Category: reviews

This Is Us Review

This Is Us was the hit breakout show of fall 2016 and has not stopped. Giving the public two seasons, This Is Us has made its way in TV history by earning nominations for Best Television Series – Drama at the Golden Globe Awards and Best Drama Series at the Critics’ Choice Awards, as well as being chosen as a Top Television Program by the American Film Institute. Sterling K. Brown has received an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Critics’ Choice Award, and an NAACP Image Award for his acting in the series. Mandy Moore and Chrissy Metz received Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In 2017, the series received ten Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series, with Brown winning for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. 

The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin, and Randall as their lives intertwine. Kate and Kevin were originally part of a triplet pregnancy, conceived in the bathroom of Froggy’s, a bar in downtown Pittsburgh, during Super Bowl 14. Their due date was October 12, 1980, but they were born six weeks early on August 31; their biological brother was stillborn. Their parents, Jack (who also has an August 31st birthday) and Rebecca Pearson, having expected to bring home three babies, decide to adopt another newborn: Randall, a black child born the same day and brought to the same hospital after his biological father abandoned him at a fire station. 

This Is Us is a definite tear jerker for most of the public and even the cast and crew get a little teary-eyed on set. I give myself credit for lasting as long as I did before the waterworks began. It was the sixteenth episode of the first season when — spoiler alert — Randall’s biological father, William, dies. That final scene of Randall holding on to his dying father’s face hit me right in the gut. I must have bawled for at least a good fifteen minutes before I got annoyed with myself. As someone who watches shows like The Walking Dead religiously, I know that at any minute someone could die on my favorite TV shows, and I’ve quickly learned not to get too attached to any character. But there’s something different about This Is Us. Maybe it’s the genius minds of the writers who craft impeccable story lines around sensitive topics like adoption, addiction, and body image, or the incredible actors who bring it every week as flawed, yet endearing characters who I’m now consistently rooting for. Whatever the reason, I’ve become invested in the Pearsons and their complicated family makes me an emotional wreck. 

 

Written By: Genna Rose

Image from NBC.com

The Last Jedi Review

The Last Jedi is the latest installment of a legendary narrative that has defined society since the fourth episode in 1977.

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The newest tale in the Star Wars universe continues the story of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren, the new characters introduced in The Force Awakens back in 2015, while keeping fans updated on fan favorites such as Luke, Leia, and Chewy from the originals. The Last Jedi follows the protagonists as they battle the villains of the story, the First Order. The First Order is lead by Kylo Ren, a force user, and General Hux, Kylo’s second-in-command. They compliment each other and their mission is to wipe out the Resistance and rule the galaxy. The Resistance is lead by the beautiful Princess Leia (now General Leia), and their purpose is to eliminate the threat of First Order and keep peace throughout space.

This new chapter in the story-line is uplifting and emotional. It is the story of a beaten down group, of those who feel as though there is no hope. It is the story of restoring that lost hope, and finding motivation and inspiration in the darkness. The Last Jedi explains that it is okay for things to die out and for new things to be reborn.

The new movie has faced criticism for “not feeling like a Star Wars film.” But those who feel as such have missed the whole point of the visual message they just watched. This story was not meant to feel like A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back. It was meant to be feel like The Last Jedi; it was meant to be different. Everything is going to evolve and change, even beloved movies and their messages. This is exactly why The Last Jedi was an incredible film, with flaws, the displayed gorgeous scenery, wonderful talent, and a brilliant message.

By: Hannah Baird

Photo Credit: Disney

Westworld Review

 

Imagine, a world in which you may enter and explore every depraved and honorable desire that has ever seized your attention. An arena in which the execution of such desires comes as easily as breathing, and your peers similarly indulge their own unwound imaginations so that they cannot cast judgement upon another’s method of satiation nor have it cast upon them. A place where fantasies of all colors and avenues can be exacted. An escape where you may appease impulses of lust, crime, heroism, avarice, vices and virtues and all roads in-between without consequence or lasting responsibility. A haven of sin so that it cannot exist. And then you can leave, returning to the real world and its mundane normalcy.

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That type of world is Westworld. It is explored in the HBO drama Westworld, based off of the 1973 movie of the same name. The show explores a near-future historical reimagination that wonderfully blends the crisp stylization of a modern world with the natural awe-evoking grittiness of the western era. Westworld itself is an adult theme park set in the Wild West and populated by the hosts, hyper-humanoid animatronics programmed to adhere to certain narratives. The guests, once they pay an expectedly exorbitant admission fee, immerse themselves into park and engage in the scripted narratives that each host is looped on or create their own adventures in the lawless land. The premise, of course, is genius and allows for an incredible analysis into the boundaries (or lack thereof) of consciousness and humanity in both the android and human characters.

The stellar cast—headed by the incredible talents of Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Ford, the creative director and creator of the park), Eddie Harris (The Man in Black, a mysterious guest who is a veteran of the park), Jeffrey Wright (Bernard, a programing specialist and Head of Behavior for the park), Thandie Newton (Maeve, a host who breaks her narrative of running a brothel)—is lauded highly and for good reason, for their intriguing portrayal of complex characters whose motivations and histories are largely a mystery from us is a task not often completed let alone done with such mastery. As expected for such a renowned television program, the writing and directing are superb; whereas some shows turn to spectacle to engage an audience, the creators of this show turn to cerebral, thought-provoking dialogue that strikes both poles of the soul—the mind and the heart—often at the same moments. The technical side of Westworld is also of a high caliber, for while the aforementioned practitioners of their craft received merely (but well-deserved) nominations from the just-concluded 2017 Primetime Emmy’s, those behind the magic of sound mixing, hairstyling, make-up, production design, main title design, cinematography, sound editing, picture editing, and casting were additionally nominated and (for the first three categories) a few garnered the winged award. There are certain classes under which series’ will fall under, and despite there only being one season (season two premieres in 2018), Westworld is of a distinctively higher quality than most.

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The core of the story, as alluded to earlier, is the enthralling exploration of the search for and result of what is referred to as “The Maze” (the path to consciousness). Dolores Abernathy (played by the captivating Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve Millay, two hosts in considerably disparate narrative loops, each have arcs that deal with the realization that there is a maze. The former is aided by two guests, William (played by Jimmi Simpson, a first-time guest hesitant of the park at first but later resolved to help Dolores) and Logan (played by Ben Barnes, a frequent guest well-acquainted with the indulgences there are to be had), and is centered in the park. The latter is (reluctantly) assisted by two low-level host cleaners (they essentially refurbish the hosts after they are killed as a product of their narratives or of guests). There is another who searches for the maze, however, and that is the Man in Black, an incredibly mysterious and stone-cold stockholder of the park who aims to find the secrets left behind by Arnold Weber, Dr. Ford’s friend and co-creator of Westworld. Dr. Ford, Bernard Lowe, and the other high-level officials that run the park, on the other hand, are preoccupied with assessing and rectifying the causes of malfunctioning hosts (those who had somehow gotten too close to the center of the maze and were unable to comprehend their own comprehension of their own self) that no longer followed basic protocols such as the inability to hurt any non-host intentionally. Behind the ostensible world presented before us, however, there are subtle hints that there is a greater game behind the scenes—a sort of maze that the storytelling builds for us.  The center of the maze for the audience, then, cannot be consciousness but may be a greater understanding of such consciousness; we may come to realize, as the Man in Black said, that we are most ourselves when presented with trauma. Trauma is a recurring theme throughout the episodes, lurking in plain sight as the answer to that which cannot be solved. The unique presentation and scrutiny of such intelligent concepts and themes that the premise and exceptional cast and crew allow for are what distinguishes Westworld from the expanse of narratives already concerning themselves with the pursuit of introspection and understanding.

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And the marvelous ideas and the underlying answers and hidden revelations are all wound up in this elaborate bow that we begin to untie in the first episode—confused but enticed—until the final two episodes in which we succeed and learn the truth behind the secrets that taunted us while finding another, more elaborate bow as the present inside. The twists of this show—while one will attempt to guess them and often will succeed—are so satisfying. A good twist is not crafted on unpredictability alone, but mostly plausibility. The seeds are planted in the early episodes and we practically tend to their growth throughout until we realize, just as the storytellers usher us to, that we’ve been watching a sunflower seed birth an African elephant; two binaries that we are given and reminded are separate entities are revealed to be one whole, shattering our illusions and awakening us to the reality the maze offers. And that is the point of the show: to awaken us to this “maze” as we follow the characters who try to do the same. To display a world in which this maze is the foundation and purpose, where despite locked destinies the effect of trauma is as visceral and far-reaching as it is in the real one. To show that the random and all-encompassing nature of trauma is not something to fear but rather appreciate, for it grounds us in a consciousness greater than that of the bicameral mind. Imagine, a show in which the very acquisition and functionality of consciousness is depicted through the interconnected plots of real, human characters whether programmed or not while still maintaining the conventional purpose of any show: to entertain.

That type of show is Westworld.

Rating: 4.6 Violent Ends for 5 Violent Delights

By: Ryan Hill

Photo Credits to HBO

IT – Original or Remake?

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It has been a mere two weeks since IT has hit box offices, in that short time some major discussion has raised.  The most heated being: Which is better- the “original” or the “remake”?

To properly begin the discussion, it’s important to recognize that this is not a true remake. The first visual representation of the iconic Stephan King character was a TV mini series that constricted by audience rating and special effects. The 2017 version is more true to source material, has a bigger budget, and no true rating restriction.

That being said, the violence is one major difference. In the 1990 mini series, as it was shown on tv, most of the violence was watered down or cut away from- leaving what happened up to the viewer. In the newest incarnation of the Loser’s Club and iconic clown, very little is left to the imagination. Director Andrés Muschietti had no issue depicting the brutal nature of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, allowing him to show off his arm-ripping nature.

Another major difference are the characters motivations and development. TV has a specific time slot and therefore forced the series to be very fast paced. All emotional connection to the characters was lacking, as there simply was not enough time to develop any kind of true link to the seven main protagonists. But in a two hour and fifteen minute theatrical film, the audience was able to form a bond, to relate and see themselves in the young teens. By understanding their feelings and motivations, one felt something, and not just because they should, but because of the unconscious emotional connection to the main characters. Motivations were not assumed, but told, adding depth and emotions to the story’s characters.

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Pennywise- Tim Curry or Bill Skarsgård. Tim Curry, in 1990, had been in many well known productions ranging from Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Clue (1985), and The Hunt for Red October (1990). He was know around Hollywood for some pretty outlandish characters- people could trust him with the role. Bill Skarsgård, son of famous actor Stellan Skarsgård, and brother to quite a few other known Skarsgård’s. To his fanbase, he was known from Hemlock Grove (2013-2015) and a role in Allegiant (2016). To many, Curry IS Pennywise and nothing could change that. And then they saw Skarsgård’s performance. From the lazy eye’s, to the drooling, to the voice, people were quick to pick on the dramatic difference. Curry had a more calm nature. Creepy because he was meant to be.

In theory, it’s almost unfair to compare the two versions as they are completely different films. They represent different tones, different issues, and even a different time period (1950’s in the first, 1980’s-1990’s in the second). In IT (1990) the superior movie was part one, the second part lacking in excitement and chemistry between the leads. But if IT (2017) brings the same passion to the table for the second one as much as they did in the first, a new classic may just be born in this generation.

By: Hannah Baird

Photo: IMDb

Review of Thrones

With the seventh season of the phenomenon at a close, it is still accurate to say that the little screen adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic is one of the greatest television shows of all time. HBO’s behemoth of a show began in 2011, and has since then risen to become an icon of popular culture. To date, Game of Thrones has been nominated for 612 awards and has received 212 of them; the show holds the title for the most Emmy’s for a primetime television show at 38, and it is conceivable that the two seasons of the show yet to be scored will overtake Saturday Night Live’s 45 wins to become—according to that standard—the most accomplished show in television history.

The story of Game of Thrones is not one that can be constricted down into a few-sentence recapitulation, for the complexity and intricacy of its numerous plots and subplots would not be given its due. From the first episode to the most recent season finale, plot threads have woven characters’ connections and personal arcs to each other’s in nearly unfathomable ways, sparking and furthering the growth that every character has undergone that exemplifies the richness of this world. The show transports its audience to a world in which mystical fantasy, medieval brutality, and timeless politics merge seamlessly into a brilliantly written story; mirroring the blights on our own world, the characters that have captivated the audience with their quirky wit or vicious savagery and imbued them with passions of hate and love must face an unforgiving society that cares not for justice and fairness. This show will capture the intrigue of its viewers while it sends on an emotional journey to euphoria or heartache or both many times over. It will incite laughter, evoke tears, inspire shock, and demand cheers of triumph or curses of anger, but most of all Game of Thrones will bestow upon its audience—notoriously without remorse and with great frequency—senses of utter awe. Whether they be crushingly heart-wrenching character deaths or unexpected plot-twists or realistic depictions of violence or incredibly intelligent dialogue or breathtakingly immaculate scenery or powerful character moments, this show will consume the mind with its genius and leave the viewer breathless.

The acclaim for television show is entirely warranted. The acting for the show is at a standard worthy for the spectacle, and it is no wonder that the actors and actresses who appear on the show are instantly perceived as skilled practitioners of their craft. Notable actors who propel the work to its highly-lauded status are those who play Ned Stark (Sean Bean), Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Caster-Waldau), Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), Olenna Tyrell (Dianna Rigg), and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). The show is an ensemble cast, but each of its actors excels in making each scene palpably important in relation to the characters presented. Furthermore, the other technical aspects of the show are impeccable. HBO has endowed the show with an increasingly large budget, which has furthered the quality of large-scale battles and the rendering of the dragons. Ever since season one, however, all of the aspects that make the show a technical marvel—the thorough costume design, adept makeup and lighting, discernibly superior sound design, beautifully potent music and scores—were present. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the showrunners of Game of Thrones, have distinguished their show into a class of its own.

It is not a far cry from the truth to say that Game of Thrones is the greatest television show that has thus far been created. Not faultless—the recently concluded penultimate season was a mixture of Game of Thrones at its best and its worst—but as much a masterpiece as a show can get. It is hard to find an entertainment-inclined person unfamiliar with certain quotes and aspects that come from the world of Westeros and Essos, and it seems unlikely that the show’s endgame—which will be revealed in the six episodes of the eighth and final season—will not become another facet of popular culture. Understanding that fact, do not let the end to what truly might be the greatest show ever be spoiled for you before you endeavor to indulge in this fantasy world. Before it is all over and you cannot unknow that which you learned, experience the phenomenon. Follow the honorable Ned Stark and the triumphs and misfortunes of his Northern House. Cheer for Jon Snow, the bastard of Winterfell, as he finds that qualities of an honorable leader are direly needed. Laugh with Tyrion Lannister, the drunken dwarf, as he discovers what the game is and why it must be won. Witness the transformation of Daenerys Targaryen from a helpless princess to the Queen Mother of Dragons. Their stories have not yet ended, but come the final season all their fates will be sealed and known. The threat of the White Walkers is still dominant, the mysteries of Jon and Dany still present. If you watch the show years from now, you will be but an observer of the world of Game of Thrones, but if you watch now, you will be a part of A Song of Ice and Fire. Winter is here, but it won’t last forever.

Rating: 5 Comings of Winter out of 5

By: Ryan Hill

La La Land

 

La La Land, directed by Damien Chazelle, hit the theaters this past year on Christmas Day. Co-starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this musical is about a jazz musician who meets and falls in love with an aspiring actress in L.A. This movie features amazing acting performances by the duo, beautiful cinematography, a captivating romance, high quality directing, and astounding musical composition with entertaining dance numbers to accompany them.

The quality of movies lately has been on a decline. Everything released nowadays is a sequel, reboot, remake, or based off an unoriginal story. Film is losing its art form. La La Land was a return to the old way of making movies. Its originality was such a relief to see after the spout of orthodoxy that has recently been presented by Hollywood.

Its craftily written music and dance routines (particularly a tap-duet performed by Gosling and Stone) left the audiences humming to themselves after exiting the theater with smiles on their faces. With the movie’s focus around jazz, it gave the entire movie a classic aura that was quite enjoyable to watch. Combined with the gorgeous cinematography, composed of bright, vibrant colors, the film submerged the viewer into the charming era of the 1950’s while remaining in present times. Damien Chazelle’s directing choices were brilliant in the making of the setting to give the feel of a different time period.

The acting by Gosling and Stone in La La Land was perfectly executed. The chemistry between the two was magical, charming, and a pleasure to watch unfold on screen. This, of course, was aided by an excellent script written by Damien Chazelle. The dialogue between the two was wittily thought and acted out.  The duet also made the audience feel the emotions the two characters were feeling, as if the audience was a part of the story along with them. The performances were captivating on an intimate level.

Chazelle has taken Hollywood by storm with his innovative and musical themes. La La Land is Chazelle’s second film, following 2014’s Whiplash, a story about a jazz drummer. Undoubtedly, Whiplash won an Oscar for J.K. Simmons’ role as well as for film editing and sound mixing. It is predictable that Whiplash will not be the last Chazelle film to win an Oscar.

The upbeat tone of the film from the fantastically done music is due to Justin Hurwitz. Hurwitz, the composer of La La Land and Whiplash, won two Golden Globes for the score and the original song, City of Stars. Hurwitz specializes in jazz music and shows off his talent with a fantastically composed piece of art.

After sweeping the Golden Globes, this movie will be considered a classic and favorite among audiences. It will go on to be nominated for multiple Oscars and will most likely take home a majority of them. A variety of people will find this movie enjoyable, whether they are into romance, theater, or just great movies. La La Land is a phenomenal film and is definitely worthwhile to sit down and watch on a lazy afternoon.
Overall rating: 9.5/10

By Brendan Reiss and Dylan M. Johnson

A Mystery Worth Your Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is a Broadway show based off of the bestselling book by Mark Haddon. It was a phenomenal adaptation that snatched the characters right off the pages and displayed them in front of the viewer’s eyes. The star, Christopher, a high-functioning teenager with Asperger’s Syndrome, who lives in London with his father, attends a high school for children with special needs. The show kicks off with the death of a neighbor’s dog, Wellington, who was killed with a garden fork. Eager to show his ability to stand alone, Christopher becomes determined to find the killer. The audience is then taken through an exciting journey with suspenseful situations, unexpected discoveries, and familiar faces. Any more information given may just spoil the story, and there are still plenty of chances to catch the show. It ends with a discovery of Christopher’s true power of mind, and be sure to remain in the theater after the play for a brief surprise mentioned in the show.

I did not have to jump on a plane to New York City to attend such a mesmerizing play, only a brief drive to downtown Orlando. The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts presents famous shows brought all the way down from Broadway. This gives people the chance to enjoy plays, musicals and performances without the hassle of far traveling and crazy expenses. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime was the first play to tour at the Dr. Phillips Center, making it even more memorable. It received a copious amount of positive reviews and some nights were even sold out. If you missed this show do not fret, the Dr. Phillips Center has a vast selection for you on their website. Take a minute to scroll through the future shows coming, and see if any interest you. It’s worth your time.

By Frankie Coverini

Chorus Concert

The Lake Howell auditorium hosted a wonderful choir concert on October 17 for the enjoyment of everyone who attended. The concert itself was beautiful: filled with a plethora of emotions, ranging from humor to suspicion to love. With perfect music, beautiful singing, thought-out choreography, and eye-catching outfits, this choir event is by far the best I have ever had the pleasure to attend.

A couple days prior to the event, I took the time to interview various members. Everyone was excited and nervous about the upcoming event.

Jessica Petty, sophomore at LHHS, said that being in chorus “is really underrated,” and “it’s a surprising amount of work,” which, after discussing with the members, I related to.

After the performance, everyone looked tired, but they were glad that it went so well. It becomes so tiring that some students fall asleep immediately following the concert.

The concert opened with A Musical, a song I had heard a friend during practice.The lead female role, Frankie Coverini, junior at LHHS,  did an astonishing job developing the atmosphere by captivating the crowd.

My favorite songs (along with many of the audience members that spoke with me) were Do You Love Me?, Let’s Get Loud , Ballad of Sweeney Todd, and We Can Do it.

Do You Love Me? was the story of a husband asking his wife if she loved him from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. It was both humorous and heartfelt. I could easily see the affect it had on the audience. They laughed at the wife’s responses and smiled at her final response. (Yes, she loves him).

Let’s Get Loud was a female-empowering song that had the members of the Wings Show Choir wear ‘street clothes’. It was fun, sassy, and an all around great song to sing and listen to.

Ballad of Sweeney Todd was something else all together. It started and ended dramatically; right from the beginning there was a feeling of bloodshed and death. The song told the story of a barber, Sweeney Todd, who murdered his clients with the shaving blade.

My last favorite, in contrast to Sweeney Todd, was We Can Do It. This piece was performed by the LHHS Man Group, and it held a boyish feeling to it. The story held two groups: one group were the confident flirts, trying to push the shyer males to gain confidence to ask a girl out. The second group was comprised of timid boys who seemed to gain it, then lower themselves, repeatedly saying “We can’t do it!”

All in all, the performance was spectacular; stunning visuals and vocals pieced everything perfectly together. I cannot wait to go to the next one!

By Mylena Ferman