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About the Critics:

Doug Solem has been in love with movies ever since he first snuck into the Anoka Theater to see Steve McQueen in Bullitt. He goes to at least one new movie every Friday.  He has also been a voice talent for TV and Radio commercials for the past 20 years and is currently represented through the Moore Talent Agency. Click Here For Doug's Voice Demo  He had his first starring role in the local independently produced movie "SEVER" Click Here for information and pictures for "Sever" - a horror film shot throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.  He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in Communications.  His favorite directors include the Cohen Brothers and Steven Spielberg.  Favorite actors include Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, Brad Pitt, Daniel Day-Lewis and Christian Bale. 

Zala has always enjoyed going to the movies.  As a kid, the only option in the area was the Anoka Theater.  It was during a time when parents could drop you and your friends off to see a movie and get picked up later.  “My earliest movie experience was when I was 4 and my aunt and her high school friends took me to see 101 Dalmatians.  I was so engaged in the movie that during one of the chase scenes a speeding car nearly hit one of the puppies, and my first movie review was to stand up and yell, "Watch out!". The audience broke out laughing.  I have been lucky to have some friends and colleagues who are into making movies and television shows and I enjoy the discussions we have.  Before my retirement, I was the Dean of the Cinema program at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.  It is a great two-year program if you would like to take some courses and develop your own movies!”


Zala's Featured Review
Solo - A Star Wars Story
Directed by Ron Howard

If you like back stories which show the early relationships between Star Wars characters we met in early episodes of the saga, you will appreciate this film. We learn how Solo gets his name, meets eventual co-pilot Chewbacca, falls in love with the Millennium Falcon, and interacts with Lando Cairrisian. Director, Ron Howard, pulled together a movie in crises in the summer of 2017 to deliver what two previous directors couldn’t as they were let go after creative differences made it difficult to finish the movie.

The Story - Solo and love interest, Qi’ra are trying to escape their home on the shipbuilding world of Corellia with a dream getting a ship and traveling the universe. As they try to bribe their way off the planet, Qi’ra is captured and Hans escapes to learn to fly at the Imperial Flight Academy from which he is expelled for insubordination. He becomes part of the infantry where he meets criminals pretending to be soldiers. Solo is arrested for desertion where he is going to be fed “The Beast”, a Wookiee named Chewbacca. Solo, Chewbacca, and criminals form a union under the direction of Tobias Beckett to steal a shipment of coaxium. The action continues in a series of interstellar adventures. Failure to steal the coaxium successfully takes the group to the evil syndicate boss Dryden Vos, where Solo runs into Qi’ra who is in Vos’s service. The story continues with plots, failures and successes and series of betrayals. Throughout all of it is the typical banter as characters grow closer to one another.


The Cast - Overall, I enjoyed this cast. It is difficult to replicate some iconic characters we grew up with, but it felt that some consideration was given in hiring actors to play the younger versions of the characters. Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo) is well cast as a younger version of Harrison Ford. You see some of the unfounded confidence, perhaps arrogance we see in Ford’s Solo. Emilia Clarke (Qi’ra) carries the confidence you may recognize as the Mother of Dragon’s in Game of Thrones. Woodie Harrelson (Tobias Beckett) plays a great villain who is playing every side possible in trying to survive in a world of treachery.  Donald Glover (Lando Cairissian) plays a wonderful younger version first performed by Billy Dee Williams.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: B

The film is action packed and carries some of the same play between the characters that you see in first Star Wars episodes. As previously stated, if you like to learn more about the back stories then you may enjoy this film. John Powell does a nice job of composing music which uses original Star Wars themes and music developed for this movie. I saw the movie in 3D. You wouldn’t need to. I also think you could enjoy this film even if you hadn’t see all of the originals.  


Zala's Featured Review
Love Simon “Everyone deserves a great love story”
Directed by Greg Berlanti

Revealing ourselves is something that is the most difficult thing we ever do. The risk of showing who we are to others opens us up to critique, analysis, praise and what we fear most, criticism. Love, Simon is a movie about a high school senior who deals with his being gay and being accepted by his family, friends, and community. Director, Greg Berlanti, shares a story of love, of fear, of being exposed for who you are in a celebration of young man’s ability to “exhale”.

The Story - Simon Spier (Nick Robinson) is a high school senior living the “normal life” with one “big-ass secret”. In the film you learn what it is like to be seen as the person you portray, rather than the person you are. As a young man who is gay, he hides his secret in a world of blogs and social media until it is posted that another guy at school, whose identity isn’t revealed, is gay. He finds a way to communicate with him via email and the two share their secrets about feelings and fears in a world that doesn’t consider them part of the mainstream. Simon communicates with the student via emails on his phone until he doesn’t have coverage at school and uses a computer in the library. He is abruptly interrupted by the assistant principal and minimizes the screen and leaves before sending the email. Another student uses this computer upon his departure and screen shots all of the messages, which he uses as blackmail, threatening to post them on the widely-read student blog.


The Cast - The cast of the film has some recognizable actors whom you soon see as characters instead of actors. Simon’s mother (Jennifer Garner) and father (Josh Duhamel) are the kind of parents you would like to have if you had to reveal your secret. Simon’s friends Leah (Katherine Langford), Abby (Alexandra Shipp), Bram (Keiynan Lonsdale), and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) have all played in a variety of roles, many in superhero movies. Many of you will recognize Mr. Worth, the assistant principle (Tony Hale) from his latest role in VEEP. Theater director, Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell) spent a couple of years on Saturday Night Live. The cast is believable even though the school administrators and teacher seem to try to hip with the students and interact with some comments that aren’t always appropriate. The actors are seasoned and carry the story.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: A

The film is excellent. The story flows and the 1 hour and 49 minutes flies by. You can empathize with what Simon goes through hiding being gay and his desire to respond to blackmail so the entire school doesn’t find out. You watch him feel love by this mystery young man and walk through his experience of coming out as he is forced to do so. As they communicate he tries to figure out which classmate this is. He imagines several guys whose eyes he connects. As he interacts with Blue via email, we see the newest possibility sitting at the computer responding to Simon’s messages. One by one he discovers each isn’t the person to whom he is falling in love. You want him to succeed in his desire to have nothing change with his relationships as he comes out. If you can be in a place of accepting gay people, then you will love this movie. It gives a brief insight to the experience they have in first dealing with the feelings themselves and then sharing it with others. Riding the Ferris wheel of life alone isn’t nearly as fun as sharing the seat with someone you love. You will understand when you see this feel good movie of the Spring!


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