Jury Coordination and Notes

Forever My Girl – Beautiful Setting, Sappy Story

January 19th, 2018

After being gone for a decade a country star returns home to the love he left behind. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror, Kimbirly O. comments, “The setting is beautiful, a fictitious city in the south where everyone knows each other. The southern charm is palpable and warm. I was hoping for a solid romantic story about young love. What was delivered is the very element of sap, much like what is broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, complete with a happy ending.” See her full review below.

Forever My Girl
By Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

If you love a love story, especially in the vein of a Nicolas Sparks novel, this film is for you. The film is based on a novel written by a woman, Heidi McLaughlin and the screenplay is written and directed by a woman, Bethany Ashton Wolf.


Forever My Girl depicts a man who left his bride at the altar. This does not seem like a story any woman wants to tell. Given the marketing mentions Nicholas Sparks and seeking to attract his audiences, it tells me a lot about the studio’s lack of faith in the film.

I cannot lie, Forever My Girl did not set the bar high for a committed relationship, nor the reality of parenting. Liam (Alex Roe), the lead male character, left his beloved fiancé Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar to seek fame and fortune as a country singer. His success as a musician is colored with drug and alcohol abuse. After a decade on the road, a funeral in the quaint hometown of the country star brings him back in time to a life he led and seemed to love. The ease with which the lead actors fall back into rhythm with each other appears far-fetched, maximized by Liam learning he has an 8-year-old child he was never told of, Billy (Abby Ryder Fortson), who is by far the star of this film. Her sweetness and snarky delivery of lines mix to deliver a fantastic performance by a child actor.

The setting is beautiful, a fictitious city in the south where everyone knows each other. The southern charm is palpable and warm. I was hoping for a solid romantic story about young love. What was delivered is the very element of sap, much like what is broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, complete with a happy ending.

I give this film 3 of 5 stars for the casting of rising stars, charming location and music. This film will appeal to tween and teen audiences, ages 10 to 18. I caution younger viewing due to drug and alcohol use and abuse. It opens in theaters January 19, 2018 so, check it out.

Vermeer, Beyond Time – Rich in detail and history of Vermeer’s work and the time in which he lived.

December 20th, 2017

Vermeer, Beyond Time explores the life and work of one of the most loved, influential, and well-known artists, Johannes Vermeer. Images from his paintings have become part of our collective imagination and are instantly recognizable. KIDS FIRST! Juror Terry S. comments, “Those who are into art and art history and who want to know more about Vermeer’s technique and the time he lived in will particularly enjoy it.” See her full review below.

Vermeer, Beyond Time
By Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of seeing Vermeer’s paintings and scenes of modern day Holland, as well as museum goers viewing and admiring his works in the museums of Europe today.

Vermeer, Beyond Time is a documentary film portraying the interesting life and work  of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. Today he is admired and loved for well- known paintings such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “The Lacemaker,” “Girl by an Open Window” and others.

Narrated by well-known actor, comedian and musician Steve Martin who weaves a story of the trials and tribulations that Vermeer experienced in his short life. He died in 1672 at the age of 40, destitute and desperate.

What I found extremely interesting and was unaware of, is that after his death, twenty years later, in 1696, twenty-one of his works were sold and then disappeared for 150 years. They were discovered later, in the middle of the 19th century. Admired by masters of his time such as Rembrandt, Peter de Hooch as well as the writer Marcel Proust, he never got to see the fruits of his creative labor.

Born in 1645, Vermeer came from humble beginnings. At the age of 21, he married into wealth and his marriage changed the course of his life.  He fell in love with an older woman very different from him, had 15 children and a mother-in-law who was instrumental in his career. His life was imbued with his family of women.

Yet in his paintings, there is an element of mystery as he was known for silence, solitude and thought in his approach. When one looks at his paintings, it’s as if time disappears. Historians wonder why he painted so few pictures and yet for those known today, people are extremely passionate. His paintings tell stories and represent symbols of a society in Delft, which had a leading economy and was the richest city in Europe at that time. This is known as the golden age in Holland, as people were creating their own culture.

Vermeer had an intense engagement and admiration for women, and his paintings portray them in a refined manner. He painted elegant women and men of learning, and  introduced musical instruments into many of his paintings.

The film explores his techniques and approach in great detail.  One of his paintings created in the golden age of 1657-8, called “Little Street” is discussed as an exercise of the mind. It is suggested that perhaps the artist reinvented reality by imagining and creating a house as the central character, with a woman doing needlework, a servant girl cleaning the yard and a small boy and girl at play.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18 as well as adults. Those who are into art and art history and who want to know more about Vermeer’s technique and the time he lived in will particularly enjoy it. It is rich in detail and history of that time. This film is available now on DVD so be sure to check it out.

The MeshugaNutcracker – Fantastic Musical Comedy for the Holiday Seasona

December 16th, 2017

Fathom events and Guggenheim Entertainment present The MeshugaNutcracker! This Chanukah musical will play in select cinemas nationwide for a special one-night event on Tuesday, December 19, 2017. This musical comedy features the wonderfully silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools) underscored by an invigorating Klezmer-ized orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” including original lyrics that celebrate Chanukah. Add in dancing dreidels, singing sufganiot, and surprise guest stars and you have the perfect recipe for a holiday outing! Jews and non-Jews alike will delight in this original musical celebrating all things Chanukah. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Maria G. comments, “This full-length musical comedy is not afraid of getting a bit silly with its several stories and performances. It is fantastic musical to experience during this holiday season, filled with amazing performances, beautiful costumes and songs that will motivate you to sing along.” See her full review below.

The MeshugaNutcracker
By Maria G., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 18

The MeshugaNutratcker is not your average Christmas musical.This full-length musical comedy is not afraid of getting a bit silly with its several stories and performances. It is fantastic musical to experience during this holiday season, filled with amazing performances, beautiful costumes and songs that will motivate you to sing along. This is a must see family musical that you, like me are sure to enjoy watching.


‘Tis the season for celebrating Chanukah in the first ever Jewish centered musical comedy, The MeshugaNutcracker which takes place in the small fictional town of Chelm where you will relive eight distinct stories, all relating to the story of Chanukah. The whole performance captures and compliments the essence of the original songs that celebrate the story of Chanukah. In the new state of Israel, The MeshugaNutcracker recounts the story of Judah Maccabee, the perseverance of the Holocaust and the celebration of the first Chanukah, all while being filled with silliness and glee.

The acting in this musical is Emmy Award worthy and is performed by a group of actors that came together to produce a grand piece. From the producers to the writers to the actors, we see the results of a team of talented individuals that bring this show to life. Written and directed by Scott Evan Guggenheim, Shannon Guggenheim and Stephen Guggenheim, the musical comedy features the silly sensibilities of the folklore of Chelm (a fictional town of fools), an invigorating orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite,” and eight talented actors including Jackson Davis, Lynda DiVito, Susan Gundunas, Jeremy Kreamer, Benjamin Pither, Krista Wigle.

Whether or not you partake in the celebration of Chanukah, this two-hour musical will capture your heart in so many amazing ways. My favorite parts are the costumes and production itself. The eye catching and distinct vibrant color of each character’s costume gives them a unique identity. The costume designs are particularly interesting with all the Jewish symbols that are used. The symbols help to embodying the Jewish culture throughout the film. Furthermore, I enjoyed watching the production aspects of the musical and seeing how they transition from different scenes in a matter of seconds. The production team switches from different sets and props in the blink of an eye.

From the phenomenal acting to the original songs, this is the perfect musical comedy to watch with your whole family during this holiday season, particularly if you are Jewish. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18. This film is being brought to select theaters through Fathom Events on December 19, 2017 so check your local theater for details.


Ferdinand – Delightful Animated Treasure

December 14th, 2017

Ferdinand is a young bull who escapes from a training camp in rural Spain after his father never returns from a showdown with a matador. Adopted by a girl who lives on a farm, Ferdinand’s peaceful existence comes crashing down when the authorities return him to his former captors. With help from a wisecracking goat and three hedgehogs, the giant but gentle bovine must find a way to break free before he squares off against El Primero, the famous bullfighter who never loses. KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror Kimbirly O. comments, “Along with the animation, the messages in this film are beautiful. Be yourself is the overall theme.” See her full review below.

By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Juror

Ferdinand, a book published in 1936 as Ferdinand The Bull, is now a delightful animated major motion picture from 20th Century Fox. My favorite parts of this film are the animation, especially the rain scene, and the casting.

Ferdinand is voiced by John Cena, known as a WWE pro-wrestler! Selecting Mr. Cena for this role is brilliant. His soft and calm voice brings life to a bull who is not like the rest of the herd. He is peaceful, while all the other bulls in the pen long to fight “El Primo,” Spain’s best bullfighter.

Along with the animation, the messages in this film are beautiful. Be yourself is the overall theme. Ferdinand helps his friends along as they seek to find out who they are, beyond their furry exteriors and reputations as bulls, and sometimes, bullies.

Ferdinand, knowing he does not want to fight in the bullring, has an opportunity to run away from ‘Case de Toro’ and finds a new home with a family in a neighboring town. Not only is his new home filled with love and a loving little girl, but it is also a flower farm. Flowers are Ferdinand’s favorite things! The scenes of how he grows up with the little girl and her family are precious and laugh-out-loud funny!

The sweet story of a peaceful bull takes a turn after Ferdinand mistakenly creates a mishap and gets captured. He is mistaken for a beast and sadly, recaptured and sent back to Casa del Toro. As he ultimately gets selected for the ring, the lessons he shares with his pen mates are relatable to everyone.

Like most animated films, all the animals talk and delight with their comical antics. The hedgehogs made me laugh out loud! The most significant surprise, as the film credits rolled, is to learn that one character, Guapo, is voiced by NFL great, retired Denver Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning! Is there anything he can’t do?

Ferdinand is a must-see for the whole family with humor throughout, great music, lessons for all and now, enjoying the adulation of awards season. Ferdinand is nominated for two Golden Globes and four Annie Awards.

40th Denver Film Festival by Kimbirly Orr, KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

November 24th, 2017

The Denver Film Society celebrated four decades while delivering 150+ films over twelve days, sponsored by 93 companies. The breadth of cinema selected entertained many and, as the non-profit Festival reported, ticket sales were up 20% over the 2016 Denver Film Festival. Denver’s annual Film Festival is indeed an international affair. Filmmakers attended from 56 countries and talented filmmakers, directors, producers and actors were on-hand to mix with film fans and discuss their films and passions.

This event is about more than screening films. It is an essential entertainment lover’s guide to what’s hot – from red carpets to late-night lounges, film shorts, live reads, virtual reality demos and real-world conversations around issues such as immigrants and refugee conversations. Specifically, the Film Festival partnered with organizations throughout Denver working to benefit the immigrants and refugees who have just started to call Colorado home.

As the world becomes a digital entertainment hub, virtual reality, interactive mixed-media and immersive performance have been added to the festival and storytelling. The Denver Film Society also partnered with the University of Colorado Denver College of Arts & Media to showcase student films. It is always exciting to see new and exciting ways that talented artists are entertaining and inspiring audiences.

I had an opportunity to screen four films: Lady Bird, Molly’s Game, Chappaquiddick and I, Tonya. Of these films, Lady Bird was my favorite. Awards pundits are already wagging about Saoirse Ronan’s performance.  The coming of age plot showcased the Mother-Daughter tie, strong wills and matriculation through teenage angst. Ms. Ronan’s performance is amazing, as are the lessons she learns and shares along the way.

Molly’s Game is based on the true story of Colorado native, Molly Bloom, an Olympic hopeful whose injury derailed her Olympic dreams. Jessica Chastain portrays Molly and delivers a performance I hope will be rewarded with Best Actress. From athlete to entrepreneur, Molly ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade in Los Angeles and New York, before being arrested by the FBI. The narrative throughout the film was riveting.

I, Tonya was promoted as the Denver Film Festival Closing Night Red Carpet. Of the films I saw, this was my least favorite and weakest of the marquis selections. It did not captivate me. Real-life Olympian Tonya Harding’s character is presented as a tragic. For the first-time, I felt a lot of sympathy for Ms. Harding. While she was a champion on the ice, she did not have a champion in her life. Margot Robbie is believable and nearly unrecognizable as the disgraced figure-skater. Allison Janney portrays her mother and delivers a brilliant performance. This dark comedy, told documentary-style, is engaging. The constant smoking or extinguished cigarettes on ice skate blades was a big turn-off.

Screening Chappaquiddick near the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was a mind-meld. The reflections about JFK and the family’s staunch political mainstay were top of mind throughout a film presenting the infamous auto accident which derailed Ted Kennedy’s political aspirations. Jason Clarke portrays Ted Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy is portrayed as weak and controlled by his stroke-ridden father (Brice Dern), a very ill, older man. While the film does not sway the viewer about what happened one fateful night, it does showcase how tightly-knit the Kennedy clan was and the mystique which follows this beloved and politically astute family.

The Red-Carpet events seem to get better every year. The 2017 Denver Film Festival brought several household names to town including: Kyra Sedgwick, Director of Story Of A Girl (Directorial Debut); Aaron Sorkin, Writer and Director of Molly’s Game; Bill Pullman, Actor in Ballad Of Lefty Brown. Along with A-list talent, several after-parties were hosted including a benefit for Wish of a Lifetime, founded by Colorado-born Jeremy Bloom, following the screening Molly’s Game, a film based on his sister Molly’s life.

The Denver Film Festival published a fantastic film guide which delineates every synopsis and screening opportunity as well as special events, information about talent and more. The conversations about real-world topics, such as immigration, human trafficking and more were a new opportunity to connect with like-minded fans. A unique and fun addition included a Shakespearean Star Wars read. Say what? True.

It’s worth it to take time off in November, fly to Denver and participate. Living the Film Festival is the best way to Fest in Denver! After 40 years, the event additions, exhibits, Red-Carpet events and parties continue to Wow and celebrate the entire gamut of the current entertainment scene.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – Stunning Performance by Denzel Washington

November 21st, 2017

Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a dramatic thriller set in the underbelly of the overburdened Los Angeles criminal court system. Denzel Washington stars as Roman Israel, a driven, idealistic defense attorney who, through a tumultuous series of events, finds himself in a crisis that leads to extreme action. Colin Farrell costars as the monied, cutthroat lawyer who recruits Roman to his firm. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Juanita L. comments, “I love Denzel Washington as an actor, director and man.  Denzel once again shows his excellent acting skills portraying a civil rights attorney who has worked behind the scenes for more than three decades.” See her full review below.

Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Reviewed by Juanita Seon Leary, KIDS FIRST!  Adult Juror

As Roman J. Israel, Esq., Denzel Washington is outstanding. His law partner, William Henry Jackson had more of a stomach for the grinding inequality of the justice system and served as the face of the firm, while Roman kept to himself.

Jackson becomes ill and eventually dies. His family follows his wishes and, to dissolve the firm, brings in a slick, well-dressed, high-price attorney George (Colin Farrell) to do the job. George is an interesting character and Farrell is plays the part well. First I thought George was the antagonist – a soulless, greedy lawyer who only cared about his retainer. However, George sees something in Roman and offers him a job at his large law practice. Roman resists at first, but money troubles make him reconsider.

Roman is brilliant and quite possibly has Aspergers syndrome (it is not entirely clear about this.) He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the law, but isn’t so good at interacting with other people. He also seems to be trapped in the 70s, unaware of how his familiarity of the culture has changed. We see many examples of his inability to interact with people. In one courtroom scene he disagrees with the plea options for a young offender and he voices his displeasure.  The judge declares him in contempt and fines him.

One of my favorite scenes is when Roman shows up at a non-profit agency that fights for legal rights of the underprivileged as he offers his services to Maya (Carmen Ejogo). She is inspired and moved by his commitment and informs him that everyone volunteers. They develop a friendship and Roman appears as a guest speaker. It becomes clear to Roman that the justice system and the people have changed. And, it ignites his passion to make a change.

The message of this film is about one man’s ferocious commitment to a greater good, to lost causes and to connecting to what he believed in at the beginning. A fighter for those who cannot fight for themselves, he is unique, a lawyer who believes in the law and his clients.

The film contains violence, strong language, drinking, drug use and sexuality. This could be an interesting film for mature teens interested in legal drama. I recommend this film for ages 16 to 18 as well as adults. I give it 5 out of 5 stars! Roman Israel, Esq. opens in theaters November 22, 2017. Go see it and find out more about this unique lawyer.

SAG-AFTRA – Power Of Portrayal – Inspiring Performances Driving Social Change

November 12th, 2017

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research based non-profit working with the entertainment and media community to improve gender diversity in children’s media including more positive role models, equality of opportunity and diverse representation on screen.

On November 6, 2017 at the newly built SAG/AFTRA – Robin Williams Center in New York City, an inspiring group of six strong, diverse women from the film, television and sports world spoke about their personal careers and life journeys, looking for the strong women parts and opportunities.

Led by Madeline Di Nonno, CEO, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, the panelists included: Gabrielle Carteris, President, SAG-AFTRA; Swin Cash, Athlete/Sports Analyst; Megan Boone, Actor; Alysia Reiner, Actor and Activist; Maggie Siff – Actor and Producer. The women first spoke of choice and pivotal moments in their careers and in life, then about having a voice and power. Here are some highlights and take aways reported by each of the women.

Gabrielle Carteris, widely known for her role as Andrea, a studious newspaper editor in Beverly Hills, 90210 says that role was a transformational opportunity that changed her life.  It gave her great courage.  She still receives comments about this role, which had an incredible impact on her life and reflected society. As the president of Sag-AFTRA, she never imagined herself in this position, yet felt prepared having worked with Ken Howard, the prior President.  She believes being of service is the highest calling and also believes in paying it forward and using power for the good. This was a pivotal moment for her – exciting and frightening at the same time.

Swin Cash got recognition from playing basketball and, in the eighth grade got a modeling opportunity.  She focused on academics, majored in drama and theater and continued to play in sports. She was the first girl and first African American to be in the WNBA when it was started twenty plus years ago. She reached out to Robin Roberts as a mentor, when Robin was at ESPN, to help her make choices with her career. Currently she is the female lead on We Need to Talk a CBS Sports Network first-ever, nationally televised all female, weekly sports show. She rose from humble beginnings, inspired by her grandmother who owned her own home and encouraged her to create wealth. Service is an important part of her life as founder of both Swin Cash Enterprises LLC and Cash Building Blocks, LP, an urban development company that renovates and offers affordable homes for low-income families.  An Olympic medal winner in 2004, she feels her service to help women and underprivileged kids is essential.

Maggie Siff, grew up in an acting, academic and artistic family, went to Bronx High School of Science and then to Bryn Mawr College.  She got her MFA at NYU and started her career in theater.  Her first big break, in her 30s, was the role of Rachel on Madmen, never imagining a role in film and television. She didn’t think she belonged there. She auditioned many times for this iconic role, which she thought read like an amazing film script or play. In its 1958 setting, Rachel was an unusual character for that time, as the female head of a department store.  She connected to this character, claiming it was very familiar. The other point she made is that the writer’s room on this program had more female and diverse writers which made a great difference in character portrayal. Currently, she plays a powerful in-house performance coach and therapist to the head of a hedge fund company on Billionaire.  She claims women appreciate her in this professional role, committed to both her job and family. She uses Tony Robbins as her inspiration to step into her “biggest self.”

Alysia Reiner struggled in her 20s and 30s with her acting career and wondered if she should stay or go. It took a long time to get a part and her advice is to live your life and find your joy, while you are in that struggle. Early on, she did a one-woman show portraying Virginia Woolf at the Edenborough Festival.  She went through a period of grief and loss when her father died of cancer in ten days and was inspired to do a grief counseling film as a way of coping.  As an activist, she believes in art as science and has a deep respect for all women in all fields that create change and make a difference. She loves working on an all women crew for the freedom it provides. Orange is the New Black, the show she currently works on, has a 90% male crew, which gives it quite a different feel.  She is a strong advocate to be in service, and works for the women’s prison association in Tulsa, Oklahoma to aid incarcerated women.

Megan Boone studied theater and struggled socially as a young woman. She was bullied while a student at Florida State Theater.  She studied with Jane Alexander and Ed Sherin, and in an impulse exercise with them, she decided to stick with acting. Her struggles led to an audition on Blacklist for the role of Liz Keene. She knew this was her part.  Megan is working on a sustainable business degree, as she is concerned with our natural environment.  As an advocate for policy change, inspired by Corey Booker and Kristen Gillebrand, she works for solutions in the public/private sector.

The panel stressed the importance of service in these most difficult times we live in and how we need to continue the fight for gender, race and the natural world.

By Terry Solowey

Nana – Deeply Touching Documentary about A Nana Who Survived the Holocaust

November 4th, 2017

Nana, Reviewed by Terry Solowey

I have seen many films and documentaries about the Holocaust. However, as a first generation American Jew, this film touched me deeply and left an impact on me like no other. The story is narrated and directed by Serena Dykman, granddaughter of Maryla Michalowski-Dynamant who is her nana.

Two years ago, a NYU film student, Serena, 22 years old, was in her hometown of Brussels, Belgium at the time of the bombing of the Jewish Museum prior to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris. She had been traveling with her grandmother’s memoirs for a while and couldn’t bring herself to read them. The attacks were the impetus to read her nana’s memoirs and make this incredible documentary about the life of her grandmother growing up in Poland, the onset of WWII, her plight in Auschwitz and post-war.

Nana, a survivor and Polish Jew, dedicated her life to talk about her experiences.  As a fighter and activist against intolerance, and the importance of liberty and democracy, she tirelessly spoke to students at schools, to journalists and to government officials. She led many groups to Auschwitz to show them her living quarters and fiercely told them about what she endured. Her strength, courage and tenacity impressed me deeply. In talking about such adversity, her sense of humor, “How do you like my apartment?” stopped my tears with a light moment of laughter.  Her mission: to never forget.

There are so many touching moments in this film that make a powerful impression. In one interview, she passionately talks about “the magnificent gift of fifty years of life” that she was given after the Holocaust, compelling her to talk for those who didn’t make it, exclaiming, “I had to speak out” to those who denied the Holocaust. “I had to let young people know what can happen if we support regimes like Hitler’s and others.”

In one of her talks, she was asked by a group of young people why Hitler chose to exterminate Jews and she replied, “Hitler didn’t confide in me.” The audience explodes with laughter as her wry sense of humor cuts the tension. In another scene, she talks about the need to look at the history of anti-Semitism and why it happened. She believes Hitler was manic depressive and mentally ill. “Why did the Germans who were not mentally ill vote for him? This is where we have to look for the why.”

This inspirational film is a must see. A story within a story, there are so many authentic personal stories including her memoir writer collaborator, recorder of survivor testimonies, Jewish history teacher and educational project designer among those who knew her well. Ms. Dykman’s footage is complemented by the archival footage that turned up unexpectedly.

In witnessing the three generations of women, nana left her daughter Alice and her granddaughter Serena a legacy to carry on. They do it with a strength and courage in the spirit of their nana. In today’s world, with the rise of anti-Semitism and racism, it is more relevant than ever.

I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend it to 10 to 18 year olds as well as adults. It is in French with English subtitles. You can see NANA at film festivals across the United States. For more information, visit www:nanafilm.com.

Marshall – 1940s Legal thriller Based on a True Story about Thurgood Marshall

October 19th, 2017

Young Thurgood Marshall faces one of his greatest challenges while working as a lawyer for the NAACP. Marshall travels to conservative Connecticut when wealthy socialite Eleanor Strubing accuses black chauffeur Joseph Spell of sexual assault and attempted murder. He soon teams up with Sam Friedman, a local Jewish lawyer who’s never handled a criminal case. Together, the two men build a defense while contending with racist and anti-Semitic views from those who deem Spell to be guilty. KIDS FIRST! Reviewer Juanita L. comments, “For me, this film brought back my experience as a young person who lived in Virginia and experienced the separate but equal in my education.”  See her full review below.

By Juanita L., KIDS FIRST!  Adult Juror

I enjoyed watching and experiencing Marshall.  The 1940s legal thriller is the story about a dozen years before young Thurgood Marshall challenged segregation’s separate but equal premise in Brown v. Board of Education.  For me, this film brought back my experience as a young person who lived in Virginia and experienced the separate but equal in my education.

Chadwick Boseman captures the essence of Thurgood Marshall’s spirit. He brings the confidence, intelligence, cockiness as well as the charm and humor of Thurgood. It is an exciting performance from Hollywood’s go-to-guy for playing important Black Americans.

There are many parts that I enjoyed. When Marshall meets Sam Friedman (Josh Gad), we see his cockiness from the moment he steps off the train in Bridgeport, CT., ordering his white co-counsel, Sam Friedman, to carry his bags. Another enjoyable scene is the Harlem night club with Marshall and his friends, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

The cinematography is outstanding. One scene when Marshall and Friedman are in the men’s room, it looks as if they are in the mirror together, however you can see them individually.  With its excellent role models and strong messages about courage, teamwork and tolerance, this film is a great movie for teens and families. You can expect to see fist fights and beatings, with bloody wounds and bruises. There’s also a flashback to a suggested rape, with violent acts against a woman. There is a mild sex scene which includes kissing, however there is no nudity. Language includes several uses of the “N” word as well as “kike.” Characters drink alcohol and there is background smoking.

This film celebrates standing up and courageously risking your own safety to fight against popular opinion and against difficult odds.  The movie is about tolerance in a way that’s more matter-of-fact than self-righteous. Characters work together in an effective way.

I recommend this film for ages 14 to 18 as well as adults and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Marshall opens Friday, October 13, 2017 in theaters across the country. Be entertained while learning about American history and a very powerful and influential man.

I Called Him Morgan – Unforgettable and Haunting Documentary

October 16th, 2017

An exploration of the relationship between jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen, who was implicated in his murder in 1972. KIDS FIRST! Juror, Terry S. comments, “This haunting documentary about the life of a great jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife Helen is one I will not soon forget. ” See her full review below.

I Called Him Morgan
By Terry S., KIDS FIRST! Juror

This haunting documentary about the life of a great jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife Helen is one I will not soon forget. Swedish filmmaker Kasper Collin weaves the tale of their lives and their relationship through interviews with his friends and fellow musicians including saxophonist Wayne Shorter. He caps it off with an interview with Helen a month before her death in 1996.  Through extraordinary black and white archival photographs, rare TV performances and an amazing soundtrack of Lee’s music, we are transported to the NYC jazz scene from the 50s to the 70s.

As a music aficionado, I was aware of jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey, but not of Lee Morgan.  The footage of his trumpet playing with these masters really drew me in.  As one friend said in the film, “Lee really knew how to tell a story musically.”  His was an exceptional talent as a young teenager of 17.

However, his addiction to heroin took him out and it wasn’t until he met Helen, that he got back on his feet to play. Through her care, inspiration and love, she managed his career and uplifted him back to compose and play music and eventually form his own band, The Lee Morgan Quartet.

Lee had years of success playing not only clubs in the East but also on the West Coast.  Some of my favorite parts of the documentary include footage on a TV show called “Soul”, where he dedicates a piece to the activist Angela Davis entitled “Angela”, and another TV show hosted by Steve Allen, a talk show host popular at the time. The other favorite part was with the jazz mobile workshop where he worked with young people on musical arrangements and gave them a chance to play and learn from him.  

The twist and turns of Lee and Helen’s life together end tragically when Lee plays at a popular club called Slugs, down in the East Village of NYC.  On a snowy night in February 1972, his life is cut short at the young age of 33 by the woman who had brought him back to life. Following an altercation between sets, Morgan’s common law wife Helen Moore, shot him.

I give this film 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it to ages 13 to 18 as well as adult jazz lovers.  You can catch I Called Him Morgan on DVD and Blu-ray beginning October 31, 2017.



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