adversity while on a quest to escape the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar. The detailed and close-up animation allows the viewer to experience the characters’ emotions and also the terrifying drool produced by a dinosaur roar while appreciating the natural beauty of the mountainous rainforest setting. One thing I like is that, if you make good decisions, you survive the Tarbosaurus and you can choose different options to try different outcomes. For instance, Darius has to choose to climb or jump to save the Hidden Adventure map.

The message of the show is to be brave, trust in your friends, and you can overcome things that seem impossible. I do not recommend this for anyone under age seven, because it can be scary for younger kids. I do not recommend this show for anyone under age seven, because it can be scary for younger kids.

I give Jurassic World: Hidden Adventure 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can watch it on Netflix starting on November 15, 2022.

Trailer:

Honk * Honk Should Be Required Watching For Those Who Are Losing Faith In The Goodness Of Humanity And The Beauty Of Companionship

The power of love shines in this heartwarming tale of f friendship and inspiration between an unlikely duo. Cheryl inadvertently befriends a mourning goose, Honk, while recycling in the local park. As the budding friendship blossoms and Cheryl seeks Honk a new home, he becomes a viral sensation capturing the hearts and minds of millions.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Kyla C. comments, “Honk is a heartwarming tale of a young goose and his journey through an unpredictable and dangerous time. The amazing Cheryl Alison truly brings the film to life, narrating with emotion and editing in news articles and interviews to help tell the story of the beloved Honk.” Eshaan M. adds, “Honk should be required watching for those who feel like they’re losing faith in the goodness of humanity and the beauty of companionship. Beautiful, raw emotion is captured in a mix of videos that were either collected from social media or filmed by the camera team, but beyond the technical bits of the film, the plot is what shines through.” Tiana S. adds, “Stop what you are doing and check out Honk, a powerful, heartwarming story about a loving friendship that developed between an unlikely duo! It’s a story about friendship, understanding and inspiration. Honk will make you see the world around you differently.” See their full reviews below.

Honk

By Kyla C, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

Honk is a heartwarming tale of a young goose and his journey through an unpredictable and dangerous time. The amazing Cheryl Alison truly brings the film to life, narrating with emotion and editing in news articles and interviews to help tell the story of the beloved Honk. This documentary will make everyone’s day and empower people to make the right decisions.

This film tells the story of Cheryl Allison’s caretaking of the young Honk through the COVID-19 pandemic. Cheryl portrays herself as a humble, average person who just needed somewhere to go, to escape quarantine’s limits. Along her journey, she discovers the adorable and energetic “Honk The Goose.” Honk forms an attachment to her, and she feels responsible for his well-being. Cheryl and Honk become internet famous, but face many obstacles throughout their time together. 

Honk is one of the highest-quality documentaries I’ve seen. Not only is it entertaining and adorable, but it’s also educational. I’ve learned so much about how important each small decision can be. The balance between entertainment and education is excellent, never boring, and always provides the information necessary to understand the events of the documentary. Interviews with experts, shots of Honk and Cheryl’s friendship, and images of news articles help move Honk along. One of my favorite things about this documentary is how Cheryl is using the proceeds of everything she’s doing to raise awareness of geese like Honk and to support places that are making a difference. Honk and Cheryl’s story was, and still is, an inspiration to many. Honk’s Instagram account has over 77,000 followers. Through social media, and through this film, Cheryl hopes to support ducks, geese and other birds. By viewing Honk, you are supporting the Roger Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, which is where Cheryl relocated Honk.

The message of Honk is to realize the consequences of your actions. Leaving a bit of fishing line at a shore, or dropping a plastic bottle, is potentially the difference between life and death for geese, ducks or any other animals. Honk educates people about the difference each person can make in their community and demonstrates the importance of learning about different species and how they live. Friendship and finding ways to bounce back from tough times are displayed throughout the film. This sets a bright mood for the majority of Honk, despite there being some serious and sometimes sad moments. Honk is a perfect family film. In addition, animal lovers, particularly bird lovers, will enjoy this film.

I give Honk 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Honk on major streaming platforms and DVD beginning November 15, 2022. Remember, every view counts!

Honk

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

Such a wholesome joy of a film is hard to come by. Honk should be required watching for those who feel like they’re losing faith in the goodness of humanity and the beauty of companionship. Beautiful, raw emotion is captured in a mix of videos that were either collected from social media or filmed by the camera team, but beyond the technical bits of the film, the plot is what shines through. Especially for animal-lovers, this is a great watch.

Honk is a remarkable tale of unlikely companionship. Dallas native Cheryl Allison inadvertently befriends a loud, chatty goose she names Honk; she realizes he is mourning the loss of a loved one and their bond grows deeper. As the friendship blossoms, Cheryl seeks to find Honk a new home and he becomes a viral sensation across nations. The beautiful relationship between the two (not owner and pet but two equal friends) is wonderful to watch.

The direction and editing by Cheryl Allison are beautifully-executed. What’s really nice is that the subject of the documentary is the same person who directs and edits it; this means that she has been able to choose the most moving portions of footage and cut it together. I also love how the choice of music accentuates the mood of the more emotional scenes; the lyrics from the credits — “think about where we have been, the joy we shared with friends who cared, all the things we’ve seen” — were especially touching as they summarized the theme of the film. I like the contrast between the footage taken by the camera team and how formal and traditional it feels compared to the footage taken by Cheryl, which is more fun and informal.

Honk promotes finding those who support you and, in turn, helping others, whether animal or human, in times of difficulty. The compassion exhibited by Cheryl in this film also serves to push the message that we should care for animals, even those we wouldn’t consider domesticated or “pets,” because they too have highs and lows in their lives like we do.

I give Honk 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18, plus adults. Honk releases November 15, 2022 on digital and DVD.

Honk

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

HONK! HONK! Stop what you are doing and check out Honk, a powerful, heartwarming story about a loving friendship that developed between an unlikely duo! It’s a story about friendship, understanding and inspiration. Honk will make you see the world around you differently. 

Honk tells the story of Cheryl Allison, who was cleaning up a park during COVID restrictions in 2020, and encountered a friendly, but lonely goose suffering from a great loss, who started following her around. She realized she couldn’t leave him alone there, so she started visiting daily and eventually they became best friends. The goose loved to make loud noises that sounded like honking, so Cheryl named him “Honk.” Their encounters were so unique and such a breath of fresh air, that Honk became a famous internet sensation once Cheryl posted their videos on social media.

Honk highlights how we should be treating other species in our world today. I enjoyed how this documentary is told through real-life experiences, live streams, Zoom calls and TV broadcasts. It helps give a full picture of Cheryl and Honk’s journey. One unexpected concept in the film is how pollution affects animals and their environments. There is one emotional scene where, after Cheryl finds a fishing line around Honk’s foot, she immediately cleans up the park and Honk’s surroundings to protect him. People don’t consider what happens to litter and how it can affect animals. You will experience different emotions while enjoying this film. It is funny watching Cheryl honking at Honk when she is looking for him. Their bond is so charming that Honk became one of the world’s most famous geese. There should be more “Cheryls” and “Honks” in the world.

Honk starts off being just about the loving bond and companionship between Cheryl and Honk. However, it has so many hidden messages — animal cruelty, pollution, friendship and, of course, kindness. We all have to play a part in taking care of our animals, which includes proper treatment when we can longer take care of them and just taking care of the earth, which then helps protect animals. The film forces you to sit back and think, not just about your day-to-day relationships, but also how you treat the planet.

I Honk 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Honk on major streaming and cable platforms, plus DVD, starting November 8, 2022.

Honk
By Carlee S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 17

Honk is a heartwarming documentary that follows the friendship between director and editor, Cheryl Allison, and a lovable goose. She successfully shows viewers how her friendship with a goose impacted her life. At a time when everything was uncertain in the world, this goose was the “honk heard ‘round the world.” He was able to reach out, in spite of social distancing constraints, and spread happiness to others.

This documentary is set during the Covid pandemic, when social distancing regulations were in effect. While on a walk Cheryl notices a goose approaching her. She names him Honk and they become instant friends. Cheryl decides to record her time with Honk and her videos and posts with him go viral on social media. She receives word from her friend, Mary Beth Purdy that Honk is a domestic goose and is in danger. Now Cheryl is on a mission to help save her goose friend from a harmful environment, predators and the new risks that social media has brought to him.

This documentary is touching and beautiful. My favorite scene is when Cheryl goes back to the pond the day after she first meets Honk and records herself calling to him. Honk immediately recognizes her voice and swims to her. She talks to him and he responds with his honking sounds. This shows how attached Honk was to her from the start. The film is a mix of interviews, zoom meetings and videos of Cheryl with Honk. The added footage of her initial recordings with Honk are delightfully entertaining. It gives viewers a better understanding of Cheryl and Honk’s friendship and the bond they create with each other as time progresses. The information about animals in the film, by experts Mary Beth Purdy and Kathy Rogers, is insightful and adds depth to the understanding of caring for these types of animals. In addition, the music at the end of the documentary fits well with the theme.

The message of this film is about love and the connections you make with others. Love and a need for companionship is what drove Honk and Cheryl together. It then drove her to protect him. While watching, we also gain a better understanding of what animals need, the importance of protecting animals, and what we can contribute to help keep these animals safe.

I give Honk 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18. Honk releases November 15, 2022 on digital platforms and DVD. Trailer:

Books of the Week

Through lively, lyrical verse and digestible vocabulary, The Unique Beak tells the story of a young peacock whose passions and dreams disturb the status quo that his family and friends have established. Ostracized by his community for the unique talents that make Sai himself, the peacock is surprised to find a warm, supportive friend in the most unlikely of places. Here, through the eyes and ears of a friend who celebrates his difference, Sai finds the faith he needs to pursue what’s in his heart. Sai’s confidence and self-reliance flourish as his special talents propel him towards heights that shock not only those who had dismissed him, but even Sai himself. 

A globally recognized musician and recent LA Independent Film award recipient, Estani Frizzell is an Irish and Mexican American artist whose Latin music has achieved international acclaim. Though she now lives in Austin with her daughter Sophia, Frizzell was born in San Antonio and lived more than two decades in Los Angeles, where she spent 11 years as a teacher. Over the course of her musical career, Frizzell has participated in world tours, performed on programs like the Tonight Show, and continues to maintain her status as a voting member of the Grammys. Frizzell says that her upcoming children’s book, The Unique Beak, is a “metaphor related to [her] background and life,and the story is an expression of the author’s own efforts embrace her unique talents and pursue her passions. Frizzell has wanted to write children’s books since the birth of her daughter, and she used her decades of experience as a singer/songwriter to cultivate a story that not only inspires and motivates through its colorful characters, but engages the reader through its rhythmic, musical verse. With its lyrical feel and triumphant narrative, The Unique Beak is an encapsulation of Frizzell’s inspiring trajectory as an artist and mother made all the more special by the fact that Sophia did the illustrations for the book.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it! It truly is a great way to teach young children about self-confidence!

For every family with kiddos obsessed with fearsome dinosaurs, fascinating ocean creatures, and creepy crawly bugs, Fandex Kids: Dinosaurs, Ocean, and Bugs ( Ages 8-12; $12.95 US each) are the perfect prescription. These informative card decks are written just for kids, with bright, bold illustrations, lively and age-appropriate text, and simple die-cuts that make them easy to leaf through again and again.

Every fascinating creature is illustrated in colorful, lifelike detail and includes information about its size, habits, and habitat. Each deck features unique sidebars to help kids dive even further into their favorite topics:

·         Packed with fin factsOcean introduces kids to 49 fascinating aquatic creatures, including giant kelp, which can grow up to 2 feet every day— that’s right, 2 feet!

·         In Bugs, young entomologists will encounter 49 creepy crawlers from the bombardier beetle, which can spray its enemies with a boiling hot chemical fluid, to the tiny, pesky flea. Plus, “Learning from Nature” sidebars investigate how bugs inspire inventions in the fields of medicine, engineering, and even programming.

·         48 Fearsome and fascinating dinosaurs await inside Dinosaurs, from the airborne giant Quetzalcoatlus with a wingspan the size of a small airplane, to Tyrannousaurus rex; Giganotosaurus, and more. This deck is positively stuffed with dino bite-sized fun facts, plus a “how big” sidebar that shows kids just how huge these prehistoric creatures were.

Perfect for car rides, after school activities, and family fun, Fandex Kids decks provide fascinating answers plus all the astounding facts they’ve never thought to wonder about. Vibrant illustrations and simple die cuts make these perfectly portable decks the perfect companion for every kid.

I received samples and just love these! They would also make great stocking stuffers this upcoming holiday season! Find out more at https://www.workman.com/

Picture Book from Chad Otis! A LITTLE FERRY TALE

In the spirit of The Little Engine That Could, this tender picture book introduces Little Ferry, who yearns to be more like the faster or stronger boats in the harbor only to find out her uniqueness can be her strength.

Little Ferry feels like no one notices her. She isn’t strong like Tugboat or fast like Speedboat or graceful like Sailboat, the boats everyone loves to watch. But Little Ferry is special, too! She’s patient and careful and always on time. And when disaster flares on Wildlife Island, Little Ferry finds that her quiet traits are the very ones that will help her finally stand out and save the day. I really enjoyed this adorable story and loved the main character and the illustrations!

Author Bio

Chad Otis has a BFA in design from the University of Washington School of Art. He’s been working with the likes of Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Online for over twenty-five years as an animator, illustrator, and creative director. Chad lives in Boise, Idaho, and is also the illustrator of Cuddle Monkey and author-illustrator of A Little Ferry Tale.

Find out where to buy this book here.

Early graphic novel series perfect for fans of Narwhal & Jelly (Doggo and Pupper Save the World, Cleo and Fitz Get Creative)

Looking for a new series to recommend to fans of Elephant & Piggie and Narwhal & Jelly? I’m thrilled to tell you about two hilarious and heartwarming early reader graphic novel series publishing this winter with Macmillan Children’s:
The second book in #1 New York Times-bestselling–author Katherine Applegate’s fun new early reader’s series, Doggo and Pupper Save the World) is full of adventure, wonderful humor, and charming art by Charlie Alder. These short stories, six in all, are great read-alouds and read-alongs for beginning readers – I mean, who can resist a winning menagerie of a grumpy old dog, a feisty puppy, and a sarcastic, entitled cat? The dynamo team behind Llama Destroys the World, Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, continue their delightful and hilarious ghostly hijinks in Cleo and Fitz Get Creative. This endearing addition explores our titular heroes’ creative sides: the duo will start a band, make a movie, and do some writing and reading, among other artistic endeavors.

These series are perfect for emerging readers, pairing adventurous friendship stories with laugh-out-loud illustrations. Not only entertaining, this format strengthens both print and visual literacy skills in young readers as well as overall reading comprehension as they tackle future texts.

I highly recommend both for children ages 6+.

Find out more here.

A great read for Middle school-age kids!

Great Battles for Boys The American Revolution  is a book that is sure to have Middle School age kids excited about learning U.S. History! It was a need to help his young son enjoy reading and help him learn U.S. History that sparked educator, Joe Giorello, passion to write the series, Great Battles for Boys.  Now, he is introducing Great Battles for Boys: The American Revolution (Wheelhouse Publishing, May 2022) for Middle Grade readers.

“We were deeply troubled when our son showed no interest in reading. We wanted to change that — we knew we had to change that or his schooling would really suffer going forward. We started this series to help him and, once it had, other families with boys who hated to read asked for our guidance as well. My classes changed their lives. Now, we publish the books to help even more boys and their families.”

– Joe Giorello, author of the Great Battles for Boys series

I had the opportunity to read this book and I believe it will make learning and reading more fun!

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Information and Cover images were also received.

Gratitude Revealed * A Thought-Provoking Piece With Gorgeous Footage, But Falters To Keep Viewers Engaged

An epic journey forty years in the making, Gratitude Revealed from acclaimed filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg, the director of cult hit Fantastic Fungi, takes us on a transformational, cinematic Experience of how to live a more meaningful life full of gratitude through his intimate conversations with everyday people, thought leaders, and personalities revealing gratitude is a proven pathway back from the disconnection we feel in our lives; disconnection from ourselves, our planet, and each other.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “A thought-provoking piece, Gratitude Revealed shows promise in its concept and features gorgeous footage, but falters to keep viewers engaged in the film past the midway mark.” See his full review below.

Gratitude Revealed

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

A thought-provoking piece, Gratitude Revealed shows promise in its concept and features gorgeous footage, but falters to keep viewers engaged in the film past the midway mark.

Composed of stunning nature footage and high-profile interviews, Gratitude Revealed shows us how to live a more meaningful life full of thankfulness through filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg’s conversations with everyday people and eminent personalities. Featured are chats with figures like Norman Lear, Deepak Chopra, Jack Kornfield and more. The film makes the point that we need a pathway back from the disconnection we feel in our lives, within ourselves, and with others.

The thought behind this film is remarkable. However, the substance of the film is revealed painfully slowly, and some of the insights are rather obvious. It is unfortunate that the film lacks momentum and vibrancy beyond cinematography, as this makes it a difficult watch for young viewers accustomed to a faster pace of cinema. If it was the intent of the filmmaker to slow down viewers caught in the rat race of life, he certainly achieved it… almost too well. The camera work and editing in Gratitude Revealed are the highest points of the film, along with the cachet of the big names Schwartzberg speaks with. I especially love the way the interviews are framed. I feel that some of the interviews are way too long and tedious. It sometimes feels as if the nature shots are being used to compensate for the repetition of certain points. This leads to Gratitude Revealed feeling less like a documentary and more like an experimental film.

Gratitude Revealed promotes finding joy in the small things in life and just “being.” It’s a beautiful message that is perfect for the Thanksgiving season.

I give Gratitude Revealed 3.5 stars out of 5 and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. Gratitude Revealed releases on VOD November 1, 2022.

Trailer:

A Family Matters Christmas * The “Switch-Mas” Spirit Is In The Air With The New Fun Family Film That Makes You Rethink The True Meaning Of Christmas

Christmas is anything but ordinary when three bickering siblings from a newly blended household cannot see eye to eye. The youngest one, while completing his annual science project, accidentally calls upon the spirit of Christmas. They wake up to find themselves having switched bodies, unable to change back until they learn to spend the holidays together as a loving family.


KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tiana S. comments, “The “switch-mas” spirit is in the air with the new film, A Family Matters Christmas! It’s a fun family film that forces you to think about the true meaning of Christmas and shows just how important it is for family to come together and get along.” Mikella G. adds, “This film is truly an enjoyable viewing experience…I really enjoyed the plot; the concept of the characters swapping bodies is really cute, and definitely creates a fun twist for a Christmas movie.” Kendall B. adds, “The message of A Family Matters Christmas is that family is important, whether you are related by blood or not. Throughout the film, Brandon has a hard time learning to love his new siblings, but the body switch really helps him realize what family means.” SaniyaRain F. wraps it up with, “A Family Matters Christmas is a family-friendly, comedic, lesson-learning film that includes a bit of romance. The film is also great to watch if you are, like me, a fan of Christmas miracle stories.” See their full reviews below.

A Family Matters Christmas 

By Tiana S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

The “switch-mas” spirit is in the air with the new film, A Family Matters Christmas! It’s a fun family film that forces you to think about the true meaning of Christmas and shows just how important it is for family to come together and get along.

A Family Matters Christmas follows siblings, Aiden (Randy Vince III), Emily (Cheyanne Cummings), and their soon-to-be brother, Brandon (Chase X. Drewery), whose parents are looking forward to getting married and spending their first family holiday together. However, the sibling’s constant bickering threatens to make Christmas not-so-merry. Aiden creates an experiment to bring his family together, but with a little “help” from the “forgotten Christmas Spirit,” Alternis (Stephen Fisher), his spell causes the three siblings to switch bodies. They must work together to learn the true meaning of family to break the spell and switch bodies back before Christmas morning.

The main characters are Aiden, Emily and Brandon. I love how much each sibling changes the other sibling’s life, just by switching bodies. My favorite part was seeing the sacrifices each sibling makes for the sibling whose body they took over. It forces each one to experience life as that sibling, and even helps them. For example, since Emily is more outspoken, while she is in Aiden’s body, she is able to stand up for him against bullies at school — something Aiden would never do himself. The “switch” really creates some hilarious moments, like when Brandon is in Emily’s body and get a dose of what it is like to be a girl. The film is so entertaining, that you forget it starts off as a story being read about the characters’ journey. This is a storyline that some people will say has been made before and, while that’s true, what’s important is the message behind it; plus it is entertaining.

A Family Matters Christmas shows us that family really does matter and that it’s possible to get along if you take the time to get to know one another. While you may not always agree with your siblings or be best friends, it’s still good to create some kind of bond with them. Parents should look out for adult drinking and some slightly intimate parts.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to18, plus adults. A Family Matters Christmas releases on Digital and DVD November 8, 2022.

A Family Matters Christmas

By Mikella G, KIDS FIRST!, Film Critic, age 16

A Family Matters Christmas is a fun, enjoyable film that really puts you in the Christmas spirit. It teaches an important lesson, while delivering a cute and interesting storyline.


A Family Matters Christmas follows the lives of three siblings living in a newly blended household. They are all struggling to adapt to their new family, especially during the holidays and this causes them to fight all of the time. However, when the youngest sibling Aiden, (Randy Vince Iii) starts to read fairy tales about Christmas legends who haunt siblings who can’t get along, he realizes that they need to stop the bickering. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late and their household is greeted with a special elf who causes all three of them to swap bodies. Now, the siblings must learn to tolerate and help each other, or else they will be stuck inside these different identities forever.


This film is truly an enjoyable viewing experience. The cinematographic quality of this film really stands out — the camera work is very clear, and the colors jump. I really enjoyed the plot; the concept of the characters swapping bodies is really cute, and definitely creates a fun twist for a Christmas movie. It’s really interesting to see how they all work things out in the end. Plus, all three actors portray multiple personas in different bodies exceptionally well, as they show us how their switched character might react to a particular situation. Additionally, the message of the film is really strong. It really emphasizes the importance of family, particularly around Christmas time, and reminds viewers how valuable our families are. This is an important highlight, especially for younger audiences, because it’s something that can sometimes be forgotten.


The message of A Family Matters Christmas is that family is very valuable, and you should always hold to them.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 3.5 out of 5 stars, and recommend it for ages 8 to 12, plus adults. It releases on VOD and DVD November 8, 2022.

A Family Matters Christmas
By Kendall B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

A Family Matters Christmas is all about family and love; it’s the perfect movie to get you ready for the holiday season.

The storyline for A Family Matters Christmas is told by a grandma to her grandchildren. The story follows a boy named Aiden (Randy Vince III) and his sister Emily (Cheyenne Cummings) who are having a hard time getting along with their new step-brother, Brandon (Chase X Drewery). Ayden conducts a science experiment gone wrong and ends up summoning a Christmas spirit who makes him and his siblings switch places. They now must figure out how to walk in each other’s shoes, and how to switch back.

The plot of this film may seem kind of basic, but there are a lot of twists that turn the basic story into something more. I really love the cinematography — at the beginning, behind the opening credits, are some beautiful shots of the city which are just stunning. All the acting is outstanding and so is the script. I love the character of Grandma (Jo Marie Payton), because she’s really sassy; I love the way she teaches her grandchildren to be nicer to each other. Another great character is Aunt Tracy (Tamieka Chavis), who is quite feisty as well and has a very powerful personality. I especially love the character Alternis (Stephen Fischer), the Christmas spirit, because his eccentric and loud personality is very exciting and fun. My favorite part of the film is when the kids first change places and don’t know how to behave in each other’s bodies.

The message of A Family Matters Christmas is that family is important, whether you are related by blood or not. Throughout the film, Brandon has a hard time learning to love his new siblings, but the body switch really helps him realize what family means.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 12. This film releases on VOD and DVD November 8, 2022.

A Family Matters Christmas
By SaniyaRain F., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14 

This movie has funny scenes and you never know what happens next; whenever Alternis makes an entrance, you always wonder where he is going to come from next. An important theme of the film is that family does matter and will always be there for you. At the very beginning you see the family’s drama and how most of them don’t connect with one another. It makes them depressed and, in the end, all the characters change as they connect with one another. Most of the CGI is not too impressive, although one nifty thing the editors use is a book image to segue between scenes. The music matches each scene very well especially during the dance scene. The message of A Family Matters Christmas is to never lose sight of who your family is and always know they matter and will be there for you. There will be times when you don’t get along with them, but in the end they are the people who you can always count on to be there. We are also reminded to put ourselves into someone else’s shoes and see the situation from their point of view.

I give A Family Matters Christmas 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, plus adults. You can find it on VOD and DVD beginning November 8, 2022.