Planes: Fire and Rescue (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.

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So, it turns out that Disney are not quite done with this franchise. This is a spin-off to Disney’s Cars series, and a sequel to Planes, released in 2013. I know this is not targeted towards my demographic – early 20s – but I am really getting sick and tired of these computer-animated kids films that are the same thing over and over again. They might entertain the little kids, but they are a far-cry from the old Disney films that entertained numerous generations and are still enjoyable today.

What began with Dusty Crophopper learning to overcome his fear and racing around the world, is now the famous air racer joining a team of aerial firefighters. Together, they battle massive wildfires and learn about themselves, and what a real hero looks like.

It takes a special actor to bring a character to life with only their voices. They cannot convey anything through body movements or facial expressions, making it a job for a talented selection. Though the children in the audience will not be able to pick-out the names of the actors voicing their loveable onscreen characters, the adults will find a large number of them recognisable. The cast list includes Dane CookEd HarrisJulie BowenBrad Garrett, and Teri Hatcher.

For films to be truly successful, they need to be relatable to kids, parents, and grandparents. If it can do that, it has a better chance at having longevity. Planes: Fire and Rescue had a couple of instances that seemed to be targeted to the adults in the audience. These were mostly comedic one-liners, but might not be enough to compensate for them being dragged along by their kids.

The film’s story is quite general and not complex, though some of the fire scenes and topic might be a bit intense for the younger children watching.

Especially with some recent animated children’s films, it feels more like a marketing opportunity than a film with meaning. It has been pointed out that Planes: Fire and Rescue has a theme reminiscent of ‘the little engine that could’ and perseverance, but it feels kind of flat. As per usual, the shops will be releasing a plethora of toys, bed sheets, and everything else imaginable. They have already announced a video game based on the film to be released on a number of consoles.

The response from critics and audiences have been mixed. The majority of the reviews agree the little kids will fall in love with the characters and be dazzled by the animation, but also that it is not a film for anyone else.

If you have to take the kids to the cinemas, Planes: Fire and Rescue will keep them entertained, and you can be sure they are not being subjected to coarse language and inappropriate themes.

Overall, not the best film, but not the worst, either.

3 out of 5 stars

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The Boxtrolls (2014) – Review

As seen on CinemaParadiso.


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From the minds that gave us Coraline (2009) and ParaNorman (2012) comes the fantastic new 3D animation film The Boxtrolls (2014). Based on the children’s novel ‘Here Be Monsters!’ by Alan Snow, the story follows Eggs, an orphaned human boy who is raised by a society of strange and mischievous creatures called the Boxtrolls, and who must find a way to protect his family from the evil Archibald Snatcher.

No longer are animation films just for the enjoyment of children. I am twenty-three years old, and can say that this is my type of movie.

First of all, you cannot go past the brilliance of the animation. Laika, the American animation company founded in 2005, have created a very distinctive animation style. The generated scenery depth and character expressions are astounding, constructing life-like images of unreal creatures. Laika have found their niche, and would be foolish to change.

Of course, behind the animations are the talented voice actors. Rising actors Isaac Hempstead Wright (Eggs) and Elle Fanning (Winnie, Eggs’ human comrade), bring life to the characters purely through the emotion of their voices. Veteran actor Ben Kingsley (Archibald Snatcher), Nick Frost (Mr. Trout), Tracy Morgan (Mr. Gristle), and many more experienced actors and actresses breathe life into their characters, making each and every one unique and entertaining.

The animation may attract the audience, but it is the script that will keep them in their seats, and entertained for the full two-hours. The Boxtrolls, with their stubby legs and clad in discarded containers, speak their own gibberish language – perhaps an attempt to mimic the success of Despicable Me’s minion-language – and is the only downfall of the film, but it does not detract from the story and underlying moral of the film.

Over the past decade specifically, countries all over the world have focused on the environment and the issue of garbage. Recycling discarded materials into new products is encouraged, and that is where The Boxtrolls comes in. All films have a message within their story, a comment they want to make, and children’s films are no exception. This message might be a bit too complex for the younger children in the audience, but it is just another way in which this movie is appealing en masse.

The only issue that parents or guardians might want to look into before taking their child/ren to see this film would be what some reviews have called “grotesque” scenery. This relates to the sewer locations, and the darkness of the films colouring when below ground. It is nothing harmful, but younger viewers might dislike it.

Animation films, despite the complex and lengthy creation process, seem to be always coming out at the cinemas. New technology leads to new techniques, and we can see the change in animation and story complexity from Pocahontas (1995) to The Lego Movie (2014). The Boxtrolls, though not as esteemed as the previous two films listed, shows inspiring animation, engaging characters and story, and is a film that will entertain all ages.

4 out of 5 stars

The Birth of Jesus – Year 5 scripture lesson

*UPDATE – the lesson went great; much better than I expected. The jigsaw puzzles were a big hit, and even got some of the more-troubling kids eager to work.*

I wrote about my Year 1 and 2 ‘birth of Jesus’ scripture lesson (here), so here is my Year 5 ‘birth of Jesus’ scripture lesson.

For this lesson, I was wracking my brain to figure out a way to make it engaging and entertaining. With the end of the year coming closer, the kids are harder to control. I also wanted them to always remember having fun learning about Jesus – and the Christmas story is one of the most important (in my opinion the Easter story is the most important).

After finding a brilliant age-appropriate book called Bible Stories for Children (I wrote about it here), I have decided to read it to the kids, after getting them to complete puzzles that reveal pictures that will help us tell the story.

Here it is.


Good afternoon everyone.

Today we’re going to do things a little differently. You’re going to work in a few groups to work out some jigsaw puzzles, and we’re going to use the pictures to help us tell a story.

Hand out jigsaw puzzles.

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Great, so we’ve got all these pictures. I’m sure most of you already know what today’s lesson is going to be about.

Q. Who can tell me what special day is coming up? We celebrate it every year, near the end of December? Christmas

Today we’ll be hearing the story of the first Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and we’ll be using these pictures (indicate completed jigsaws) to help us.

*Read the book/story while pointing to appropriate puzzle pictures*

CONCLUDING PRAYER: Dear God, // Thank you for sending Jesus. // Help us in these last few weeks. // Amen.

Activity sheet –

find-a-word

The Birth of Jesus – Year 1 and 2 scripture lesson

With Christmas quickly approaching, it is now time to plan my scripture classes. While there are many websites out there with lessons you can use, I thought I would share what I did. For the most part, in keeping with the great work already done by others, I took what was already written, using ‘The First Christmas’ by Gaby Goldsack and Caroline Pedler (available for purchase here). I also wrote a post about the book here.

But more than just reading the book, I wanted to make the lesson more interactive and enjoyable for the kids.

In my limited experience, the end of the year approaching is making the kids extra restless. With their attention hard to capture and keep, I wanted to get them involved in telling the story. In the past, I was randomly choosing children to hold pieces of paper with pictures up for the rest, but that always had people missing out.

For this lesson, I have decided to have a box filled with items I will take out and help me tell the story. Here, I will simply post the pictures of the items.

Here we go!


Good morning/afternoon everyone.

Q. Who can tell me what’s something very special that’s coming up. We celebrate it every year near the end of December? Christmas

Today we’re going to talk about Christmas, the story of baby Jesus.

I have a box with some items inside. One by one I’ll pull one out, and it will help us tell our story.

*Reading the book while pulling out these items -*

ITEM: Nazareth street sign (made myself)

ITEM: Mary, Joseph, donkey, stable, Jesus in the manger, stable (here)

ITEM: an Angel (can’t find it)

ITEM: Bethlehem street sign (made myself)

ITEM: mean King Herod (here)

ITEM: Wise men (here)

ITEM: star (I can’t remember where I found this one)

ITEM: pyramid (here)

CONCLUDING PRAYER: Dear God, // Thank you for sending Jesus. // Help us in these last few weeks. // Amen.

Activity sheets –

1) Colouring-in (found on AZColoring)

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2) Find-a-word (made using Puzzle Maker)

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The kids really enjoyed the activities, especially the find-a-word.

All in all a very successful lesson and I can’t wait to figure out the next lesson.