Tag: review

“Birdbox” Review

A new Netflix movie has surfaced and is taking over the Internet. It’s called “Birdbox.” People are raging about this new movie and even coming up with real-life challenges based on things that happen in the movie. Although “Birdbox” is classified as a horror movie, it contains more suspense than a typical horror movie, moving it slightly towards “thriller” territory.

 

“Birdbox” is set five years in the past, where it shows the world–just as normal as it is today–and the main character, Mallory, who is pregnant. Mallory’s sister tells her about an insane mass suicide going on in Russia, but she brushes it off and doesn’t worry. Instead, she decides to simply go about her normal day, which includes a check-up with her OB/GYN. While leaving the hospital, Mallory sees a girl trying to kill herself, and experiences one of the first signs that whatever is happening in Russia is now happening in the U.S. Mallory and her sister hurry home, but on their way, they come across chaos within the streets–it isn’t even safe for them to be on the road. Mallory’s sister abandons her, but thankfully, Mallory, shell-shocked and confused, is helped by a man and woman who bring her into a safe home along with other people. These survivors stay together and come to find out that the only way to survive is to avoid going outside–and that if you have to, you need to keep your eyes covered. The “entity” is outside, and if you look at it, you see your worst fears and end up killing yourself.

 

The movie then goes on about Mallory not only having her child but also adopting another one, and tells the story of how they survive. The movie itself succeeded in getting me hooked onto the storyline, and had me wondering what would happen every minute of the movie, which kept me anxious for what was going to happen next. It had me on the edge of my seat at some points, I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I was worried my favorite character was going to die. However, I also found it a bit all over the place, because it would go back and forth between the present and past what seemed like every few minutes. I also felt like a lot of questions were left unanswered.  I would recommend this movie to people who love a good suspenseful movie and who have maybe seen “A Quiet Place” and really liked it. I would rate this movie an 8 out of 10 overall.

 

By: Rylee Tuzzeo and Cesar Dominguez

“Halloween” Review

Recently, I watched one of the best movies of 2018–a horror movie called “Halloween.” Halloween is a horror movie that is supposed to be a sequel to the first and original “Halloween,” made in 1978. Although there have been 5 other movies produced in the span of 40 years, fans are asked to ignore them all–except for the first one, as the new one is still connected to it. The original “Halloween” is a movie about a man named Michael Myers who killed his oldest sister, Judith, when he was only six, by stabbing her–which led him to be sent away, but he eventually escaped at 21, in search of more people to kill. In fact, Michael murders almost anyone that comes across his path.

 

The new “Halloween” starts with Michael being held in a psych hospital-slash-prison facility. Two reporters want to learn more about Michael, so they go to visit him, only to find that he doesn’t talk, not even when they pull out his famous killing mask to show him. The two reporters are then informed that Michael will be transferred that night to a different facility. After their visit, the two reporters go to Laurie Strode to question her. Laurie Strode is from the original “Halloween,” where Michael killed her three friends when she was in high school and tried to kill her while she was babysitting. The whole story is focused on her search for revenge. Laurie lives in a secluded, high-security house in the middle of the woods, just waiting for him to come and try to kill her again. Later, the viewer learns about Laurie’s family; she has a rough relationship with her daughter and doesn’t see her granddaughter that much. Once the bus for the inmates who are being transported leaves the facility, Laurie is outside watching and has flashbacks that lead her to go to her family for help. The next scene shows that the bus has crashed and everyone inside of it, including Michael, have escaped.
Michael continues his killing spree from 40 years ago, and somehow, he ends up getting his mask back…
The movie then goes off of Michael’s escape and how Laurie protects herself and her family from the famous, scary “boogie man,” Michael Myers.
The movie itself succeeded in scaring me, to the point where I needed to cover one of my eyes to feel safe looking at the screen. However, I also found it a bit overly dramatic and unrealistic in some of the scenes. Overall, though, it was a good scare. It had me on the edge of my seat at some points and I didn’t know what was going to happen. I would recommend this movie to people who love the original “Halloween,” or those who just enjoy a well-made scary and suspenseful movie. I would rate this movie a 7.5 out of 10 compared to the first and other horror films that I have seen.

 

By: Rylee Tuzzeo

The Race to Destruction: Fast Fashion’s Effects on the World and Society

Since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, there has been a steady incline in the efficiency of clothing manufacturing, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that clothing companies began to really produce garments with intense speed. Fashion became easily accessible to the public for consumption at lower costs than ever before; the allure of having trendy and fashionable pieces in one’s closet catalyzed more demand for these cheap and fast clothes. Fast forward to 2019, and clothing brands such as H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Charlotte Russe, and TOPSHOP are everywhere and dominate the closets of children and adults alike. Who wouldn’t pass up a $3.90 pair of leggings or a $4 dress? This cycle of the production of “fast-wearing” clothes and even faster consumerism has paved the way for detrimental consequences for the producer, the environment, and the consumer.

 

Cheap labor is the euphemism, in this case, for sweatshop workers who unfortunately do not make enough money to surpass the poverty line–the workers who live heavily-clustered in slums without the basic necessities and resources needed to have a decent quality of life. In the 1990s, the textile industry began moving overseas at an extremely high rate–fewer labor laws overseas would lead to the opportunity to rapidly amass products and cheaply sell them without having to worry about workers’ wages and rights. The sweatshops aren’t safe; “accidental mass killings” aren’t just a tragedy of the early 20th century. They still happen even in the most technologically advanced generation we’ve seen thus far. In 2013, the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing at least 1,138 workers making clothes. In response to this incident, a European-led coalition of unions and allied NGOs (non-governmental organizations) teamed up to work with Bangladeshi labor groups to create a worker safety initiative focused on empowering workers themselves, adopted largely by European firms and led by H&M but also adopted by several major U.S. brands. Even with such a development, the initiative has had some trouble staying afloat, and there is still more that needs to be done. How can we support the abuse and complete disregard of the very people that give us the things we crave most? Textile factories have also been found to be ripe with the foul stench of human trafficking, found even in the United States. Girls and women promised jobs and opportunity come only to be bound to a cycle of abuse and servitude; real people in terrible situations are grossly underpaid, mistreated, taken advantage of, subjected to devastating health problems, and even dying- to make disposable clothing for the “lucky” us, the consumers.

 

This radical mass production creates pollution, and the mass waste caused by consumers carelessly tossing old garments contributes to utter environmental chaos. During the farming process for cotton, the pesticides that are used are being linked to cancer and birth defects in farmers’ children in the Punjab region of India, as well as contributing to the development of a brain tumor in the case of one Texan farmer. The production of cotton, though only making up “2.4 percent of the world’s crops… is responsible for 24 percent of global insecticide sales and 11 percent of global pesticide sales,” as well as the immense consumption of freshwater–one t-shirt can take up to 2,700 liters of water to make–and the facts don’t stop there. American clothing waste, nearly 3.8 billion pounds annually, ends up in landfills, which amounts to nearly 80 pounds of textile per American citizen–which seems practically unimaginable. In addition, over 80 billion pieces of clothing are purchased each year, mostly by Americans, even though the clothing was made in outsourced low-income countries such as China and Bangladesh. The factory workers’ subjection to environmentally unstable working and living situations is appalling, yet Americans can’t seem to decrease their demand for trendy and cheap clothing. Textile waste begets the production of methane during decomposition and the dyes and chemicals used to color and create the textiles could sink into the soil; whole communities and agricultural systems are crumbling due to mass production of fast fashion.

 

As a modern consumer, there seems to be something extremely satisfying about inserting a card into a chip reader and walking out of a store with a new purchase. With fast-fashion retailers churning out new trends and styles many more times a year than in the high-fashion realm–either as a continuous release or around 12 seasons for fast-fashion retailers versus 2 seasons for typical high fashion–buyers are armed with the caveat that they must shop then and there in order to stay up-to-date with the most current style. Having this feeling of staying on top of “the game” tends to bring an immense feeling of instant gratification when compulsory shopping, a feeling that is catalyzed with each swipe or chip read, and to keep feeling that instant gratification, we buy. This cycle can very easily turn into an addiction with us giving immense support and money to the factories and fast-fashion companies.

 

As the public eyes turn more towards to atrocities associated with fast fashion production and retail, hopefully, change will come. Remove fast fashion from your spending habits, buy second-hand clothes, boycott the fast fashion industry, or even just learn about and advocate for sustainable clothing.

 

Sources:

Ross, Robert J.S. “The High Toll of Fast Fashion.” Dissent Magazine, http://www.dissentmagazine.org/blog/the-true-cost-review-fast-fashion-rana-plaza-accord.

Morgan, Andrew, director. The True Cost. 2015.

Bailey, Carolyn. “Slow Down: Fast Fashion Has Harmful Effects.” Trusted Clothes, 10 Sept. 2016, http://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/2016/02/09/slow-down-fast-fashion-has-harmful-effects/.

“The Impact of a Cotton T-Shirt.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, 16 Jan. 2013, http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/the-impact-of-a-cotton-t-shirt.

Bick, Rachel, et al. “The Global Environmental Injustice of Fast Fashion.” Environmental Health, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, doi:10.1186/s12940-018-0433-7.

 

To learn more, watch The True Cost on Netflix.

 

By: Aly Sickles

 

“Riverdale” Review

Over the past year, a new television show has risen to popularity, inundating the Internet with hashtags, gifs and chatter surrounding it. It’s a drama-based show about teenaged high school students called Riverdale, named for the small town of Riverdale where it takes place. The show begins with the backgrounds of a few characters and of the town itself. Riverdale appears to be a quiet town, but it has a reputation for seeming suspicious, or even a little spooky. The town of Riverdale is separated into two parts; the south side and the suburban side. The south side is characterized as a gang whose members are known as the “Serpents”. They wear black leather jackets with snakes (also known as serpents) on the back, along with the words “South Serpents” to display who they are and what they represent. The Serpents live in rougher parts, and most of their lives have revolved around drugs and money. The suburban side, however, is a family friendly community with good schools, and is displayed as a town where nothing dramatic or disturbing happens….or so the residents had believed. The main characters soon find themselves caught in lies, an odd love triangle, drama, and even danger.

 
Once Riverdale was released onto Netflix, many teens were so hooked that they couldn’t not binge watch the show! It has created a whole new type of suspense, as it revolves around teens who step up and become detectives in order to solve mysteries and search for the hidden truth. But sometimes, the truth they find is not the truth that they wish to discover. Riverdale is a great show for people who love to watch suspenseful, dramatic and high school-based movies. It makes you feel attached to the show, almost as if you are there with the characters, and you get so involved that you try to solve the mysteries yourself. You will even catch yourself trying to find some hidden clues. Riverdale only has two released seasons on Netflix so far, however, I highly recommend watching it–you won’t regret it and it will leave you wanting more! Overall, I would have to rate the show an 8/10.

 

By: Rylee Tuzzeo

Hannah’s HHN Review!

Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights is a once-a-year event that garners tons of excitement from die-hard fans of both horror and Universal! The various haunted houses and scare-zones are dripping with nostalgia and creativity that cannot be missed; the sheer love of this event from the designers and actors to the fans and community can be felt with every step through the park. The animation for this year’s event was especially great because of the announcement of the Stranger Things haunted house, based off of the increasingly popular Netflix show. This year is easily Universal’s most ambitious event, with record-breaking amounts of mazes offered and “scareactors” performing. The houses all have a few things in common that make this event so memorable: strong atmospheres, great production, and well-timed scares. This year’s event is one of their best yet, and it’d be a mistake not to go to Halloween Horror Nights 2018. The houses this year were all impressive and done brilliantly; however, ranking the houses comes down to personal preference. Here is my ranking of the houses from least favorite to most favorite. 

 

Scary Tales: Deadly Ever After

This was my least favorite house from this year (which was disappointing, because I had high hopes for it this year). The stories were hard to distinguish, and although the premise was “twisted” traditional fairy tales, the transitions from scene to scene and the sets were confusing and muddled together. The inclusion of The Wizard of Oz was entertaining, and the opening of the house had a complete story line of a cursed childhood tale; the rest of the house, though, was underwhelming, even with the aerial scareactors and the use of smells.

 

Dead Exposure: Patient Zero

This might be one of the most polarizing houses thus far; on the one hand, some people love this house and are genuinely scared by it, but there are also those who hate this house and didn’t find it scary at all. I happen to fall into the category of hating it, which is why it’s ranked as one of my least favorite houses. This is partly because I didn’t understand the storyline–even with going through the house several time–and because the lights gave away the scares, so I wasn’t surprised when a scareactor jumped out. It aimed to disorient your senses with lack of lights and implement scares timed with periods of darkness. The design was too simplistic to accommodate the strobe lights and, overall, I think this house relied too heavily on the lighting rather than the actual house itself.

 

The Horrors of Blumhouse

This combination of “Happy Death Day” and “The First Purge” was ultimately disappointing because the stories were unrelated and executed inconsistently. The scares were repetitive, which follows the premise of “Happy Death Day” rather well. This house was disorienting due to the delivery of the same types of scares repeatedly and the actual design of the house; however, those same qualities helped immerse me into the “Happy Death Day” film. Overall, the house seemed to focus too much on “Happy Death Day” and not enough on “The First Purge.” This was one of the least impressive houses of this year’sdfafjvhcfajklhSDkhgDAjhgdaghkSghkXbhXCvgjXZvjhczvbXVZchXAFbhkXCZVJH line up.

 

Stranger Things

Undoubtedly the most highly-anticipated house this year was the Stranger Things house. The popularity of this franchise has exponentially increased in the last two years and has gained a major presence in our everyday lives; the amount of people that crowded to this house every single night of Halloween Horror Nights serves as evidence that this house is one of the most popular. Although it wasn’t my favorite house, it did manage to cover the major scenes of the first season with stunning production designs and a richly detailed soundstage that made it seem like you were in the Upside Down (an alternate reality from the TV series, for the uninformed). The scareactors were hard to distinguish from the actual characters, the Demogorgon was done remarkably well, and the soundstage was used effectively. The downfalls of this house are firstly the use of strobe lights–which, in my opinion, take away from the effectiveness of the scares and sets because they can impair your vision–and secondly the source material, which doesn’t allow for as much horror as some of the other properties.

 

Seeds of Extinction

This house contained some of the most beautiful interior design and integrated the scareactors into the scenes flawlessly. The set dressing of this maze was executed flawlessly, and it added to the overall experience; because of the plant costumes, the scareactors were able to blend in with their surroundings, essentially hiding in plain sight so they could scare you when you least expected it. This maze had some of the most well-crafted haunts and the concept of this house was truly memorable. The use of effects, such as rain and wind, helped make this an intense maze filled with hidden references to other Halloween Horror Nights events and detailed set pieces.

 

Slaughter Sinema

The balance of humor and scares makes this one of the more enjoyable houses of the year. In terms of houses which are intended to be funny, it’s probably the best scare house Halloween Horror Nights has ever done. The structure of this house allowed for the maze to flow effortlessly even though it switched from flick to flick. Using movie posters for the next scene was an effective way to differentiate one section from the next. The 1980’s style of monster movies showed the creativity of the designers and the fun they had creating this house; the scenes were the right balance between amusing and gory. The concept and the execution of this house did nothing but add to the overall experience with a hilarious queue video and entrance design.

 

Trick ‘r Treat

This maze is breathtaking; the amount of attention and care that this house received is obvious in their execution of the scenes and scares. From the initial haunted house façade to the grand finale, this house was so detailed and engrossing, I didn’t want the experience to end. The house manages to tell the story of the 2009 film that it’s based on without being an exact replica. The fact that Sam, the face of Trick ‘r Treat, was to be a dummy some nights and a real scareactor on other nights made me want to keep visiting this house. It was organized in a way that showcased the chapters of the plot and transitioned with simple black box scares that allowed the house to flow effortlessly.

 

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

The return of Michael Myers is always welcome at Halloween Horror Nights; this year is the third year that he appeared at this event. Every year, this house is adored by fans of the franchise and the Horror Nights community as a whole. This was one of my favorite houses from this year’s roster; the energy in this house was upbeat and put me in a great mood. The scareactors portraying Michael Myers were incredibly interactive and it was clear that they enjoyed their roles. The delivery of the scares was perfectly timed, and the sheer amount of scareactors, including Mr. Myers and a ton of other characters, kept you on your toes. While the Michael Myers jump scares are repeated heavily, they are integral to the house–it would not be Halloween Horror Nights without Mr. Myers coming at you with a knife.

 

Carnival Graveyard: Rust in Pieces

The Carnival Graveyard house was one of the most interactive houses this year, with its multiple guest-activated triggers and two-story design. This house managed to mix fun and fear together to make a memorable experience. The scares in this house are unusual, which differentiated it from most Horror Nights houses. One of the selling points of this house is its scenic design–the set designs and costumes did a great job of capturing my imagination. The rusted rides and decaying decorations added to the eeriness of this house, especially with some of the scares being more subtle. The attention to detail in this house was heartwarming; if you’re a big fan of Halloween Horror Nights, there were more than a few nods to previous years and Universal’s history hidden in this house.

 

Poltergeist

This is my favorite house; it is unrivaled in terms of the storyline, the aesthetics, and the special effects. Supernatural and paranormal scenes are notoriously difficult to recreate, but the designers managed to create a story that was realistic without being gimmicky or cheesy. The maze features many iconic characters and scenes and, in my opinion, was one of the strongest houses this year. The designers somehow managed to create a tense atmosphere while simultaneously immersing guests into the classic plot of the movie. This house has the most complete storyline and stays true to the movie; it utilizes puppets, air bursts, and roof designs to fully encapsulate the classic 1982 film. The execution of this house is flawless and sets it apart from your typical haunted house.

 

By: Hannah Tran

“The Nun” Movie Review

Over the past weekend, I watched “The Nun,” a new movie that just released in the movie theaters September 6th. “The Nun” is a horror movie that ties in to the popular horror movie “The Conjuring;” it explains the story of “The Conjuring” and gives out answers towards the end that had been left unanswered at the end of “The Conjuring.”

 

“The Nun” is about an investigation within an abbey, a building occupied by a community of nuns, where a nun killed herself; the events begin when a priest, along with a nun, appear on the scene to find out what is going on. Little do they know, however, that there are many secrets they are going to discover. The movie opens with a young nun running for her life before she sacrifices her life in her abbey. A local man named Frenchie, who lives in the village, comes across the dead body, and the word soon gets out. A priest, Father Burke, is contacted by a church, and he goes with several other priests to investigate the scene. They are accompanied by Frenchie and a young nun named Irene, who has not completed her final vows. Frenchie, who found the body, leads both Father Burke and Sister Irene to the abbey. When they arrive, they immediately begin to feel weird vibes about the abbey and what is going on in it. The abbey is old, run down, and completely empty, with darkness all over–the perfect setting for a horror movie. The first person they come across looks suspicious and is covered head to toe in a black cloak, and she then assigns them where to stay and sleep. The first day they arrive, weird things begin to happen, and that is only the beginning.

 

The movie itself succeeding in scaring me to the point where I needed to cover one of my eyes and squint to look back at the screen. Overall, it was a good scare; however, I found it a bit odd due to some of the scenes. I would recommend this movie to people who love a good scare, especially the kind that pops out of nowhere, and people who love suspenseful movies. I would rate this movie a 6/10 compared to other horror films that I have watched.

 

By: Madison Moore

“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” Review

Coming of age books are witty, funny, and emotionally engaging throughout the story. The purpose of romantic comedy books is to soulfully guarantee readers to ignite their visions of fictional romance, love flings, and adventurous behavior with friends. The majority of romantic novels include the cliché yet intriguing love stories between a handsome jock and the sweet girl who lives next door. However, there happens to be an amazing love story that you rarely see at your local Barnes and Noble, a love story that’ll keep you blushing, smiling, and weeping for more once you hit the last page. Love, Simon is a moving story between two teenage boys who hopelessly fall for each other in high school.

 

Simon Spier is a charming and introverted high school student who is navigating through life’s moments, both the good and the stressful. He has three quirky best friends and a supportive, loving family who is always by his side. Despite Simon’s easygoing academic and social life, he does have one huge secret that he keeps to himself: nobody knows that he’s gay. This book centers around Simon’s journey through self-acceptance and the pressure he undergoes while hiding his true identity. Further into the reading, Simon meets another closeted gay kid whom he soon falls for romantically. They began to exchange emails discussing their common interests while sending flirtatious jokes between one another. The downfall of Spier’s romantic interest is that he is anonymous and remains unknown to Simon’s eyes. Therefore, Simon and the unknown boy continues to share a sweet bond virtually rather than physically. Everything is going well until Simon is blackmailed and then outed to the whole student body of Timbercreek High. Does revealing the emails between Simon and his love interest end the blissful connection they once shared? Will this complicated time drive Simon to reveal his sexuality? You must read to find out.

 

Love, Simon embarks on romance and sets a foundation that can reassure members of the LGBTQ community that they’re deserving of love. As some may ridicule the idea of same sex love, this novel helps to disintegrate the idea that people should be ashamed of their sexuality. Simon faces pressure coming out to his loved ones and everyone at school. The roller coaster of emotions Simon endures can be relatable to teens struggling with self-acceptance of their love preference. Frankly, some teenagers are open with their sexuality and dismissive towards any sort of judgement. However, those who remain closeted, just like Simon, can learn a valuable lesson from this book. The LGBTQ+ community can gain confidence to come out to those around them. This book is also eye-opening to those who continuously spread hate and judgment towards homosexuality. Supporting this book can bring awareness towards LGBTQ+ issues in the media and could increase the likelihood for more books such as this one. Despite the confusing and tough times through romance, I recommend this book because it perfectly portrays a love story that is compassionate, heartwarming, and beautiful in all forms. After all, we all deserve a good love story right?

 

By: Maxine Polycarpe

“The Meg” Review

Over the past weekend, I watched a new movie at the movie theater called The Meg. The Meg is a story about a man named Jonas, who is a retired trained rescue diver. Jonas saves many people when they encounter a enormous shark, also known as a megalodon. The movie starts with Jonas in trouble, and he ends up losing some crew members in a rescue mission. Jonas then retires from diving and moves to Thailand. Five years later, a submarine crew, working for a billionaire who funded an international undersea observation program in the middle of the ocean, gets stuck underwater beyond a ground level that has never been discovered before. Their submarine is attacked and thrown around by an unknown creature outside. They begin to run out of time and their crew, in the lab above water, begins to panic, thinking about how to rescue them. Jonas is contacted by a friend who works for the program to help save his crew, and he immediately turns it down–until he discovers his ex-wife is one of the people in trouble. Jonas comes to the rescue and is able to save the crew members; he also encounters “the Meg,” as they call it, while performing the rescue operation. The giant shark is believed to stay under the ground level due to the temperature difference, but it follows the submarine into a world it has never seen. It’s now up to Jonas to save the ocean and all the creatures that are in it from this monster.

I found the movie pretty interesting, because it was action-packed and had great special effects. The shark actually looked real and it didn’t look too fake. It had some funny moments which brightened the movie and kept it from being too serious, and those cracked some laughs in the audience. It was also suspenseful because I didn’t know what was going to happen next, and it had me on the edge of my seat. However, I found it a bit corny and cheesy as well, considering some parts were very unrealistic and the movie jumped around too much. I would recommend this movie to people who are not scared of unexpected occurrences and who like a suspenseful or funny movie. I would rate this movie a 6/10 overall because it seems very similar to the popular movie “Jaws” and isn’t as unique as it could have been.

 

By: Rylee Tuzzeo

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

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