Books of the Week Summer is not over yet! These ones are a must for the season!

CROCHET ANIMAL RUGS
Over 20 Crochet Patterns for Fun Floor Mats and Matching Accessories
by Ira Rott

After Ira Rott’s elephant rug pattern went viral in June 2016, there was a huge spike of interest in the pattern and its designer. Now with thousands of followers on YouTube and Pinterest, fiber artist Ira Rott is sharing over 20 designs for Animal Rugs and Accessories in CROCHET ANIMAL RUGS (F+W Media / SewandSo; August 2018; Trade Paperback; $22.99).

Each rug design is accompanied by a matching pillow design and a smaller accessory to continue the theme. Get creative and transform your child’s room—with decor your kids will adore—into a magical modern bedroom inspired by animals with accessories ranging from security blankets to stool covers, bed book tidies, placemats and toy bags.   Crochet rugs are the perfect place for your children to read and play. The book features 21 animal-themed patterns. Choose from an amazing elephant, a sweet giraffe, a cute cat, a fun-loving monkey, a cool crab, a friendly dinosaur and a rock-star panda! You can decorate a child’s room or nursery with items from this book and spend only a few evenings making each piece.

This book has the cutest rugs! I think I have to learn how to crochet just so I can make some of them!! This one is a must-buy! 

About the Author
Ira Rott is a knitting and crochet designer based in Canada. She began learning her skill from her mother and grandmothers when she was in middle school. This wonderful tradition has been passed on from generation to generation in Ira’s family, and has become her passion through design. She loves working with yarn and other fibers to express her ideas. She sells her designs through Etsy and Ravelry, and her own website. This is her first book.

DUDE! by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Dan Santat (Roaring Brook Press, April 24, 2018, Ages 4-8)

  • Creepy Carrots and Nerdy Birdy author knocks it out of the park (and off the surfboard) with a creative and hilarious picture book featuring the most expressive story ever created out of one single word.
  • Fresh off his Caldecott win for Beekle and After the Fall, Dan Santat does not hold back in this wild tale of unexpected friendship.
  • This book will draw much attention; what could be more fun than a platypus, beaver, and a shark surfing together? And kids will have a fun time figuring out all the different ways to say “dude”.

This one is such a cute story with very little words and I recommend highly for young readers!

LIONS & LIARS by Kate Beasley; illustrated by Dan Santat (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, June 5, 2018, Ages 8-12)

  • Building off the success of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness, Kate Beasley’s second novel will bring new readers to her books while delivering a highly satisfying story for established fans.
  • LIONS & LIARS is great for fans Carl Hiaasen, Kate DiCamillo, Louis Sachar, Katherine Applegate, and Barbara O’Connor.
  • Beasley creates a fun, unique, and wholly contemporary take on the intricacies of male relationships. She makes difficult issues like bullying, masculinity, and loneliness easier to talk about with her fantastic humor.
  • With her signature style, Kate has spun a tightly-crafted, hilarious, and heartwarming tale. Her characters’ vivid voices are unforgettable–and the plot moves along at a fast clip. LIONS & LIARS is an exciting read!

BE PREPARED by Vera Brosgol (First Second, April 24, 2018, Ages 10-14)

  • Vera’s graphic novel debut, Anya’s Ghost, has received an Eisner, Harvey, and Cybils award. Her picture book Leave Me Alone received the Caldecott Honor in 2017.
  • Vera is a master at making us relive painfully awkward camp experiences with laughter and empathy. In her new book, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp!
  • Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the friendship, drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!
  • BE PREPARED is also about the immigrant experience—this book is an autobiographical story that deals with Vera’s experience immigrating to the United States from Russia as a child. Vera Brosgol was born in Moscow in 1984 and moved to the US when she was five.
  • BE PREPARED is perfect for middle-grade readers, fans of Real Friends and Anya’s Ghost, and anyone who has ever felt out of place in the world.
  • Contemporary realistic middle-grade graphic novels are on the rise! With books from authors like Victoria Jamieson, Cece Bell, Shannon Hale, and Svetlana Chmakova, kids are craving these kinds of stories in this format.

ALL SUMMER LONG by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 1, 2018, Ages 10-12)

  • Hope is the acclaimed author-illustrator of A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for forty-four weeks. This is the first book she has both written and illustrated since the smash success of that graphic novel.
  • In the vein of Raina Telgemeier, Hope writes accessible, kid-friendly stories that are relatable for fans of comics and beyond.
  • Bina is a lovable female protagonist—from her love of underground music and desire to start a band, to her relationship with Austin and how she learns to take his changes in stride, Bina handles the struggles of adolescence with humor and grace.
  • Contemporary realistic middle-grade graphic novels are on the rise! With books from authors like Victoria Jamieson, Cece Bell, and Svetlana Chmakova, kids (and adults) are getting on board for stories in this format.

Self Disclosure: I received free copies of the above books to facilitate this post. Cover images and information also provided. I do not feature all the books that I receive but feature those that I highly recommend. 

A Lush, Enveloping Sound for Summer from GRAMMY-nominated artist Frances England:Blue Skies and Sunny Days

Frances England, a GRAMMY-nominated, San Francisco-based artist known for her warm, soothing voice and “fresh and honest” songwriting, captures the easy-breezy days of summer with her upcoming album Blue Skies and Sunny Days. Featuring Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (ALO, Jack Johnson) and produced by Dean Jones and Frances England, the album will be available from iTunes, Amazon, streaming sites andFrancesEngland.com on August 17.

England started the recording process in San Francisco with Lebowitz, who is known for his guitar work with ALO, Phil Lesh and Jack Johnson. “I loved Lebo’s playing style and knew that was going to be the foundation for getting the loose vibe that I was after.” She worked on developing the structure and beats in her home studio and then recorded six of the eight tracks with Lebo at his home studio. In April, Frances and Dean Jones finished up the tracks at Dean’s studio in the Hudson Valley.

From the first track on Blue Skies and Sunny Days, listeners are pulled in with “Carefree,” a funky ode to the casual road trip. While acknowledging that life sometimes throws us a curveball, it’s the people we love who can surprise us with things that help us go “round and round.” Similarly, a trip “Into the Wild” will have listeners running for the trees with its reminder of how good nature can make you feel.  The lush, enveloping production of “Good Day” and “Perfect Tuesday Afternoon” are transporting in their sound and messages. Other new Frances England songs and a sprightly cover of the Cat Stevens classic “If You Want To Sing Out”(in harmony with Lebowitz) allow us to take a mental break from even the most chaotic day. Indeed, “there’s a million ways to go,” and it’s always possible to find a new path. “Mama Said” offers reassurance and advice to “take a deep breath” and meet life’s challenges. The final track, “Watching You Grow,” is a bit of a heartbreaker and will appeal to any parent feeling a range of emotions as they watch their children bloom and develop.

With a gift for capturing and expressing the wonders, simple pleasures, and beauty of childhood, Frances England frames her music in ways both children and parents can appreciate. Her sparkly, acoustic pop songs are both catchy and heartfelt. Each of her previous family music albums has received wide public acclaim and national awards for their sophistication and originality, including a GRAMMY nomination for Explorer of the World (2016). The multiple Parents’ Choice Gold Award-winner has performed around the country, from schools and cafes in her hometown of San Francisco, to Austin City Limits, Lollapalooza and Symphony Space.  Meanwhile, Frances is recording a new album for grownups with John Vanderslice.

I had the opportunity to listen to the CD before release and I love the music! I recommend this one for younger children. They will love the energetic catchy tunes! ~SoCal City Kids.

 

Visit www.francesengland.com  for the latest information.

Self Disclosure: I received a free CD to facilitate this post. Information and image were also provided by Sugar Mountain PR.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 Make It a Fun, Halloween Monster Movie Night and Complete Your Hotel Transylvania Movie Collection

Includes a Monster Dance Party Dance Along, Three All-New Scary-Oke Sing Alongs, a Vampire Make Over Tutorial,

Two Mini Movies and More!

 Available on Digital HD September 25 and on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack & DVD on October 9!

The Drac Pack is back with HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3, which will make its debut on Digital HD September 25, and on Blu-ray™ Combo Pack and DVD on October 9, just in time to for a spooky, fun, family movie night right before Halloween! This must-own family comedy, which has grossed more than $425 million in theaters worldwide to date, follows in the tradition of the blockbuster Hotel Transylvania franchise when Mavis surprises Dracula with a family voyage on a luxury, haunted monster cruise ship. Of course, the rest of the Drac Pack has to tag along, and that’s when things get a little…batty. The monsters are having a great time, indulging in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to colossus-sized buffets and exotic excursions, but then the unexpected happens when Drac falls for the ship’s mysterious (and dangerous) human captain Ericka. The third film in this family-friendly monster franchise is the best-reviewed installment and you’re invited along on the haunted cruise vacation!

The all-star voice cast is back, along with some new faces as well including Adam Sandler (Grown-Ups), Andy Samberg (TV’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers), Kevin James (Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2), David Spade (TV’s “Rules of Engagement”), Steve Buscemi (TV’s “Boardwalk Empire”), Keegan Michael Key (TV’s “Key and Peele”), Molly Shannon (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Fran Drescher (TV’s “The Nanny”), Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms), Jim Gaffigan (Super Troopers 2) and Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein).

Jonathan (Andy Samberg), Dennis (Asher Blinkoff), Mavis (Selena Gomez) and Dracula (Adam Sandler) in Sony Pictures Animation’s HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION.

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 is filled with more than an hour of engaging bonus materials including three “All-New Scary-Oke Sing Alongs,” a monster dance party dance along to “I See Love” by Joe Jonas featuring Jonas Blue, plus a fun zing-tastic read along with Drac.  Families can enjoy all the frightful fun with a “Plan Your Own Spook-tacular Sleepover” feature and “Vampire Make Over: Mavis and Drac Tutorial,” and go behind-the-scenes to explore the amazing talent who bring these characters to life in “Behind the Screams – The Voices of Hotel Transylvania 3.

 HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 is directed by three-time Emmy®-winning director Genndy Tartakovsky and written by Genndy Tartakovsky and Michael McCullers. The film is produced by Michelle Murdocca. Hotel Transylvania 3 is presented by Sony Pictures Animation.

Bonus Materials Include:

  • Three All New Scary-Oke Sing Alongs: Sing along to three Hotel Transylvania 3 inspired songs with your favorite characters!
    • “Dennis Had a Giant Dog” – Sung by Dennis & Winnie
    • “Monsters Like to Party Down” – Sung by Johnny
    • “Oh These Wolf Pups” – Sung by Wanda Werewolf
  • Plan Your Own Spook-tacular Sleepover: This feature will give you all details on how to make your own sleepover spook-tacular! From snacks to crafts to games and more, follow these steps to create a Hotel T sleep-over with your friends and family, the perfect setting to binge watch all 3 Hotel Transylvania movies.
  • Vampire Make Over: Mavis and Drac Tutorial: Learn how to turn yourself into your favorite Hotel Transylvania 3 characters.
  • Behind the Screams – The Voices of Hotel Transylvania 3Step behind the “screams” with the returning stars and hilarious new cast to see how these characters are brought to life in the recording booth.
  • Johnny’s Home Movies (Franchise Recap): Johnny brings viewers up to speed on what’s happened in the Hotel Transylvania franchise so far.
  • “I See Love” Monster Dance Party Dance Along: Get up and get moving to this haunting monster mash.
  • Drac’s Zing-tastic Read Along: It’s storytime with your favorite characters have a silly tale about Drac’s search for a Zing!  Read along or sit back and enjoy!
  • Two Mini Movies (rated G): Two mini-features that will have you howling.
    • Puppy
    • Goodnight Mr. Foot

HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3 has a run time of approximately 97 minutes and is rated PG for some action and rude humor.

Credit:

ABOUT SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) is a Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) company. SPE is a subsidiary of Sony Entertainment Inc., which is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition, and distribution; television production, acquisition, and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. SPE’s Motion Picture Group includes film labels Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, and Sony Pictures Classics. For additional information, visit http://www.sonypictures.com/.

ABOUT SONY PICTURES ANIMATION

Sony Pictures Animation produces a variety of animated and family entertainment for audiences around the world, including comedy hit franchises such as The SmurfsCloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and Hotel Transylvania. Next for the division are Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, in theaters now; the groundbreaking animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse from the minds of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in December 2018; the original feature comedy The Mitchells Vs. The Machines in January 2020; and the animated musical Vivo, featuring original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in November 2020. Sony Pictures Animation, which was founded in 2002, is a division of the Sony Pictures Motion Pictures Group.

Alpha – A Beautiful Film About Survival and Nature

An epic adventure set in the last Ice Age, ALPHA tells a fascinating, visually stunning story that shines a light on the origins of man’s best friend. While on his first hunt with his tribe’s most elite group, a young man is injured and must learn to survive alone in the wilderness. Reluctantly taming a lone wolf abandoned by its pack, the pair learns to rely on each other and become unlikely allies, enduring countless dangers and overwhelming odds in order to find their way home before winter arrives. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Zoe C., comments, “This is a beautiful film about survival. I love everything about this live action film. The editing flows nicely and there are many visually stunning scenes.” See her full review below.

Alpha
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film critic, age 9

This is a beautiful film about survival. I love everything about this live action film. The editing flows nicely and there are many visually stunning scenes. The story is about survival, loyalty and, most importantly, following your instincts.

In this film, a boy named Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is attacked by a buffalo. His father thinks he died, so he leaves him on the cliff where he was attacked. When he finally makes it to the ground, a pack of wolves attack. One of the wolves is very hurt and he decides tries to help him. During the course of the movie, they help each other in many different ways. At the end of the film, you discover a beautiful surprise about the wolf.

Please keep in mind that this film takes place in prehistoric times and the dialogue is not in English, but is subtitled in English. I could understand the movie perfectly, even though it isn’t in English. Keda becomes a man as the story unfolds. It is a coming-of-age story, wherein the boy and the wolf look out after each other as if they are family. The boy tries to prove to himself and his tribe that he can become a man and can be strong. By bonding with the wolf, he accomplishes the unimaginable.

This type of film is uncommon in contemporary cinema. The editing is very well done and there is a flashback at the beginning that helps you understand the back story. The costumes are tribal, which makes the characters seem more believable and tribe-like. The landscapes are quite extraordinary. In so many ways, this film is truly beautiful. Everything that happens takes place in natural environments.

The message of this film is that we should bond with nature, follow our own instincts and preserve our innate quality of being kind. I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars because of the beautiful landscapes and touching story. I  recommend it for ages 8 to 18, as well as adults.  I was very lucky to watch this movie with my dog, because I attended a special screening that allowed dogs, so that experience was truly unforgettable. Alpha opens in theaters August 17, 2018 so, look for it.

 

 

Gravity Falls: The Complete Series – Honestly, one of the best shows ever. Perfect for binge watching with friends!

Welcome To Gravity Falls! Twin brother and sister Dipper and Mabel Pines are sent to the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon to spend their summer vacation with their great uncle (Grunkle) Stan. Upon arrival, Grunkle Stan enlists the siblings’ help in running The Mystery Shack, a self-owned tourist trap that overcharges unsuspecting customers. While Dipper has a hard time getting used to his new surroundings, Mabel’s upbeat optimism comes in handy in her quest to find true love. But there may be more to Gravity Falls than meets the eye as Dipper and Mabel encounter strange occurrences and weird creatures. When Dipper stumbles upon an elusive book, he discovers it is the answer to uncovering the town’s mysterious happenings. Soon, Dipper and Mabel realize they must rely on each other to navigate this unfamiliar place. Meanwhile, Grunkle Stan guards a secret of his own: one that just might hold the key to unlocking the deeper mystery that is Gravity Falls. Includes All 40 Episodes! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. commented, “To be honest, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. It is a perfect show to binge watch with friends due to the mysteries that keep you invested until they’re solved and the comedy is spot on.” Dariana A. adds, “Gravity Falls is a very thrilling series. It keeps you at the edge of your seat with new mysteries in every episode. With baffling things happening in every episode, all you want to do is keep on watching.” See their full reviews below.

Gravity Falls: The Complete Series
By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

To be honest, this is one of the best shows I’ve ever watched. I could talk for hours about how fantastic this series is. It is short for television show standards, but it is a perfect show to binge watch with friends due to the mysteries that keep you invested until they’re solved and the comedy is spot on.

The story follows twins, Dipper and Mabel Pines, who are sent to Gravity Falls, Oregon for the summer with their Great Uncle Stan. Things change when Dipper finds a journal revealing that the town is filled with all kinds of paranormal creatures and the show follows the adventures that Dipper, Mabel and their friends undertake in this strange town.

It’s pretty much my tradition to discuss the animation and the animation in this show looks great. While I feel it is technically the weakest aspect of the show, it is anything but bad. The animation is still very charming and very atmospheric. There’s a nice “summer Oregon feel” to the world that makes the forest of Gravity Falls very inviting. Later episodes look great. The colors and scale of the setting quickly goes from great to amazing in the last few episodes. The character designs are also outstanding. I’m not sure why, but I really like how each character design has its own flare and shows off the individual personalities.

The best thing in the show is definitely the characters. Aside from the Pines twins, their friends, Wendy and Soos are truly cool. Wendy’s personality is pretty much just being the coolest person imaginable. And I’m not making this up. She’s laid back, incredibly skilled and just cool in general. As for Soos (one of the many characters voiced by the show’s creator, Alex Hirsch), he’s just the sweetest character and a great guy overall. I have to give credit to the voice acting as well. I mentioned that the show’s creator, Alex Hirsch voices Soos. He also voices Stan Pines, Old Man McGucket, a bunch of background characters and the show’s main villain. It’s pretty hard to tell, unless you know he’s voicing these characters. Another stand out actor is Kristen Schaal who voices Mabel. Mabel’s adorable, hyperactive energy is all due to Kristen Schaal. The relationship between Dipper and Mabel is the epitome of what anyone with a sibling would be envious of and hope to model.

This show is also a perfect show for those who like theorizing about shows because this show is jam packed with mysteries, clues, codes and more. It keeps you invested.  I recommend this show for ages 7 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. The DVD box set also has some pretty cool stuff such as audio commentaries, shorts and funny deleted footage. It is must buy if you are a Gravity Falls fan! Available on DVD July 24, 2018.

Gravity Falls: The Complete Series

By Dariana A. KIDS FIRST Film Critics, age 12

Gravity Falls is a very thrilling series. It keeps you at the edge of your seat with new mysteries in every episode. With baffling things happening in every episode, all you want to do is keep on watching. Since this DVD includes all 40 episodes as well as the special features, you really can do just that!  Although it is a show about mysteries, the writers still find a way to insert comedy, so it has an element for every type of viewer.

This show is about the twins Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mabel (Kristen Schaal) Pines who summer in Gravity Falls, Oregon with their Great Uncle Stan (Alex Hirsch), working in his tourist trap, The Mystery Shack. During their vacation, Dipper finds an elusive book that contains writings about all the mysterious occurrences that happen in Gravity Falls.

Gravity Falls is anything but a predictable show. It has an amazing blend of comedy and mystery that keeps you wanting to watch until the end. This DVD includes every episode plus some special features such as deleted scenes, behind the animation and interviews with the cast and creators of the show, looking back at the past 40 episodes. This show has the perfect blend of every element a TV show should have, with a little something for every type of viewer. For example, Dipper and Mabel are twins, but complete opposites. Dipper is very logical and nerdy while Mabel is an imaginative free spirit. So, even there you have two different elements many people can relate to. One of my favorite characters is Soos (Alex Hirsch). He works at the Mystery Shack and accompanies Dipper and Mabel on many of their adventures. He is always there for the young Pines and is the first person to believe Dipper about his findings in the book and even helps the twins hunt down the Gobblewonker. The cast of this show really makes the characters. Jason Ritter’s voice is on the deep side, but it adds so much more to the character and his relationship with Kristen Schaal (Mabel Pines) higher pitched voice. Alex Hirsch who wrote, produced and voices the characters Gruncle Stan and Soos really makes the show what it is because the whole story is based on his own summer experiences. My favorite episode is season 2, episode 19, Weirdmageddon 2: Escape From Reality because it is so sweet to see the brother-sister relationship in the way that Dipper saves Mabel in that episode.

The message of this show is about asking questions and investigating thing you’re curious about, just like Dipper does. I give this series 5 out of 5 stars for being the most unique comedy mystery sci-fi fantasy cartoon show out there and recommend it for ages 10 to 14 and beyond, because it has something for people of every age. You can find Gravity Falls: The Complete Series on DVD now so, look for it.

Gravity Falls: The Complete Series

By Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Let’s not mince words here, people! Gravity Falls may be one of the finest western animations of all time.  Large claim, no?  Allow me to back up why this show deserves this recognition.

Gravity Falls follows the main characters, Dipper and Mabel Pines, preteen twin siblings who are spending their summer vacation visiting their Great Uncle or “Grunkle” (and local con man), Stanford Pines in the small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon.  Stan lives in and operates a local tourist trap called the Mystery Shack, where he employees the other two main characters – lovable loser and gentle giant Soos, and local teenage, cool girl Wendy.  Not all is what is seems in Gravity Falls, as our characters are made to tangle with everything from abducting gnomes, autonomous video game characters, vengeful apparitions, living wax statues, time travelling police officers, extra-dimensional eldritch entities and many more! All the while, Dipper and Mabel attempt to unravel the many mysteries of Gravity Falls with the help of a mysterious journal that they find which catalogues all of the creepy goings on in this sleepy town.

Interesting premise, no?  The sheer plethora of all the different, and mostly antagonistic creatures the protagonists run into is staggering, and not a single one of them is boring.  But, despite a great plot, it’s the shocking amount of attention given to tiny details that exemplifies the deep quality of this program.  The show contains a large amount of Easter eggs and tiny plot devices that carry through the entire the series.  In fact, almost every ending credit contains a different word cipher puzzle that contributes plot details to the series!  But, if you had to pinpoint the most distinguishing feature of this series, it’s most certainly the pitch perfect writing.  It’s truly one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen and my children (age 2 to 17) both agree.  The humor varies so dramatically between all the main characters, yet they seem to mesh perfectly.  I truly believe this series is enjoyable for kids aged 2 to 18 and virtually any adult.  And, despite being aimed at kids, the story (delicately woven over 40 episodes) is astoundingly deep and touching by the end.  It’s strong emphasis on interpersonal relationships and personal character arcs is second to none and makes for a story that invests you in virtually every character in the show.  Full disclosure, I cried on several occasions while watching this program.  Also, without spoiling any plot for the readers, this series contains a genuinely terrifying antagonist for older viewers.  However, this antagonist is not frightening for the younger crowd, so you’ve nothing to worry about in that regard.

If this series can galvanize the attention of every toddler, pre-teen, adolescent and adult that gave it a glance in my house, I have no issue recommending this to a wide audience. The Special Edition DVD set contains a full DVD devoted to extras, ranging from commentary, childhood stories, shorts and deleted scenes. Before receiving this Special Edition, I had seen the full series probably a dozen times. Getting the chance to relive the fun with all the extras has been a blast. I give this series 5 out of 5 stars and honestly, I believe this series will stand the test of time.

 

 

Crazy Rich Asians – Fantastic Visuals, Amazing Acting, Complex and Fun Storyline

The story follows Rachel Chu (Wu), an American-born Chinese economics professor, who travels to her boyfriend Nick’s (Golding) hometown of Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Before long, his secret is out: Nick is from a family that is impossibly wealthy, he’s perhaps the most eligible bachelor in Asia, and every single woman in his ultra-rarefied social class is incredibly jealous of Rachel and wants to bring her down. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calista B. comments, “The visuals in this film are fantastic. This film takes place mostly in Singapore and it looks gorgeous. From the street vendors, to the crazy mansions, to the wedding, which is fairytale phenomenal, this movie is just amazing to look at.” See her full review below.

Crazy Rich Asians

By Calista B., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 14

I usually dislike romantic comedies. Romance is probably my least favorite genre. I find it almost impossible to make rom coms interesting or unique. However, every once in a while, a movie like this appears. This movie is actually very enjoyable and made me laugh out loud.

The story follows Rachel Chu as she accompanies her rich boyfriend, Nick Young, to Singapore for a wedding. She meets his family and tries to get along with them. The plot is very straightforward, but it is compelling mainly through the dialogue and acting. Also the visuals.

The visuals in this film are fantastic. This film takes place mostly in Singapore and it looks gorgeous. From the street vendors, to the crazy mansions, to the wedding, which is fairytale phenomenal, this movie is just amazing to look at. I am also not a fashionista, but the outfits are just incredible. Kudos to the costume designer, Mary E. Vogt. There’s also a really cool scene near the beginning where someone sending a text is visualized as a stream of color traveling to the person’s phone. It looks really cool.  Now, a big part of this movie is the fact that the entire cast is Asian and yet, this is a mainstream Hollywood movie. Representation is very important to me and the last movie with a full Asian cast (that I remember) was in the nineties. This is what made me originally excited for this movie. Of course, this film isn’t only good because of the representation and it works a lot on other levels.

First, the acting. The actors in this film are amazing. There are two actors who truly caught my eye: Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong is mesmerizing on screen and Peik Lin Goh is played by Awkwafina, who is my new favorite comedy actor. I love her voice. These actors are the standouts for me, but everyone else is also great. There are some really good mother-daughter emotional scenes. I almost teared up, which is something impressive. The dialogue in this film is also really great. It feels so natural. I feel like I’ll be quoting this movie a lot.

Nick’s Mom is the villain, but she is complex and believes she has her family’s best interest in mine. This is more than your basic Cinderella story. I love learning about other cultures through media and now, going to Singapore is on my bucket list! You might leave the theatre a little envious, but we can all dream.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18. It comes out on August 15, 2018 so look for it.

Credit: KIDS FIRST!

Photos © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and RatPac-Dune Entertainment LLC

 

 

 

Dog Days – One Very Funny Story About 12 People and 4 Dogs

Elizabeth is a charming anchorwoman who seeks advice from her dog’s therapist. Tara is a spunky barista who dreams of a life beyond the coffee shop. Daisy is a dog walker who’s enamored with a client. Garrett pines for a woman while trying to keep his adopt-a-dog business afloat. The beloved canines in their lives soon start to influence their careers, friendships and romantic relationships in funny and unexpected ways. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Zoe C. comments, “I love this film because it follows a bunch of intertwined relationships that all revolve around dogs. It’s one story about 12 people and four dogs.” See her full review below.

Dog Days
By Zoe C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 9

This live action film is very entertaining and exciting. I love dogs, so seeing all the dogs on the big screen was very exciting for me. It is really cool. I love this film because it follows a bunch of intertwined relationships that all revolve around dogs. It’s one story about 12 people and four dogs. I also really love the comedy. There are some sad moments, but the jokes are very funny.

This film has several storylines. One is about a girl named Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev), who hosts a show called “Wake Up LA.” She has a new co-host who she does n’t get along with and she is heartbroken because recently she found out her boyfriend was cheating on her. Later, we meet Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) who works as a barista, thinks she’s looking for love, but instead finds a sweet adorable dog, a Chihuahua, outside the coffee shop that she adopts. Then, there’s Ruth and her husband Greg who are soon to become parents and give their dog to Ruth’s brother. Next are Walter and Tyler (Finn Wolfhard). Walter lost his pug and Tyler is helping him find it. Last are Gracie and Kurt who adopt a daughter who does n’t talk much until she finds an adorable pug.

Dog Days’ director, Ken Marino is a writer and actor as well. He combines all the stories so well and they all flow nicely. The performances are quite believable and the jokes are very funny. There is romance, but also other important relationships, friendship and love between brothers and family members. The actors are all quite wonderful. Their casual costumes make them very realistic. Los Angeles is the perfect location for this story, because it fits the storyline and the light and colors are perfect. I especially love all the scenes that the Chihuahua Gertrude appears in.

You don’t need to love dogs to like this film! The message is that we all need love and we can learn from dogs a lot about unconditional love. It does not have strong language, but some scenes may be not the most appropriate for kids under the age of 7, so please be cautious of that.

I rate this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 7 to 18 as well as adults. It is touching, funny, and  very entertaining. It is a not spectacular, elaborated production, but the story flows nicely and the actors’ performances make this movie very enjoyable to watch. It opens in theaters August 8, 2018 so, put it on your radar screen.

 

Credit: KIDS FIRST!
Photo by Jacob Yakob / LD Entertainment – © New Tricks LLC

 

 

The Meg – An Entertaining Homage to Shark Flicks with Vibrant Special Effects

Five years ago, expert sea diver and Naval Captain Jonas Taylor encountered an unknown danger in the unexplored recesses of the Mariana Trench that forced him to abort his mission and abandon half his crew. Though the tragic incident earned him a dishonorable discharge, what ultimately cost him his career, his marriage and any semblance of honor was his unsupported and incredulous claims of what caused it – an attack on his vessel by a mammoth, 70-foot sea creature, believed to be extinct for more than a million years. But when a submersible lies sunk and disabled at the bottom of the ocean – carrying his ex-wife among the team onboard – he is the one who gets the call. Whether a shot at redemption or a suicide mission, Jonas must confront his fears and risk his own life and the lives of everyone trapped below on a single question: Could the Carcharodon Megalodon – the largest marine predator that ever existed – still be alive … and on the hunt? KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Arjun N. comments, “The Meg is a somewhat entertaining homage to old-era shark flicks. A frightful direction and vibrant special effects provide a serviceable summer-end movie. Fans of shark flicks may want to check it out.” See his full review below.

The Meg

By Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

The Meg is a somewhat entertaining homage to old-era shark flicks. A frightful direction and vibrant special effects provide a serviceable summer-end movie. Fans of shark flicks may want to check it out.

The movie follows a Shanghai-based, deep-sea team as they seek to postulate new discoveries among the underwater trenches. However, their discoveries go awry when a previously thought extinct Megalodon attacks their submersibles and threatens to roam the Shanghai seas. With time on the run, team leader Dr. Zhao (Winston Chao) recruits former rescue diver Jonas (Jason Statham). Unbeknownst to everyone, Jonas has previously encountered the same Megalodon and must now confront his fears to save those aboard.

Jason Statham, as Jonas, is always a vibrant presence with his charm and smarm making gold of the cheesy script. He also excels in his underwater stunts, creating some nail-biting thrills. Bingbing Li, as Suyin, proves herself as a smart, yet impatient presence, who wants to prove herself. However, she does fall key to an unnecessary clichéd father-daughter subplot, but makes the best of what she is given. Winston Chao, as Dr. Zhang, greatly presents his fears and desperation for Suyin and the mission, in spite of the weak backing for the emotional stakes of the two. Rainn Wilson, as Jacks, heightens his stereotypical rich guy presence with well-timed remarks alike his in The Office. Shuya Sophia Cai, as Meiyang, is my favorite character in her banter with Statham and brave actions power her from just being a 8-year-old damsel in distress. She truly excels in her first, breakout role. Ruby Rose, Page Kennedy, and Cliff Curtis complete the rest of the pack, each giving a unique performance, even if the characters can be viewed as expendable at times.

Jon Turteltaub’s direction allows for brisk thrills taking inspiration from Jaws, but allowing for his own unique takes on the genre. My favorite scene is the final act, as it goes all in with the illogic of the shark conflicts allowing for a fun conclusion. The other flaws are the inconsistency of the tone and writing of the movie, which goes from serious to knowingly funny at times and the placement of the scenes feels off at times. The movie also suffers by detracting from the shark conflict and focusing on poorly written character situations. In fact, it takes a long amount of occasionally grueling time and development for the Megalodon to even show up.

The movie’s message is that being a hero can come with its fair share of compromises. I give this film 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18, because of intense action, gore and some language. The movie releases in theaters on August 10, 2018 so check it out.

  Credit: KIDS FIRST!