Wednesday, December 18, 2013

You Take the Dragon; I’ll Take the Elf: “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
Finally—a nasty dragon! Between the Shrek series and How To Train Your Dragon—even going back to Pete’s Dragon and magical Puff—I’m worried that recent generations of kids don’t have the proper awe and respect for those fire-breathing baddies. Well, enter Smaug (who is not to be confused with Godzilla’s old foe, the Smog Monster).

Friday, December 13, 2013

Women and Children First: “Saving Mr. Banks”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
If you have a well-worn Mary Poppins DVD at home, and chapter-book-reading kids, Saving Mr. Banks may be the perfect movie for your family. Familiarity with the material and a certain maturity level will certainly come in handy. If that’s not quite the case with your children, you may want to hire a sitter—ideally one with a flying umbrella—and check it out yourselves.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

You’ll Warm to Disney’s “Frozen”

I know. It’s been months since I’ve posted a story. I’ve been too busy being a mom to be a mom blogger, but Disney’s Frozen is worth coming out of semi-retirement. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s "The Snow Queen," you shouldn’t be too terribly surprised to hear that it bears almost no resemblance to the original tale, but what animated Disney feature ever has? That’s not why we go to the Disney version of a classic tale. We go for what Disney does so well: gorgeous animation; memorable characters; a lively plot; and the reinforcement of simple, beautiful values like the importance and downright power of love. Check; check; and double check.

Monday, July 15, 2013

We're Part of the July Extreme Cash Giveaway!

Welcome to the July Extreme Cash Giveaway! I’ve teamed up with some rockstar bloggers to bring you the chance to win $200 cash!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Apps We Love: Word Monster

Review by Joseph Broda
Word Monster by OtherWise Games is a challenging word puzzle game for older kids. It's fun, easy-to-learn and you can't beat the price — it's free. The interface and graphics are geared to kids but adults will enjoy playing this game, too. I did!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Barely Necessary, But Fun: Disney’s “The Jungle Book”

Disney’s Nineteenth Animated Feature – 1967
Verna Felton
The Jungle Book is a fun and lively feature, loosely adapted from the stories about “man cub” Mowgli from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. This film was the last one for Walt Disney himself, who passed away during its production. It also marks the swan song of voice artist Verna Felton, who provided the voice of Hathi the Elephant’s wife. Felton, who voiced Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother, Flora in Sleeping Beauty, Aunt Sarah in Lady and the Tramp, and the Queen of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, died shortly before the film’s release.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

We Deliver the Goods: “Delivery Man” Trailer Exclusive!

Media Darlings is very proud to be one of only 533 bloggers to present the first peek at the trailer for Delivery Man starring Vince Vaughn. In this film, Vaughn plays an affable underachiever looking for his purpose in life, when he finds out he’s fathered 533 children through anonymous donations to a fertility clinic 20 years ago. Now he must decide whether or not to come forward when 142 of them want to meet their biological father.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Win “The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends Stickerbook” App!

If you’re a fan of this site, you know we love the stickerbook app version of Eric Carle’s classic book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. You can read our rave review here. Night & Day Studios has generously agreed to give us several copies of the app The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends Stickerbook for our readers. To win, just leave a comment to this post with a way to reach you (email preferred) by Friday, July 5, 5pm EST. And good luck!

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Old College Try: Disney-Pixar's “Monsters University”

Disney-Pixar’s Fourteenth Animated Feature – 2013
Movie Review by Jack Silbert. 
Let me get a little continuity issue out of the way. Back in 2001’s Monsters, Inc., green one-eyed Mike Wazowski tells blue, furry James P. Sullivan, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade, pal.” Now, in the all-new Monsters University, we’re told that Mike and Sulley met in college. It’s revisionist history!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Books (and Authors) We Love: “Clementine and the Spring Trip” by Sara Pennypacker

Guest Post by Sara Pennypacker
One of the problems with/great things about blogs is that you get drawn into conversations. The past couple of weeks I’ve been visiting lots of them to get ready for my blog tour, and one post I can’t stop thinking about was titled “Can You teach Empathy?” This seems like the right place to have a say about that, and a Clementine post seems the right occasion, since Clementine herself is known for her empathy, so...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Win "Jack the Giant Slayer" Blu-Ray Combo Pack!

Warner Bros. is proud to announce the arrival of Jack the Giant Slayer released on DVD & Blu-ray on June 18! Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing Jack (Nicholas Hoult), into the battle of this life to stop them and rescue the princess! To win the Blu-Ray Combo Pack (that includes the Blu-Ray + DVD + Ultraviolet versions), just leave a comment to this story below. Be sure to include a way to reach you (email preferred) by Friday, July 5th, 5pm EST. And good luck!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Books We Love: “My Dad is Big and Strong, But …,” “Inside Outside,” “Flight 1-2-3,” and “Extreme Oceans”

It’s June! School is winding down. My daughter has finished preschool for summer. It’s time for fresh air, sunshine, and our annual trip to the beach. And you can bet we’ll pack a selection of books just right for the season. For starters, while you’re helping your child pick out a father’s day gift, how about choosing a special book that would make a wonderful “backwards” gift, from dad to child?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Web Series We Love: Isabella Rossellini’s “The Mammas”

Isabella Rossellini’s latest installment of her nature web series Green Porno is the opposite of puritanical. She wouldn’t have used the word “porno” in the title if she planned to be coy. Instead, The Mammas video series on The Sundance Channel tells the truth about the animal world’s various and bizarre maternal rituals. Her inspiration for The Mammas came from (according to NPR) “the work of evolutionary biologist Marlene Zuk. Zuk wrote that self-sacrifice was not the basis of maternal instinct but rather good management of resources.” And it’s not for the faint of heart.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Better Than Good: “The Great Gatsby”

Film Review by Maggie Hames
Books and movies are different in just about every way media CAN be different. But mainly, in books, unfixed images are created in the reader’s mind and are up to infinite interpretation. In a movie, ideas become fixed as particular actors, art direction choices, editing choices, or cinematographic choices. These images are open to endless analysis, but not endless interpretation. The best literary adaptations (for my money) translate a story to the screen; they don’t just transfer it. Just about the nicest compliment I can give to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is that it is an interesting translation of a book to film, with innovative, even thought-provoking choices that convey more emotional depth than any screen version of this book has ever achieved. This is, simply put, the BEST screen Gatsby. And overall, it’s pretty great indeed.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Too Many Irons In This Fire: “Iron Man 3”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
On the off-chance that your family hasn’t seen Iron Man 3 yet, I have a controversial suggestion for you: Don’t go. Oh, I know, the kids have been begging. They’ll kind of hate you for a little while if you don’t take them. But maybe years from now—at a wedding, or your retirement party—they’ll come up and say, “Hey, thanks for looking out for me. I finally caught Iron Man 3 and wow, was it kind of lousy.”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Talkin’ Baseball: “42”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
It might still be too chilly to bring the family to the ballpark. Or maybe it’s too pricey. But if the kids have any interest whatsoever in baseball, you owe it to them to go see 42.

If you’re an adult baseball fan, even a casual one, there are a few things you already know about Jackie Robinson:
• He broke the color barrier in major league baseball.
• He withstood a lot of threats and abuse.
• He was awesome.
• He died young.
• He wore number 42, which has been retired throughout baseball.

Monday, April 15, 2013

April Extreme Cash Giveaway!

Welcome to the April Extreme Cash Giveaway! Media Darlings has teamed up with some of our favorite blogger friends to give our fabulous readers the chance to win $400 cash!

The April Extreme Cash Giveaway will run for four weeks giving you plenty of time to complete any entries you choose to do. Remember, all entries are OPTIONAL. We have lots of daily entries for you to take advantage of as well, so don’t forget to bookmark this giveaway and come back everyday for more chances to win!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What an Adorable Dynasty! “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”

Since last week at Build-A-Bear Workshops, you can build your own My Little Pony character. Die-hard fans will appreciate that you can specifically build your own Pinkie Pie or Rainbow Dash. For My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic super fans, this is a time of great rejoicing and/or gnashing of teeth (if you’re obsessed with Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity, or Fluttershy; not to mention the spate of secondary characters). In fact, the more you delve into the world of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, the more you realize that this isn’t just a tv show with a tie-in product line. For many, it’s a lifestyle that cuts across every media and is a bone-fide cultural touchstone. Just ask any Brony or Pegasister when you meet up at PonyCon.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Illustrated Apps We Love: “Petting Zoo by Christoph Niemann” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends Stickerbook”

Sometimes the life of a blogger is VERY easy: the products we come across are so good, the only problem is finding enough synonyms for the word wonderful. I’m happy to report that this is one of those times. So out comes the old thesaurus, because these apps are stupendous, remarkable, thought-provoking, delightful, and endless fun. And as if that isn’t enough, I’ve come across a top-notch iPad case that you should not do without.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Crummy and “The Croods”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
I wish I hadn’t watched the credits. Based on its own merits, The Croods is an entertaining-enough movie for you to take the kids to on a weekend afternoon if there’s nothing better playing. (Hint: Oz the Great and Powerful is still in theaters.) But, I’m a fairly obsessive credit reader—blame Ferris Bueller for me always staying till the theater lights come back on—and there it was. A “story” co-credit for John Cleese. The John Cleese? One of my Monty Python heroes?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Win Personalized Gifts, Room Décor, and Party Stationary Featuring the Beloved Classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar™

This is our week for giveaways! is pleased to offer one of our readers a $40 promotion code to spend on their new collection of personalized products featuring The Very Hungry Caterpillar. For a chance to win, just leave a comment to this post with a way to reach you (email preferred) by 5pm EST on Sunday, March 31. And please note, prizes ship to US addresses only! And all of our readers are welcome to 25% off the entire Very Hungry Caterpillar Collection. Just use the promotion code VHC2013 when ordering. The code is valid until April 7, 2013. And good luck!

Win a 3-Month Subscription to Conscious Box!

Subscription boxes have become big news. And Conscious Box has agreed to give one lucky reader a free 3-month subscription. That’s a $59 value. And all of our readers can have a 50% off discount on any Conscious Box subscription right now. Just use the code DISCOVERNATURAL. Enter to win the 3-month subscription by leaving a comment to this post with a way to reach you (email preferred) by 5pm EST on Sunday, March 31.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Win "The Hobbit - An Unexpected Journey" Blu-Ray Combo Pack!

Just leave a comment to this post with a way to reach you (email preferred) to win The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Blu-Ray Combo Pack. Enter by leaving your comment to this post by 5pm EST on March 31, 2013.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Finally I See the Emerald City! “Oz the Great and Powerful”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
With Great and Powerful comes great responsibility. Spider-man trilogy pals Sam Raimi and James Franco team up again for the daunting task of making a Wizard of Oz prequel. And of course you’re not going to match one of the Greatest Screen Achievements of All Time—you’re not only competing with the actual film itself, but with people’s nostalgic attachment to it. And a great and powerful nostalgia it is! Luckily, your kids won’t be carrying too much of that baggage as they follow the yellow-brick road. So I think they’ll have a lot of fun on this trip.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It’s Like Goodreads for Kids: Meet the Creators of

Interview by Jack Silbert
If your 8-to-12-year-old kids love to read, you may want to introduce them to! The site, launched by children’s publishing professionals Karen Wang and Nancy Tsai in 2009, has a brilliantly simple concept: Recommendations of kids’ books from fellow kids. Who better to suggest a great read than your peers? In addition to kid-written reviews (330 and counting), there are author interviews; Karen and Nancy’s book suggestions, movie reviews, and blog posts; sweepstakes for signed books; teacher-friendly content packages (book list, podcast, and video) on a wide variety of themes; and plenty more. And the site practically bursts with a genuine sense of fun and an unbridled enthusiasm for the world of reading. I recently sat down with Karen and Nancy to discuss their website, trends in middle-grade literature, and recent children’s books that they think are awesome.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Can We Teach Compassion?

Guest Post by Valerie O. Patterson
We can teach students to read and add. But can we teach them to care for other people? To stop and consider their actions and the impact on others? Certainly, we can’t teach compassion just by talking about it. Like most lessons in life, we learn them for ourselves by practice. And we pass them on through example, not lecture. As parents, teachers, or family members, do we donate our time and resources for the betterment of other people, animals, or the environment?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Escape to “Escape from Planet Earth”

Movie Review by Maggie Hames
At its essence, Escape from Planet Earth is a sibling rivalry story. The sibling rivalry just happens to take place on the Blue Planet between alien (though not unfamiliar) brothers. Brainy (read: nerdy) Gary Supernova—voiced by Rob Corddry—works at mission control at BASA (a souped-up NASA) while his brother Scorch—voiced by Brendan Fraser—is the scene-stealing, macho, slightly dim but intrepid hero/astronaut. In the opening scene, we see Scorch grab the glory as he rescues babies trapped on an inhospitable planet but its Gary who guides the ship safely home by remote control.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Looks Aren’t Everything: “Beautiful Creatures”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
First of all, they’re not witches, they’re Casters. And not those roll-y things on the bottom of ottomans, either. In case you didn’t read the 563-page (!) book that Beautiful Creatures was based on, let me give you the basics. We’re in a small Southern town in which having supernatural abilities is considered almost as bad as being a Democrat or gay. Young Ethan, his head filled with crazy ideas from all those banned books he loves, dreams of getting out. (It’s a town full of losers, and baby he was born to run.)

Monday, February 11, 2013

App Giveaway from Night & Day Studios

One of the best children’s app developers in the business—Night & Day Studios—has given us four great apps for our readers. Just leave a comment below with a way to reach you (email preferred) to win one of these apps: Caillou’s World, Counting with the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Go Away Big Green Monster, or Busytown. Just leave your comment by Friday, February 15th at 5pm EST to win.

You'll find more giveaways at Night & Day Studios Facebook page.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Blunt Than Sharp: Disney’s “The Sword In the Stone”

Disney’s Eighteenth Animated Feature – 1963
The sixties were a turbulent decade for, well … the entire planet. For reasons that had nothing to do with social upheaval, the sixties were a turbulent decade for the Disney animation studio as well. The sixties saw lay-offs, reorganization, and a scaling back of a company that seemed on an endless trajectory of success and growth.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

RENT Is Due at Hoboken High

Interviews by Jack Silbert
I’d never actually seen the musical Rent, though I think I’ve heard that one song at least 525,600 times. So when I learned that a production was happening just up the street from me at Hoboken High School (February 8, 9, and 10), I decided to take a behind-the-scenes look.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

From Book to Film: “Beautiful Creatures” Authors Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Profile by Jack Silbert
My friend across the hall refuses to see any movie until she’s read the book that it’s based on. Well, if she wants to see Beautiful Creatures when it opens this Valentine’s Day, my neighbor better get cracking: The first novel in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s four-book supernatural romance series weighs in at a hefty 563 pages. But book length certainly hasn’t slowed the ravenous fans who have turned these modern-gothic tales into YA best-sellers. And it’s not just teens and tweens: Garcia and Stohl count themselves among the 55% of YA readers who are adults.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Picture Books We Love: “Open This Little Book,” “Flora And The Flamingo,” and “The Banana Police”

The great ideas are often the simple ones. They can make you wonder why they didn’t appear years earlier. Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee is an adorable yet high-concept picture book that celebrates the love of reading in big (and small) ways. It's published by Chronicle Books.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Worst Best Pictures

Life is inherently unfair. But you know what’s even more unfair (if you’re a movie lover)? The Academy Awards. The following is our opinionated list of the worst films ever to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The story is similar for all: they haven’t aged well. Stories that may have had some edge in their day have dulled through the years and we’re left with slightly embarrassing, often boring films peopled by phony characters menaced by even phonier straw men. In honor of the Academy Awards (a statue we love to hate) we present our dingy dozen:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TV Shows We Love: “Imagination Movers” on Disney Junior

After suffering through the relatively minor inconvenience of living without electricity for a week after Hurricane Sandy, I was interested to learn that one of the best live-action preschool shows, Imagination Movers, was almost permanently derailed by Hurricane Katrina. The more I learn about the show’s four stars—who encourage preschoolers to brainstorm—the more I want them to be a part of my child’s life.