Lately, it seems as though it’s getting harder to find a kid’s movie that isn’t too scary for my 5-year-old, yet can still keep her entertained. Frankly, I thought I’d be safe with another gem from the Disneynature series, and in general, this movie worked well for my daughter. However, Bears, like many quality wildlife shows, features the raw, often scary story of survival, which required this mama bear to be on high alert for scenes that might be too much for her litte cub.
Following a mother brown bear and her two newborn cubs for a year, Bears gives a glimpse into their lives: from waking up after hibernation in need of finding food, to avoiding avalanches, threatening rivals and other predators, such as a pesky wolf.
From the beginning, we learn that many cubs don’t survive their first year and immediately the tension is palpable. Fears that an overly hungry rival bear may try to eat them (and actually does go after them!) combined with the over-eager wolf ready to pounce the second the mom turns her back, lead to some anxiety-filled moments that had us on the edge of our seats.
To top it off, the mama bear’s conscious effort to search for food in less threatening environs nearly has her starving to death and you can actually start to see just how emaciated the nursing mother becomes.
Set in Alaska, the documentary is just as captivating a story as any animated cartoon; my daughter and I couldn’t help but root for our heroes every step of the way. Narrated by John C. Reilly, the script offers up humor and playful moments as well. Overall, it wasn’t too scary for my daughter, but the tense moments had her squirming.
At one point, the boy cub gets stuck in water as high tide comes in and my daughter reached for my hand as we hoped he wouldn’t drown. Another particular scene that my little cub found frightening was, “When the [male rival] bears fight.” Other than those moments, she seemed to handle the “scary” scenes well.
Since I saw Disneynature’s Chimpanzee (where the mother dies), I was concerned about whether the cubs would make it and they definitely tease throughout that they likely won’t! SPOILER ALERT: They do survive their first year and their mother fuels up on enough milk to feed them during hibernation to keep them alive for the next spring.
Taking a cue from my daughter’s reactions, however, Bears would be a little too intense for my 3-year-old twins, but any child over age 4 should be fine. Also, the pacing is on the slow side and toward the end, I was concerned it wasn’t going to hold my daughter’s attention for much longer as she started to get antsy in her seat. If your child has a short attention span for movies and television, this movie might not be a choice for her.
That being said, my daughter declared a few times afterward, “It was awesome!” She also added in the car ride home, “Mama, animals are great movie stars!”
Entertaining and informative, Bears demonstrates no matter what your species, a mother’s love for her family is a powerful thing — right down to the occasional bear hug.
Disneynature’s Bears opens in theaters everywhere 4/18/14
Grade on a scale of kid’s films: B
Rated G, Minor conflict among animals; Tense moments; 77 minutes
There’s something to be said for getting lost in the fantasy of being a superhero for both young boys and girls alike. And, well, let’s be honest: adults, too. In fact, the recent influx of franchises has been successfully catering to the PG-13+ crowd versus the younger set and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no exception.
Returning with his shield in hand for this sequel based on Marvel’s 1941 comic book series, Chris Evans is back as the titular character in a film geared more toward the mature audience. That being said, know your child and their tolerance for the darker, scarier moments. Personally, my 8-year-old caped crusader aficionado was by my side and declared, “It was awesome!”
As a fan of The Avengers film that combined Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America into one very entertaining movie, I did have some expectations of the latter’s headlining turn. Though definitely fun, it didn’t quite live up to the 2012 major blockbuster. The special effects are amazing and the action is non-stop, but I did get lost at times trying to follow the plot. However, it was enjoyable overall, including watching Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and the return of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
Starting off where The Avengers movie left off, Captain America finds himself once again trying to adjust to the “modern world” – always making for some amusing jokes. When the S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised, our hero is re-teamed with Scarlett Johansson, reprising her Black Widow role. Though the duo also soon join forces with the welcome addition of Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, the Winter Soldier proves to be a formidable villain.
In fact, there were moments where the new ‘bad guy’ appeared suddenly, which my son and I found startling. “Things were popping out of nowhere”, my son told me afterwards.
“So was it too scary?” I asked him.
“No… I liked it,” was his response.
One particularly intense scene has Samuel L. Jackson’s character blocked in his car by several police vehicles ambushing him with gunfire. Though the bulletproof car temporarily protects him, this was the point when the Winter Soldier appeared that my son noted was particularly “freaky.”
Toward the end, Captain America and the villain are face to face, “in the ship and it was falling,” my son points out, and he got very squirmy during this moment of combat that was another specific point in the film he thought was very scary. But when I wondered if my son would see the movie again he answered, “Yeah… Definitely!”
Speaking of violence, there is quite a bit, including physical fights with characters punching one another, as well as lots of gun shooting. Thankfully, the blood and gore were at a minimum as was the sexually explicit content, with one very mild kiss.
In the end, your budding superheroes ages 8-10 will enjoy the ride as long as they have their brave shields in tact to take on the scarier scenes. Watching with my son was a true treat, making it all the more enjoyable to be lost in the superhero fun.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in theaters everywhere 4/4/14.
Grade on a scale of superhero films: B
Rated PG – 13, 136 minutes. Lots of guns and fighting.
Watch the below sneak peek trailer for a preview on what’s to come and to gauge whether your children are ready for the action:
One of my favorite children’s movies last summer was Turbo, a fast-paced adventure about a snail who dreams of racing in the Indy 500. The film is full of humor and heart that kids and adults can enjoy—and who can resist Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of a snail?
So naturally, I was excited when DreamWorks released five episodes of the animated series Turbo FAST (that stands for “Fast Action Stunt Team”) on Netflix during the holiday season. Picking up right where the movie ended, the show is full of crazy stunts, thrilling races and all sorts of new challenges for the wacky group of friends. Now, the next batch of episodes will be released on Netflix tomorrow, April 4. Take a sneak peek at what’s in store with this exclusive clip from an upcoming episode:
Plus, families can prepare for the release with the viewing party kit, which offers instructions for creating a racing obstacle course, coloring pages, trading cards and more. (Personally, I’m looking forward to trying the instructions for creating your own taco stand!)
We always get a kick out of Rockabye Baby, which takes music you love as an adult (from The Beatles to Jay Z to Pink) and plays the tunes out on xylophones and bells. It might sound like sacrilege but turns out to be music that appeals to your infant without you getting “Twinkle Twinkle” stuck in your head, which is a blessed relief.
They have some 60 titles at this point, with each CD selling for about $12 to $17 and also available for download on iTunes. There are single MP3s for about $1.30, including Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. (I know it’s probably inappropriate but the picture of their signature bear, blurred, cracks me up.)
Today they are taking us back to London in 1980, presenting a first look of their video for The Clash’sLondon Calling, done Rockabye-Baby style. Play your newborn The Clash without risk of raised eyebrows, or show your toddler this gentle little one-minute video for a minute of screentime that won’t grate on your nerves.
Ever worry about what your children are looking at online? Or worry they are spending too much time on the Internet? Of course you do!
There is so much to fear in the digital age, from online predators to cyberbullies to unwelcomed pop-ups and risqué advertising. But as consumers of the World Wide Web, we also know that so much good content is out there for children as well.
A new product just hit the market that may make it easier for parents to control the content as well as the amount of time kids are viewing it online. PowerCloud Systems, in partnership with Common Sense Media, launched a new parental control feature in Skydog (their home networking monitoring system), named webRover. The control is designed for monitoring kids between the ages 2 and 10. Through the Skydog-connected system, parents can set up multiple user accounts that can be controlled across all devices (including mobile and tablets).
“Kids can easily get exposed to age-inappropriate content,” says Caroline Knorr, the Parenting Editor for Common Sense Media. “They can do that by typing something into the Internet that seems like an innocuous search term, and they can arrive at a website that is not age appropriate.”
“Let’s face it, there’s no way that you can prevent your kids from being exposed to age-inappropriate content or content that you don’t approve of, but there are ways to manage their online activities so they are funneled into sites where they have a greater chance of finding age-appropriate, positive, nourishing websites versus what they might find on their own,” she continues.
Each webRover user profile can be customized based on what each parent deems appropriate for each child. For example, parents can schedule designated study hours during the week for school-age children where only approved websites can be accessed during that time. So even though kids may need the Internet to research a homework assignment, you won’t have to worry that they are wasting time playing an online game. For even younger children, parents can allow access-based categories, including learning potential. This is where Common Sense Media comes in.
The organization rates and reviews media across multiple platforms (like movies, TV shows, video games, apps, etc.) and assesses the appropriate age for each product. Multiple factors come into play, including violence, sex, cigarettes and drugs, language, positive role models, and learning capability. So, even though some websites may be kid-friendly, they may not necessarily promote learning. Through webRover, parents can customize the sites they want to allow, like ones with a higher educational rating. For sites that don’t have a ranking (like religious and regional websites), parents can manually enter in their own information and ratings. Parents can even override Common Sense Media’s ratings if they decide their young child can handle websites aimed at older children, or if they find something age-inappropriate based on their own values.
“Often parental controls are blunt instruments that block out too much good stuff,” Knorr says. “That’s been a real downfall with the controls up until this point. So the way Skydog has implemented it…they are saying, ‘You know what, we want to just curate the good stuff for kids.’”
The big key here is that although there are different recommendations about the what, how, and when children can access the Internet, the webRover feature allows ultimate control to be left up to the parents. And that deserves a little sigh of relief!
It’s video exclusive time! Does your family fight over which Beatle was best? Mine does, and so does Walter Martin’s, which inspired him to write this song, ”The Beatles (When Ringo Shook His Mop).” Side note to Martin: My daughter also roots for Ringo, since she and he were both born on July 7.
Martin, of the band The Walkmen, now has two daughters of his own: Louise, 19 months, and Claire, 5 months. Having two under 2 is “completely crazy, but could be worse,” he says. “They’re good sleepers.” Having those girls also “made me get serious about making a record on my own,” Martin says. “When I started to investigate what kind of record I wanted to make, it happened to be one that would also appeal to them.”
That record, called We’re All Young Together, is available for preorder. In the meantime, we’ve got a fun video to share exclusively, featuring Martin and his buddies putting the song together live. Among them is The Walkmen’s drummer, and “a bunch of old high school friends” who all went into music, says Martin. Their enthusiasm is infections, and the way they layer on the instruments will teach your little rocker something about sounds. Have a listen together!
Here are the tracks on the new album:
01. We’re All Young Together ft. Alec Ounsworth
02. We Like The Zoo (‘Cause We’re Animals Too) ft. Matt Berninger
03. I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-O-N ft. Kat Edmonson
04. Rattlesnakes ft. Karen O and Nick Zinner
05. Sing To Me ft. Karen O
06. The Beatles (When Ringo Shook His Mop) ft. Hamilton Leithauser,
Nick Stumpf, Josh Wise, and Matt Iwanusa
07. If I Were a Tiger ft. Martin McAlevey & Nina Dhongia
08. Costa Rica
09. Hey Sister ft. Kat Edmonson
10. It’s a Dream
Is all this crazy weather giving your kids (and you) cabin fever? This month, we’re bringing you tons of creative and fun educational activities to break the kids out of their indoor activity rut. With the help of mom of three Kim Vij from The Educator’s Spin On It, which won Parents 2014 Social Media Award for best Pinterest page, we’ll be sharing IQ-boosting ideas you’ll love. From our bloggers’ favorite games and to Vij’s best projects, ParentsPinterest and Twitter pages will be full of great suggestions. Be sure to share your genius picks using the hashtag #SmartMarch and we may RT or repin your wise ideas.
Before the stars hit the red carpet at the 86th annual Academy Awards on Sunday, take a look back at a few of the best Oscar-nominated, family-friendly films you may have forgotten about.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
This Disney classic, based on the Jules Verne novel, won two Academy Awards back in 1954 for Best Art Direction and Best Special Effects. The filmed starred Kirk Douglas and was the first and only science-fiction film Walt Disney personally produced. The story centers around a submarine crew out to prove the existence of a sea monster rumored to be attacking ships. The movie also spawned a popular attraction at Disney World. Unfortunately, after a more than 20-year run, the ride closed in 1994, preventing the next generation of children from discovering this deep-water tale.
Around the World in 80 Days
If your little ones like to travel and explore, or if they are fans of the television show The Amazing Race, then introduce them to the 1957 Best Picture winner Around the World in 80 Days. Based on another Jules Verne classic, this movie follows loveable gentleman Phileas Fogg as he attempts to travel the world in record time. Note, there was a remake in 2004 starring Jackie Chan, and while enjoyable, let’s just say it didn’t win any Academy Awards.
Doctor Dolittle has the special power to do what so many children dream of being able to do: Talk to animals. Except in this movie, the animals don’t talk back (at least not on camera). Rex Harrison (not Eddie Murphy) stars in the title role as the famed doctor that travels the world in search of the giant pink snail. The film was based on a series of children’s book by Hugh Lofting and won multiple Oscars in 1967, including one for Best Effects and Best Music.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Bedknobs and Broomsticks is kind of like the forgotten sister to Mary Poppins. Both films combine live action and animation, and both films have exceptional scores, the former winning the film the 1972 Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Also based on a series of books, this charming tale follows three young kids as they discover their caregiver is a (friendly) witch. Kids will recognize the voice of Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast and fellow lead David Tomlinson as the dad, Mr. Banks, in Mary Poppins.
Following the Disney trend of combining live action with animation was Pete’s Dragon, which was nominated for two Oscars–Best Song and Best Score–in 1978. The movie tells the story of an orphan named Pete who escapes his abusive adoptive home with the help of an invisible (and loveable) dragon, Elliott. The film stars Helen Reddy of “I Am Woman” fame and Mickey Rooney as keepers of the local lighthouse. A remake is supposedly in the works by Disney, but it’s hard to imagine a new version living up to the enchantment of the original.
Also earning a Best Song nomination at the 1978 Academy Awards was Disney’s The Rescuers. This animated flick is the story of how two small mice (voiced by Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor) in New York City travel south to rescue an abducted orphan named Penny. Though not nominated for an Oscar the sequel, The Rescuers Down Under released in 1990, is also highly recommended.
Sometimes, live-action movies with animals that talk can be extremely cheesy. Then sometimes, they turn out beautifully. For example, Babe, the 1996 Best Picture nominee stars an adorable pig raised by a family of herding dogs on a farm. The little guy teaches all the animals on the farm how to respect each other and learn to work together. No wonder it earned seven Oscar nominations.
Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Science has never been this cool. Nickelodeon’s Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2002 Academy Awards. The story revolves around a young boy with a big imagination. When all the parents are kidnapped by aliens, it’s up to Jimmy, his friends, and all of Jimmy’s crazy inventions to rescue them. Any film with the tagline “I may be small, but I’ve got a big brain” is something we can get behind.
People may hear the name Hayao Miyazaki at this year’s ceremony. The famed Japanese animator’s latest film, The Wind Rises, is up for Best Animated Feature. But during the 2002 show, it was his film Spirited Away that went home with this award. The visually stunning film tells the story of a young girl who must rescue her parents and find her way home after being trapped in a spirit world.
Nominated alongside winner Spirited Away at the 2002 awards was Disney’s Treasure Planet. Best described as “Treasure Island in Space,” it’s the story of a teenager going on the journey of a lifetime. When an alien crash-lands near his home, Jim discovers that the bedtime stories he was told as a child were true. In that moment, he decides to go on an epic adventure across the universe to find Treasure Planet.