Archive for May, 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd – True to the book and a Brilliant Performance by Carey Mulligan

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

FarfromMadding.jpgIn Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. This timeless story of Bathsheba’s choices and passions explores the nature of relationships and love – as well as the human ability to overcome hardships through resilience and perseverance. Willie J. comments, “When I saw that BBC had a hand in producing this picture I immediately knew a few things, 1) it would have a down tempo pace, 2) The acting would be good and 3) that the cinematography would be good. I was right about all three.” See his full review below. 

Far from the Madding Crowd
By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16

I had not read the book nor heard of the film Far From the Madding Crowd when I saw it. So, this review is from the point of view from someone with no prior background knowledge of the source material. Please keep that in mind, fans of the book.

When I saw that BBC had a hand in producing this picture I immediately knew a few things, 1) it would have a down tempo pace, 2) The acting would be good and 3) that the cinematography would be good. I was right about all three. Nevertheless, I had no expectations for the script which was inconsistent.

There are times when the dialogue flows well. The conversations fit the tone and nothing is over-the-top dramatic. And then, there are times when I rolled my eyes at the cliché lines. It’s that type of romance movie. It became apparent to me though, that the dialogue is specified to show character and relationships rather than good conversation. The dialogue succeeds in moving along the plot and expanding on the characters’ situations rather than creating conversational scenes. I can understand that, especially considering the genre of the movie. Yet, it still proved a bit problematic.

This film stars Carey Mulligan as an independent, head-strong protagonist and, what a wonderful job she does. She takes what could have been a very one-note character and makes her complex. Bathsheba (the protagonist) could have easily been portrayed as stubborn and inconsistent, but is instead portrayed as someone fighting for her equal rights as a woman and as a woman dealing with emotions for the first time. And, just her luck, she gets three men to fall in love with her. How about that for first relationship dealings?

The supporting cast does a fine job with a few hiccups. The standout among them is Michael Sheen who takes his supporting part and almost steals the show from the leading lady. Matthias Schoenaerts provides a steady consistency as the moral compass of the film and plays the untainted, instantly likable love interest well.

As for the aesthetics of the film, I was not disappointed. There are scenes of beautiful landscapes and breathtaking shots that aren’t necessarily needed, but are surely wanted for the eye-candy effect. They provide good transitions and help keep the pace of the movie in tact.

Because of the acting, cinematography and overall investing quality this film has over an audience, I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18. I’ll end on this note: I spoke to a couple of people at the theater after the film who had read the book. I asked them how accurate the film is and if it does the book justice. They both confidently said, “yes.” So, if you’re a fan of the book and were iffy about seeing the movie, I hope that testimonial might influence your decision to see this movie. This is playing in theaters now.


5 Flights Up – A Wonderful Humorous Drama About Aging and Change

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015


Based on a novel called “Heroic Measures” this is a charming film that many will resonate with. A long-time married couple spend a hectic weekend pondering the sale of the apartment they have shared for more than 40 years. They’ve spent their entire lives together in a gorgeous Brooklyn home only to realize now, when they want to move, what a nightmare it is to move in New York. Starring Morgan Freeman, Diane Keaton and Carrie Preston. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “From the storyline, it may seem that this film will be boring to kids. But, when I started watching this film I fell in love with it.” His full review is below.

5 Flights Up

Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13

From the storyline, it may seem that this film will be boring to kids. But, when I started watching this film I fell in love with it. Morgan Freeman’s perfect timing of jokes and Diane Keeton’s wonderful and priceless emotions make this film entertaining and heartfelt from the very start to the last second.

It is a bit hard to say what the main genre is. Of course, there is a lot of romance between the two characters, Alex (Morgan Freeman) and Ruth (Diane Keeton), there is also that funny side that makes it all that more enjoyable. And, there is still a serious dramatic side which keeps you on the edge of your seat till the end.

The story starts when an elderly couple, Ruth and Alex, live in a high up, massive apartment in New York City, Brooklyn actually. However, the five flight of stairs they need to take is getting more and more challenging so they decide to move to a location with an elevator. To add to the challenges, their dog is in the hospital undergoing treatment for spinal injury.

The director, Richard Loncraine makes this movie feel authentic and rustic and also shows how current society  stereotypes elderly people, how they truly feel about it and how wrong it is. The cast is wonderful and the acting is just superior with serious and comedy scenes mixed together and standing out all the time. I also like how they lightly touch upon problems of the past as well as problems of today. For example, Ruth and Alex got married in a time when bi-racial couples were not welcomed with open arms. Then it shows how today a gay couple is making an offer on a house. They submit it along with a note telling how they tried to adopt a child and finally  were able to adopt one. It is something Ruth and Alex wanted to do when they were younger but were denied.

My favorite scene is when they have an open house to sell their apartment and a huge crowd of people comes through, looking at everything and touching everything. Alex doesn’t like it but Ruth tries to see the positive side but fails. I like that scene because it shows how the couple’s life isn’t perfect and also makes the film feel very real. Not only this moment does that but many others as well.
This film has perhaps several moments of adult content but none that is too mature. I recommend it to kids ages 10 to18 and give it 5 out of 5 stars.