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Movie Planner: Shorecrest teacher makes a movie, 'Miracles from Heaven,' 'Allegiant' and Don Rickles


Shorecrest Preparatory School teacher Bennett Zamoff never made a feature-length movie before.

That isn't why Zamoff's debut is titled The First.

His documentary, premiering Friday at Shorecrest, traces the career and cultural influence of Brooklyn Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson, "the catalyst of the civil rights movement," in Zamoff's eyes.

"In 1947 when Jackie came in (to the majors), he really was the civil rights movement," said the 43-year-old Spanish teacher, "the first person to show integration really can work, on a large stage everyone followed."

Zamoff began working on the documentary in 2012, before the release of the Robinson biopic 42.

The First is produced through a grant from George Washington University, where Zamoff's father is a professor leading the Jackie Robinson Project, visiting schools teaching the Hall of Famer's legacy. The documentary aimed at younger students will only be distributed as an educational tool, free of charge.

"I work with younger kids, and I thought it would be cool to have students tell the story," Zamoff said. "Six boys who are now in grades 3 through 5 are narrating the film."

The First will be shown Friday at Shorecrest's Janet Root Theatre, 5101 First St. NE in St. Petersburg. Admission is free but seats must be reserved at


Always nice to find someone with a sense of humor like Christy Beam's.

The author saw my recent tweet, joking that the scariest thing about the previous night's 10 Cloverfield Lane screening was that I nearly walked into Miracles From Heaven (PG), based on Beam's faith-based memoir.

She "liked" the tweet. I like her style.

Miracles From Heaven stars Jennifer Garner as Beam, whose daughter Anna (Kylie Rogers) suffered from a rare digestive disease that disappeared when she was hospitalized after falling from a tree. The child described a near-death experience in what believers defined as heaven, just like that other kid in Heaven Is for Real, which became a grass roots hit movie in 2014.



It's definitely coincidence but Allegiant may not be the best title for a movie, after all of the unflattering issues lately for the airline of that name.

Things like that make it too easy for critics, if the movie doesn't, umm, fly.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant (PG-13) continues the saga of Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), whose story is ripped from the headlines of Panem, where The Hunger Games did this futuristic teen savior stuff first and better.

Anyone who can correctly describe everything that has happened so far gets my appreciation, if not respect. The first two movies in the franchise entertained at the moment but certainly didn't stick. Neither are they enticing enough to revisit before checking out Allegiant.

Check for a review.


Coming later this week: an interview with legendary comedian Don Rickles, whose 90th birthday celebration comes 7:30 p.m. March 23 to Ruth Eckerd Hall ($50.25-$103.75).

Known best for searing insult comedy, Rickles shouldn't be underestimated as a movie and television actor. Two personal favorites: Rickles' turn as a carnival owner exploiting Ray Milland's ability in The Man with the X-Ray Eyes and "Crapgame," the battlefield fixer stealing Nazi gold in Kelly's Heroes.

Plus, of course, Rickles' vocal performances as Mr. Potato Head in four Toy Story movies, the latest due in 2018.

"What I do is different, and different took me a long way," Rickles said.

Read more Thursday at

in theaters: our Top 5

Current movies recommended by the Tampa Bay Times:

1 10 Cloverfield Lane: Can John Goodman earn his first Oscar nod for a genre flick? Hope so.

2 Hello, My Name Is Doris/The Bronze: Take your pick of hit-and-miss indie comedies, the former a Sally Field showcase.

3 The Revenant: Three Academy Awards, including best actor Leonardo DiCaprio and best director Alejandro G. Iñárritu.

4 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: Television reporters (Tina Fey and Margot Robbie) cover the Afghanistan war.

5 Deadpool: Gleefully graphic adventures of Marvel's superantihero (Ryan Reynolds).


(dates subject to change)

March 25: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice; My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2; The Disappointments Room

April 1: Collide; God's Not Dead 2

April 8: Before I Wake; The Boss; Hardcore Henry

April 15: The Jungle Book; Barbershop: The Next Cut; Everybody Wants Some; Criminal

Movie Planner: Shorecrest teacher makes a movie, 'Miracles from Heaven,' 'Allegiant' and Don Rickles 03/16/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2016 10:47am]
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