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My Favorite Movies of 2011

I’ve watched so many movies this past year of 2011. I thank God for giving me such great opportunities to write movie reviews for KidsPickFlicks and Scholastic Kids Press Corps. These were some of my favorite movies that came out in 2011: You can read my movie reviews for Soul Surfer, Arthur Christmas, Dolphin Tale, Born to Be Wild, War Horse,  Hugo,  Winnie the Pooh,  Courageous,  On Stranger Tides,  We Bought a Zoo,  Adventures of Tin Tin, The Help, Mr Popper’s Penguins, Mars Needs Moms,  Monte Carlo


Mars Needs Moms Press Conference

(Robert Zemeckis (producer) , Seth Green (Milo); (Simon Wells (Director) Photo Courtesy Cassandra Hsiao

Experience outer space as you travel on a journey with 9-year-old Milo to save his mom in the movie Mars Needs Moms. Directed by Simon Wells, this motion capture animated film is based on the book by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed.”We took the tent poles from Berkeley’s book: the kid who doesn’t appreciate his mom and the moment where mom absolutely proves how much she really and truly loves him,” Wells told the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps at a press event to publicize the movie. “We looked for the theme that connected those two together.”

Milo’s Mom is played by Joan Cusack, who brought her own intuition to the storylines.

“I have a son whose name is Miles,” Cusack explained when asked about how she gets into character. “I’ve had many conversations with my son like Mom has with Milo — especially about broccoli.” That explains why Cusack would often say Miles instead of Milo in the middle of a take!

Another character who added laughs and spiced up the movie is Gribble, played by Dan Fogler.

“Gribble is basically me with the dial turned up on my maniac side,” Fogler said with a laugh. “It was cool to play a character who is 6 feet 7 inches, cause I’m not.”

Yet, along with a hilarious range of physical and dialogue inventions, Fogler brought an amazing emotional depth to the character of Gribble.

“When Dan acted the scene of Gribble revealing his past, he did it so much better than we were expecting,” Wells recalled. “It was one of those moments where the entire crew on set applauded at the end of his take because he made it deeply, emotionally heartbreaking.”

best bud before Milo arrives on Mars is Wingnut (Kevin Cahoon), the leader of the Hairy Tribe Guys who live in underground trash caverns and embody the lost love of Mars.

Elisabeth Harnois (Ki) AND Dan Fogler (Gribble) AND Kevin Cahoon (Wingnut) – Photo Courtesy Cassandra Hsiao

“As an actor, you’re playing a creature that doesn’t exist on earth and doesn’t speak English,” Cahoon said, describing what it was like to get into Wingnut’s character. “If you think that he looks for bugs in your hair, you just have to take risks and go with that impulse. Wingnut’s sort of like a chimpanzee with ADD.”

So who’s the bad guy behind the cold strict conduct of Mars? The Supervisor with her evil satisfaction, unwavering control, and unpredictable fury is played by Mindy Sterling, who approached the fear-provoking character with a sense of humor.

“Sometimes when you play mean, horrible characters like the Supervisor, you get a sense of fun because that is not who I am, though my son might not think so,” Sterling said with a smile. “I had fun with who she is. She thinks she knows everything, but she really doesn’t.”

Simon Wells (Director and Co-Writer) and Wendy Wells (Co-Writer)

All the Martian characters have their own unique look. The movie shows the emotion in the eyes and the facial expressions through the process of mocap, or motion capture.

“The actors wear a helmet with four cameras pointed at them, which takes a little while to get used to,” said Huck Wirtz, the animation supervisor. “At first they were knocking into one another and banging the cameras everywhere. The dots capture their performance. When the animators add the life into the character, you can feel the emotion on the face.”

What’s the secret message in the movie? Cusack, as the Mom, said it all.

“Being a mom is not about being your kid’s friend,” Cusack said. “It’s more selfless than that. Mars Needs Moms really shows that ultimate love. It reinforces how important moms are.”


©Scholastic Inc. First published online at

Mars Needs Moms Movie Review- Go on a thrilling mission to save mom from Martians

First published at Scholastic

Mars Needs Moms 3D and IMAX 3D

Rated: PG for Sci-fi peril
Opens: Friday, March 11, 2011
Running Time: 88 min.

What’s the big deal about moms? They make you eat your broccoli and do chores. Nine-year-old Milo (Seth Green) doesn’t think there’s anything special about that. However, when Martians abduct his mom (Joan Cusack) to discipline their own young, Milo changes his mind and embarks on a quest to save her.

Produced by the team behind Monster HouseThe Polar Express, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Director Simon Wells’ breathtaking Mars Needs Moms in Disney Digital 3D and IMAX will take you on an ultimate adventure through space.

In the movie, Milo meets Gribble (Dan Fogler), a boisterous, tech-happy, ’80s-speaking underground earthman who has a treehouse made out of trash. He also hooks up with a strong-willed Martian named Ki (Elisabeth Harnois) who learned to speak English by watching a ’70s sitcom. Gribble and Ki help Milo stop the heartless Martian leader, the Supervisor (Mindy Sterling), from taking his mom away forever.

From the setting to the clothing, meticulous and accurate attention was paid to every single detail. The movie was filmed through the process of mocap, or motion capture. The action is filmed using real actors in skintight suits with digital monitors embedded. The animation is then imposed on the live action for a more realistic look and feel. It works!

I could almost taste Mars’ famous red dust. The scenes where Milo is tumbling down mounds of trash or when he is blasting off on the spaceship are like being on a rollercoaster ride at a theme park! Seeing the movie in IMAX 3D enhances these stimulating and exhilarating scenes.

The music intertwines with not just the action of this fast-paced film, but the touching moments as well. It brilliantly reflects personal, emotional detail of individual character. The scene where Gribble reveals his past is so touching, my eyes even got misty toward the end.

This movie is based on a book by famed cartoonist Berkeley Breathed, who was inspired to write the book when his own son Milo had a disagreement with his mom over broccoli. Milo thought that he would be better off without his mom. The movie used the key elements in the short picture book and added unbelievably spectacular 3D scenes littered with funny characters, adventure, fantastic humor, and great performances.

Mars Needs Moms has an amazing message beneath all the comedy, action, and special effects. Start your journey to Mars with Milo when Martians land in U.S. theaters on March 11, 2011!

Find out what the actors think in Kid Reporter Cassandra Hsiao’s story about the press day promoting Mars Needs Moms. And check out her post about the movie on the Scholastic Kids Press Corps Blog!@Scholastic Inc

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