Archive for September, 2015

Pawn Sacrifice: Cold War Board Game Battle Between U.S. and Russia

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

pawnSacrifice.214250.jpgIn this gripping true story set during the height of the Cold War, American chess prodigy Bobby Fischer (Tobey Maguire) finds himself caught between two superpowers when he challenges the Soviet Empire. Pawn Sacrifice chronicles Fischer’s terrifying struggles with genius and madness, and the rise and fall of a kid from Brooklyn who captured the imagination of the world. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Willie J. comments, “Tobey Maguire gives the performance of his career. His nuanced, detailed and invested performance as Bobby Fischer provides most of this movie’s appeal.” Will S. adds, “The story in Pawn Sacrifice is exciting, interweaving Fischer’s personal struggles with paranoia and the incredible tension of the Cold War.” See their full reviews below.

Pawn Sacrifice

By Willie Jones, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 16

I had no expectations going into the film. Biopics are really a 50/50 sort of deal, especially today. Biopics have been recycling the same plots for years now, so the only thing that can separate them are the performances and style of the director. Pawn Sacrifice is different from other biopics for those very reasons.

Tobey Maguire gives the performance of his career. His nuanced, detailed and invested performance as Bobby Fischer provides most of this movie’s appeal. He never loses his intensity in the movie and is motivated with every decision he makes as an actor, so his character’s decisions seem just as assured and focused. Audiences are naturally drawn to that.

Maguire is supported by Liev Schreiber, Peter Sarsgaard, and Michael Stuhlbarg. They all give fantastic performances, but they’re all layered. That’s my favorite thing about them. They aren’t one dimension and they don’t fall by the waste side as many supporting characters in biopics do. They’ve got their own passions and motivations and side effects to the plot and all that good stuff.

Secondly, and most importantly, the number one thing that keeps us invested is the story. Since I’ve seen the movie, I still can’t quite put my finger on why it is as addicting as it is. I have gone over it in my head continually and as I piece the themes together I finally get a common theme: obsession. The characters in this movie are relentless in their journey. But that’s not enough. There are plenty of bad movies with motivated characters. So I asked myself about the style of the Willie1.jpgmovie. It features some nice editing but it isn’t anything special.

Finally, I went to the main focus of the movie: chess. That’s what keeps us involved. It’s the fact that, probably for the first time in our lives, most of us are witnessing chess taken so seriously. In this movie, we see chess as more than a board game. In this Cold War set movie, chess represents America vs. the Soviets. It represents escape and fulfillment. Those kinds of stakes for a game we often pass over takes us by surprise and we can’t help but get drawn in.

Actually, as I walked out of the theater, I heard someone comment, “This movie made me want to play chess.” It didn’t have the same effect on me, but I can see how it might  have.

With that said, the movie does get off to a rocky start, including a sequence when they show Bobby at age 12, which is pretty bad. I understand that Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is a young actor, but he wasn’t very good. It was very one note and not believable. It actually seems out of place among the rest of the movie. I mean, it doesn’t help that the dialogue is really bad for that portion and doesn’t get the film off to a great start. But when it picks up a head of steam, it keeps you on the ride.

I give this movie 4 1/2 out of 5 stars and I recommend it for ages 10 to 18. It opens nationwide on September 16 so check it out.

Pawn Sacrifice

By Will S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

The story in Pawn Sacrifice is exciting, interweaving Fischer’s personal struggles with paranoia and the incredible tension of the Cold War. Pawn Sacrifice stars Tobey Maguire, Liev Schreiber and Peter Sarsgaard. Directed by Edward Zwick, it follows the story of Bobby Fischer who is trying to become the best chess player in the world during the tense Cold War period of the sixties and seventies. He goes up against thousands of opponents and beats them all in order to play the best player of his time, the Soviet Boris Spassky, at the 1972 World Chess Championships in Reykjavik, Iceland.

The cast in Pawn Sacrifice portray their characters exceptionally well, especially Liev Schreiber as Boris Spassky. Though I didn’t want to root for the Russian, I felt much more sympathetic to his character than Bobby Fisher’s.  Tobey Maguire is convincing as Bobby Fischer, but Fischer’s personality is so paranoid, irritating and selfish and he treats others, including those who love him, so badly, that he is unlikable and hard to root for.Will_Schoeninger_2015.jpg

Though I root for the U.S. to win, Fischer’s personality leaves me torn.  As the movie progresses, I start to like Boris Spassky more and more.  Liev Schreiber makes Spassky a sympathetic character.  Spassky is calm and even understanding of the mental-emotional struggles Fischer is going through.  Bobby’s friends are also enjoyable characters and are always there to help him through the tough games.

Since the Cold War never escalates into full-blown military battles, cultural competitions between the Americans and Soviets, such as the race to the moon, this chess match, and the miracle on ice, are high-profile confrontations. With that background, the plot keeps you intrigued all the way through and puts you back in that tense, scary time period by interspersing old news footage throughout the film. On a personal level, the portrayal of Fischer’s deteriorating mental state is realistic, but sad.  Even though he completes the historic match, his personal demons get the best of him in the end.

If you watched, listened to, or read about this chess match live in 1972, I think you will love this movie.  If you didn’t see the match, you will still be gripped by the history and the passion of all the characters involved.  I would give Pawn Sacrifice a four out of five stars and recommend it to ages 14 to 18.

The Transporter Refueled – A Reboot of An Action Series With Mixed Reviews

Monday, September 7th, 2015

TransporterRefueled.jpgThere are many mixed reviews on this film which opened this weekend. Many people were disappointed that Jason Statham was replaced by nzewcomer Ed Skrein. The story follows a former special-ops mercenary, Frank Martin, now living a less perilous life – or so he thinks – transporting classified packages for questionable people. When Frank’s father (Ray Stevenson) pays him a visit in the south of France, their father-son bonding weekend takes a turn for the worse when Frank is engaged by a cunning femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), and her three seductive sidekicks to orchestrate the bank heist of the century. Our reviewers also had mixed reactions. Tre’ana H., age 11 comments, “The Transporter Refueled is an action-packed, thriller and crime film. The director Camille Delamarre delivers this spine-chiller in a way that keeps you in suspense the whole time.” Willie J, age 16 adds, “I think this movie is very average. As a person who knows films and has seen plenty of action films, this movie offers nothing special.” See their full reviews below.

The Transporter Refueled
By Tre’ana H., age 11, 2015 KIDS FIRST! Film Critic

The Transporter Refueled is an action-packed, thriller and crime film. The director Camille Delamarre delivers this spine-chiller in a way that keeps you in suspense the whole time. Their fashion is sleek and sophisticated.

This film takes place in the south of France where Frank Martin (Ed Skrein) enters into a world full of trouble. His father Frank Senior (Ray Stevenson) goes to visit his son for a weekend without knowing what he will encounter. Frank is the Uber person that transports you wherever you want to go without any questions being asked. He stumbles upon trouble when he is engaged by a cunning sinister women Anna (Loan Chabanol) and her three seductive sidekicks to orchestrate the bank heist of the century. He must use his courageous skills with his super fast Audi and slick women to outrun a Russian kingpin. But, it is not over because the women want revenge. This is the beginning. That’s all I can reveal.

My favorite part is when Frank Martin and Anna and her three side chicks are leaving the club after they terrorized the patrons. Frank gets into an altercation outside and puts all the women in the car and tells them not to touch anything. While he is fighting, the car rolls down the ramp by itself. It is awesome! I really enjoyed that part.

The message of the film is to love your children dearly, no matter how hard it gets and don’t ever give up on them for money.

I recommend this film for ages 13 to 18 and give it 3 out of 5 stars because it did not really keep my interest. Also, I feel this is inappropriate film for children under the age of 13 but people older will appreciate it.

This movie is in theaters now so, if you’re over the age of 13, check it out.

The Transporters Refueled
by Willie J, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic age 16

have to start this review off by saying that I have not seen the previous three previous Transporter films. I am reviewing this film as it stands on its own and not as the fourth sequel in the franchise so take my criticism with that in mind, for better or for worse.

With that said, I think this movie is very average. As a person who knows films and has seen plenty of action films, this movie offers nothing special. It has some nice moments, but there are plenty of mistakes that could have, and should have been, been avoided. What I do know from the series is that Jason Statham is replaced in this film so it is like a re-birth for a new era. If that is the case then, it’s not off to a great start. But, it’s not off to bad one either.
The best parts of the film are the action sequences. They are things of beauty, filled with excitement, vivacity and cool effects. There are good performances for a film of this kind, especially from Ray Stevenson. There’s even a nice twist towards the end.

But, there is an awful romantic subplot, with inconsistent characterization.  The fact is that this action movie is no different than any other action movie as you’ll see. It’s entertaining, yet forgettable.

For fans of the series, I’m sorry I can’t help you more. I liked it for the most part and I’m not a fan. So perhaps that means you’ll like it even more than me. I hope so.

I give it 2 1/2 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 15 to 18. Some of the content pushes its rating. Some of which had me question what the original cut looked like. This film is in theaters now.