Xpress, the Coolest Section of the St. Petersburg Times, is the home for features, news and views of interest to young readers. Most of the work in Xpress, which appears on Mondays in Floridian, is produced by the Times' X-Team. The team of journalists ages 9-17 from around the Tampa Bay area is selected every year at the end of the school year to serve during the following school term. The current team of 12 was chosen out of 150 applicants. Watch for X-Team application forms in Xpress during the month of May.

Read the reviews by Xpress Film Critic Billy Norris

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Movie review

A fine film with all the trimmings

Published November 10, 2003

Katie Holmes
[United Artists]
April (Katie Holmes) waits for her family to arrive for Thanksgiving in the comedic drama Pieces of April.

Movie: Pieces of April

Rating: PG-13

Summary: April Burns (Katie Holmes) is a moody 21-year-old living in a rundown New York City apartment with her boyfriend, Bobby (Derek Luke). Though she has been alienated from her family, she offers to host this year's Thanksgiving feast. Her mother (with whom her relationship has been rocky at best) is seriously ill, and she would like to make peace with her and the rest of the family. Surprisingly, the reluctant family agrees to come. When the day arrives, her mother (Patricia Clarkson), father (Oliver Platt), sister Beth (Alison Pill), brother Timmy (John Gallagher Jr.) and Grandma Dottie (Alice Drummond) pile in the car to make the trip from suburban Pennsylvania. April simultaneously begins preparing the meal, which she has no idea how to properly cook. She quickly discovers that her oven doesn't work, and she goes on a quest through her apartment building to find one in which to cook the turkey. Meanwhile, the family's trip is interjected with floods of pentup emotions, and their overall attitude toward the occasion is not a bright one. In the end, the story becomes a testament to the kindness of strangers and the undying nature of binding family love.

My View: This independent film is the directorial debut of award-winning screenplay writer Peter Hedges, and it has a very genuine feeling to it. The basis for the story came from two places, the first being an anecdote he'd heard about some people in New York City whose oven broke down on Thanksgiving Day. The other inspiration for the film was drawn partly from his personal emotional experiences of having a terminally ill mother. The film is shot using only digital cameras, which gives it the feel of a home video. There was not a single weak acting performance - the cast was rock solid and so believable. The quirky neighbors accurately depict the diversity of people living in America. The true power and depth of the story doesn't hit you right away. It may be a few hours before you fully realize what an amazingly moving film it is . Academy Award nominations are most definitely in order, since Pieces of April isn't quite like anything we've seen.

Recommendations: This is a very real look into the lives of family members dealing with a lot of deep-rooted emotions. Because of the reality, it's probably not suitable for anyone under 15. It's funny, sad and everything in between. If you can handle all of that, then by all means go see this film. Grade: A

- Billy Norris, 15, is in the 10th grade at Seminole High School and is a former member of the Times X-Team.

[Last modified November 7, 2003, 14:15:15]

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