Tuesday, April 15, 2014

CIFF review: ‘Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine’ is a poignant, must-see documentary

By James A. Molnar
TGK Editor

There is a reason top awards at this year's Cleveland International Film Festival went to "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine."

The documentary was honored with the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for Best Film and the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Competition, during the closing night ceremony March 30.

With 97,804 in attendance during the 12-day festival held in downtown Cleveland and 186 feature films, winning the audience award is a big deal. Festivalgoers rate each film they see and the most popular film receives the award. The standing up award is also audience voted.

And the kudos are well deserved.

Upon accepting the awards on the final night of the festival, director Michele Josue said she never wins awards and that she was grateful.

This is Josue's first feature film and she wanted to make one that meant something to her.

Josue was a childhood friend of the film's subject, Matthew Shepard.

The well-done documentary chronicles the life of Shepard, whom the world met after his 1998 anti-gay beating and murder when he was a 21-year-old college student.

The purpose of the film was to share his story and his humanity.

"The world needs to know the real Matt so they don't let him go," Josue says in her narration at the beginning of the film.

After the March 29 sold-out screening, Josue emphasized the title of the film is present tense.

Her goal of the film, which took four years to make, was to show that Matt wasn't perfect and he wasn't a martyr.

Throughout the film, Josue goes on an international journey to interview friends, teachers and those touched by Matt's life. His parents play the most important role in the movie, providing details of their son's life from birth to death and his ongoing legacy. They highlighted his love for theater, along with his gentle nature.

The film has received the blessing from Matt's parents, who were at the Cleveland screening. The pair received a standing ovation even before the screening began.

The interview conversations with the director can become quite emotional as memories surface and are relived — both happy and sad.

Matt struggled with his identity as a young gay man, but also his place in the world. His teachers and mentors echo this struggle.

The most enlightening and eye-opening interview in the film comes from a priest.

Josue speaks to him about hate and forgiveness and his responses bring her to tears.

This is a cathartic journey for Josue, one that took more than a decade to begin.

Audiences also take this journey with her, learning who Matt was, a behind-the-headlines look at the young man gone too soon. Remember to bring the tissues.

The response to the hate crime in media and Congress is also included, highlighting new legislation signed into law a year later by President Obama.

Friends interviewed in the film reflected that they wanted to help and honor Matt and that his parents are not alone.

The real Matt Shepard painted on the big screen is kind, gentle and loving. He touched many lives and 15 years later, his memory lives on, with a little help from his friends.

This movie is a must see.

/ 5

Official trailer:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Video: Reviewing ‘Rio 2’

TGK Editor James A. Molnar — also film editor of Toledo Free Press — stops by WTOL-11's “Your Day” in Toledo every Friday morning and talks about the latest movies at the box office. On the Friday, April 11, 2014, segment, he reviews the colorful sequel "Rio 2" from Blue Sky Studios.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Video: Reviewing ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

TGK Editor James A. Molnar — also film editor of Toledo Free Press — stops by WTOL-11's “Your Day” in Toledo every Friday morning and talks about the latest movies at the box office. On the Friday, April 4, 2014, segment, he reviews "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," the ninth film in the Marvel cinematic universe. (Read his full review here.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ thankfully kicks off the summer season early


By James A. Molnar
TGK Editor

The First Avenger is back in theaters and this time he faces the Winter Soldier.

Director Fury is also back, along with Black Widow, and S.H.I.E.L.D. is in trouble.

Sound like code?

There is a farrago of people, places and things in the superhero Marvel universe in which audiences can easily lose themselves. It’s easy to begin saying, “Who is that again? What happened?”

The latest movie in the expansive franchise, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” continues the saga and focuses on the First Avenger himself — Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans).

“The Winter Soldier” finds Cap, as he’s called in the movie, in the midst of a slight identity crisis. The end of the first movie found him waking up from a deep sleep in present day. He’s made a list of things to do, which includes certain music, topics and films.

But does he still want to fight and be a soldier?

“For the longest time, I just wanted to do what’s right,” he says. “Now, I just don’t know what that is.”

S.H.I.E.L.D., the organization charged with protecting Earth from enemies at home and away, doesn’t seem like the place he’d like to be.

Its director Nick Fury (played as always with a cool swagger by Samuel L. Jackson) also seems to share the sentiment. Something isn’t quite right.

One thing is for sure: Don’t mess with the Winter Solider. Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), learned this truth on her numerous encounters with him. Captain America will also learn this lesson.


Required viewing for this sequel includes the 2011 predecessor “Captain America: The First Avenger,” along with 2012’s “The Avengers.” The other Marvel movies don’t quite figure into the storyline here, even though Iron Man, Thor, Hawkeye and the Hulk should theoretically be around the corner to pinch-hit with battling whatever enemy comes their way. (Audiences have to wait for a reunion until next summer when “Avengers: Age of Ultron” comes out May 1.)

Comic books fans will love the mid-credits scene, which teases future Marvel projects (no spoilers here).

Ohioans, look for an appearance of the fountain and shopping center at Tower City in downtown Cleveland.

Overall, “The Winter Soldier” builds on the impressive oeuvre in the Marvel movie collection. While it’s missing some of the heart of the first Captain America outing, there are twists and turns in this early summer blockbuster to keep audiences entertained and thrilled.

/ 5

Official trailer:

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Video: Reviewing Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

TGK Editor James A. Molnar — also film editor of Toledo Free Press — stops by WTOL-11's “Your Day” in Toledo every Friday morning and talks about the latest movies at the box office. On the Friday, March 28, 2014, segment, he reviews "Noah," the new film from Darren Aronofsky. He also chats about the other releases of the week.

Monday, March 24, 2014

2014 Kids’ Choice Awards printable ballot


The Gold Knight team has compiled the nominees for Nickelodeon's 27th Kids' Choice Awards. Find all of them here in our handy ballot. Feel free to download the ballot, print it out and pass out during your party (go here to download the PDF). It's in glorious color.

Tune into the Kids' Choice Awards on Saturday, March 29, 2014. Mark Wahlberg is set to host the event live at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) from USC’s Galen Center.

Download our ballot here.

Find the full list of nominations here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Video: Reviewing ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ and talking Cleveland Film Festival

TGK Editor James A. Molnar — also film editor of Toledo Free Press — stops by WTOL-11's “Your Day” in Toledo every Friday morning and talks about the latest movies at the box office. On the Friday, March 21, 2014, segment, he reviews "Muppets Most Wanted," which he says is missing some of the heart of the first movie, but has some good laughs and cameos. He also chats about the 38th Cleveland International Film Festival, going on through March 30 in downtown Cleveland.