Archive for October, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House – Engaging Historical Drama

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

Lifelong G-Man Mark Felt, aka “Deep Throat,” leaks information to the press that helps to uncover the Watergate scandal of 1974. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Tristan T. comments, “While educational, offering a peek into the often hidden parts of our nations’ government, this film is also entertaining.” Kimbirly O, KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror adds, “Given this film is created from Felt’s 2006 autobiography and published a year after he revealed his identity as “Deep Throat” to Vanity Fair, the film does not deliver on the juicy details and unveiling I expected. The most appealing part of the movie is the historical retrospective of the film.” See their full reviews below.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
By Tristan T., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14

While educational, offering a peek into the often hidden parts of our nations’ government, this film is also entertaining.  The writer/director, Peter Landesman shows authenticity while keeping us engaged. It is based on the true story about the anonymous whistle blower in the Watergate scandal from the 1970s, who we later learned was Mark Felt.

I really enjoy time-era pieces.  This is a historical drama based in the 1970s, so between the costuming and set props, it is fun to learn more about life during that time in history. 

Not surprising, one of my favorite characters is Mark Felt (Liam Neeson).  He always plays more stoic roles, where he is demanding, but deserving of respect.  It is funny to see him look older with white hair, and I did miss that he did not have any action scenes in this film. But, I also like that we catch a glimpse into his personal life too – one that is relatable, and sometimes full of conflict and pain.

There is not one particular scene that is my favorite. What I enjoyed the most is when Mark Felt had secret meetings with his colleagues Ed Miller (Tony Goldwyn) and Charlie Bates (Josh Lucas).  It was nice to see their loyalty to each other and to their work.  When learning about Watergate, this is often an unknown part of the process.

This quote from Peter Landesman speaks of why this film took so long to hit the screens. “In my worldview, events are not about history—events are about human beings. I’m fascinated by people under pressure and in crisis, and what happens to them and what they do.”  I find it interesting that this film was started in 2005 and did not come to completion until now.  This speaks to how much investigating they did for the production.

This film is rated PG-13 for language, although I didn’t find it overly profane.  I recommend this film for ages 12 to 18, provided the viewer has some understanding the Watergate scandal. Otherwise I think they will get bored.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.  It opens October 13, 2017 in select theaters so be sure to check it out.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
By Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

The opening of the film lead me to believe deep secrets would unfold. Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) encounters his former colleague Bill Sullivan (Tom Sizemore) and they exchange words recapping what appears to be a professional rivalry for the viewer’s benefit. This film is an historical drama about men (FBI employees) whose job is to analyze every detail and research and report discrepancies. There are times when things do not add up. Mark often comments, “The President has no power over the FBI.”

Given this film is created from Felt’s 2006 autobiography and published a year after he revealed his identity as “Deep Throat” to Vanity Fair, the film does not deliver on the juicy details and unveiling I expected. The most appealing part of the movie is the historical retrospective of the film. At times, the details are unappealing, as the characters are hard to follow. The film flows well, although it took me a few minutes to determine which characters were members of the FBI and who else was in the room. As the film moves on, the characters develop into an amazing working team. I empathized with Mark Felt throughout the film. I felt the Director could have given us more insight into the walls of the institution where Felt worked for 31 years, and whose integrity he sought to protect from the interference of the Nixon White House officials.

When J. Edgar Hoover dies and Felt is passed over for his position, L. Patrick Gray III (Marton Csokas), a close Nixon ally, replaces Hoover as head of the FBI. Mark’s integrity and hard work for more than 30 years are overlooked by the good-old-boy White House network. Leadership knows Mark is dangerous, given what he knows. When the Watergate break-in occurs, the FBI demands a 48-hour wrap and Mark knows this is the beginning of the end of the position he has served loyally and with integrity, even if he decides that spilling secrets is the best way to protect the FBI and manage his way out of an unmanageable situation.

While the office scenes are bland and the meetings with Bob Woodward (Julian Morris) in the parking garage seem contrived, there is substantial interest during sessions with Time Magazine’s reporter Sandy Smith (Bruce Greenwood), who realizes Mark Felt is breaking his tight-lipped manner as Felt finally gives way. He tells Mark, “The FBI must be terrified of you.” The characters are hard-hitting FBI employees. Their job is to serve and protect, even if it means keeping secrets to protect their peers, boss or the White House administration. For the most part, the characters are seen as positive stand-up men. It is only when Mark Felt makes a decision that  we see his character stray, yet it is portrayed with shocking beauty. This film, based on true-facts, is brilliant. Many times, I found myself wanting to research more about this era, and the real men portrayed in the film.

The movie works hard to humanize Mark Felt, his family and fellow G-men. The subplot family story is warm, while most of Mark Felt’s career interactions are harsh and direct. The film challenges the viewer’s memory of historical facts. Is he a hero or a villain? Whatever you see, there is no doubt Mark Felt is the most impactful whistle-blower in American history so far. Many times, the film appears black and white and a bit grainy. In order to capture the times, I believe this is purposeful. As with any sleuth-type film, the graininess adds to the mystery. Another sign of the times, excessive smoking. While a total turn-off to this reviewer, it was prevalent in the 70s. The historical retrospective of this dark time in American history is invaluable. As the story unfolds, I was glued to the screen. The burden and power of the American landscape is presented in contrast with dark figures who believe secrets are best kept.

This film, with very adult themes, showcases a moment in history which is almost anti-climatic. The story focuses on the Watergate break-ins of the 70s and the ways and means the White House and other organizations lived and worked with secrets. Dare we say it parallels politics today? Because of the subject matter and fine details of “who’s who” in the puzzle of facts, I recommend this only for mature teens. Many adults will find this tale riveting, especially those old enough to be aware of Nixon’s presidency in the 70s. I recommend this film for ages 16 to 18 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. This film may prompt teens to research more about Mark Felt and his place in history. Reviewed by Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

 

 

Marshall – Sleek Legal Drama With Great Performances and Excellent Screenplay

Tuesday, October 10th, 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! Film Critic Benjamin P. comments, “Don’t be fooled by the snazzy vintage costumes, the real heart of Marshall’s success is its screenplay and the chemistry between its lead actors.” See his full review below.

Marshall
By Benjamin P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 12

Marshall is a sleek legal drama with great performances from Chadwick Boseman as the title character and Josh Gad. Don’t be fooled by the snazzy vintage costumes, the real heart of Marshall’s success is its screenplay and the chemistry between its lead actors.

This film follows pioneering Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in his earlier years as a lawyer for the NAACP. A white socialite in Greenwich, Connecticut, accuses a black man of rape and attempted murder. The NAACP believes the man, Joseph Spell, is innocent and sends Marshall to defend him. Marshall enlists local lawyer Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) whose previous track record involves tax or insurance cases. Friedman worries about his family’s safety due to the unrest the controversial trial causes. Sam and Thurgood must work together to defend Spell…and each other.

This film is very good and so is its screenplay. The touches of comedy bring a welcome balance to its serious topic and difficult history. There is an array of good lines for Boseman and Gad. Several other actors get a chance to shine as well. I appreciate that Marshall takes its subjects seriously, but doesn’t take on a dreary tone doing it. The scenes in the courtroom are intense and keep you interested in the action. As the case develops, these scenes get more and more engaging.

While Boseman is very good as Thurgood Marshall, his performance is disappointing considering how hyped his portrayal has been in the film’s ad campaign. He gives Marshall a suave personality but the script limits his ability to show off his range and really take the character on a journey. On the other hand, Josh Gad is a standout as Sam Friedman. He plays to his comedic strengths as Marshall’s sidekick while also giving a genuinely good dramatic performance as a central and evolved character. He is a nice foil to Boseman and their chemistry reminds me of a buddy cop comedy.

The lesson I take from the film is that you have to follow your moral compass even when it’s hard. Sam’s unwillingness to join the case makes sense. He is just starting out and worried that it could ruin his reputation. The fact that he does it anyway is a testament to the person Friedman must have been in real life.

I give Marshall an age rating of 14 to 18 because of some racial and offensive language and suggestive and violent content, including depictions of the alleged assault. And my verdict on Marshall? 4 out of 5 stars. Marshall opens in theaters on October 13, 2017 so go check it out.

 

 

The Gumby Movie – Timeless, Entertaining Charm

Friday, October 6th, 2017

Take a magical romp with the world’s most popular clay boy in The Gumby Movie. For the first time, you’ll enjoy this heartwarming adventure, fully re-mastered from its original film rolls. This is the complete movie, with all its scenes intact. This clay-animated masterpiece was written and directed by Gumby Creator Art Clokey and showcases Gumby, Pokey, Prickle, Goo, the Blockheads, Professor Kapp and introduces the Clayboys and singing sensation Tara. Gumby rocks out with the Clayboys for a concert benefiting local farmers. But things go awry when Gumby s arch enemies, the Blockheads, dognap his pet pooch, Lowbelly! Bad turns to worse when the Blockheads also kidnap the band…and replace them with clones! The battle between Clayboys and clones is filled with trains and planes, knights and fights, thrills and spills! True to classic Gumby adventures, The Gumby Movie takes viewers in and out of books, to Toyland, Camelot, outer space and beyond! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Gerry O. comments, “This is the youngest of the Gumby series and is far from the best. However, even though there are some moments that could be improved on, The Gumby Movie still delivers the timeless entertaining charm that the earlier decades of the Gumby series are so famous for.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror, Rachael V. adds, “The movie is a well done flashback to the series and has the same goofy animation and weird storylines.” See their full reviews below.

The Gumby Movie
By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 15

This is the youngest of the Gumby series and is far from the best. However, even though there are some moments that could be improved on, The Gumby Movie still delivers the timeless entertaining charm that the earlier decades of the Gumby series are so famous for.

This film follows the trend of the show by concentrating on Gumby’s adventures. There are some light action scenes to keep these adventures exciting as well as a few jokes that the whole family can enjoy.

The Gumby Movie ’s plot is about Gumby and his friends attempting to stage a concert. During the concert, two investors in the audience accidentally find out that Gumby’s dog (Lowbelly) cries pearls when he listens to their music. They come up with a scheme to steal the dog and make thousands of dollars, but get discovered and Gumby and his friends have to save Lowbelly in one epic and complex adventure.

For the most part, this film really has a lot of great perks. The detail in the stop-motion clay animation really looks spectacular and mostly natural. The plot has lots of fun twists as well as quite a few references (i.e. one fighting scene contains light sabers in a ship that looks like it belongs in Star Wars) to other series that allows for a good laugh. The background soundtrack by Jerry Gerber fits the tune of the quirky cartoon well and adds a little spice to the movie as a whole. There are a few technical hiccups that can be improved on to make this film perfect. One example is the visible and obvious wires holding up some of the characters. Even though this film was made in 1995, wire removal editing tools have existed since the late 80s. At times, the animation lags quite a bit and could be sped up to make more fluid motions. Nevertheless, none of these little things ruin the watching experience, as The Gumby Movie still is a great film to watch with the family.

There are some filler scenes that don’t do much to further the plot nor add any reoccurring elements to the story. Even though they sound bad, they are enjoyable and make it feel like several separate episodes, each with a unique adventure. My favorite scene takes place towards the beginning of the run time when Pokey looks for Gumby everywhere. On his way, he passes by a slide. At the same time, two of Pokey’s friends come out of the slide and run into him. The three turn into a big clay ball and need to go to the hospital to get un-separated. The scene has quite a few made up procedures that are both funny and realistic looking, which adds to the humor. Even though this has no purpose to the story, it still provides a few good laughs and, in general, is a fun mini-story.

The Gumby Movie can be a family movie but its main purpose is being a kid’s movie. For that reason, I recommend it for ages 8 to 18. I give The Gumby Movie 4.5 out of 5 stars because it has a few technical faults here and there, but still really provides a good quality Gumby feature film.

The Gumby Movie
By Rachael V., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

I always love watching anything Gumby related. I remember watching Gumby when I was younger and it was always a blast. It was always quirky and weird, which is something I can really get behind. The movie is a well done flashback to the series and has the same goofy animation and weird storylines. If this is not something that you’ve grown up with, chances are you might not like this movie as much. It’s a hard style to get into if you are not watching it for nostalgia. My children were a little confused when watching this because the animation is so old school. I personally really enjoyed it and I am 26! I recommend it for ages 6 to 12 and give it 5 out of 5 stars, fully admitting that I am a sucker for nostalgia.

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