Jury Coordination and Notes

Archive for February, 2022

Blacklight * Thrilling, Fast-Paced, Intricate, Strong Performances, Impeccable Cinematography

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Trust, identity, and the danger of unchecked power push a covert operative to the edge in director Mark Williams’ intense action thriller Blacklight. Travis Block (Neeson) lives and fights in the shadows. A freelance government “fixer,” Block is a dangerous man whose assignments have included extracting agents out of deep-cover situations. When Block discovers a shadowy program called Operation Unity is striking down ordinary citizens for reasons known only to Block’s boss, FBI chief Robinson (Quinn), he enlists the help of a journalist (Raver-Lampman), but his past and present collide when his daughter and granddaughter are threatened. Now Block needs to rescue the people he loves and expose the truth for a shot at redemption. Nothing and no one is safe when secrets are hidden in Blacklight.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Eshaan M. comments, “Thrilling, fast-paced and intricate, you won’t want to miss Blacklight! Liam Neeson’s strong performance, the plot by Nick May and Brandon Reavis and impeccable cinematography all make this film a joy to watch.” See his full review below.

Blacklight

By Eshaan M., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Thrilling, fast-paced and intricate, you won’t want to miss Blacklight! Liam Neeson’s strong performance, the plot by Nick May and Brandon Reavis and impeccable cinematography all make this film a joy to watch.

The film follows Travis Block (Liam Neeson), a freelance government operative coming to grips with his past, present (still a bit of a gray area) and future, which he sees in his daughter and granddaughter. When he discovers a plot undermining the safety of American citizens that has proliferated through the upper echelons of national intelligence, Block is pitted against FBI director Gabriel Robinson (Aidan Quinn), whom he once protected while on tour in Vietnam. Using the help of tenacious journalist Mira Jones (Emmy Raver-Lampman) to get the truth out, Block must find a way to keep his daughter and granddaughter safe while combating grave danger.

Just as he plays all of his roles, Neeson seems to have invested all of his mental and emotional energy into perfecting Block’s troubled and cerebral personality. He portrays the agent’s struggle with great conviction and vigor, and he certainly is my favorite actor in the film. I have to say, though, that as a journalist, I have a soft spot for Emmy Raver-Lampman’s character Mira Jones. From Jones’ first scene, her grit and tenacity are visible. She even confronts the head of her news corporation! Just as Raver-Lampman acts from her heart, Jones writes from her heart, and I’m sure she would have taken some inspiration from her own craft to portray Jones’ courageous quest for the truth. The production of the film isn’t all about the acting, though. The variety of unique, dramatic shots in the film including several cutaways, medium shots and closeups, adds to the intensity of several scenes. As is apt for a film with “light” in the name, the lighting plays a large role in the cinematography; the number of bright scenes steadily decreases over the course of the film as the characters descend to the dark depths of their lives.

Blacklight promotes honesty, valor, persistence and perseverance. There’s really no other way to put it. Regardless of how many hurdles Mira Jones faces in her pursuit of the truth, she never backs down. Similarly, Travis Block, however ragged he may look, never throws in the towel in his pursuit of the shadowy figure from his past. There is some violence to look out for and in one scene, a political activist is murdered.

I give Blacklight 4.5 stars out of 5, and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. Blacklight is available in theaters now.

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Dog * A Compelling Story About Two Warriors That Rescue Each Other

Saturday, February 19th, 2022

Dog is a buddy comedy that follows the misadventures of two former Army Rangers paired against their will on the road trip of a lifetime. Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois dog) buckle into a 1984 Ford Bronco and race down the Pacific Coast in hopes of making it to a fellow soldier’s funeral on time. Along the way, they’ll drive each other completely crazy, break a small handful of laws, narrowly evade death, and learn to let down their guards in order to have a fighting chance of finding happiness.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Selene W. comments, “Dog is a thought-provoking film about an important subject.  This movie tells a compelling story about a former Army Ranger and his journey to bring a canine hero to the funeral of his previous comrade and handler.  In the end, the two warriors rescue each other in their odyssey of self-discovery.” See her full review below.

Dog 

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 14  

Dog is a thought-provoking film about an important subject.  This movie tells a compelling story about a former Army Ranger and his journey to bring a canine hero to the funeral of his previous comrade and handler.  In the end, the two warriors rescue each other in their odyssey of self-discovery.   

Army Ranger Briggs (Channing Tatum) and Lulu (a Belgian Malinois K-9 Working Dog) are joined together against their will to honor the service and sacrifice of Sergeant Riley Rodriguez (Eric Urbiztondo) at his distant funeral.  Along the way, they drive each other crazy, exhibit self-destructive and bad behavior while also escaping dangerous situations. They begin to bond on their journey and heal the wounds they both experienced from combat situations which makes them realize that life can move forward in unexpected ways.

Channing Tatum (Army Ranger Briggs) adds a lot of humor in his character’s dialogue and in the physical comedy between Lulu and him.  Tatum also co-directs this movie along with Reid Carolin who wrote the screenplay as well.  My favorite scene is when Briggs coaxes Lulu into taking a bath—and there are many other funny physical interaction scenes between the two of them when they are fighting or at odds.  There are some touching scenes together as well, such as when Lulu is comforting him after a severe headache.

The message of Dog is that life typically unfolds in unexpected ways and embracing change can bring about unexpected happiness.  Both Army Ranger Briggs and Lulu are wounded warriors and together they experience this journey of healing. Parents need to be aware that this film has some mature elements involving language, drugs and sexual material.  Younger audiences may also be frightened by some of the dog’s aggressive behavior. 

I give Dog 3.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 14 to 18, plus adults. The film opens exclusively in theaters on February 18, 2022.

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Jockey * Pride and Vanity Don’t Take You Anywhere

Monday, February 7th, 2022

An aging jockey is determined to win one last championship, but his dream is complicated when a young rookie shows up claiming to be his son. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ethan P. comments,I like Jockey because it is a movie full of inspiring scenes. The storyline is very interesting and worth watching.” See his full review below.

Jockey
By Ethan P., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, Age 13

Jockey is about a famous and talented jockey named Jackson (Clifton Collins, Jr.) Jackson is looking forward to winning his last race, but he has been suffering from pain due to the multiple injuries through the years of competing in horse races. He meets this young man named Gabriel (Moises Arias) who claims to be his son and starts working with him. Jackson is not happy about the news, but still takes him under his wing and trains him to be a jockey. Jackson feels threatened by Gabriel because he becomes a good jockey and might take his place soon. The film has a twist that will leave the audience in awe. You need to watch the movie to find out.

Jockey is written by Clint Bentley and directed by Bentley and Greg Kwedar. It has beautiful scenery like the sun rising above a lake. The music is appealing and goes well with each scene. My favorite scene is when Jackson is training Gabriel at the jockey’s training gym. Gabriel sits on a horse-like device. It shows how jockeys gain confidence training on this device, how they work on their grip and how to manage a horse.

The moral of this movie is that being vain doesn’t take you anywhere. Jackson is a proud and vain jockey. He thinks he’s so good that he’s irreplaceable until he realizes he is not the young jockey he used to be. It took Gabriel to open his eyes.

I give Jockey 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18, plus adults. This movie is rated R. Jockey will be released in theaters on February 4, 2022.

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The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild * The Crazy Characters Of Ice Age Are Back!

Tuesday, February 1st, 2022

The all-new animated adventure, “The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild,” continues the hilarious escapades of the beloved sub-zero heroes from the wildly successful global “Ice Age” franchise as they create more prehistoric pandemonium. The thrill-seeking possum brothers Crash and Eddie have grown restless in Snow Valley. They need plenty of wide-open space to practice their extreme stunts and are eager for a bit of independence. Their older sister, the woolly mammoth Ellie, is over-protective and worries too much. Still, Eddie and Crash are like sons to Ellie and Manny (her woolly mammoth husband), whom they met following a devastating flood, and they have bonded to become a make-shift family.

KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Calee N. comments, “How wonderful it is that the crazy characters of Ice Age are back with a new adventure. Having watched the Ice Age movies from the beginning, I am familiar with their sarcastic and humorous personalities. It’s almost like hanging out with old friends.” See her full review below.

The Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild

By Calee N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12

Sid (voiced by Jake Green) in THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

How wonderful it is that the crazy characters of Ice Age are back with a new adventure. Having watched the Ice Age movies from the beginning, I am familiar with their sarcastic and humorous personalities. It’s almost like hanging out with old friends.

Crash (Vincent Tong) and Eddie (Aaron Harris) crave adventure and feel Elli (Domonique Jenning) is preventing them from living their “best life.” Eddie and Crash leave the safety of their pack and find their way to the Lost World. Not realizing the actual dangers of the Lost World, Eddie and Crash unexpectedly become reunited with Buck Wild when he has to rescue them from unruly dinosaurs. Buck Wild is in the middle of trying to restore harmony to the Lost World and doesn’t have the time to deal with the Opossum brothers. Eddie and Crash are oblivious to the risks involved in staying but have no choice because the cave entrance was blocked. Together with Buck Wild, Eddie, Crash set on a quest to restore the peace of the Lost World.

Crash (voiced by Vincent Tong) and Eddie (voiced by Aaron Harris) in THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

With the talented cast, visual and animation department, director John Donkin produced an action-adventure film that embraced the Ice Age saga and introduced a fresh outlook.

The music by Batu Sener brought life into the action scenes by absorbing the person into the movie. Danger, drama, and humor were not only told through dialogue but also musical notes. The animation team directed by Marshal Fels Elliot seamlessly brought all the original characters back onto the screen while at the same time introducing new friends and foes. The details and color of the animated plants, animals, and birds captured the moviegoer’s attention from start to finish.

Zee (voiced by Justina Machado), Eddie (voiced by Aaron Harris), and Crash (voiced by Vincent Tong) in THE ICE AGE ADVENTURES OF BUCK WILD, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Teamwork, family, and courage are themes throughout Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild. The pack realized that family is family even if you are apart. Love for each other doesn’t change just because you have added distance.  Change is not something to be afraid of, and taking risks to find your true happiness takes courage.  

I rate Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 13. I would have rated the movie higher if it had included all the main characters I love and did not have so much dialogue. Adults will also enjoy watching this action-adventure film. Ice Age Adventures of Buck Wild premieres on Disney Plus on Friday, January 28, 2022.

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