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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
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!


Zala's Featured Review
A Wrinkle In Time - Directed by Ava DurVernay

A flight of fantasy. Lessons about growing up to face our fears. This 1963 Newberry Award winner in children’s literature appears on the screen under the direction of Ava DuVernay. Many of you may have read or had A Wrinkle in Time read to you in elementary school which may be one of the only reasons you would want to attend this movie

The Story - The story of a young daughter and son growing up with their scientist mother as their father has disappeared to “shake hands with the universe” demonstrates the struggles of growing up with school challenges and self-esteem issues. From the movie, we don’t know how the younger brother makes contact with three magical beings, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. They did hear a message and travel across the universe to help the siblings and a new-found friend find the scientist father, Alex Murry, who disappeared while investigating the couple calculations to travel (tesser) through time and space. The three Mrs. Ws take the children through the Wrinkle to find their father in a fanciful journey which is about personal growth to develop a positive esteem (the light) and to fight the evil inhabitants of the Camazotz “IT” (the dark).


The Cast - The three Mrs. Ws are well-recognized which may not help the movie much. Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Withersppon), and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) have a difficult time shedding the real actors persona throughout the movie. Their costumes and make up are elaborate, but I still saw each of them as themselves. Father, Chris Pine, does a good job in his acting, but comes across as Captain Kirk as a dad. This is the first starring role for daughter Meg (Storm Reid). At age 14, she does a fine job. She is building a strong repertoire of movie and television roles.

Should You See This Movie?  Grade: C

The film is adequate. The story has possibilities on the screen but it seems like more development is needed. The younger brother, Charles Wallace, could be developed more and the time when the IT turns him evil seems to happen without our knowledge. He is suddenly evil. There are many ideas that aren’t fully developed on the Camazotz as the children are searching for the father. At 109 minutes, I was ready for it to end. It seems like this wasn’t created for adults and yet I didn’t feel like it was for younger kids. Younger teens might get some of the messaging here and could learn from it, but many other movies do a much better job with the same themes. The trailer is much more captivating than the movie itself.


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