The Pursuit of Happyness Review

by Olga Meserman


October 26, 2020

The Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Gabriele Muccino, is a heartwarming cinematic biography based on the life of a struggling salesman trying to keep his life from falling apart. Will Smith and his eight-year-old son Jaden star as Chris Gardner and his five-year-old son Chris Jr. Additional appearances are made by Thandie Newton, James Karen, and Kurt Fuller. This movie was one of the highlights of 2006 and still remains a great choice if you’re looking for a touching story that illustrates all the ups and downs life can throw at you. The movie starts out by introducing Chris as a seemingly content businessman who invests all of his savings in portable bone-density scanners. However, his lack of sales forces his wife to work double shifts as a maid, resulting in problems for their marriage. Chris then lands an unpaid internship at a stockbroking company and competes with twenty people for a single position, circumstances that only make his marriage deteriorate. Before long, he and his wife split, and as a result, Chris Jr. is left with his father, who attempts to keep their life together as everything around them is falling apart. While attempting to make ends meet, Chris has to make sure his son is taken care of. Throughout the movie, the audience can see how hard he works so that his son won’t have to sleep in shelters or on bathroom floors.

The portrayal of Chris’ bond with his son is perfect. Chris Jr. is a sweet and adorable kid who has no clue what’s going on in his life. The beginning of the movie makes you feel genuine empathy toward Chris; both the actor and director elicit empathy brilliantly. This movie is suspenseful and sad and shows that there is hope for anyone. I really enjoyed how it integrated the issues of both the father and the son. In one scene, Chris Jr. drops his only toy, an action figure, on the ground just as he and his dad are about to get on a bus. When he tries to pick it up, his dad won’t let him, because then he’ll be late for his meeting and won’t get the job he’s seeking. This scene ends with the five-year-old tearfully leaning against the bus window, watching his one toy move farther and farther away. Another moving scene revolves around the difficulties the father and son face after they don’t get into a shelter for the evening. In a low and desperate point of the movie, Chris has to take his son into a bathroom stall of a train station to sleep for the night. The Pursuit of Happyness portrays well what it’s like to make your way up from what seems like rock bottom; in doing so, it causes the audience to feel grateful for what they have. And with an appearance from the real-life Chris Gardner at the end, The Pursuit of Happyness is surely a movie you don’t want to miss. 

The Fifth Element Review

by Allie Vasserman


October 26, 2020

The Fifth Element is an original 1997 science fiction action movie directed by Luc Besson. It stars Bruce Willis as former army major Korban Dallas, Milla Jovovich as Leeloo, Gary Oldman as industrialist Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg, Ian Holm as high priest Vito Cornelius, and Chris Tucker as radio host Ruby Rhod.

The movie starts in 1914. A group of aliens, the Mondoshawans, arrive on Earth and meet a person who is a priest of a mysterious order at a temple in Egypt. The Mondoshawans take a secret weapon meant to save Earth from a great evil that is supposed to come every 5,000 years, believing that the weapon is not safe with the people on Earth. The weapon is made up of five parts: four that represent the four elements of earth, air, water, and fire, and a fifth element that seems to be a mysterious box. The movie then jumps to the year 2263, when the great evil appears in outer space. We meet the fifth element, a girl named Leeloo who is brought to Earth by the military and runs into major Korban Dallas. Dallas used to be in the military but now is working as a taxi driver in New York City. The military convinces Dallas to help them retrieve the other four parts of the weapon from a friend on the planet Fhloston. Dallas teams up with Leeloo and high priest Vito Cornelius, and with the help of a few memorable characters, they race against the clock to save the Earth from both the great evil and its ally, Zorg.

The Fifth Element has a different feeling from most science fiction films, in part because it has French influence: Besson, the director, is French, two French comic artists, Jean “Moebius” Giraud and Jean-Claude Mézières, served on the movie’s production design team, and Jean-Paul Gaultier oversaw costume design. American viewers may never have seen a movie with substantial French aspects before. Furthermore, the movie has a humorous element to it and so never becomes too serious. There are some key moments that are easy to miss if you don’t pay close attention. In a favorite scene of mine, Dallas is negotiating with a group of aliens on another planet. He outsmarts the aliens and defeats them in an original and imaginative way. One theme in the movie is mankind’s desire for technology. At one point in the movie, the antagonist Zorg almost dies from choking on a cherry pit, despite being surrounded by revolutionary technology in his office, because he doesn’t know which gadget he can use to save himself. The film shows that an overload of technology is not good for mankind and one day may be the end of us.

The movie has action, humor, and characters whom we as an audience care about. The special effects are not up to modern standards, but the movie does not look too dated. There is an appropriate age range for the movie; I do not recommend it for young children, because some humor will go over their heads, and there may be a few scenes that are difficult for them to understand. Teenagers and adults are more likely to enjoy it. I think The Fifth Element is a good movie for the right audience, and I would recommend watching it.

Summer Movie Recommendations and Upcoming Movies

by Theo Sloan


May 6, 2020

Hello, and welcome to my final article of the school year. I’d like to start with a quick recap of what we have learned together. We established that Star Wars concluded in a mediocre and lackluster fashion with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, discovered that Ryan Johnson, the director of Knives Out, knows how to make an incredible whodunnit, examined some incredible animated family films, and looked back at one of the greatest sitcoms ever made, The Good Place. I highly recommend that you check out all three of the projects I have mentioned by name, because two of them are fantastic, and even though I didn’t like The Rise of Skywalker, you may love it. However, previously discussed movies are not the point of this article. Instead, I will give you ten movie recommendations, and then I will discuss five significant movies being released in the near future that are either special to me or important pop culture markers.

I will begin with the recommendations, sometimes cheating a bit and including franchises as well as movies. With social distancing practices in place, it is likely that this summer will feel very long, so there will be plenty of time to sit back and watch a movie or even an entire franchise. 

  1. Jurassic Park (1993) — From director Steven Spielberg, Jurassic Park is one of the best adventure thrillers ever made. Although it came out nearly thirty years ago, its combined use of special and practical effects has allowed it to hold up extremely well. It is a tense, heart-pounding, well-acted, skillfully shot movie with a brilliant score, and if you haven’t already seen it, you really should. 
  2. Alien (1979) — Alien may be the best horror film ever made. It is intriguing, involving a great main character, an amazing performance from Sigourney Weaver, a thrilling blend of jump scares, and genuinely scary scenes. Alien is included in the list of my top five favorite movies of all time, and it is one of director Ridley Scott’s greatest movies. 
  3. Aliens (1986) — Aliens is the second movie in the Alien franchiseand it is possibly even better than Alien. Aliens is an action thriller, and it is unbelievably good. This movie is quotable, the action is intense and exciting, and it has one of the best action movie finales ever. Combine those aspects with some fantastic performances, compelling characters, and James Cameron’s exceptional direction, and you have an instant classic. It’s a pity that the franchise never even came close to this kind of quality ever again. 
  4. Star Wars (1977) — Now, I know you’ve probably seen this movie, but go back and watch it again! It’s incredible, and it still holds up well today. If you can get your hands on the original cut, that’s even better. Star Wars speaks for itself. 
  5. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) — The Empire Strikes Back may have been able to surpass the original 1977 Star Wars, an already amazing movie. The 1980 installment in the Star Wars franchise is acclaimed, but you probably know that. So, after you finish Star Wars, sit back and enjoy the last good Star Wars movie produced until 2015. I mean that, and I’m not forgetting Return of the Jedi.
  6. Spotlight (2015) — Welcome to the first drama biopic on this list. Spotlight is a true story set in Boston about the uncovering of an enormous scandal. I don’t want to spoil the premise, but it’s great. The cast includes Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton, who both give noteworthy performances. Check it out. 
  7. Spirited Away (2001) — Spirited Away is likely the best animated movie of all time. The animation is gorgeous, the story is heartfelt, and the voice acting is stellar. If you haven’t seen it, you simply must. It is truly fantastic.
  8. The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) — The Fellowship of the Ring begins The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it is probably the best one out of the three. It has fantastic horror elements, and they are blended expertly with the adventure and fantasy tone that the rest of the movie has. The acting is fantastic, especially Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Sean Bean as Boromir. This movie also chooses not to incorporate any particularly long battles, which the other films in the trilogy have, and I find that this decision helps the movie keep a nice pace throughout the runtime. 
  9. The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-present) — The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is the highest grossing film franchise, and the movies are generally great. I thoroughly enjoy the majority of them, and even my least favorite ones aren’t really very bad. I recommend checking out all of these movies, but if that is too daunting, Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, and Captain America: The First Avenger are all good points to jump into the franchise.
  10. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) — Watching Bohemian Rhapsody, a Freddie Mercury biographical movie, is a great way to occupy some free time. Bohemian Rhapsody isn’t remarkable cinema, but Rami Malek gives a fantastic performance as Freddie Mercury, and the soundtrack is fun to listen to. 

To conclude, I will introduce five upcoming movies that either stand out to me or are projected to be strongly received by a wider audience.

  1. Black Widow (2020) — Black Widow is the first movie in Phase Four of the MCU. I love the MCU; therefore, I am especially excited about it.
  2. Tenet (2020) — Tenet is Christopher Nolan’s next movie. Nolan is a great director, known well for his innovative, unconventional movies, so I am naturally pretty excited.
  3. F9 (2021) — I hate everything about the Fast and Furious franchise, but as it has managed to maintain its popularity with a certain demographic, I feel obligated to mention that there is a new addition coming out next year. Even if you like cars more than is strictly necessary, you should still not check F9 out, because the entire franchise is garbage. 
  4. No Time to Die (2020) — No Time to Die features Daniel Craig’s last appearance as James Bond. Once again, the James Bond series doesn’t interest me, but I know many people love it, so the upcoming installment makes this list. 
  5. The Eternals (2021) — The Eternals is the second movie in Phase 4 of the MCU, and it stars Brian Tyree Henry as Phastos, MCU’s first major character who is a part of the LGBTQ community. The inclusion of this character is a step forward for Disney, as it has been known to not handle LGBTQ representation well in the past, so let’s hope Marvel can pull it off. 

I’ll see you all next year.

Apollo 13 Review

by Allie Vasserman


May 4, 2020

The next movie on our quarantine family movie playlist is the 1995 film Apollo 13, which is directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell, Bill Paxton as Fred Haise, Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert, Gary Sinise as Ken Mattingly, and Ed Harris as Gene Kranz.

Apollo 13 is based on the actual events of the disastrous 1970 Apollo 13 space shuttle mission, which was unsuccessful in achieving its objective of landing on the moon. In 1969, the United States Space Shuttle Apollo 11 was the first to land on the moon. Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, astronauts on the space shuttle, were the first people to walk on the moon. Apollo 13 planned to repeat Apollo 11’s mission, and Jim Lovell and Fred Haise intended to walk on the Moon. Unfortunately, there was a problem with the shuttle on its way to the moon, and the three astronauts, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert, found themselves in great danger. They were under intense pressure to do everything in their power to get themselves home safely. The famous line “Houston, we have a problem” is said by Tom Hanks in his role as Lovell when he realizes there is an issue with the space shuttle. Since this is a movie based on actual events, it is not a spoiler to say that the astronauts come home safely. For fans of Easter eggs, Jim Lovell makes a small cameo in this movie as a captain of the United States Ship Iwo Jima.

Once the space shuttle takes off, every scene is shot with suspense, making Apollo 13 captivating and interesting. Even though the audience may know that Apollo 13 has a happy ending, the movie manages to produce a feeling of uncertainty that the astronauts might not make it home. In the beginning, Apollo 13 moves somewhat slowly, but it picks up the pace as soon as the shuttle lifts off. Everything in the movie is based on real-life events, including a scene in which Lovell’s wife accidentally drops her wedding ring down a shower drain.

Throughout the duration of Apollo 13, I could not take my eyes off the screen. I was compelled to watch it to the end. From the moment when the problems began to appear on the space shuttle to the ending, I was literally on the edge of my seat. The actors excel at their roles, and all the characters are portrayed well. The special effects are great, and the CGI, or computer-generated imagery, on the launchpad for a powerful rocket, Saturn V, was especially convincing. Apollo 13 is a great movie for a family movie night, and I definitely recommend watching it.

Inception Review

by Allie Vasserman


April 14, 2020

While in quarantine, I have spent some time with my family watching movies that I haven’t had the opportunity to watch before. I recently saw Inception, a movie that came out in 2010. Inception stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Dom Cobb, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, Ellen Page as Ariadne, Tom Hardy as Eames, Ken Watanabe as Saito, and Marion Cotillard as Mal. The director of the movie, Christopher Nolan, did an amazing job.

Inception is a heist movie in which a group of people are hired to perform a possibly illegal task. The movie takes place in a time that is similar to today but has technology that allows people to enter and share others’ dreams. I don’t want to reveal too much more, because the best way to see this movie is to know as little about the plot as possible.

The protagonists who are hired to complete the heist assemble a team, plan for the job, and then execute it. Even though the team is likely committing a crime, we feel that they are doing it for a good reason. We root for them and want them to succeed. We especially hope that Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb is successful because the outcome of this heist decides whether he can go home to his family.

One of the things that I really like about this movie is its well-filmed scenes. The fight scenes are amazing. My favorite is the rotating hallway fight scene, which has great choreography and even involves a spinning wind tunnel. Another scene that is filmed well is one in which Ellen Page’s Ariadne becomes a member of the heist team. Christopher Nolan has her experiment to get a feel for the nature of her job on the team. The special effects are amazing, and the scene is shot without the use of CGI, or computer-generated imagery, being obvious. Christopher Nolan’s writing and directing are compelling. He crafts an original story that is not a remake or sequel of another movie. The actors do a great job of playing well-developed and interesting characters.

Christopher Nolan included some Easter eggs in Inception, such as the character Ariadne’s name. In Greek mythology, Ariadne is a Cretan princess. She is associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myth of the Minotaur and Theseus. Those who are familiar with Greek myths will draw a connection between Inception’s Ariadne and the mythical Ariadne.

The final scene of Inception is emotional and uncertain. The director wants the audience to speculate about what actually happened at the end. When you see this movie with someone, you are going to want to discuss what the ending means.

I recommend watching this amazing movie with your family. The ending can spark a lively debate.

Animation in Movies: Reaching Beyond a Younger Audience

by Theo Sloan


April 14, 2020

Animation is a hugely popular medium of storytelling. Countless animated movies get released every year, and they generally rake in massive amounts of money. For example, last year both Pixar’s Toy Story 4 and Disney’s Frozen 2 made over a billion dollars, and the year before, The Incredibles 2 and Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse were released, making, respectively, over a billion dollars and almost 400 million. Despite their commercial success, animated movies are often dismissed by film critics and, to a greater extent, the general public, as “silly kids’ stuff.” While there are certainly some animated movies that do deserve that dismissal such as the Cars series and Trolls, there are also many animated movies that simply warrant more praise than they receive. To recognize some animated movies that rise above the label of “kids’ movies,” I will review Klaus, an amazing and somewhat recent film that deserves praise, a collection of spectacular superhero movies, and Coco, a stunning movie that allows the viewer to dive deep into Mexican culture and contains a strong message that will resonate with any audience.

Klaus is an original Netflix animated movie that details the origin story of Santa Claus. While this concept has certainly been adapted into many animated movies over the years, this particular version of the story is unique, for it is told from the perspective of a lazy, spoiled mailman who is sent to a distant country to establish a post office. The story is rather simple, but it services the movie perfectly. Klaus is beautifully animated, extremely well written, and contains great acting. The movie manages to draw rich emotions out of a simple, charming Santa Claus story. If you have a younger sibling, or you want something to very pleasantly kill a few hours of your incredibly long day in quarantine, Klaus is the movie for you. I implore you to check it out, and I’ll give it a very solid 9/10.

With comic-book movies becoming more popular by the day and Marvel’s having delayed their next movie, Black Widow, against the background of the coronavirus pandemic, I thought I would shed some light on three fantastic animated superhero movies that truly stand out in an over-crowded medium: The Incredibles, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Megamind. I’ll start with The Incredibles because it is the one that most people have probably heard of. The Incredibles is Brad Bird’s take on the comic-book genre. It was released by Pixar in 2004 and since then has become an animated classic. This movie features well-written characters, amazing character-driven conflicts, great voice-acting from the cast, heart-pounding action, and a gleefully evil villain in Syndrome. The Incredibles also features stunning animation, especially considering it was released in 2004. This movie has a lot of humor aimed specifically at an older audience, which is fairly rare in the animated medium. The Incredibles is great, and if you somehow haven’t heard of it, I highly recommend that you check it out. In fact, if you’ve already seen it, go back to it again. I promise that it will be even better this time around. I’ll rate it a 9/10.

Another great animated film is Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. This movie is truly unique. It is the first movie to ever focus on Miles Morales, who holds the title of Spider-Man in the Marvel comics, and it has an unique style of animation that has never been seen before. It is animated to look like a comic-book, which is accomplished with sneaky practices such as playing around with the frame rate of the movie. You’ll only notice the changes if you look out for them, but they give the movie a perfect comic-book feel. Besides the animation, this movie somehow manages to unite six different versions of Spider-Man, have a star-studded cast, incorporate heart-pounding, visually stunning action sequences, contain an amazing villain, and still pull off a great story. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse even achieves a perfect balance between drama and comedy. It’s an all around incredible experience. I’ll give it a rare 9.5/10, and I highly recommend that you check it out if you haven’t already. 

The 2010 movie Megamind is supremely underrated. It does an amazing job of incorporating adult themes, such as some mild references to sexual harassment, while also being a funny, clever inversion of a superhero movie told from the villain’s perspective. Megamind came out during the same year as Despicable Me and has some superficial similarities to it, but I find Megamind to be a much more mature movie than Despicable Me. I give it a very solid 8/10, and I recommend that you watch it if you haven’t yet done so.

The greatest animated movie of all time is, in my opinion, Coco. It offers a deep, rich exploration into Mexican culture, especially concerning Día de Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Coco was released in 2017 and is Pixar’s first movie to focus on music. It is a spectacular movie. The music is naturally woven into the story but is also relevant to its exploration of Mexican culture. Coco has a great message about family and passion. It invokes emotion from the viewer. The animation is also jaw-droppingly amazing, and might be the best animation in any Pixar movie. Unlike Megamind, I have many thoughts on this movie, but I don’t want to spoil anything, even something minor, so I’ll end by saying that this movie is a 10/10. I highly recommend that you check Coco out. 

The Good Place Review

by Theo Sloan


March 25, 2020

Recently, The Good Place, an innovative comedy set in the afterlife, concluded. Since its debut in 2016, it has been one of the best shows on TV. It stars Ted Dansen, Kristen Bell, D’Arcy Carden, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto. Although it starts out in the framework of a sitcom, it quickly grows beyond that. In the end, it delivers four funny, smart, and great seasons. 

Season one has a promising beginning. The pilot episode is funny, vibrant, and full of life. It perfectly introduces all of the characters while cracking really fun, smart jokes and instantly drawing the audience into the story. It even manages to develop a large plot twist in the first fifteen minutes. There are two other twists in season one. They occur at the halfway point and during the finale. These twists do a fantastic job at keeping the show fresh, as well as subverting a staple of the sitcom, the status quo that every episode opens with. Season one also includes some amazing characters. Kristen Bell and Ted Dansen are spectacular, and the rest of the cast also does a fantastic job, especially William Jackson Harper and Manny Jacinto. Furthermore, the first season introduces and centers on the study of moral philosophy. It does a great job of making ethics easy to understand as well as entertaining to learn about. However, season one also has a serious pacing issue. As the season moves into its second half, it becomes very repetitive, and the amount of story in each episode begins to dwindle severely, a problem that many sitcoms face. Sitcoms do not often have continuous character development, but when a show wants to include ongoing character development and a narrative that continues from episode to episode, it cannot make the mistake that season one of The Good Place does. The repetition continues until the finale. The last episode of season one is able to inject life back into the show with an enormous, well-integrated twist that sets up season two perfectly. Despite the flaws mentioned above, season one is an incredibly strong season that is funny, fun, well-acted, and smart. I give it a solid, respectable 8.5/10. 

Season two of The Good Place is very similar to season one, but the storyline is a little bit more extreme. The opening episodes are funnier than the opening episodes of season one. The plot is more driving, and the ending episodes are even better and more interesting. The cast all do an amazing job once again, and Maya Rudolph has a fantastic cameo in some of the final episodes. Season two dives into deep philosophical questions with even more vigor than the previous season. It tackles these issues in a more interesting way than season one. A particular sequence involving the so called “trolley problem” is especially entertaining. However, season two suffers from even worse pacing issues than season one does. There are three episodes in the middle that are tough to get through. Therefore, although it does perform better than season one is some aspects, season two also averages out to an 8.5/10.

Season three is where The Good Place gets into top-quality television territory. It delivers twelve episodes of deeply funny, thought-provoking, well-written, emotionally poignant television. It is very difficult to talk about this show without spoiling things, but I’ll try my best. The jokes in this season are some of the funniest yet. The entire cast is giving amazing performances, none of the episodes are badly paced or fillers, and the ending is one of the best surprise endings I have ever seen. All sitcoms should aspire to reach the quality of season three, and all of the badly paced episodes in the first two seasons are worth sitting through to get to it. I rate it a 10/10.

Season four of The Good Place is a mixed bag with a fantastic final four episodes. The opening of season four is the worst that the show has ever been. The newly introduced characters are not very compelling, and the story drags a lot. However, about halfway through, the season starts to improve. It begins to be consistently funny again, and the newer characters make fewer appearances. By the last four episodes, the season is back in full swing, and the ending of the show leaves the viewer emotionally wrecked and completely satisfied. The beginning of the fourth season is a 6.5/10, but the finale brings the season up to an 8/10.

My final score for the entirety of The Good Place is a glowing 9/10. It is an imaginative, captivating show with a creative storyline and fascinating characters. It would be great to binge while social distancing.

Onward Review

by Allie Vasserman


March 23, 2020

Pixar has a history of making some great movies and some not-so-great movies. I think Onward is one of the great ones. Onward starts by describing a world that was filled with magic in the past. Chris Pratt and Tom Holland, who play Star-Lord and Spiderman, respectively, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, voice two elf brothers, Barley and Ian. Their dad passed away when they were young, and they have been raised by their single mom. 

Onward then jumps right into Ian’s sixteenth birthday, and we see that Ian looks up to his deceased dad and wishes to spend a day with him. Barley and Ian receive a chance to bring their dad back from the dead and to spend one day with him if Ian can use a magic wand and a special gem to perform a certain spell that their dad left them. When Ian attempts the spell, he brings back his dad, but only from the waist down. To remedy this, Ian and Barley go on a grand and glorious adventure to try find another special gem in under 24 hours that will allow Ian to bring back the rest of their dad.

Onward is filled with mythical and magical creatures, such as centaurs, unicorns, pixies, and elves. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are both really funny, and they work well together. This movie portrays a positive relationship between the two brothers, Barley and Ian. They care and make sacrifices for each other, and they have each other’s back when they go up against the world on their adventure. Onward also illustrates the strength of parental love, because as a single mother, Barley’s and Ian’s mom follows her two sons on their journey once she finds them missing. She knows that they are in danger and goes after them herself instead of asking someone else to do it for her. In addition, Onward depicts a blended family, since Barley and Ian have a stepfather. They initially do not get along with him, but their relationship becomes better toward the end of the movie. I like that this movie shows character growth in Ian. In the beginning, Ian is nervous and fearful of many things, but at the end of the movie, he has conquered most of his fears and is more confident.

This movie is one of my favorite Pixar movies next to Wall-E, and I really enjoyed watching it. I especially liked the funny dynamic between the two brothers, and I appreciate how Barley is always there to help Ian and to teach him skills, such as driving and magic. I definitely recommend watching this movie. As a tip, Onward is coming to Disney+ on April 3rd. This would be a great movie to watch with your family while practicing social distancing!

Birds of Prey Review

by Allie Vasserman


February 20, 2020

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is the eighth installment in the DC Extended Universe. The movie starts by quickly summarizing what happened to Harley Quinn after the end of Suicide Squad, the third installment in the DC Extended Universe. It then jumps straight to the present, including a lot of catchy loud music and violent murders done by crazy villains Roman Sionis (a.k.a Black Skull), played by Ewan McGregor, and Victor Zsasz, played by Chris Messina. 

The movie stars and is narrated by Bird of Prey Harley Quinn, played amazingly with great enthusiasm by Margot Robbie. In the animated prologue scene, she briefly explains her life before Suicide Squad, how she met the Joker, and how they broke up before the start of this movie. The movie then jumps straight into the action with bloody violence and murder.  Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is violent, sad, sarcastic, hilarious, and looking to find her identity now that she’s no longer the Joker’s girlfriend. The timeline of the movie jumps back and forth from the past to the present as we meet the other characters in the movie. The other Birds of Prey are: singer Dinah Lance (a.k.a the Black Canary), played by Jurnee Smollett-Bell, assassin Helena Bertinelli (a.k.a the Huntress), played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, pickpocket Cassandra Cain, played by Ella Jay Basco, and detective Renee Montoya, played by Rosie Perez. 

The plot of the movie has to do with a special diamond that Sionis and Zsasz want to find. Harley Quinn tries to get it first because she’s trying to save her own life from all the bad guys who want to kill her now that she no longer has the Joker’s protection. The plot of the movie is not really important. It only serves as a reason for the bad guys to be violent, creepy and genuinely scary, and for the good girls, criminals yet the protagonists of the movie, to be violent and a little scary but also funny and caring. The stronger Birds of Prey, such as Harley and Dinah, look out for the weaker Bird of Prey, Cassandra, because they care about her and want to protect her from Sionis. Ultimately, it’s a movie about women who are learning to be independent and breaking free from the oppressive men in their lives by sticking together and helping each other. The movie is rated R for a reason. There are some disturbing themes and scenes in the movie. I would not recommend this movie to people who cannot handle violence in movies. 

One of the things I like about this movie is that you don’t need to see Suicide Squad, the movie in which the character Harley Quinn was first introduced, to understand it. I think this movie portrayed the toxic relationship between Harley and the Joker much better than Suicide Squad did by giving more background to it. I also appreciated that the writers finally brought Harley’s hyena to the big screen from the comic books. The hyena provides some comic relief, and I believe he is a symbol for Harley’s craziness. I think that director Kathy Yann is a genius because she created a movie that is fun to watch with amazing fight scenes. This is one of my favorite DC movies, and I think it is one of the best next to Wonder Woman and Shazam. I see this movie as a success and predict a sequel in the future.  As a tip, for those who plan to sit through the credits for the post-credits scene, there isn’t one. This movie is awesome and I definitely recommend watching it.

Knives Out Review

by Theo Sloan


February 17, 2020

Knives Out is director Rian Johnson’s fourth movie, and it is his first movie since Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi. It stars Daniel Craig as Detective Benoit Blanc, Chris Evans as Ransom Robinson, and Ana de Armas as Marta. It also features many famous stars, such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Frank Oz, in smaller roles. Knives Out is a spectacular movie, one of the best of 2019, making talking about the good in this movie both fun and easy. Please note that I will not be discussing plot details in this review because I recommend seeing the movie if you have not already done so.

Knives Out is a murder mystery with a new twist. It is set in a grand mansion in Massachusetts, and it has a witty tone, deviating from the dark, sinister tone of the classic murder mystery. It is similar to the classic in that it aims to have the audience guessing who the murderer is throughout the runtime. Knives Out achieves this goal, and it also includes a second story that kicks in about halfway through the movie that almost overshadows the murder mystery itself. However, the murder mystery is fantastic and features some of the best twists and turns in any movie I have ever seen. This movie is amazingly well-written. The acting is also phenomenal. I praised Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley in The Rise of Skywalker, and I stand by that, but the acting here completely blows those performances out of the water. This movie features Ana de Armas in her biggest role yet, and she does a fantastic job. Daniel Craig is amazing as well, and Chris Evans proves that he is capable of more than the nice-guy Captain America role he has been playing for ten years. In addition, the score in this movie is fantastic. From the beginning of the long, uncut opening shot, the score instantly grabbed my attention and pulled me into the movie. 

Knives Out completely sucks its audience into the world it establishes and the story it tells. I consider these to be the most important attributes of a movie. From the opening frame to the closing shot, it had my full attention. It was at times dramatic, scary, intense, sad, funny, and victorious, and it never once pulled me out of the movie. Knives Out also features some biting social commentary. I am more open to political messages in movies than some people, but I acknowledge that it can sometimes feel forced or pretentious. However, this movie suffers from none of that. Its main point was that, regardless of their political views, the rich do not ever want their wealth taken away from them, and they will turn on anyone who tries to do that. 

Knives Out is great, though I do have a nitpicky issue with it. There are some characters played by fantastic actors who don’t get much screen time, and I wish some of them had a little more time to chew scenery because they are all so great, but this is an insignificant issue. Rian Johnson also manages to stick a little message about internet trolls into the movie, a group he dealt with after The Last Jedi proved to be the one of most controversial media of the 2010s.

The movie is essentially perfect. Knives Out is now available to stream and will be coming to DVD very soon. I highly recommend that you check it out.