Tuesday 29 Jul

Escape from Tomorrow

With Escape from Tomorrow, one fears the story behind the movie would loom larger than the movie itself. Luckily, that is not the case. After all, it opens with a decapitation on Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster.
05/06/2014 | Comments 0


William Friedkin spends a lot of time in his 2013 memoir discussing why Sorcerer didn't click with critics and audiences even though he believes it to be better than his previous film, The Exorcist. Now that Warner Home Video has reissued Sorcerer on Blu-ray, we can see what Friedkin's fuss is all about.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season

Welcome to the coastal resort of Broadchurch, population … oh, who can keep track, what will all the corpses? Yes, Broadchurch is yet another British television procedural involving the search for a murderer in a quaint little town, just like the limited series The Fall and Top of the Lake.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Essentially part five in the ridiculously profitable horror franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones continues the found-footage conceit of the other films. The difference is instead of the scares taking place in rich white suburbia, they do so in a junky apartment complex on a largely Latino side of Oxnard, Calif.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Holy Ghost People

Holy Ghost People examines two sisters whose bond is torn — but by what? After her sibling has been missing for more than a year, Charlotte (Emma Greenwell, TV's Shameless) intends to find out.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Documentary · Brooklyn Castle

Brooklyn Castle

A real-life slice of chess pie.

Rod Lott February 18th, 2013

At I.S. 318 junior high in Brooklyn, N.Y., the “geeks are the athletes,” and Brooklyn Castle is the story of how these inner-city kings and queens fight to keep their standings.


The feature debut of director Katie Dellamaggiore, the documentary is now available on demand from FilmBuff.

While this institution holds more championship chess titles than any other middle school in the nation (26), the film opens with them experiencing loss — well, second place, at least, among 862 teams. They win so often that not winning is a shock to the kids’ systems.

The bulk of Brooklyn Castle finds them prepping for the next trip to nationals, but facing a road more roughly paved than ever. Not only do these children — mostly African-American and highly disadvantaged financially — have their everyday pressures, but face an impending test that will determine which 600 students among 15,000 applicants will be allowed into a specialized — read: quality — high school.

And on top of that, the U.S. recession hits, and New York City’s billion-dollar deficit threatens to derail school enrichment programs, such as chess. And for these kids, chess is what they live for — more than a game, it’s an anchor attached to the straight-and-narrow, a beacon showing them a way toward a bright future.

On those nonfic-film levels of feel-good and good-for-you, Brooklyn Castle works. It’s like an offshoot of Waiting for “Superman," demonstrating the tangible value of extracurricular education beyond the three Rs that public schools can provide, when only someone cares to.

The film is too long, however; at some point, Dellamaggiore hits a repeat cycle before the final act kicks in. Stories of pint-sized chess champs aren’t new, and the best I’ve encountered were told in print, but this may inspire viewers mildly. It certainly won’t hurt.  —Rod Lott

Hey! Read This:
Bobby Fischer Against the World DVD review   
The Kings of New York book review   
• Waiting for “Superman” film review     

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