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Kyla’s Movie Review Powerhouse cast stars in ‘Prisoners’

PRISONERS (R) - Starring Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano, Erin Gerasimovich and Kyla Drew Simmons. Two neighboring western Pennsylvania families gather for Thanksgiving dinner. The Dovers, headed by father Keller (Jackman) and mother Grace (Bello), visit the Birches, where dad Franklin (Howard) and mom Nancy (Davis) preside over a huge feast. After dinner, as the adults are talking and the teenagers are watching TV, the two young girls - Anna (Gerasimovich) and Joy (Simmons) - go outside. Time passes and they don’t return. At first, no one is alarmed but, after a quick check of the neighborhood, they never turn up and they notify the police. Enter Detective Loki (Gyllenhaal), a lonely cop with a reputation for solving cases. The initial clues point to a suspect, Alex Jones (Dano), but it turns out that he lacks the mental capacity to successfully orchestrate a kidnapping. Nevertheless, circumstantial evidence points to his involvement and a grief-stricken Keller decides that if the police can’t or won’t wring a confession from Alex, he’ll do it himself. This has a powerhouse cast with some great performances. The screenplay is smart, the execution is impeccable, and the holes are few and far between. Best of all, it lacks the cookie-cutter element that infects too many of these movies. This is a thriller for grown-ups. There are some disturbing scenes that are not appropriate for children. My only criticism, it’s too long and at times feels sluggish. RATING: A-

THE FAMILY (R) - Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Diana Argon, John D’Leo, Tommy Lee Jones and Jimmy Palumbo. De Niro plays Giovanni Manzoni, one-time Mafia boss turned informer. Now he and his family are in the Witness Protection program… with a $20 million price on his head and for reasons not clear, the Justice Department has the family hiding in France. At the film’s start, Giovanni, his wife Maggie (Pfeiffer), his daughter Belle (Agron) and son Warren (D’Leo) arrive in a small town in Normandy. Now they are the Blakes, and their handler (Jones) wants them to lay low. As we soon learn, the Manzonis have a tendency to use violence to straighten out their problems–at school, at the grocery and even with the plumber. As Fred Blake, Giovanni knows just what to do to occupy his time. He’s going to start writing his memoirs. When he starts writing about his “good points,” we see just how twisted his viewpoint is, and why he thinks baseball bats and explosives are sensible solutions to problems. Meanwhile, his family tries to fit in, but can’t help but tap into the family philosophy. Maggie goes to a nearby church to pray for help for her family, but learns that there are some things even the confession box can’t make go away. The two teenagers have a rough time fitting in, but soon make it clear that one doesn’t cross the Americans. Giovanni’s cover story is that he is a writer, leading to the movie’s highlight where he’s asked to take part in a discussion on a classic American film. This movie isn’t a classic, but it’s a solid gangster film with a French twist. RATING: B-

BLACKFISH (PG-13) - Starring Kim Ashdown, Ken Balcomb, Samantha Berg, Dawn Brancheau, Dave Duffus, Daniel Patrick Dukes, Howard Garrett, Dean Gomersall, John Hargrove, Carol Ray, Tilikum and Jeffrey Ventre. The film begins with a recording of the disturbing 911 call after the 2010 deadly attack by Tilikum. The majestic orca was the star at SeaWorld Orlando before he attacked and killed his trainer, Dawn Brancheau. From there, the film rewinds to the ‘70s, revealing how the mammals were brought to SeaWorld and other marine parks. In what is only the first of the documentary’s many brutal scenes, “Blackfish” revisits the capture of several young calves at Penn Cove as they’re separated from their families. One of the divers who participated reveals that it wasn’t only the animals who were traumatized as he forced the babies away from their mothers. Before going to SeaWorld, Tilikum was held at Canadian park Sealand Of The Pacific, where he first attacked and killed someone. From there, he was taken to Orlando’s SeaWorld, where his trainers were misled about the incident at Sealand. Several incidents happened in Orlando, culminating in the death of his trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. The truth behind the previous incidents was hidden from the trainers at SeaWorld but the park’s former employees are eager to share their thoughts, particularly given Brancheau’s esteem within the community and SeaWorld’s eagerness to blame her for her own death. They tell horrific stories of both the poor conditions the orcas were held in and the abuse heaped on Tilikum by the dominant females he was penned in with at the park. At 12,000 pounds, Tilikum outweighs the average killer whale by 4,000 pounds, but he is still bloodied by other orcas, adding to the stress and pain of captivity. There are few movies that can change the way you see the world in 83 minutes. If this film is seen by enough people, it has the power to affect attendance at SeaWorld. It’s tough to imagine anyone still being able to enjoy the park after seeing Tilikum’s drooping dorsal fin, scars and the loss of human life. RATING: B+

(Kyla Davis is a Nevada native and a movie enthusiast. She can be reached at kylalovesmovies@aol.com.)

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