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Movie Review | Yoani’s Trip

Yoani’s Trip (PN 1995.97 .P67 B73via 2016) is an incredible documentary about Yoani, a blogger from Cuba fighting for the freedom of speech in her country.  Yoani’s life has been a difficult one.  For most of her life, the Cuban government had controlled the flow of information with an iron fist.  As a result, she began writing a blog to tell the whole world the truth about what was really going on in Cuba, and promote the right to free speech.  This film follows her during her trip to Brazil where she gave various talks about the importance of free speech and free access to information.

I give this documentary 5 out 5 of stars.  It is very informative, and thrilling to watch as Yoani bravely goes against great odds to bring about serious social change.  I recommend this film to anyone interested in Latin American studies or civil rights.  Yoani’s story and example are truly inspiring!

Written by: Jared McGrail

Documentary Review | Reformer Workout for Men

Reformer Workout for Men (PN 1995.96 .E2 R44 2015) is a live-action workout video that is taught by Moira Merrithew. This documentary stars the ripped master trainer John Garey who demonstrates an intricate workout plan to boost athletic performance in strength and agility. This documentary features 19 different workouts that are designed to specially help prevent injuries.

This documentary is only useful if you buy their equipment because every workout uses a machine called “THE REFORMER”. Kudos to John Garey for not looking like he’s in pain while working out, but everyone knows that it’s not that enjoyable. Even though the degree of difficulty is labeled as intermediate, there is no way that John Garey got that ripped from those workouts. This documentary would be good for people who like exercising and have purchased all the necessary equipment.

Written by: Tiffany Chao

Movie Review | 12 Angry Men

When we get a jury duty notice, typically we aren’t super pumped about it. After watching 12 angry men I still wouldn’t say I’d be happy, but I would be a little more excited. In this movie 12 men are called into jury duty to decide the fate of an 18 year old boy accused of murdering his father. The initial intake of the case seems to clearly indicate that the boy is guilty. A vote is called for and and 11 of the jury vote the boy guilty while just one man votes against. The movie shows this man’s uphill battle to change the jury’s mind.

This is a great movie that I couldn’t wait to finish. The odds almost seem insurmountable and we see a real hero in a situation that we could encounter ourselves in. It was super interesting to be introduced to the 12 men at the start, and as the movie developed, to see who they really were and see their points of view. I thought it was both thought provoking and entertaining. I give it five stars!

Written by: Aaron Conrad

Movie Review | Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (PN 1995.9 .S26 S725 2004) is a sci-fi film that changed the game for blockbuster movies everywhere. The second movie in the Star Wars trilogy continues the story of Luke Skywalker, a young Jedi, who must continue his training while his friends in the Rebel Alliance face difficult trials while attempting to escape the controlling grasps of the Empire.

I have seen this movie countless times and yet it is still as equally gripping as it was the first time I saw it. Not only is it packed with excellent duels and space action, it also compels the audience into thinking about the good and evil forces that provide balance to the universe, which can be applicable to our actual lives. This movie is an excellent watch for everyone, even if you haven’t seen any of the other Star Wars movies.

Written by: Michelle Greenwood

Documentary Review | Being: Liverpool

Being: Liverpool is a documentary featuring the lives of those involved on the Liverpool Football club team. As the manager has to manage trade deadlines, logistics, and coaching for his team, the stresses of life pile on. Thousands of fans unknowingly count on him, expecting each season of Liverpool to be more memorable than the one before it. All the glory, love, joy and happiness of literally supporting a team like this also comes with a price: the stress and sadness of losing.

I really liked this documentary, because it gives more of an inside look on football clubs and how stressful they can be. It shows that these people have lives, other than just playing and watching soccer. It shows the lives of their families. It felt real and authentic to me, and it was entertaining. I’m glad that it showed a famous football club such as Liverpool as well, because it really demonstrates the intensity and responsibility of an intense lifestyle such as the one these players and managers live.

Written by: Jeshua Osorio

Documentary Review | Jazz, The Adventure

Jazz, The Adventure (PN 1995.96 .J37 J39 2000 pt.8) is the eighth episode of a ten part series by Ken Burns on the history of America’s gift to the world: Jazz. This episode covers a unique period of success, fading, and heartache for jazz artists. Miles Davis triumphs over his addiction, unlike many artists at the time, and finds great success with Columbia Records. Duke Ellington’s career is saved by a surprising performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. meanwhile, millions of young aspiring musicians mourn the loss of a brilliant and up-coming trumpeter, Clifford Brown. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, a newly formed group, find great success and continue for many decades. Among all of this were musicians, including Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, and John Coltrane, who influenced a new age of Jazz known as avant-garde.

I have always enjoyed these documentaries by Ken Burns, because of the excellent cinematography and narration. They also include a plenitude of raw footage and recordings from that time that complete the near sublimity of the film. This and many other factors are why I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Written by: Hannah McBride

Documentary Review | The War Room

While a romantic would likely praise the American voting system for being a institution that triumphs the people, a realist would possibly counter that forces such as political machinations and the electoral college are what actually determines the nation’s leaders and normal people have little sway.  Without either confirming or denying either of these two beliefs, The War Room opens a discussion of this by offering a fascinating look at the campaign team behind Bill Clinton’s first presidential bid and how they achieved the impossible by beating the incumbent, George H.W. Bush.  The film mainly centers around his two campaign aids, James Carville and George Stephanopoulos as they help their candidate move from little known Governor to President of the United States.

Instead of following a typical interview based format as other documentaries may have, the crew and filmmakers remain essentially invisible, letting the “characters” of this documentary act just as they would have. Thus, it follows that all music in the film is diegetic (comes from the actual footage) which assists in helping the movie feel like simply a presentation of real life.  However, the editing moves the story along in an engaging and interesting manner, expertly accenting the film’s goals and messages to present these people in their actual state.  Overall, I thought The War Room was an excellent example of an engaging, “hands off”, documentary as well as an interesting discussion of the American voting system.

Written by: Parker Gehring

Movie Review | Sanjuro

After the success of his previous film, Yojimbo, Akira Kurosawa was asked to revive his lone Samurai for a sequel.  Fortunately, Kurosawa replied positively and in 1962, Sanjuro was released into theaters.  Frequent Kurosawa collaborator, Toshiro Mifune reprises his role as lone wondering samurai Sanjuro Tsubaki, who this time finds himself entangled with nine heartfelt but hopelessly naive rebels.  After saving their lives, he decides to help them in their cause to take back their corrupt government, spurring a crusade of adventure and war.

Similar to Yojimbo, there are many thrilling sequences of Samurai action as well as the beautiful cinematography Kurosawa is known for.  However, Sanjuro both deepens its dramatic themes, as our title character is caused to reckon with the acts of violence that he commits with such skill and precision.  After a particularly destructive massacre, he cries out at his inept companions, “This is your fault!” demonstrating the moral ramifications of a life lived in violence.   Yet, the film ultimately takes an even lighter tone than that of its predecessor, and as the young rebels fail again and again to heed the instructions of their mentor, it is increasingly amusing.  Overall, Sanjuro is an essential, and entertaining experience for fans of cinema, yet remains accessible and enjoyable for viewers on all levels of cinematic understanding.

Written by: Parker Gehring

Documentary Review | Unborn in the USA: Inside the War on Abortion

Unborn in the USA is a documentary following the pro-life movement in the United States. It begins with the actions of Christian Institute as they set up displays on college campuses. It then expands with other groups protesting the current abortion laws. The film shows many interactions between pro-life and pro-choice groups, however, it shows no support of views from any pro-choice activists.

The film contains many interviews with people who have strong feelings on abortion, but very little facts on the issue. It primarily follows the actions of three groups which gives the overall documentary a repetitive feeling. It also contains graphic images of aborted fetuses which some viewers may not appreciate. I thought it did a great job showing the various sides of pro-life groups and the emotional and the subdued aspects, but it had very little else. It had some interesting aspects, but overall it could have shared the same amount of information in a much shorter time. Overall, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Written by: Spencer Bradford

Movie Review | Jumper

Jumper (PN 1995.9 .S26 J86 2008) is the story of David Rice, a young man who discovered that he has a special gift when he was just five years old. This gift allows him to transport himself anywhere in the world as long as he can picture it. Little does he know that there is an ancient band of zealots who are trying to stop people like him, and David is thrust into a battle for people of his kind – and his life. The movie takes place all over the world as he tries to stop these people from harming him and those he loves.

The film was definitely action packed and full of suspense, but what it gave in thrills seemed to lack in depth. The story line has a fun concept, but seemed to struggle in the various elements of the plot that could’ve made it more interesting. It seems to be a mix between a child sci-fi film and a serious thriller, jumping back and forth, with a few adult themes here, and child-like humor there. Overall, the acting was mediocre and the action was good.

Written by: Brandon Orullian

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