Jury Coordination and Notes

My Anime Addiction By Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

March 1st, 2017

The first film that turned me onto anime was Fullmetal Alchemist. The intense, adventurous action of Edward and Alphonse Elric captivated me. I find the entire idea of alchemy quite fascinating. The first time I watched this film, I was unaware of the elaborate history of alchemy. I watched it again when I was a bit older and understood it and enjoyed it even more. I was highly bewitched by the dark background of Edward and Alphonse and what Edward sacrificed for his brother. After watching this film, both the original and the Brotherhood version a total of six times, I was finally prepared to dig deeper into the enslaving ways of anime.

The next anime I watched was Seven Deadly Sins which is very similar to Fullmetal Alchemist. They both use the Sins as essential characters, but portray them in different ways. In Fullmetal Alchemist they are the central villains that the Elricks must overcome to accomplish their dire objective. In Seven Deadly Sins they are portrayed as the preeminent heroes of the story who are sadly misunderstood by the public as monsters. After watching this series, I went onto Hunter X Hunter which is where my binding animobsession really began.

I have watched Hunter X Hunter (148 episodes; 22 minutes each) five times. The first time I watched this show I stayed in my room, binge watching it, for two and a half full days until I finished it. This is, by far, the most emotionally intense and adventurous show I have ever seen. The main characters are very relatable and remind me of my own childhood. It is about a young boy named Gon whose father abandoned him in order to take the Hunter Exam. Gon is taken in by one of his father’s childhood friends and raised by her until he decides to take the Hunter Exam, in order to search for his father. The rest of the show is Gon’s journey searching for his father, who doesn’t exactly want to see him. He feels guilty for leaving his son many years ago and makes it as difficult as possible for Gon to find him. After finally getting off my deep addiction to this show, I turned to Sword Art Online to quench my anime thirst.

Sword Art Online is highly intense and thrilling. I ended up getting sucked into it and watched it seven times. This show is about a teenager named Kirito who luckily gets his hands on a highly anticipated game, Sword Art Online. Sword Art Online is a action packed MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games) that allows you to dive inside the game when using nerve gear. Once all the players are inside the game, it gets corrupted by the creator and everyone is trapped inside, not being able to log out, until the players beat the 100th floor. Did I forget to mention that if any person dies inside the game, they also die in real life. This anime also has the best intensely beautiful soundtrack I have ever heard, I even listen to it when I am not watching the anime.

I am currently watching the Magi series and am trying to widen my horizons to other animes, like Black Butler, Death Note, Tokyo Ghoul and Blue Exorcist. Please contact me through [email protected] if you need any other recommendations or just want to talk about anime.

The Impact Of Films by Gerry Orz, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

February 10th, 2017

In my past blogs, I often look at how film is changing due to new technologies and changing mediums. This week, I don’t want to talk about how film is changing, but how film changes the world. Despite what many think, it isn’t just documentaries that can open up people’s eyes on current issues that need to be talked about. Historically, there are many films that completely changed the world thanks to their stories, messages and legendary quality.

I recently reviewed a film called Never Again is Now which focuses on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. It not only tells the story of horrible events taking place and their cause, but it also tells the story of Holocaust survivors. It connects the past and the present and shows how thinking that the Holocaust was one terrible event never to be repeated is far from the truth. The film focuses on current events in Europe, but that isn’t the only place it’s happening. It’s been happening in every corner in the world, including here in United States. No one can deny that there is a rise of racism that is very apparent in United States and it should not be allowed to continue. Anti-Semitism is a very strong example of how hatred is at an all time high around the globe.

This signs of hate are a massive issue that seem like no one can stop. But it is very easy to stop hatred of all types. If you see someone behaving in a racist or hateful way, stop them. Confront them. If you hear about an issue (as I learned about with anti-Semitism), don’t stay silent. Speak up. Social media has a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of people and, just a simple post on FaceBook or Twitter helps spread the word about hate. It may seem like just talking about anti-Semitism or racism as a whole won’t do anything, but it will.

In Never Again is Now, one of the most important points made is that politically, no one wants to confront the issue of anti-Semitism. Talking about specific people being racist seems politically incorrect and that makes it even worst. Simply talking about such big issues will do so much.

Like I said, films make huge impacts on society as a whole. A one hour and thirty minute film made me think of the world in a completely different way. I soon realized that I can help spread the word about what is going on around the world. I want to leave this blog with a message to you, the reader. Don’t just stay silent. People stayed silent during the Holocaust and other genocides. If people spoke up instead of staying silent, many horrible events could have been prevented, and hate as a whole might have made a much smaller and more mild impact, if at all. Don’t let history repeat itself. Let us be smart for once and actually learn from our mistakes. Let’s move on to a brighter tomorrow for the sake of our children and their future.

There Are More Colors Than Black and White By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

February 2nd, 2017


In the aftermath of two years straight of Academy Awards without black actor nominees, this year’s Oscars has plenty. For the first time in Oscar history, there is a black nominee in every acting category. 89 years later, and it’s finally happening. As a matter fact, there is also a black nominee in the directing category, adapted screenplay and producing. So most of the Big 8 categories (except original screenplay) has a black nominee. That’s a major feat. It certainly makes up, if you will, for the major snubs these last couple of years.

Beyond that, the impact of black cinema even extends into the documentary category. 13th, I Am Not Your Negro and O.J. Made in America are all films that deal, in some way, with the black experience. So even beyond the categories that casual fans really care about, there are black representatives. I mean this year, in general, seems to be destined to erase the unfortunate circumstances of the last two years’ award ceremonies. Just look at the releases – Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures and Loving. The uproar over a “White Oscars” this year would have been enormous. However, though I am proud of the Academy’s nomination diversity (having seen all of these films, I can say most of the nominated actors are deserving), I think it’s time we realized that diversity means more than just black and white.

In the 20th Century, all minorities were under-appreciated and under-represented by the Academy. In the 21st Century, the black cinematic community began getting their just due and, this year, they made history. However, what goes completely ignored is the Hispanic and Asian cinematic communities. Admittedly, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron have won the last three Best Director Oscars. With all due respect, neither of them are Steven Spielberg or Tim Burton. They aren’t major directors in the mainstream yet. Their biggest films were led by DiCaprio, Bullock and Keaton. Whereas, the films led by Javier Bardem and Gael Garcia Bernal didn’t the attention their acclaim would have suggested.

It would be nice to see more Hispanic actors nominated multiple times besides Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Benicio Del Toro. Furthermore, I would love for mainstream audiences to know more Asian actors beyond Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Ken Jeong. Sure, Dev Patel is nominated this year. But let’s be honest, of Hispanics, Blacks and Asians, Asians get the fuzzy end of the lollipop.

And the issues go back to what I said in the midst of the “Oscars So White” controversy. The Academy cannot nominate what they do not see. While movie buffs and critics may watch foreign films, it has been proven and confirmed that many Academy members don’t even watch the domestic films nominated for Academy Awards. Nominations for Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, Isabelle Huppert in Elle, and Javier Bardem in Biutiful are referred to as “inspired nominations” – nominations that weren’t expected or predicted, but reflect a passion the Academy has over a little seen performance that deserves attention. That’s what many foreign performances by Hispanics and Asians end up being. There was a time when nomination of a black actor was considered “inspired” (Sidney Poitier and Hattie McDaniel) and now, it’s the norm. No, beyond that. Now it’s EXPECTED. Each year we expect white and black actors to be nominated, yet we don’t expect the same for Asian and Hispanic actors.

It goes back to exposure. The reason black actors started getting nominated more was because more films starring or featuring black people were being produced and entered into the mainstream. Now in 2017, we’re still low on the number of Asian and Hispanic actors that are well known and, even rarer, are good roles for them in mainstream films. Surely, we know about clichés such as Fresh Off the Boat and the Hispanic friend Michael Pena often plays. But where is the Manchester by the Sea for Benicio Del Toro? Where is Adriana Barraza’s Carol? Why can’t Choi Min-sik get the mainstream roles that he deserves? Diversity in Hollywood needs to go beyond black and white, and soon. The “inspired nomination” shouldn’t be primarily minorities. Sure we still have the likes of Laura Linney’s nomination for The Savages, but that type of nomination cannot continually be Asian and Hispanic performances, because those performances should be expected, not unusual.

Producers should realize that these actors have as much talent as the Goslings and Stones of the world. They should capitalize on these talents and understand that marketability can extend to Asians and Hispanics. The Academy simply cannot nominate what they don’t see and aren’t exposed to – plain and simple. Amores Perros and In the Mood for Love were lauded by critics and movie aficionados alike and yet, were still ignored by the Academy. So instead of pigeonholing non-White actors to films in their native tongue, let’s embrace them into our mainstream so that they get proper recognition and we can fulfill what the Academy Awards are for – honoring the best in cinema for the previous year. Last time I checked, cinema expands past the borders of America.

The Pleasures of Oscar Season by Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

January 30th, 2017

From December through February is the time of year I love best because there are so many substantial films out in theatres, be they Hollywood, Indie or Foreign films. This year especially has brought us so many terrific movies such as Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Moonlight, Lion and 20th Century Women. All of these films have been nominated for Best Picture, except 20th Century Women, which was my favorite film of the year.

I was fascinated with all the catchy, get me up dance numbers in La La Land. I thought it captured the essence of the beginning of a relationship, when two people first fall in love. Lion is so emotionally harrowing, but captivating at the same time. Dev Patel portrays grown up Saroo so well and has justly been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role in it. Manchester by the Sea is a spectacular, but serious, family film that is very relatable because of its teen protagonist. This film is the flat-out truth about how horrible or exciting life can really be. It doesn’t pull any punches. It just tells an honest story about a dysfunctional family. 20th Century Women is a hip, pop and lock sort of punk rock movie that young teens will love. I am very surprised that it was not nominated for Best Picture.

Out of the nine Best Picture nominations, I have only seen three. I plan to see many more over the next few weeks before the Oscars. I meant to see Moonlight for the past two months, but the subject matter seems so intense. I also look forward to seeing Hidden Figures. The trailer makes it seem like an important feminist take on the moon landing. Everybody seems to love Arrival, but I usually don’t enjoy alien movies. This one sounds rather interesting, since it’s about a linguist trying to decipher the Alien language.

I have seen three out of the five films up for Best Animated Feature: Kubo and the Two Strings, The Red Turtle and Zootopia. The two that I haven’t seen are Moana and My Life as a Zucchini. My Life as a Zucchini is a great “title.” It’s the premiere film this year at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, so I will probably see it there. I believe Kubo is the most creative and enchanting film up for the award. Can’t wait to see who wins the Oscars for all of these. Until then, I’ll just keep judging and guessing.

Fences – Lives Up to its Award-winning Status!

January 1st, 2017

Fences_1.jpgFences is the story about an African-American father struggling with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. KIDS FIRST! juror Juanita Seon Leary comments, “Adapted from the stage play by August Wilson (who also writes the screenplay), it lives up to its award- winning status.” See her full review below.

Fences,
By Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror                       

I saw Fences as a play with James Earl Jones years ago and was very anxious and looking forward to seeing the filmed version. Adapted from the stage play by August Wilson (who also writes the screenplay), it lives up to its award- winning status. I am a fan of both Denzel Washington and Viola Davis who star in this film.

Throughout the film, we see life through the eyes of Troy (Denzel Washington) an African American man struggling with issues of race and economics and all the events of his life.  He lives with his family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 1950s.

Fences opens with Troy and Bono (Steven Henderson) riding on the garbage truck. As they work, they talk about the inequality of their jobs.  Troy questions why “a black man cannot drive the truck”? He asks the question to his supervisor who is a white man and is facing possible firing. so it is thought. Troy and Bono arrive at Troy’s house and we begin to learn about a fence.  It is Friday and payday. We see Troy and Bono sharing a bottle of liquor.  Troy tells stories and his wife Rose (Viola Davis) sits on porch and interacts to keep Troy honest. We learn about Troy’s past, his excellent skills in baseball, time he served in jail and how he met Rose.

The film has excellent scenes that let us feel and see the streets of Pittsburgh. The main center of action is the backyard. There is a baseball on a string and Troy’s baseball bat.  Rose asks Troy to build her a fence. At one point, Bono speaks to Troy about fences.  “Fences are built to keep something or someone out or to keep something or someone in.” He lets Troy know that Rose wants to keep him and their son Cory (Jovan Adepo) inside.  In Fences, we see the relationship and interaction of a father with his sons. His older son, Lyons (Russell Hornsby) comes by on paydays to ask for a loan and his younger son Cory wants to play football to attend college. 

Fences is excellent and has many lessons and messages. Because of the language and suggestive references, I recommend it for ages 14 to 18 and believe that many adults will enjoy it also. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  It opens on December 25, 2016 so be sure to check it out.

  

 

 

 

Jackie – A Biopic Display of Grief and Its Inhibitor

December 30th, 2016

Jackie.jpgJackie is a portrait of one of the most important and tragic moments in American history, seen through the eyes of the iconic First Lady, then Jacqueline Kennedy. Jackie places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a portrait of the First Lady as she fights to establish her husband’s legacy and the world of “Camelot” that she created and loved so well. This is an R rated film for brief strong violence and some language but we felt it important enough in terms of its historical content to review. We do recommend it for ages 14 to 18. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “Jackie is a biopic about more than Jackie Kennedy. It is a display of grief and its effects on its inhibitor. The assassination of JFK is used as a backdrop to present a portrayal of grief as something raw and gritty.” See his full review below.
Jackie
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic. Age 17

Jackie is a biopic about more than Jackie Kennedy. It is a display of grief and its effects on its inhibitor. The assassination of JFK is used as a backdrop to present a portrayal of grief as something raw and gritty. The grainy cinematography expresses that. Additionally, the film humanizes a famous figure, that is all too familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

Natalie Portman plays the famous First Lady and what a transformation it is. Portman’s last great performance was in 2010s Black Swan and she is in rare form in this film. From the walk, to the signature voice, Portman embodies the ticks of Jackie Kennedy that we’ve come to know. That alone is impressive. Then, Portman adds the emotional layers to the caricature we’re accustomed to and Jackie Kennedy suddenly becomes human. Natalie Portman portrays the grief of a famous figure and makes it something down-to-earth and relatable. This performance is one to be remembered for its sensitivity, vulnerability and depth. Behind that voice is a tremble of sadness and beneath those eyes are memories of seeing a husband killed. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career, not simply because she plays a real person who is a famous figure in history, but because she makes that figure unfeigned.

Supporting her are veterans John Hurt, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup and Greta Gerwig. Sarsgaard plays JFK’s brother, Bobby Kennedy. His characterization is spot on and his eyes tell a lot. There is a brooding guilt beneath his eyes and in his face that comes out very perfectly played in a scene near the climax of the film. Gerwig and Hurt play the confidants of Jackie Kennedy, each in his own way playing the wisdom and empathy proper to each spectrum of Jackie’s grief. Billy Crudup challenges Jackie’s notion and speaks from a perspective of his search for truth. He truly attempts to uncover and peel the celebrity off of Jackie and give us the raw confession of her lies and motivations.

To further the raw portrayal of grief is the cinematography of Stephane Fontaine and the direction of Pablo Lorrain. The documentarian behind-the-scenes style plays to the fervent nature of the film. The grain of the film, conceivably, could be a testament to the imperfections of Jackie Kennedy. Perhaps the cinematography and, at times, sporadic direction is a representation of how imperfect our idol Jackie Kennedy really was. Furthermore, the editing and cinematography are sometimes very eerie, meaning there are tracking shots that come off woozy and pieces of editing that scatter. They are brilliant pieces of filmmaking because they reflect Kennedy’s mental state. It’s actually quite brilliant how much of Jackie’s emotional state is presented without a word of dialogue, but only with Portman’s face and the direction of Pablo Lorrain.Willie1.jpg

Personally, my favorite aspect of the entire film is the score by Mica Levi. The score can be described as haunting. It is laced with a foreboding, calamitous tone that injects dread to the film. It drives the grief into our catharsis and, at times, actually weighs down on us. Then, in the midst of the heavy slightly off-pitch stringing, comes a higher pitched sound that injects a sort of longing for something happier. I can’t fully express how beautiful and sad and astute the score is.

My only complaint with this film is very minimal. Sometimes the dialogue gets a little too cinematic for the tone of the film. Additionally, the plot occasionally gets slightly recurring and seems to be a bit lethargic.

With that said, I give this move 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. This film is in theaters December 2, 2016 so, be sure to go check it out.

Magic at the Theater By Keefer C. Blakeslee, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

December 22nd, 2016

CHRISTMAS.STORY_1.jpgIt’s the most wonderful time of the year. I love the Holiday Season for many reasons – being with loved ones, giving presents and of course, winter break! During this time, I like to catch up with any films I missed by creating a holiday watch list. Most people have a list of things they want for Christmas but all I want, and need, for the holidays is to watch movies with my family. Whether it’s a classic film like my favorite, A Christmas Story or a newly released film such as Hidden Figures, I make a watch list. My family and I then grab our hot cocoa and snuggle up by the digital fireplace. I was at home watching my mother’s favorite film, White Christmas, with Danny Kaye flying through the air and singing his heart out when he raises a question that sparked this blog. In one of the musical numbers, he sings, “The theater…The theater… What’s happened to the theater?” Now, in the context of this song, when he refers to the theater, he’s talking about the stage. But, it made me think about movie theaters today. White_Christmas3_1.jpg

Movies have become so easily accessible because of online outlets such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. So much so, that people would rather stay home and watch movies on their smaller screen. I can’t say I can blame them. There are many good reasons to do that. You’re more comfortable. You don’t have to worry about other people talking or texting. And, the biggest thing is its much CHEAPER. These are all very valid and understandable cases. However, I truly believe that movie theaters are magical places and, to always watch films at home can be an injustice to some films that need to be seen on a big screen. I’m not saying that you should go to the movies all the time. I just want to defend a place I hold dear and maybe encourage you to visit the theater during this season of joy.

As I have mentioned countless times, I grew up with the movies, as many of us have, and I have many memories going to the movie theaters. One of my fondest memories is watching The Polar Express on the big screen, which is a yearly tradition at my hometown theater. People are encouraged to come in their pajamas and, when the lights go down, we board the Polar Express.  At the end of the film, we are given golden jingle bells so that we never forget to “believe.” Not all movie theaters do events like this, but it brings up the point that movie theaters are like trains that transport you into worlds of stories.

Picture this: You’re in your seat, the gigantic screen stops playing ads and becomes blank. Then the house lights slowly dim until you’re in complete darkness. The only light is small aisle lights. It’s completely silent. No phones. No outside noises. Just the anticipation of what’s going to be shown on screen. Finally, the film begins and, by then you forget you’re in a theater. You’re immersed in the film.

Granted, this is a romanticized scenario. Sometimes there are people in the theater who break this illusion by using their phones and, even the movie can damage the experience by its lack of interesting characters or an engaging story. With that said, when everything goes according to plan, the experience is exhilarating. When you’re at home you’re tempted to check your phone every minute and you have other distractions. When you go to the movies, it’s like signing a contract that, for the next 90 minutes you are disconnected with the outside world.

The movies are also a sanctuary for people. Films do, or at least should, spark humanity and empathy. Whether it’s joy, sadness oKeefer.2014.5.jpgr even anger, people respond emotionally. I’ve mentioned this on our radio show before, but I’m still touched by this. I recently saw the film Loving which is based on a true love story about an African American woman and a white man struggling to protect their marriage and their life during a time of strong prejudice in the 1960s. While in the theater, I was surrounded by interracial couples. Next to me there was an older couple, a white woman and an African American man, and when the film ended, the women turned to her significant other and said, “This is our story.” Then she kissed him on the cheek. You can’t see rare moments of humanity like that at home.

I’m the type of person who loves listening in on conversations after a movie ends because everybody is a film critic. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Drama is life with the dull bits are cut out.” Since we are all living life, humans have a connection with films. That’s another reason why I love the movie theaters because it brings people together. When watching a movie, complete strangers in one room laugh, cheer or even cry together. It doesn’t matter your faith, race or sexuality, we are all connected by the love for stories.

I could go on to talk about the importance of preserving the movie theaters, but I think these two points are the most important. The cinema is a portal that transports you out of this world and, when you return, your soul has changed. That is something that home entertainment systems just can’t capture. Happy Holidays and I’ll see you in the New Year.

What’s So Wonderful About It’s A Wonderful Life? by Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

December 18th, 2016

It_s_A_Wonderful_Life.jpgMy parents have been trying to get me to watch this film every year. Finally, this year I watched It’s a Wonderful Life from start to finish. I found it absolutely magical! I now understand why it’s the most popular Christmas movie of all time.  Directed by Frank Capra, the film stars Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore. Written by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett and Capra, the screenplay was further polished by the witty Dorothy Parker, which is why the dialogue really sings. Jimmy Stewart plays George Bailey, a man who is dissatisfied with his life and wishes he was never born. His wish is granted by a guardian angel, Clarence. The film shows how each life has purpose and touches everyone else’s life. The movie showed me how blessed we are and how we take our lives for granted. Also, that you can be an important person without being rich and famous.  Part of the movie’s enduring appeal is its unbridled optimism. Capra made propaganda films for the US government during WWII, so he was the master at emotional manipulation.  It’s a Wonderful Life was made at the end of the war in 1946, but bombed at the box office. A copyright lapse in the 70s aided its popularity because it was then played all the time on TV. The film’s Clayton.jpglater popularity was very surprising to Capra. My favorite scene in It’s a Wonderful Life is during the High School dance when the gym floor opens up and everyone falls or jumps into the swimming pool.

Another perennial Christmas classic is Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story. I love the nostalgic humor of this movie, even though it is the most overplayed holiday film on cable TV. Some channels play the film in marathon 24/7!  A Christmas Story is based on the reminiscences of Shepherd’s 50s childhood in Indiana.  My favorite part of the film is when Ralphie, the protagonist, stands up to the neighborhood bully. My Dad’s favorite scene is when Ralphie visits Santa at the department store and is so overwhelmed that he forgets what he wants for Christmas!  A recurring joke in the film is that everyone tells Ralphie that the BB gun that he wants for Christmas will “poke your eye out kid.”

My other favorite Christmas film is Home Alone, which is just hilarious. Both the original Home Alone and the first sequel really put you in a good mood. I also love both Miracle on 34th Street films. They are the most “Santa friendly” films because they prove in a courtroom that Santa does indeed exist. Another really hilarious, light Christmas film is Elf. My favorite part of Elf is when Will Ferrell accosts a dwarf, thinking that he’s one of Santa’s elves.

Collateral Beauty explores the challenges of dealing with life’s toughest stuff

December 16th, 2016

collateralBeauty_1.jpgThis story follows a successful New York advertising executive who suffers a great tragedy and retreats from life. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Juanita L. comments, “I enjoyed watching Collateral Beauty. It is a great example that reminds us how connected we are to people within and outside our circle.” See her full review below.

Collateral Beauty
Juanita L., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I enjoyed watching Collateral Beauty. It is a great example that reminds us how connected we are to people within and outside our circle.

It is a story about Howard (Will Smith), a successful advertising executive who suffers deeply from the loss of his 6-year-old daughter.  Howard writes letters to the concepts of Death, Love and Time.  While others might say Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena) are really concerned about their financial situations, I feel they want to sincerely help their friend Howard through his grief.  The solution they come up with is a bit strange and might be viewed as cruel and making light of his grief. As Whit is proposing the plan, he realizes that when talking with his mother who has Alzheimer’s, that it is important to go and be inside the person and view through the world through their reality. He proposes giving Howard the opportunity to meet Death (Helen Mirren), Beauty (Keira Knightley) and Time (Jacob Latimore) face to face.  A troupe of struggling actors are hired, allegedly to help Howard’s friends prove he is unfit to continue managing the agency.  The underlying issue is that they all have a great deal to lose financially and want a remedy.

The thread running through all the characters is their connection to Death, Love and Time.  Whit looks for love with his daughter. Claire’s biological clock is running out for motherhood. And Simon is afraid of death. Collateral Beauty, filmed in various parts of New York, shows the busyness and excitement of New York City both day and night.  I enjoyed the music and the intensity of the scenes with Howard riding his bicycle against the traffic, not caring about his life.

I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Collateral Beauty opens Friday, December 16, 2016 in theaters across the country. Check it out for yourself and learn about Collateral Beauty for your life.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder By Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

November 16th, 2016

GentlemansGuide.jpgI had the pleasure of seeing the Tony- Award winning musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder at the Playhouse at Rodney Square, formerly the Dupont Theater in Wilmington, Delaware.  The Playhouse at Rodney Square continues to feel like a grand theater of yesteryear.

I am a fan of musicals.  When I was a young child, I wanted to be a tap dancer in a musical show.  A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder lives up to an award- winning musical production.  In each scene, lavish Edwardian decor of the sets put you in the time frame.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder is the story of a young man Monty Navarro (Kevin Massey) who discovers, to his great shock, that his unfortunate late mother was disinherited from the highborn D’Ysquith clan for marrying a Castilian musician for love.  Monty finds out he is ninth in line to inherit a dukedom and he decides to eliminate the other eight heirs standing in his way. Monty meets and eliminates them one by one.

I enjoyed watching Monty plan his way to dukedom.  It is so funny to watch all eight D’Ysquith heirs (John Rapson). Each character has distinctive look and personality as he portrays The Rev. Lord D’Ezekial, the buxom Lady Hyacinth, the pompousness of the reigning Lord Adalbert and the perkiness of the bright-eyed beekeeper Henry with whom he sings double-entendres in a mock-duet, “Better With a Man”).

One of my favorite numbers is the scene in which Monty tries to keep his latest love interest, Phoebe (Kristin Hahn), from discovering that his old flame, Sibella (Kristen Beth Williams) is in the other room.  It is very creative and the ladies’ beautiful voices blend to let us see Monty dilemma.

All the cast members are excellent singers, dances and actors. If you want to be entertained, learn a few tips about how to move to front of the line of heirs and entertain more than one love, go see A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder now playing at The Playhouse of Rodney Square, until November 20, 2016.

I recommend A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder for ages 14 to 18 and adults will enjoy it also. I give A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder 5 out of 5 stars.

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