The Martian Movie Review

martian_filmThe Martian is a sci-fi drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott. It stars Matt Damon as Mark Watney and features other familiar faces like Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean. The movie takes place some time in the near future, when human technology has improved so that outer space travel to Mars has been achieved. Mark Watney and the other members of his crew are on an expedition on Mars when a storm hits and the team is forced to evacuate, accidentally leaving Watney behind.

What transpires for the whole movie is Watney trying to survive and NASA trying to contact him. The movie jumps back and forth between the two settings at various times. Obviously with a situation like this, tension runs high throughout the film, and indeed there are several thrilling moments. However, the high points of the film for me are the intimate, thoughtful moments that show the psychological and emotional stress Watney and NASA go through during this crisis.

It’s these quiet and well presented moments that make this movie so memorable and special. You truly grow to care about Watney and feel invested in his struggle. Matt Damon does a phenomenal job at bringing Mark Watney to life from the novel, with some of the best acting of his career. The Martian also has a very unexpected aspect: comedy. Mark Watney himself has a very good sense of humor, further increasing his likability. He is very optimistic and upbeat about each situation. It also helps that there are other great comedy actors such as Michael Peña and Donald Glover.

Overall, I found The Martian to be a really great movie. It wasn’t a huge spectacle or had the action of Interstellar or Gravity, but rather focuses on smaller moments, whether emotional or comedic, to drive its appeal. It does these very well, and I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys drama/thrillers, or science fiction films.

-Ahmed H.

The Bliss Trilogy by Kathryn Littlewood

bliss_klittlewood*Note: the last two summaries may include spoilers to their previous book

Over the summer, I became engulfed in an intriguing book series, the Bliss trilogy. In the first book, Bliss, problems arise when the Bliss parents go on a baking retreat for one week. Their children, Thyme, Sage, Leigh, and Rosemary, the main character, are left with an unfriendly babysitter to take care of them and their magical bakery. The kids know they must protect the secret of the magical bakery while their parents are away. However, when the mysterious Aunt Lily arrives unexpectedly, things quickly get out of hand. Humorous turns of events create chaos when several enchanted recipes completely turn around the people of their hometown, Calamity Falls. Unsure of whom to trust, will Rosemary Bliss and her two brothers be able to save their home before it all comes crashing down?

In the smashing sequel to the first book, A Dash of Magic, nefarious Aunt Lily has stolen the Bliss family magical cookbook. Rosemary Bliss must defeat her mighty Aunt Lily in a baking contest, France’s Gala des Gateaux Grands, in order to save her family’s all-powerful cookbook. Along with an alliance of a talking cat and mouse, her great-great-great grandfather Balthazar, and her brother Ty, Rose encounters many close calls and wacky magical ingredients. A Dash of Magic is a thrilling book, which many Bliss fans will love.

Finally, the grand finale to the inspiring Bliss trilogy is called Bite Sized Magic. All Rose had ever wanted was to be famous, but after winning the Gala des Gateaux Grands, she realizes it is a lot more work than she imagined. She is soon kidnapped by the Mostess snack company, which uses kitchen magic for evil rather than good. They threaten her into perfecting their best selling (and most evil) recipes in a mere five days. To save her family and herself, and to defeat this wicked baking company, Rose must face one of her most fearsome challenges yet.

This trilogy is hilarious, wacky, magical, and fascinating, all rolled up into one series! I would recommend these books for all ages, although they might be overwhelmingly long for younger kids. Since I love baking and reading, I was thrilled when I received the first book as a gift from one of my friends, and I immediately bought the next two. I fell in love with the hilarious wit and charm included in each and every novel, and the incredible imagery made me feel like I was traveling alongside Rose, all the way from Calamity Falls to the majestic city of Paris. Her handsome brother Ty, sweet sister Leigh, comedic brother Sage, encouraging parents, and her crazy pets and grandfather all make the story that much more enticing. Readers will fall in love with all of the characters, the plot, and a sensational touch of magic while reading the outstanding Bliss trilogy!

-Alaina K., 7th Grade

The Bliss Trilogy is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Modern Music and Classic Literature

“Classics in literature are irrelevant now and don’t relate to life today.”

At least, that’s what I used to think before given an assignment where I had to relate a classic to a text “in my own world”. I didn’t like classics before, and some I’m still not interested in, but after analyzing one for the assignment I realized there is much I can relate to. I started to see the relation and it was pretty surprising. And there really wasn’t that big of a generation gap.

As a very big fan of music, I have a lot of connections to songs and my life. One of the main reasons I love it so much is because it’s so similar to my situations and how I feel, so I always love to tie it to anything I can. In this particular assignment, I found a song that I think is a shorter, more modern version of the idea behind J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.

“Somewhere in Neverland” by All Time Low closely resembles the story of The Catcher in the Rye. The song talks about a boy in between adolescence and adulthood who doesn’t want to grow up. He doesn’t want to get a job and a life on his own. He feels lost “with no compass to guide”, much like Holden during his stay in New York. He wishes he could start over and be “forever young” and innocent, which is why Holden admires children.

In the song, the boy wants to run away with a girl to Neverland, a place where time stops and everything just keeps going around and around like the carousel. Holden just wants to go to a place where everything can stay the same, something he also likes about his memories of the Museum of Natural History museum. Holden proposes the idea of running away with Sally so they can escape the inevitability of growing up and having responsibilities. He wants to “start a life of the plain and the simple” when he has the idea of staying in a cabin in the woods away from the real world. This song is a close interpretation of the book and ties in with the ideas and themes very well.

-Sabrina C., 10th Grade

The Map of Chaos by Felix J. Palma

What if you’re an author and your books can come alive?

Enter H G Wells and his wife Jane. They’re best friends with Arthur C Doyle and Murray, a very rich man. Enter another H G Wells and Jane, who are friends with Lewis Carroll. Enter a third H G Wells, who got bitten by a dog… wait. Aren’t there two too many H G Wells? Oh, and enter alternate dimensions, a man who encountered a woman who can change into a wolf, an invisible man who wants to murder people, and the map of chaos that can save the worlds. This is the story in The Map of Chaos.

Confusing, huh? But don’t worry, all will be explained when you read the book. As you can see, The Map of Chaos has a very confusing plot that won’t be explained until you have read most of the book. Additionally, science fiction is molded with adventure, comedy, and fantasy, with excellent plot twists. It is the third book in the series, but one doesn’t have to read the other two books to know what is going on so long as one reads a synopsis of both books.

Additionally, Palma gives a very comedic view on how authors really got ideas for their books. For example, it seems as though the Hound of the Baskervilles is named after a guy named Baskervilles who is scared of dogs. I really enjoyed this book, and I suggest that you would please try it out!

-Megan V.

The Map of Chaos is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

The Last of the Jedi by Jude Watson

lastofthejedi_judewatsonEver wish you could relive your first Star Wars experience–watching the movies or riding Star Tours–all over again? Well, you can’t, but with the new movie, The Force Awakens, coming up in December, I thought it was about time to get myself back into the Star Wars swing of things. This is when I started to read the book series The Last of the Jedi.

This series follows Obi-Wan Kenobi as he survives Order 66, looks after Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, and goes on multiple new adventures with the help of new friends. In between Episodes III and IV of the Star Wars movies, not a lot is known; but this book series explains everything. It is also heart-warming to see my favorite character’s names in print and read about their adventures. Obi-Wan Kenobi is forced from his exile to rescue an old Jedi friend who also survived the purge. In doing so, he discovers that there are more Jedi hiding around the galaxy. Another part of the story that made me almost fall out of my seat where the mentions of Darth Vader.

Anakin/Vader had always been my favorite character in the entire Star Wars universe, and to read about him while putting my own mental images of his movie self was amazing. If you have not read these books, and love Star Wars like myself, I encourage you to do so. If you have not seen the Star Wars movies… then you should really get outside more.

-Kyle H.

The Last of the Jedi series is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

enclave_annaguirreIn the novel Enclave, by Ann Aguirre, the world has been destroyed by wars and plague. Most of the population lives underground in enclaves, hence the title of the book. The story takes place in one of those enclaves called “College,” where the population is relatively young because the eldest among them is about twenty-five. The population of College is divided into three main groups: Breeders, Builders, and Hunters. Breeders bear children to maintain the population, while builders build various items. The Hunters have the important job of killing creatures called “Freaks” (aka zombies). In this enclave, a fifteen-year-old girl receives her name Deuce on naming day after she completes training to become a huntress. Deuce is the main character of this story, and after earning the role of Huntress; she is partnered with a boy named Fade. Unlike the people of College, Fade was raised Topside (the area outside and above the enclave). With Fade as her partner, Deuce goes on patrol and kills Freaks. As the story continues, she and Fade are exiled to Topside. To learn about their adventures in Topside, read this book!

Enclave was a book with all of it – action, adventure, survival and one, brave main female character. Throughout the book, I was thoroughly entertained and hanging on for more. I liked the way the book had a short introduction, then it jumped right into Deuce’s job of killing Freaks. The author, Ann Aguirre wrote well because Deuce was an amazing character, but the book was slightly choppy. Deuce was an amazing heroine with a strong personality. Her ability to prevail above and fend off the Freaks was amazing; Deuce also had a great sense of valor. Also, the additional characters in the book were great and they added to the book positively. Recommended for high schoolers, Enclave is followed by two more books, Outpost and Horde for those who enjoyed it.

-Anmol K.

Enclave is available to check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Movie Review: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

manfromuncleThe Man from U.N.C.L.E is a modern take on a vintage spy show. The director, Guy Ritchie, tells the story of an American secret agent and a Russian secret agent teaming up to stop a third-party nuclear threat. The film takes place in the Cold War Era, when U.S.-Russia tensions are at an all-time high. The Berlin Wall still divides Germany. The American spy, Napoleon Solo, is both suave and daring. He carries out his missions with a casual confidence, in contrast to the Russian KGB agent Illya Kuryakin, who is serious and professional.

From the very beginning, the movie jumps right into action. Napoleon Solo travels to East Berlin to extract Gaby Teller from the country. Russia also wants her for information on Gaby’s father, a scientist who worked with the United States during World War II. After Solo and Kuryakin pit their skills against one another, Solo escapes across the wall. After the initial excitement, the movie slows down to reveal the exposition and driving force for the rest of the plot. Despite being locked in combat in the opening scene, circumstances eventually force the agents to work together to stop a terrorist organization from creating a nuclear warhead.

The 2015 film is based on a television show from the 1960s. As a result, everything seems old-fashioned, from the way people speak to the set design. The director creates the movie to be elegant and vintage, in sharp contrast to modern day blockbusters. Each scene is a work of art, using careful camera angles and interesting transitions. Even action scenes are well planned. Clear establishing shots ensure that viewers are never confused or overwhelmed.

The best aspect of this movie is the dynamics between characters. Solo and Kuryakin both have distinct personalities that often clash. Their friendly bickering is humorous and entertaining. As the movie progresses, they become unlikely friends, even adopting nicknames for each other. Although most of today’s audiences can’t really relate to the historical time period, it’s obvious that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is vastly different from the typical action movie. If you’re interested in both action and elegance, this is the movie for you.

-Phillip Xiang