Film Review: Ocean’s Eleven

I love this movie so much! I’ve probably seen it over ten times, and would gladly watch it again. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood to watch something dark and intense and ominous. I know there are countless other movies out there that aren’t dark and intense and ominous, but Ocean’s Eleven is always my default. It’s just so funny and clever! It’s actually a remake of the original Ocean’s Eleven (with Frank Sinatra). But when they released the remake, it did really well, so they made two more movies (Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen) which are equally as good and humorous. 

The movie starts out with Danny Ocean (played by George Clooney) who has just been released from prison (he was in for robbery). He immediately seeks out his friend, Rusty (played by Brad Pitt), and together, they begin formulating a plan to rob a a group of casinos in Las Vegas owned by a man named Terry Benedict. 

Although there are so many different characters (eleven on the team), I love all of their individual personalities and qualities. It’s actually really impressive that each character is developed so well as there are so many of them so props to the director! The plot of this movie is also really clever and well thought out. I love the twists and turns, and even though what they’re doing is pretty serious, the characters still seem to keep a light and humorous demeanor. 

This is definitely one of my favorite movies, and if you like funny heist movies, you should totally check it out!

-Elina T.

Oceans Eleven is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Stranger by Albert Camus

If you were to see Monsieur Meursault walking down the street, he would appear to be an ordinary young man. He shows up to work every day, doesn’t disrespect any of his coworkers, and is on good terms with all of his neighbors. Unless you were to actually meet him, you would never realize that he was a bit different.

When people ask him things, he doesn’t ever seem to have a definite answer- it almost seems as if nothing really matters to him. Because of this, people will sometimes become annoyed at him. They want clear answers, and Monsieur Meursault won’t give them that. However, no one really questions him and his lack of feelings until the death of his mother (Maman, he calls her). He had sent her off to a home for the elderly because he was no longer able to support her. Now she has died, and to Monsieur Meursault, it doesn’t really feel as if anything has changed – everyone around him is grieving more than the woman’s own son. People question him: Why doesn’t he seem to be in mourning? Why has he not shed a single tear?

It’s not until after a horrific event takes place that Meursault’s actions (or lack thereof) begin to affect him. Meursault probably never would have expected this to happen, and neither would any of his friends and acquaintances, but it did, and now he must face the consequences.

Originally written in French by Albert Camus, this book has been beautifully translated to English by Matthew Ward. It’s written in an unusual style that I think is very fitting for the personality of Monsieur Meursault. Although it may not be filled with action and adventure, this is definitely an interesting read, and it gives us insight on how this strange man thinks. I also enjoyed learning a bit more about the French culture, as this is where the book takes place.

Despite the fact that this is a fairly short book, it took me a while to read it. I only read a little each day because it gave me so much to think about and the protagonist and his actions really intrigued me. This is the first book I’ve read wherein the main character thinks in such a strange way. I’m really glad that it’s written in the point of view of this man, else I wouldn’t have been able to understand him at all. This is a very unique book, written in the point of view of a very unusual protagonist, and although I probably wouldn’t read this book again, I don’t regret reading it and would definitely say that it gave me a lot to think about.

-Elina T.

The Stranger by Albert Camus is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

The most modest, kind-hearted, expert haiku poet of a god- yes, I am talking about the one and only Apollo! Honestly, who doesn’t love him?

Well it looks as if Zeus isn’t particularly fond of him- because, well you probably wouldn’t throw someone you’re fond of off of Olympus and strip them of their godly powers.

Apollo finds himself in a repulsive garbage bin in a New York alley when he awakes in the form of the utterly powerless, weak, and completely mortal Lester Papadopoulos. Because he is so accustomed to his godly privileges and reverent treatment, being sent to Earth with absolutely no powers hits Apollo pretty hard. Quite literally:

“Hoodlums punch my my face,

I would smite them if I could,

Mortality blows.”

-Apollo (The Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle Ch. 1, Rick Riordan)


Although this is a new series, it’s also, in a way, a continuation of Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus. It’s set in the same world, and some questions that were left unanswered in The Blood of Olympus (the last book in The Heroes of Olympus series) are finally explained. I won’t specify which ones so as not to spoil anything, but I will say that I was very happy that I finally found out what happened (I died after I read The Blood of Olympus because I didn’t think there would be any more books). Additionally, some characters from The Heroes of Olympus series are represented in this book, so I was also happy about that. But of course, new and lovable (and some not so lovable) characters are introduced in this series.

I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard that this book was coming out and was not, in any way whatsoever, disappointed when I was finally able to read it. Apollo has always been one of my favorite gods but, after reading this book, I can confidently say that he is my favorite.

I love how Rick Riordan portrays Apollo and brings out so much personality and humor. The book is narrated by Apollo, and it really feels like it’s the god narrating because of the language Rick uses in this book. Apollo is very eloquent (most of the time), and speaks in a different manner than we do today in modern society.

Greek and Roman mythology has always interested me, and so has the history from these cultures, as the two are so closely related. I really admire how much historical content Rick is able to weave in to the story, along with the mythological and fictional aspects.

If you’ve read The Heroes of Olympus series, I definitely recommend this book (the second one is also out: The Dark Prophecy). Although, if you haven’t finished that series yet, I’d wait until you finish reading it because this book will probably spoil something.

This is definitely one of my favorite series, and I can’t wait until the third one comes out!

-Elina T.

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Middle school shouldn’t be a time for people to be put under so much stress. But, Fern, a twelve-year-old girl, has to deal with much more than she should.

Her father is constantly trying to boost business for the family restaurant, and unfortunately, Fern often gets pulled into the mess, being forced to wear stupid t-shirts for ads. Her mother is always meditating, and on the rare occasion that she’s not, she’s doting over Fern’s three-year-old brother Charlie, who always gets what he wants.

As if that weren’t enough, her two older siblings are dealing with their own problems that often end up affecting the entire family. Sarah, her older sister, is taking a gap year after high school and is busy avoiding work, while Holden, Fern’s brother, is focused on making himself believe that his parents don’t realize that he’s gay.

But then something catastrophic happens – something Fern would have never expected, and it changes all of their lives tremendously. Ran is Fern’s only solace in this huge mess, with his soothing presence, and his t-shirts with positive and encouraging quotes. She must rely on his mantra: “all will be well” to convince herself that she will be able to get through all of this.

I didn’t really know anything about this book before reading it, but I was looking for something to read, and thought this book looked interesting. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was and read the whole thing in one day. The book itself isn’t very long-so it’s a fairly quick read. But, it is pretty deep, and it’s definitely filled with a lot of emotion.

Although the author, Jo Knowles, did grow up helping out at her parent’s family restaurant, the characters in this book are fictional. However I felt that she did an amazing job at describing and developing these characters. I could easily imagine a family like Fern’s to be out there somewhere.

I really love this book despite the fact that it is very sad. If you do end up reading it, which I highly recommend doing, make sure to have a tissue box nearby.

-Elina T.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the last installment of the Harry Potter series. J. K. Rowling  did an amazing job with this book. The first time I read this book, I couldn’t put it down and every time I read this book, it’s just as good as it was the first time.

In this final book, the wizarding society has finally been taken over by Death Eaters and Voldemort’s search to find and kill Harry Potter is at its prime. Fear is everywhere. Any witch or wizard could be killed or sent to Azkaban for doing nothing while Harry Potter and his friends Ron and Hermione are on the run.

Harry is trying to complete the task Dumbledore gave him before he died and end Voldemort’s reign forever. But trying to create a plan to do this isn’t easy, and Harry just wants people to stop dying for him.  And, finally, Rowling gives us explanations for the unanswered questions and cliffhangers she’s created throughout the series.

Out of the Harry Potter books, this is the only book that does not mainly take place is Hogwarts. So it is cool to see other parts of the world J.K. Rowling has created. However, a good amount of the book is just Harry, Ron and Hermione camping out in the woods.

It is also the darkest out of the Harry Potter books but, it doesn’t make it any less good. I admit this isn’t my favorite Harry Potter book because personally, I feel like the trio spent too much time in the woods where we instead could have been learning more what is going on and, some say this book is just to long to hold their attention the entire time. But, despite this, I would still wholeheartedly say that this book is definitely worth reading.

-Ava G.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

 

 

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Written by Robert Sharenow, The Berlin Boxing Club is the complete package. For those of you who love a good coming of age story mixed with a historical background, this one is for you. Even if you aren’t a fan of boxing, like me, this novel helps to show that such a sport as boxing teaches important lessons and can change lives.

Taking place in Nazi Germany (1934-1939), fictional teenager Karl Stern engages in boxing lessons with real life boxing champion, Max Schmeling, after being beaten up. Despite having Jewish background, Karl doesn’t sport a Jewish appearance, allowing him to find comfort and shelter behind the Berlin Boxing Club’s walls. Before he is discovered to be a Jew, boxing is his source of relief. His mentor and idol, Max, shows Karl what it means to be a proud German citizen while staying away from the political world. Karl gains confidence and strength physically and mentally. He learns how to defend himself and how to win and how to loose. He learns how to be humble and hardworking, all thanks to Max. However, as Max becomes more famous and the face of Germany, Karl looses his faith in Max. Karl wonders if Max is really who he said he was or if Max put on a mask for the entertainment world.

With a boxing future in focus, Karl encounters challenges he never would have expected to come across. Hitler’s reign becomes stronger and wider, polluting areas of Karl’s life such as school, home and boxing–his only escape. Troubles slowly consume the Stern family such as losing their family art gallery and home. Karl’s father is constantly angry and desperate to uphold his family while his mother battles with depression. His little sister also comes of age as she comes to terms with who she is and how Germany has changed. All around him, Karl’s life is like a whirlwind and confusion takes over his mind.

This novel focuses on the growing maturity of a Jewish teenager during the reign of Hitler. It gives a glimpse into life during this time period and showed me that all teenagers experience the same things. We all come of age, we all find adventure in romance, we all face problems and we all learn how to solve them. As a teenager, I believe that The Berlin Boxing Club is an entertaining and eye-opening read.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Gattaca

What if people had the ability of selecting the genes that their child would inherit? Of choosing only the best for their child, the genes that would produce the highest IQ or the longest lifespan? How would you feel if you, someone whose genes are random, were surrounded by people who are…”perfect”?

Vincent’s family didn’t program or alter his genes in any way. After testing his blood when he was first born, they knew that he would die early and had a very high risk of heart disease. Nevertheless, he pursued a career of studying space and the planets, despite his parent’s protests. He realized though, that he’d never be able to get a job with his own DNA. This is why he pretended to be Jerome: the perfect man, by “purchasing” Jerome’s DNA to use as his own.

Jerome’s parents did select his genes. He was “created” so that he’d have an exceptionally long lifespan, and so that he’d be very intelligent. But just because you choose the perfect genes for your child, it doesn’t mean they will be successful in life- it just means they have a better chance at success. In the movie, he said he’d walked in front of a car while he was sober. He must have done that purposefully- he was probably fed up with everyone and how they expected so much of him and chose, with a clear mind, to become crippled.

In the society of this movie, your success is based on your genetics- your DNA. If you don’t have what is considered the “ideal” DNA, you won’t even be considered as someone who is capable of working. On the other hand, if you possess what is considered “perfect” DNA, you wouldn’t even have to interview for a job, they’d hire you on the spot.

In my opinion, I think that this is very unjust. People should be viewed and assessed based on their talent and drive, not their DNA. DNA isn’t really something you can change- it’s what you’re born with. But people’s motivation and drive are things that they themselves control.

I’m also very skeptical on the idea of parents choosing their children’s genes. I think that however the child turns out, that’s how they were meant to be. Part of what makes us human is our mistakes, and by choosing only the most appealing genes for your child, the chance that they’ll make any mistakes will become nearly obsolete. Additionally, I think that if more and more people were to start hand-picking the genes that their children receive, people would become more and more similar. If people were to choose the genes for their children, they’d all probably choose the best possible ones, and if everyone did that, all children would be near perfect. There would be no more variety, and I think that our individuality is definitely something we should try to preserve.

Despite my uncertainty relating to some of the ethics that this movie brings up, I think that it’s very fascinating and thought-provoking, and definitely worth watching.

-Elina T.

Gattaca is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library