Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

by Christian Asdourian


December 17, 2021

Back in April when the first Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021) trailer was released, my initial impression was that the movie was being set up to fail. How could a street-level martial arts movie compare to the massive scale of Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019)? Fast forward five months, and I’m walking out of the cinema thinking, “Wow, I’ve never been so wrong in my life.” After rewatching it recently, my love for this film was only reaffirmed. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is a masterpiece that beautifully melds action, comedy, and a genuine sense of adventure. More importantly than that, however, it manages to cultivate a unique identity in the vast and ever-growing Marvel mythos.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who is credited with pioneering Asian representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). He draws on the rich history of Chinese culture to tell a compelling story about family. Our leading character is Shaun, or more accurately Shang-Chi, who is played by Simu Liu. I remember that in the weeks leading up to the film’s release in theatres, the press surrounding the movie wasn’t very strong. Liu saw this oversight and decided to raise awareness and excitement for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings himself using his platform on social media. You could tell that he was very passionate about this film, and you can see that throughout all of his scenes. The supporting cast also brought their A-game to provide captivating performances. Awkwafina plays Katy, who is the comedic heart of the movie. She gets dragged into Shang-Chi’s past life as a human weapon and learns about his complicated family drama. Speaking of family, Meng’er Zhang plays Xialing, Shang-Chi’s younger sister, who makes a life for herself out of nothing after she was abandoned. I won’t go any deeper into her character because of spoilers, but her unique fighting style and cool presence makes a terrific foil to Shang-Chi’s warmness. And of course, I absolutely have to mention Xu Wenwu, known as the Mandarin, who is played by veteran actor Tony Leung Chiu-wai. Personally, I think that Wenwu is the strongest character in this movie and definitely one of the best villains we’ve seen in the MCU. 

The plot begins when Wenwu forces his children, Shang-Chi and Xialing, to return home with him. From there, we learn about how the relationships between family members fell apart, which contextualizes the inevitable confrontation between father and child. From there on is spoiler territory, so I have to be vague with my descriptions. The final act takes place in a visually unique and stunning setting, where the true colors of every major character are revealed. 

Here I’ll cover the few dislikes I had with the movie, and I’ll be using details that might spoil key parts about the plot. I think more could have been done with Xialing’s arc over the course of the movie. She had a strong introduction, but that momentum sort of falters in the second act, where she should have had more character moments to show the deeper parts of her character. I’m glad she’s able to reconcile with Shang-Chi in the climax of the movie, which completes her arc. The film also leaves the door open for Xialing’s next major phase, which will hopefully be explored more thoroughly in a confirmed spin-off series. My other major grievance is that in the final act of the movie, the unique identity of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings falters and feels like just another Marvel movie. I won’t get into too much detail, but another world-ending threat with a large-scale but impersonal battle feels out of place in this film. It doesn’t bother me too much, however, since the filmmakers and actors are able to masterfully weave the theme of family into the finale while still giving a satisfying resolution to the dysfunctional dynamic of Shang-Chi’s family.

There is a lot to love about this film, and I doubt I can get into all of it with the amount of detail that it deserves, so I’ll stick to the major points. The action in this movie is so well-choreographed and put together that it makes me question how it is even possible. In the months between my first watch and my rewatch, I could recall how every major action sequence played out in great detail, because they were simply that memorable. And don’t even get me started on the soundtrack. The artists from 88rising really put their hearts into these songs, and it shows. I highly recommend everyone to give the soundtrack a listen. Shang-Chi is a very strong leading character, and I’m excited to see Simu return to play him in future projects. However, my favorite character is definitely Wenwu. In no small part is it due to Leung’s amazing performance as a vicious warlord, a loving husband and father, and an empty husk of his former self. He demands attention in every scene he is present in, and thankfully he’s given enough time in the spotlight to develop his character. I also appreciate how complete the film felt as a whole. Of course, there are post-credit scenes setting up sequels and spin-offs, not to mention the build-up toward another, bigger threat. But none of that impedes the story this film is trying to tell. The goal of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is simply to tell a story about a family, and even if all of these characters are newcomers to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it really feels like they’ve been here since the beginning. 

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings may have been the kick-off to the next phase of Marvel’s machinations, but I don’t really have anything to say about the future of the MCU. I mean, if this is the starting point, I can’t imagine what heights will be reached in the future. Not only that, but I’m happy to say that the Shang-Chi franchise won’t be falling by the wayside anytime soon when big names such as the Avengers inevitably return. The overwhelming success of this movie shows that household names aren’t required to break the box office. I hope we can see more unique and diverse stories like Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings carved into the MCU in the future. Until then, I’m more than happy to experience this movie over and over again.


Eternals Review

by Therese Askarbek


December 17, 2021

Recently, the newest Marvel movie, Eternals, directed by Chloe Zhao (of Nomadland fame) came out. A lot of controversy has surrounded this film: it is the first Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie to receive a rotten Rotten Tomatoes score of 48%. The 157-minute movie follows ten “Eternals”—Ajak, Sersi, Ikaris, Kingo, Sprite, Phastos, Makkari, Druig, Gilgamesh, and Thena—who are sent to Earth by a mysterious Celestial being, Arishem, to kill all of the monsters, or Deviants, terrorizing the humans. The Eternals finally exterminate them all in 1521 and spend the next five-hundred years on Earth apart, waiting for Arishem to give them further instructions. The film spends some time giving context, introducing the Eternals and where they are in the present day, before it establishes the initial conflict: the Deviants have come back. Plot twists, impressive displays of skill, and visually stunning action scenes ensue. In this sense, this film follows the typical Marvel movie structure. 

I’ll start off by saying that this movie does not deserve such a low score across the board. That being said, there are aspects of the film that seem underdeveloped and lacking. The comedy in the movie consisted of easy one-liners sprinkled sparingly throughout. Most of it occured in the interactions between Kingo, played by Kumail Nanjiani, and Karun, played by Harish Patel. It wasn’t set up well like in Thor: Ragnarok, or sarcastic and dry like in Iron Man, or endearingly funny like in either of the newest Spider-Man movies. It didn’t bring anything noteworthy or distinctive in terms of humor to the table, which is something that I personally enjoy most in MCU films. Another aspect that I found lacking was the progression of the movie. It seemed very slow in the first half and only started to pick up a little in the second half before the abrupt and anticlimactic ending. The action scene had no real “Wow, that was awesome!” moments and wasn’t memorable. 

The cinematography was aesthetically pleasing, and Zhao’s insistence on filming in real places rather than using computer-generated imagery (CGI) definitely was a great artistic choice. Faced with the daunting task of introducing and developing ten new characters while also progressing the plot, Zhao gave each character their moment to shine and clearly developed each and every one of them. The plot also stayed cohesive and didn’t stray far from the goal, which kept me captivated throughout. The all-around diversity is very important, and it didn’t seem forced. One of the reasons the movie got such a low score was because people had an issue with the representation, whether they thought it was forced or unnecessary. Because the Eternals don’t technically have human ethnicities, and they aren’t mentioned at all throughout the movie, it seems that reviewers might just be projecting their own discomfort with seeing people who aren’t as represented in mainstream media on the big screen. I also enjoyed the fact that this movie, more than previous MCU films, focused more on the emotional, heartfelt moments of the human experience. It dealt with questioning identity, finding a purpose, coping with loss, and other non-otherworldly matters.  

Overall, the new perspective that Zhao brought to the MCU and her execution of it was a great addition to this year’s Marvel catalog. The movie was enjoyable, had a great star-studded cast, and had me rooting for the protagonists. I would definitely recommend watching it over the holidays with family or friends, if for no other reason than to watch Angelina Jolie stab a Deviant.

The Dangers of Social Media for Children and Teens, and How We Can Work to Mitigate Them

by Sally Jamrog


November 23, 2021

Facebook’s launch in 2004 plunged the world into a new era of constant engagement, and as diverse social media platforms have continued to rise and thrive, by capitalist societal standards, they have become the embodiment of twenty-first-century commercial success. The real success of these platforms, however, should instead be quantified based on how they affect their users, especially younger generations, since Meta Platforms, Inc. and other social media companies have, in light of their commercial aptitude, turned a blind eye to social media’s more toxic effects. With American teens spending an average of more than a third of their day outside of school-related activities on screens absorbing media, these dangers have become crucial to address.1

Logging onto social media is no longer a fully conscious choice. According to Tristan Harris, co-founder and president of the Center for Humane Technology and former design ethicist at Google, “Social media isn’t a tool that’s just waiting to be used; it has its own goals and it has its own means of pursuing them by using your own psychology against you.”2 Social media has become a serious addiction, ingrained in our daily habits and whims to the extent that it steals our time and interferes with schedules. To generate content that keeps users engaged and scrolling, social media platforms use algorithms and artificial intelligence to best determine what types of content will keep a user’s attention and thus have the most economic success. In and of itself, this type of tactic is to be expected within the bounds of American capitalism, but with social media, when people are exclusively treated as products with rarely any regulation or concern for mental health, it seems morally questionable to continue to advertise these platforms as ways to foster human connection. Even more questionable is for these companies to keep targeting a younger, more vulnerable population, as children and young adults are still experiencing cognitive development. Ultimately, Facebook, Instagram, Snap(chat), and other social media platforms are for-profit organizations that were not designed to protect kids. It might be even in these organizations’ best commercial interests to exploit their younger users as a way to increase their user base.

In recent years, companies like Meta Platforms, Inc. have worked on creating social media platforms more suitable for kids aged thirteen years or younger, such as Instagram Kids. These platforms may create a safer social media environment for kids, as many of these platforms do regulate their content accordingly. But since large-scale censorship on these platforms is usually determined by an algorithm rather than a human, it is often not possible to completely censor harmful content on a site. “To be honest, I don’t think there’s a way to create a completely ‘safe’ version of anything online. I think you can put in restrictions and try your best to make a safe space, but there will always be people who bypass that,” says Sarah Emmert ‘24. According to a study performed by Common Sense Media, an organization dedicated to informing families about media, on YouTube Kids, 27% of the videos watched by children ages eight and younger contain depictions of violence and other graphic content.3 To keep turning a profit, these companies also still advertise to YouTube Kids users who have not purchased the ad-free YouTube Premium. 

Similarly, while parental controls can work to mitigate social media access for kids, they are not a solution for all families. “I think parental controls are effective only if the relationship between parent and child is one that sets boundaries in a healthy way and there is complete trust on both sides. Parental controls are only truly effective at keeping kids away from social media if they are backed up by understanding on both sides,” says Therese Askarbek ‘24. In the same vein, general age restrictions on potentially inappropriate social media platforms such as YouTube or Instagram often fail to deter kids from interacting with these platforms. “The age limit for most social media platforms is thirteen because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was passed in 1998,” says Rohan Biju ‘23, leader of BUA’s YouTube Tech Review club. “COPPA restricts websites from tracking data on children under thirteen, which is why most apps do not want kids younger than thirteen to join.” Unfortunately, a recent report instigated by Thorn, an organization that works to combat international child abuse, claims that out of one thousand children surveyed internationally from ages eight to seventeen, 40% of the individuals under thirteen years of age already had access to either Facebook or Instagram.4 Because kids are getting more exposure to these platforms at increasingly younger ages, they are more and more likely to form habits of frequent social media usage that will follow them through their teenage years and into adulthood.

Researchers have also observed that some social media platforms have more of an effect on mental health than others, particularly when it comes to teens and preteens. Meta Platforms’ published Instagram investigation states that “social comparison is worse on Instagram,” whose primary focus, unlike other social media apps such as TikTok that focus more on video sharing, is on a person’s physical appearance and way of life.5 With posts on Instagram specifically reflecting everyone’s personal “highlight reel,” an unhealthy culture of comparison has emerged that has proved detrimental to teenage mental health, exacerbating depression and anxiety by creating impossible standards for beauty and lifestyle. An increase in suicide rates and rates for hospital admissions for non-fatal self-harm in teenage girls even seems to correlate with the point when social media first became available on mobile devices, increasing substantially since 2009. Compared with the average rate from 2001 to 2010, in teenage girls aged fifteen to nineteen, suicide rates saw a 70% increase after 2009, while in teenage girls aged ten to fourteen, suicide rates increased by 151%.2

Despite these negative effects, social media platforms are not entirely without positive value. Vicky Rideout, an advocate for children and families concerning social media, recently released a study on the ways social media can affect teens, which shows that social media platforms can have both positive and negative consequences to mental health. During her experiment, she interviewed a sample of teens. Although 17% of the teens reported that social media had the opposite effect and 40% remained neutral, 43% reported that social media increased their positive emotions.6 Unfortunately, the positive aspects of social media have been overshadowed by the negative health consequences of social media companies’ profit-oriented agenda. For instance, if these platforms defined their success based on user happiness instead, social media could have a more worthwhile and positive influence overall. The issue then becomes reconciling the commercial motives of these companies with more ethical behavior. In his article for the Harvard Business Review, Andy Wu, a professor in business administration, illustrates this issue with what he calls the “Facebook Trap,” arguing that the same networking strategies that made Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook) incredibly successful will now be the cause of its downfall.7 A more ethical approach, in combination with educating young users about the effects of social media, would be a step in a healthier direction. As Alvin Lu ‘23, co-leader of BUA’s computer science club, says, “I find the most effective way [to do this] is to teach children how to not let social media impact their mental health negatively. […] Proper education will definitely become more important as children use [social media] more often.” The education of children and teens to cultivate more awareness of these platforms’ motives and side effects could help to check social media’s negative ramifications. For social media to live up to its best purpose, that of uniting communities and strengthening global relationships, Meta Platforms, Inc. and similar companies need to balance making money with preserving human sanity.

1 Hayley Tsukayama, “Teens spend nearly nine hours every day consuming media,” The Washington Post, November 3, 2015,

2 Jeff Orlowski, dir. The Social Dilemma, The Space Program, Argent Pictures, and Exposure Labs, Netflix, 2020,

3 Caroline Knorr, “Parents’ Ultimate Guide to YouTube Kids,” Common Sense Media, March 12, 2021,

4 Katie Canales, “40% of kids under 13 already use Instagram and some are experiencing abuse and sexual solicitation, a report finds, as the tech giant considers building an Instagram app for kids,” Insider, May 13, 2021,

5 Bill Chappel, “The Facebook Papers: What you need to know,” NPR, October 25, 2021,

6 Anya Kamenetz, “Facebook’s own data is not as conclusive as you think about teens and mental health,” NPR, October 6, 2021,

7 Andy Wu, “The Facebook Trap,” Harvard Business Review, October 19, 2021,

Rebranding Facebook

by Anna Augart-Welwood


November 23, 2021

Facebook is a popular social media platform that has grown and succeeded for almost two decades. The company recently initiated a rebranding and announced the company’s new name, Meta. The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, wants to add an element of augmented reality to his company. People will be able to do things such as playing games, seeing concerts, and attending work meetings, all through the use of virtual reality.

During Facebook Connect, the company’s virtual event, Zuckerberg said, “It is time for us to adopt a new company brand to encompass everything we do.” It’s possible, however, that Zuckerberg is employing a tactic many other business leaders use: altering the external appearance of a company to reposition their values in the eyes of users. Some believe that Zuckerberg initiated the rebranding of Facebook to distract people from the recent criticism of the platform; he introduced Meta without any significant change to the company. Another possible reason for the rebranding is that Facebook’s main demographic includes older people, and the platform is losing younger users to more popular apps, such as TikTok. If Facebook’s “metaverse” becomes popular among younger generations, it could fix their impending financial crisis from loss of users. This metaverse (a term originally coined by cyberpunk author Neal Stephenson in 1992) could also fix another problem currently facing the company, namely that Facebook’s mobile apps are dependent on Apple and Google, which limits the company’s ability to collect data about the mobile activity of its users. The metaverse could allow the company to obtain data from users who spend more time on Facebook-owned platforms.

Frances Haugen, a former data scientist at Facebook, has spoken out about the unethical practices of the company. She studied how Facebook’s algorithm contributed to the spread of misinformation and told Congress that Facebook maximizes its growth instead of implementing safeguards on its platforms. Before leaving the company, Haugen copied thousands of pages of confidential information and published and shared them with lawmakers. One of the studies she leaked found that 13.5% of teenage girls from the United Kingdom experienced more frequent suicidal thoughts after using Instagram. Another study showed that 17% of teenage girls said their eating disorders got worse after using the platform, and about 32% of teenage girls reported feeling worse about their bodies after using Instagram. Haugen told Congress, “During my time at Facebook, I came to realize a devastating truth: almost no one outside of Facebook knows what happens inside Facebook. The company intentionally hides vital information from the public, from the US government, and from governments around the world.” Haugen’s legal team stated that Facebook executives misrepresented information about the capacity of Facebook and Instagram to cause harm to its uninformed users. Moreover, Haugen’s attorneys accused Facebook of violating US security laws by lying to investors. They have also filed eight complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding Facebook’s public statements on what they knew about how the organizers of the January 6 Capitol riot used their platform.

Considering that BUA students are teenagers and many use Instagram, we should be careful, informed, and educated about the types of content we allow to impact us. BUA students are among the age groups most affected by toxic content on Instagram, and this issue could continue to prevail if Zuckerberg’s metaverse distracts people enough from their harmful practices. The rebranding may be merely an attempt to shift the objective of the company and a method of escape from the exposure of their dark secrets and possible financial demise.

Allyn, Bobby. “Here are 4 key points from the Facebook whistleblower’s testimony on Capitol Hill.” NPR, October 5, 2021.

Lee Yohn, Denise. “Facebook’s Rebrand Has a Fundamental Problem.” Harvard Business Review, November 2, 2021.

Roose, Kevin. “The Metaverse is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch.” The New York Times, October 29, 2021.

At COP26, Leaders Dither on Climate

by Matthew Volfson


November 23, 2021

World Climate Conferences examine the preparedness of world politicians and leaders to fight climate change. As the issue of climate change has become more important, more pressure has been brought onto delegates to make an impact at the conference. People around the world wonder whether what is said by their government officials at the conference will really be realized. Will the world’s nations stick to their climate commitments? Will the global community stick together to fight against climate change? These questions are crucial to keep in mind when analyzing an event such as COP26, the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties. In general, a “conference of the parties” is a meeting where delegates from many countries gather to discuss an issue.

COP26 was hosted by the United Kingdom in Glasgow to discuss the issue of world climate and how to prevent further climate change from happening.1 The goal of the event was to make sure that the world’s nations agreed to fight climate change, involving plenty of geopolitical and resource haggling as well as forced concessions amongst countries. Participants in COP26 included delegates and world leaders from over one hundred nations around the world, with the notable exception of China and Russia.2

At COP26, no comprehensive climate agreement was reached, but a few notable pledges were made.3 The United States and the European Union pledged to decrease the usage of methane by 30% by 2030, meaning that the levels of methane in the atmosphere in 2030 would only be 70% of levels in 2020.4 The US and EU also led the way in pledging to reduce hydrocarbon consumption.5 Narendra Modi made a half-hearted pledge to make India carbon neutral by 2070.6 The promises are based on calculations that the governments themselves make, sometimes in an uncertain way. 

Although the countries that made the pledges assumed their position against climate change to be a success, there has been a yawning gap between what delegates say and what their countries actually do. When countries gathered in Paris in 2018 for a similar conference, they pledged to combat climate change, yet the goals they set still have not been reached at the end of 2020. A UN study that covered fewer than half of the countries participating in the Paris climate accord found that “the majority of these countries increased their levels of ambition to reduce emissions,” yet “the level of ambition [that was] communicated… indicates that the change in emissions would be small, less than -1% in 2030 compared to 2010.”7 The required amount by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is -45% by 2030. Again, this study only covered fewer than half of the countries at the conference, so the data for all of the countries could likely be even worse.

To compound the issue of empty promises, nations such as Australia and Saudi Arabia actively fought against strong measures for fighting climate change through lobbying at COP26. These nations fought to protect their interests in profiting from exploiting resources, encouraging the pollution of Earth’s atmosphere.8 Their economies are dependent on fossil fuels and would have to be massively restructured if they were to follow stringent climate promises. India was similar in that regard: although the nation made a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2070, it is not prepared to do so and has lobbied against stringent environmental restrictions in order to protect its coal industry.8,9 Besides the countries themselves, oil companies sent the largest delegation to COP26 to lobby for softer regulations on oil and promote fossil fuels.10

The United States, in particular, does not have bipartisan consensus on fighting climate change. Former President Donald Trump, still very popular in the Republican Party, denied the existence of climate change in 2020.11,12 The US was the lynchpin of many initiatives made in the COP26 conference, as mentioned earlier, and without the US, the conference would be missing the world’s current second largest emitter and greatest cumulative emitter of carbon emissions. But also, President Joe Biden may have made many promises the US is not ready to follow through with at COP26. 

COP26 was an important event where leaders made promises to combat climate change. Even so, those promises seem to be a token in the face of growing global opposition against fighting climate change and dithering by the exact same leaders. The world is facing an extremely dangerous crisis. Climate change is ruining lives and homes through fires, increased drought, and hurricanes. Only time will tell whether countries actually recognize the matter at hand and fight the issue like it is: a threat to humankind. COP26 has not changed the tendency for people to ignore climate change—even though it is such a dire emergency.

1 “What Does COP Stand For?” The New York Times, November 13, 2021,

2 Sam Meredith, “Who’s Going to the COP26 Climate Summit? Meet the Key Players at the UN Talks,” CNBC, October 31, 2021,

3 Ewelina Czapla, “The Results of COP26,” American Action Forum, November 17, 2021,

4 “COP26: US and EU Announce Global Pledge to Slash Methane,” BBC, November 2, 2021,

5 Laurie Goering and Sebastian Rodriguez, “Analysis: Push to End Oil and Gas Expansion Takes Off at COP26 but Harder on the Ground,” Reuters, November 4, 2021,

6 Gayathri Vaidyanathan, “Scientists Cheer India’s Ambitious Carbon-Zero Climate Pledge,” Nature News, November 5, 2021,

7 “‘Climate Commitments Not On Track to Meet Paris Agreement Goals’ as NDC Synthesis Report is Published,” UN Climate Change News, February 26, 2021,

8 Justin Rowlatt and Tom Gerken, “COP26: Document Leak Reveals Nations Lobbying to Change Key Climate Report.” BBC, October 21, 2021.

9 Joshua W. Busby, Sarang Shidore, Johannes Urpelainen, and Morgan D. Bazilian, “The Case for US Cooperation with India on a Just Transition Away from Coal,” Brookings, April 20, 2021,,indirectly%20as%20per%20recent%20calculations.

10 Matt McGrath, “COP26: Fossil Fuel Industry Has Largest Delegation at Climate Summit,” BBC, November 8, 2021,

11 Amina Dunn, “Two-Thirds of Republicans Want Trump to Retain Major Political Role; 44% Want Him to Run Again in 2024,” Pew Research Center, October 6, 2021,

12 Alana Wise, “’I Don’t Think Science Knows’: Visiting Fires, Trump Denies Climate Change,” NPR, September 14, 2020,

The Suicide Squad Review

by Allie Vasserman


November 23, 2021

The Suicide Squad (2021) is a DC Comics movie directed by the brilliant James Gunn.  Those who saw the trailers for this movie will recognize the main cast, which consists of Joel Kinnaman starring as Colonel Rick Flag, Idris Elba as Bloodsport, Margot Robbie as the wonderfully crazy Harley Quinn, John Cena as the Peacemaker, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, Sylvester Stallone as the lovable King Shark, David Dastmalchian as Polka Dot Man, Peter Capaldi as the Thinker, and Viola Davis as the ruthless Amanda Waller.

At the beginning of the movie, Amanda Waller and Colonel Rick Flag recruit the convicted old and new Suicide Squad members for another suicide mission. The introduction and recruitment of the Suicide Squad is short and quickly brings the viewer up to speed. Amanda instructs Bloodsport and his team to infiltrate the Corto Maltese government facility to destroy all information on a secret weapon known as Project Starfish. At the same time, she instructs Rick Flag to lead another team that includes Harley Quinn. To reveal what happens next would spoil the movie. The movie starts out with a huge number of superhero villains; during the course of the movie, some characters are injured, betrayed, kidnapped, and killed.

James Gunn directed the first and second Guardians of the Galaxy movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After watching this movie, the audience will see how toned-down the Guardians of the Galaxy movies are in comparison. Gunn clearly had more freedom to go less family-friendly for The Suicide Squad, which references some dark themes, including post-traumatic stress disorder. It is very bloody and gruesome—several characters die horrible and painful deaths—but it also has hilarious and meaningful dialogues and moments that make it really fun to watch. There are no slow or boring scenes in the movie. James Gunn also includes many hidden references and Easter eggs that fans of the Suicide Squad will surely notice. 

I especially like that the movie continues Harley Quinn’s character arc. Her dialogue and actions show that she has grown since Birds of Prey: Harley Quinn. There is a particular, beautifully filmed scene of violence, in which Harley goes on a killing spree. Harley stabs a person and when she does, instead of blood squirting out of the wounds, animated petals and birds appear. I think the scene shows that Harley sees beauty even in moments of violence and death. I also like the energetic soundtrack, which I think fits the movie perfectly. 

Some characters’ deaths made me feel sad, while others’ didn’t have much of an effect on me. Some squad members, such as King Shark and Ratcatcher 2, have great chemistry with each other. Their relationship is incredibly wholesome and heartwarming to see. And there is a post-credits scene that reveals the identity of the character who stars in an upcoming HBO Max TV show.

The Suicide Squad is not for those who don’t want to watch violent scenes, but if you don’t mind the violence and are curious to see James Gunn’s version of DC’s The Suicide Squad, I definitely recommend watching this movie.

US Relations With Afghanistan: What Happened?

by Therese Askarbek


October 30, 2021

On August 30, 2021, the last of the US troops departed from Kabul International Airport, marking the end of the twenty-year “War on Terror” between the US and Afghanistan. After the peace deal between former President Trump and the Taliban in February 2020, President Biden finally decided to pull the American troops out. In a press conference days after, he explained the motives behind his decision, saying that: “After twenty years I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces…We gave [the Afghans] every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.” Biden’s hasty move, criticized by many journalists and politicians, left the citizens of Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban, who rapidly took over the country after the removal of American troops. The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamic militia, are committing the same abuses they have been committing for decades. They are known for their harsh punishments, from chopping the hands off convicted thieves, to floggings for adultery, to even public executions for convicted murderers. Women especially have been targeted and repressed by the Taliban. They have been forcibly married, not allowed out of the house without a male escort, denied the right to an education, and forced to wear a hijab. The list goes on. The future of Afghanistan, now that the US has cut off military and most monetary support, is being disputed among many, but as of now, it is clear that a humanitarian rights crisis is unfolding. To truly understand why this crisis is unfolding and what the US has to do with it, it is necessary to know the history of Afghanistan, and more specifically, our history with Afghanistan.  

In the mid-nineteenth century, Afghanistan was caught in a power dispute known as “The Great Game” between Britain and Russia. Britain suffered a defeat in its first war with Afghanistan in 1842 but eventually gained much of Afghanistan’s territory by the 1860s. Britain gained control over the Afghan rulers and gave subsidies and weapons to them until 1921, when Afghanistan regained its political control. It is important to note that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, what we know as the modern state of Afghanistan was conceived. That can be attributed to Abdur Rahman Khan, the emir of Afghanistan, who created a centralized government and bureaucracy through tactics such as brutal internal wars, forced mass migrations, and economic incentives. He built a state where Pashtuns, the current largest ethnic group in Afghanistan, had authority, and where the only interpretation of Islam allowed was Sunni Islam. He passed his power to his son, Habib Allah, who began to establish more progressive policies. But generally, the monarchy remained more or less the same. 

In contrast to Khan’s conservatism, the vision of Afghanistan as a “multinational state with a progressive outlook on science and technology” found an advocate in an important Afghan figure, Mahmud Tarzi, who was previously exiled and brought back in the 1930s. Tarzi’s lifelong goal was to modernize the country within inclusive and progressive Islam. The failure of his reforms is largely attributed to British policies, although the largely illiterate and rural masses and the conservative elite and clergy are acknowledged as major contributors as well. The importance of Tarzi’s ideals and actions with his group of supporters is that they provide somewhat of a precedent for possible future progressivism in Afghanistan. To acknowledge the efforts of Afghans, hindered by world powers throughout their history to reform their ideals and policies, is to deconstruct the misconceptions we may have about Islam in the Middle East, and to reflect on the culpability of foreign occupations and interventions. 

The monarchical system in Afghanistan remained until the 1970s, during which time Mohammed Dauod Khan, attempted to modernize Afghanistan. Khan became the first president of Afghanistan. The USSR and the US were both trying to become involved with Afghanistan through building infrastructures and agriculture which funneled money to both superpowers during the 1950s and 1960s. Soviet imperialism over Afghanistan and the USSR’s invasion in the 1970s caused a lot of political unrest, in which Afghan guerrillas gained control of rural areas, and Soviet troops held urban areas. In 1978, Khan was overthrown by the PDPA, a Marxist-Leninist party, and the US began to fund and train anti-communist groups, the mujahideen. The US made a major misstep in supporting extremely reactionary groups without truly understanding how to deal with the conflict. They brought in Arab mujahideen from Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who went on to form Al-Qaeda. Throughout this conflict, the US funded Pakistan, who, if indirectly, funded the foreign fighters allied with the mujahideen. In the 1980s, the Soviet puppet government was toppled, and in 1989, the Geneva Peace Accords were signed, stating that all Soviet troops were to leave Afghanistan. Both the US and the USSR mostly pulled out and stopped their funding to Afghanistan, and the country fell into chaos, with rival Afghan groups fighting for power. The US completely withdrew from the fighters it had trained and supported, similar to what has happened recently, and the resulting civil war led to the birth of the Taliban.  

In the 1990s, former mujahideen, many of whom were students disillusioned with the results of their victory, created a group called the Taliban, which took advantage of the war-torn state of Afghanistan and the weariness of its citizens by promising peace. They took over Kandahar first in 1994, and eventually the entire country. During this time, a new “Great Game,” a name revived by some journalists, arose. The West had a sudden strong interest in the Central Asia region because of its oil resources. A large American oil company, Unocal, had negotiated with the Taliban to create an oil pipeline running from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The Bush administration ignored the United Nation sanctions against the Taliban, and Unocal began the process of making the pipeline. The US wasn’t very interested in the atrocities being committed in Afghanistan by the Taliban until the attacks of September 11, 2001. The US, hoping to gain security of the pipelines through the Taliban, allowed Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to support the Taliban and had not condemned them until the War on Terror. In fact, one of the early foreign mujaheed fighters funded and trained by the US was Osama bin Laden, who created the terrorist group Al-Qaeda.

The Northern Alliance, an Afghan group who arose during the instability of the 1990s, backed by the US government, overthrew the Taliban in 2001. The US spent over five trillion dollars in the war with Afghanistan, and because they had little idea about how to instate a democratic government, most of the money fell into the hands of corrupt people, such as warlords. Now, the US has frozen the monetary assets in Afghanistan so as not to let it fall into the wrong hands. 

Throughout the US’ “War on Terror,” a main criticism has been their constant bombings, or at least lack of precision in their drone attacks. Starting in 1998, after suspecting that Bin Laden had been responsible for the attack in the East African US Embassy, the US sent about seventy cruise missiles to three suspected training camps, and ended up killing twenty-four people. Although Osama bin Laden was not killed, a nightwatchman was. The justification for the bombings has been called questionable. This pattern of bombings, drone strikes, and violence committed by the US continued for the next twenty years. In 2012, for instance, President Hamid Karzai called for American forces to leave Afghan villages and pull back to their bases after a US soldier killed sixteen Afghan civilians inside their homes. Though President Biden has withdrawn US troops and said that he will uphold the peace treaty, he is still planning to use the Air Force to “degrade the terrorists,” which can be inferred to mean drone warfare. 

Currently, aside from sending money directly through humanitarian aid groups, the means taken by the Biden administration are considered by many to be ineffective in safely helping Afghan refugees seek asylum here. Afghan refugees are allowed to come to America, but only on their own without the help of the US. This poses a problem, as they cannot safely get through Kabul Airport, which is now under Taliban control, and many do not have access to the internet. “The United States owes a unique duty to the people of Afghanistan given not only the events of the last year, but the last few decades in the region,” said Wogai Mohmand, an attorney for the Afghan Network for Advocacy and Resources Project. “The least our government can do is act in good faith in responding to this community-led effort to provide critical support to Afghans.” Many are hoping that the proposals and policies in the works to aid refugees will be approved by the government and that as many Afghans as possible can find refuge. 

From the Nixon administration, to Reagan, to Bush, to the Biden administration, and more, there have been many instances of unwanted foreign intervention, careless slip-ups, and unnecessary violence on the part of the US. Now, as the future of Afghanistan and Afghans is so uncertain, it is important for us to reflect on our past mistakes so that we do not make them again. Effort on our part is vital. From listening to and supporting Afghan activists and journalists, to actively spreading awareness, to donating to relief organizations, to making sure the government does its part, there are many ways for us to help make Tarzi’s progressive visions a reality.

“A Brief History of Afghanistan.” New Internationalist, November 2, 2008.

“Backgrounder on Afghanistan: History of the War.” Human Rights Watch.

Block, Hannah. “A Look At Afghanistan’s 40 Years Of Crisis — From The Soviet War To Taliban Recapture.” NPR, August 13, 2021.

Brechenmacher, Saskia. “Afghanistan Under the Taliban.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, August 18, 2021.

Ching, Nike. “Blinken: US Will Not Lift Sanctions, Will Ensure Aid to Afghans.” VOA, September 14, 2021.

de Groot, Kristen. “Afghanistan’s future after the U.S. withdrawal.” Penn Today, September 16, 2021.

Franck, Thomas. “U.S. won’t let Taliban access Afghanistan’s financial assets held in America.” CNBC, August 18, 2021.

Gammage, Jeff. “Groups say Biden administration not helping their effort to get endangered Afghans out of Afghanistan.” The Philadelphia Enquirer, October 21, 2021.

Lee, Matthew and Tucker, Erik. “Was Biden handcuffed by Trump’s Taliban deal in Doha?” AP News, August 19, 2021.

News Desk, “A Historical Timeline of Afghanistan.” PBS News Hour, August 30, 2021.

Stewart, Emily. “The history of US intervention in Afghanistan, from the Cold War to 9/11.” Vox, August 21, 2021.

Synovitz, Ron. “Public Executions, Floggings ‘Inevitable’ Under Taliban Court Rulings, Says Scholar.” Ganhara, September 8, 2021.

Tarzi, Amin. “Transformative politics in 20th century Afghanistan: Lessons for today.” Conciliation Resources, June 2018.

The Associated Press, “Taliban Official Says Strict Punishment And Executions Will Return.” NPR, September 24, 2021.

Thomas, K.T. “The Economic Roots of US Intervention in Afghanistan.” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 68, no. 2 (2007): 1215-1224.

Wilkie, Christina and Macias, Amanda. “Biden says Afghanistan war was a lost cause, vows to continue aid and diplomacy.” CNBC, August 16, 2021.

Zill, Oriana. “The Controversial U.S. Retaliatory Missile Strikes.” PBS Frontline

Zucchino, David. “The U.S. War in Afghanistan: How It Started, and How It Ended.” The New York Times, October 7, 2021.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage Review

by Christian Asdourian


October 30, 2021

If Marvel’s newest blockbuster had to be described in a few words, ironically enough, I would say “pure carnage.” At the start of the month, I went to see this movie with relatively low expectations in terms of story. The appeal of the film mostly stems from people’s love for the characters and the interactions the characters share with each other. After all, this is what made the first Venom (2018) movie so enjoyable for me. Fortunately, the people behind the movie understood this, and capitalized on it in this sequel. Every good aspect of the original is turned up to eleven in Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), and I’m all here for it.

Venom: Let There Be Carnage is October’s newest entry to the Marvel mythos. Directed by Andy Serkis, the film centers on two primary conflicts, one internal and one external. The dynamic duo, Eddie Brock (played by Tom Hardy) and Venom (also voiced by Tom Hardy) find themselves in a bit of a lover’s quarrel. Both partners find it rather difficult to coexist with each other, whether it be as two separate entities or as the Lethal Protector himself. As if that wasn’t already enough, the antagonists of the film, Carnage (played and voiced by Woody Harrleson) and his partner in crime, Shriek (played by Naomie Harris) escape from prison with the goal of wreaking havoc. Eddie and Venom must set aside their differences and work together once again to survive their inevitable collision with some of the craziest Marvel characters ever to appear on the silver screen.

Now I’d rather get to talking about the bad aspects first, since I believe they are vastly outnumbered by all the things Venom: Let There Be Carnage does right. First off, the most glaring problem I found with the movie was the pacing. The first third of the film feels like it drags on forever while the final act leaves you thinking “That’s it?” There could also have been more scenes to develop the antagonists of the film before they crossed paths with Venom. Carnage’s alter ego, Cletus Kasady, really is a captivating character but the film only begins to scratch the surface of his character during its runtime. And don’t even get me started on poor Shriek. They really wasted her character and her powers. At times it felt as though she didn’t even belong in the clash between Venom and Carnage. My last major criticism is more nitpicky than the others, but I feel it is still worth mentioning. Venom: Let There Be Carnage has a PG-13 rating, which limits what it can do with its characters. It needs an R rating instead. This really stuck out at me during most of the scenes involving Carnage, one of the most violent and unhinged characters Marvel has ever created. He was drastically toned down to match the film’s rating, and I think that decision hurt the film more than it helped.

Onto the good stuff! Definitely the first thing to mention is the relationship between Eddie and Venom in this film. It’s a natural progression from where they left off at the end of the first film. Their interactions provide most of the film’s comedic relief, and help keep the tone lighthearted and energetic. Their relationship was one of my favorite parts in the first movie, and I’m glad they kept it for this one. Next off, I absolutely have to mention how great the Carnage direction was for this movie. His presence on screen demands your attention at all times and provides a genuinely dangerous threat to Venom. I specifically remember how his entrance into the movie was drawn out, and the suspense had me sitting at the edge of my seat. The action choreography is a major step up from the first movie. There are no more slime monsters having a slap fight. Each and every hit in this movie feels weighty, and Carnage’s attacks had a particularly noteworthy effect of total brutality. I think the most important improvement that Venom: Let There Be Carnage has over its predecessor is that despite the shorter runtime, the movie gets more done. Once the film has all its characters established and ready to go, all bets are off. I didn’t even notice the second half of the film go by. It was just too much fun to watch! I think it can be best described as a rollercoaster, and that’s exactly what the audience wanted to see. What gives the Venom franchise such a dedicated fanbase isn’t simply because it’s associated with Marvel, but also because all of its efforts are poured into appealing to the audience, not the critics.

Now, I’m not usually one to get into spoilers, but Venom: Let There Be Carnage’s post-credit scene absolutely needs to be talked about. Marvel fans rejoice! The movie ends with Eddie and Venom being transported to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)’s continuity, meaning that our favorite alien vigilante is going to be in Spider-Man: No Way Home! The energy in the audience when that scene played simply cannot be done justice in words. Phase Four of the MCU was kicked off with a great intro in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and is now having the torch carried by Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Marvel fans are going to be living in paradise this year, with plenty of shows and movies to keep us entertained, and I for one cannot wait to see all of it! Expect an Eternals review for the November issue, and a Spider-Man: No Way Home review in December or January.

Now back to Venom: Let There Be Carnage, I’d like to share my closing thoughts. Overall, the film isn’t anything revolutionary. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel. But that’s not what it needs to be enjoyable, and it is enjoyable because it doesn’t try to be new. When people go to see Venom: Let There Be Carnage, they’re going so that they can have a fun time, and this movie definitely delivers that. It was great to watch, and I absolutely recommend that you check it out too.


In the Heights: A Broadway Adaptation Done Right

by Theo Sloan


October 30, 2021

In the Heights hit theatres last June. It’s an adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first Broadway musical—also called In the Heights—and its reception was lukewarm, at best. Although it received overwhelmingly positive reviews from both critics and audiences who went to see it, the unfortunate fact is that not many people did see it. By the time it left theaters, it had only made forty-three million dollars worldwide; besides Lin-Manuel Miranda’s being briefly Twitter-cancelled over some ridiculous nonsense, the movie didn’t receive much buzz online. As a result, when I finally got around to watching it, I didn’t really know what to expect. It is directed by John M. Chu, the director behind 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians, which was very well-received at the time, and Lin-Manuel Miranda himself is attached as a writer, along with Quiara Alegría Hudes. It also stars Anthony Ramos as the titular Usnavi, and I’ve loved him in basically everything he’s done. However, I was also very worried by the resounding “meh” that this movie earned both in terms of general excitement and box office performance. 

First off,  I’ll provide a brief summary of the movie, which I’m taking directly from IMDB: “A film version of the Broadway musical in which Usnavi, a sympathetic New York bodega owner, saves every penny every day as he imagines and sings about a better life.”1 To provide a bit more context, the musical is a love letter to the New York City neighborhood Washington Heights, where Lin-Manuel Miranda grew up. It tackles themes of belonging and both individual and group culture.

In the Heights is, first and foremost, a musical, and I generally think that the most important thing for a musical to get right is its music. There are musicals out there that I don’t think have a good story, such as The Greatest Showman, but that I still really enjoy because of their soundtracks, and I think In the Heights has a genuinely fantastic soundtrack from beginning to end. From the fast-paced tracks, such as the opening number In the Heights and the full ensemble number 96,000, to a few of the quieter, more reflective moments such as Just Breathe or Paciencia y Fe, virtually every song in this film is fantastic. Not only is the music itself amazing, but the choreography is just as good, if not better. One thing that I really enjoy about In the Heights is that it takes advantage of its status as a movie. As a result, we get a lot of very interesting and well-executed camera work—When the Sun Goes Down was an absolute highlight in that regard—and the big, full cast numbers, such as 96,000, Carnaval del Barrio, and Blackout, have choreography on a scale that feels like it matches the intensity and energy of the music and the medium that they’re being adapted to. And that’s all before we take the lyrics into account. Lin-Manuel Miranda has always been extremely gifted at intricate wordplay and complex rhymes. Here, we once again get to see him bring all of his lyrical chops to the table, as well as some truly inspired genre-fusion that provides a window into how his musicality has evolved as he went from originally writing this in 2005 to the masterpiece that is the Hamilton soundtrack in 2015. Overall, the music in In the Heights is everything you should expect from the man behind Hamilton, and the choreography gives it all the proper scope you should expect from a big-budget movie musical.

However, In the Heights isn’t just good from a music perspective. I think it tells a very nice story as well. Now, don’t get me wrong—it’s not mind-blowingly good or revolutionary or anything like that—it’s just a simple love story, with some heartfelt themes of culture and home woven in throughout. It’s not the most complex stuff, but I think it does a good job exploring its ideas in a unique and touching way. And I think a lot of why it works as well as it does is the cast of compelling characters at the center of the movie. They’re great enough that, besides the music, they’re the highlight of the movie. Not only are they brought to life by some very talented actors and actresses who all bring their absolute A-games to the film, but they’re also written very well and go through some rather compelling arcs throughout the movie. I particularly thought that Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, and Corey Hawkins were fantastic as Usnavi, Nina, and Benny, respectively, but don’t take that as my criticizing anyone else’s performance in this film, because everyone did a genuinely spectacular job. It should be illegal for so many people to be so good at both acting and singing and to have so much chemistry with each other. Even when In the Heights was doing things that I wasn’t a fan of, I found myself consistently impressed by the quality of every interaction.

The best qualities of In the Heights are its soundtrack, cinematography, choreography, and its characters, both with respect to their story arcs and to the actors who portray them.  While the overall story of the film is far from fantastic, it works very well alongside the songs and characters. Now let’s make a few critiques, because this movie is far from perfect.

One of the things that I immediately think of when looking at this movie’s flaws is the song No Me Diga. It takes place very early on in the movie, and not only do I skip it practically every time I listen to the soundtrack, but I often find myself wanting to skip over it when rewatching the movie. While all of the singers do a very good job, I don’t think it’s very musically interesting, especially compared to the other songs in the soundtrack. The lyrics also feel very dated, and the humor falls flat. This is rather unfortunate, as the song is pretty important to the plot of the story. It’s just not very well done, and it’s an unfortunate bad patch in an otherwise excellent soundtrack. The only other song that really bothers me at all is Paragua, but that’s more because it’s very much filler, and despite being an alright listen and having an inventive sequence to go with it, it’s hard to ignore how pointless it feels.

And this brings me to my second complaint, which is that In the Heights is too long. This isn’t really the biggest deal, because it’s a very fun movie overall, so the padded length isn’t too noticeable, but I definitely think it would hit a lot harder if it were between ten and fifteen minutes shorter. But that’s it for the negatives of this movie.

Overall, I really like In the Heights. It has an absolutely fantastic soundtrack, the actors all do a great job, and many of the musical sequences are very innovative and fun to watch. It also has some really great characters and a simple story that complements the music well, which is what a musical’s story needs to do at the end of the day. I highly recommend giving it a watch, especially if you’re a fan of musicals. But really, even if  you’re a musical skeptic, I’d still recommend giving this one a watch. If any movie has a chance to change your mind about the genre, this is it. So instead of going to watch Dear Evan Hansen—which is worse than this movie in every possible way—or the second coming of Cats (2019) in theaters, stay at home, grab yourself a free trial of HBOMax, and watch In the Heights instead. I promise you’ll have a good time.


1 IMDB, “In the Heights,”

Squid Game Review

by Ella Silvestrini


October 30, 2021

The new nine-episode series Squid Game, directed by Hwang Dong-hyuk, has shattered the record for the most-watched series in Netflix history. The series stars model Jung Ho-Yeon as Kang Sae-byeok, Lee Jung-jae as the main character Seong Gi-hun, and Yeong-Su Oh as Oh Il-name. 

The series takes place in South Korea, where 456 players are given a chance to win an unfathomable amount of money. However, there is a twist. Only one player can win, and the rest will die. They follow a series of children’s games such as red-light-green-light, tug of war, and Dalgona Candy, where players carve shapes out of honeycomb candy. Each person who fails to win in these competitions is either shot or otherwise dies horribly. The games get more and more aggressive each day, and they force the players to fight each other for the money that will change their lives and also their own survival. In the end, the main protagonist, Gi-hun, wins the game because the only other remaining person sacrifices himself for Gi-hun’s happiness. When he arrives back home, Gi-hun experiences immense guilt. To make matters worse, he finds his mother dead. 

The series shines a bright light on the troubles of people struggling with money and highlights what people will do when they are desperate enough. When Gi-hun gets back to the real world, he is shocked. Much like troops who return from war, he was too traumatized to function correctly. He had seen 455 people die in front of him, and he was carrying all their blood on his hands. He doesn’t even touch his credit card with the 45.6 billion won, roughly equivalent to 39 million dollars, until a year after the games have ended. 

I love stories like this, which show the flaws of human society. You might think, “Yeah, but that’s just a show,” but Squid Game was created to highlight these problems in society. It even uses real news feeds in some of its episodes to show that wealth inequality is a real problem in today’s culture. I highly recommend Squid Game to any viewer who is interested in dystopian topics. I rate this show a 9/10, only because I think the ending could have been better. I would also like to give a content warning as it is somewhat gory at parts.