Film Review: A Star is Born (2018)

So, I know I’m late to the A Star is Born party, but I do see what all the buzz was about. Before I get into the thick of this review, there are a couple warnings I need to distribute. First, this movie is R-Rated, and if you’re uncomfortable with that, then you should stop reading now. Additionally, if you are triggered by mentions as well as depictions of suicide, this review is not for you; people who are triggered or uncomfortable with detailed depictions of alcohol/drug abuse should also stop reading here.

A Star is Born (2018) is the third remake of a film released in 1937. The other remakes were released in 1954 and 1976. While they all have pretty similar storylines, there are slight differences and variances between all of them. The story itself is seemingly cliche: seasoned and successful musician/actor accidentally meets struggling young musician/actor, the seasoned artist helps young artist gain fame and success. The seasoned artist’s career dwindles due to drugs and alcohol, which he abused due to deeply rooted issues stemming from an alcoholic absentee father; meanwhile, the young artist’s career skyrockets, and she is ecstatic, until tragedy strikes.

The decline of his career becomes too much for the seasoned musician/actor, and he falls deeper and deeper into the pit of drug abuse. His young lover does her best to dig him out and help him, but it becomes a bigger and bigger problem, until he can’t take it anymore, and ends his own life. This begins a new chapter for the young star, who now has to navigate the cruel world of the elite on her own, all while heartless things are being said about her late lover.

Overall, this movie was an emotional roller-coaster, and I strongly recommend it if you want to vent some of your own emotions by crying and blame it on a movie. However, if you don’t really feel like being emotionally wrecked over a movie, I would not suggest watching A Star is Born (2018). But nonetheless, I loved it. Also, I love Lady Gaga. Her performance was absolutely stunning.

-Arushi S. 

A Star Is Born, starring Bradly Cooper and Lady Gaga, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of my favorite books ever written. It was published in 2006, by John Boyne, and is set during World War II, at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. It is narrated by Bruno, the 9-year-old son of a Nazi Commandant. Bruno’s innocent perspective makes the novel absolutely gut-wrenching, as he has no idea what exactly is happening beyond the fence surrounding Auschwitz.

Bruno’s father has a high station in the Nazi hierarchy, and he is on very close terms with Fuhrer Hitler. In fact, Hitler has Bruno’s father move out of Berlin and to Poland so he can oversee tings at Auschwitz, much to Bruno’s dismay. The new house at Auschwitz is old and gloomy, not at all like his previous home in Berlin. With nothing to do except explore, Bruno makes a number of startling discoveries that, in turn, lead to a massive turn of events.

Overall, this book is a roller-coaster of emotions. Readers will laugh at Bruno’s adorable perceptions of things that we understand with ease, cry at the mistakes he makes because he doesn’t know any better. John Boyne expertly wraps the reader up in the plot, writing complex, dynamic characters that the reader can sympathize with. This book is just an amazing read, and if you’re looking for a novel that will enrich and educate as well as entertain you, your search has met its end.

-Arushi S. 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded from Overdrive

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Although this movie released in May, I didn’t see it in theaters because the feedback wasn’t all that stellar. In fact, I only got around to watching it today, and only because my sister called in a favor I owed her.

Despite the mostly-negative feedback, I was kind of excited to watch it, since I’m a fan of Ryan Reynolds. I don’t know much about Pokemon, I must admit, and I have never played any form of it. All I know is the theme song and a couple of characters. However, even with my very limited knowledge, the movie was great.

It was a little confusing, and had a couple of plot holes, but nothing that couldn’t be ignored. Although it was not an Oscar-worthy piece of art, and the predictable plot and less-than-perfect CGI were questionable, I enjoyed it, and so did the rest of my family. It was funny and lighthearted, perfect for a family movie night of a laid-back night with friends.

The characters were dynamic, and the plot was cute, and predictable to a certain extent. Or maybe I’m just spoiled by the horrible plot twists gifted to viewers by Marvel. Either way, the movie managed to make it onto my good list despite a few flaws. If you are looking for an airy and light film to watch with a family of friends, or both, this may be it for you. It’s funny, dynamic, and has a really happy ending.

-Arushi S.

Even Recap: San Diego Comic Con International 2019

On July 18-21st, the San Diego Convention Center hosted its biggest and arguably most fun event of the year: Comic Con. And this year, for the first time, I was fortunate enough to attend. SDCC is acclaimed for is fantastic Hall H panes, its fabulous stands of fan-made art and official merchandise, its booths of magical colorful posters and pins. Over 150,000 people attend this legendary event this year, and, as one of those lucky people, I’m going to tell you how it went down.

Now, while SDCC actually occurs in July, tickets are bought in early November and December, and are extremely difficult to get your hands on. The actual Convention takes place at the San Diego Convention Center and the Marriott next door to it. It consists of hundreds of rooms and halls in which the legendary panels and game shows are hosted, including the magnificent Hall H. On the ground floor, the huge event hall takes up the majority of the space, and this is where you will find various stands, official and fan-run, selling anything and everything fan-related.

I myself didn’t attend many panels, only 2, but both of them were fantastic. I spent most of my time doing two things: loitering around the official Marvel booth, and wandering around the event hall. Even so, it was an amazing experience. Although tickets can be expensive, I honestly think the experience is worth it if you’re a fan of anything present at the Con. And there is no shortage of options, either. The booths and panels range from superhero to anime to video games. It’s truly a place for all kinds of people to come together and celebrate the one thing they all share: obsession.

Overall, I couldn’t have had more fun at SDCC 2019. It’s truly one of the most entertaining events of the year, and I’m super excited to attend next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after that… But in all seriousness, if you’re a superfan of almost anything at all, I recommend going to SDCC.

-Arushi S.

Film Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home

All right–first things first. THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR AVENGERS: ENDGAME AND SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME. DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THESE FILMS.

Second things second. Avengers: Endgame has surpassed Avatar and is now the highest-grossing film of all time worldwide! So, cheers to that! But all that aside, Marvel recently released its final movie for 2019, a beautiful sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, and that’s going to be my main focus.

Firstly, allow me to express my insurmountable appreciation for the titles for the last two Spider-Man movies, and explain the symbolism behind them. In Spider-Man: Homecoming, Peter Parker has been recognized as Spider-Man by Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, and he’s being given the resources to become the hero he was always meant to be. He’s harnessing his powers, bonding with the beloved Mr. Stark, and his superhero alter ego is giving him an excuse to get even closer to his best friend, Ned. His powers and alternate persona are allowing him to become more comfortable with himself and his surroundings. The movie, at its core, depicts his homecoming, his arrival at where he was always meant to be. I just find that beautiful. Cut to Spider-Man: Far From Home. Not only is Peter literally far away from Queens (as he’s touring Europe), but everything he thought he knew is being refuted. Tony Stark, his mentor and father figure, the man who metaphorically brought him home in the previous film, is dead. The original Avengers are all either dead or retired. The world is in the midst of a rebirth, dealing with the aftermath of the Snap and the tentative formation of a new team of superheroes. Peter Parker isn’t just an Avenger-in-training anymore. He’s a legitimate hero, and he is beginning to realize that he has a brand new set of obstacles to maneuver. He has, at no fault of his own, strayed far away from the home he built for himself in Homecoming.

Enter Mysterio (played by the marvelous Jake Gyllenhaal). He seems like the perfect new leader of the Avengers, the perfect new hero for this broken Earth. His story is barely plausible, but nothing is unbelievable to the citizens of a planet whose population was just cut in half, then restored. He claims to be from another universe when his true intentions are to steal away Tony’s legacy from Peter. Spider-Man himself is gullible enough, after the falling-apart of his world, to willingly hand over Tony’s tech to Mysterio.

The world proceeds to fall apart yet again, this time at the hand of a false hero who the world mistakenly trusts. Peter has to come to the rescue, all by himself this time, only for Mysterio to throw one final punch. Even though he’s dead, the villain manages to get a video of himself onto the screens in Times Square, stating that Spider-Man is the real villain, and revealing the masked hero’s identity.

The movie is an emotional roller coaster. The audience feels everything Peter does, and that’s where the true beauty of the film lies. This movie is an artfully crafted masterpiece, and if you haven’t seen it yet, I ardently recommend it.

-Arushi S. 

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, deserves every ounce of fame it has thus far received. Although the subjects that are addressed by the novel are shrouded by controversy, it addressed issues that needed to be addressed, such as racism and the crimes that can be committed under its name.

The novel is told from the perspective of six-year-old Caucasian Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the most reliable lawyer in her town, Maycomb. He takes on a case defending a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, and this sends the entire population of their town into a frenzy. Scout and her brother, Jem, experience the metaphorical splitting of the town as everyone takes a side. They are attacked and harassed for the actions of their father.

The plot deepens and thickens, unfolding with an uncanny message: racism is a real issue, and it remains as such, even though To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. In fact, Scout and Jem are attacked at night and nearly killed in retaliation of their father’s case. The town is violently over-involved in Atticus Finch’s case, and most of its citizens actually attend the trial for sport and entertainment. People are quick to take sides and are adamant and passionate about whichever one they end up on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also semi-autobiographical- Scout’s childhood is based loosely off of Harper Lee’s. However, Lee quickly became reclusive due to her book’s fame and all the attention it received. The novel was groundbreaking, but Harper Lee hardly did any interviews, book signings, or any public event of the sort. In fact, Harper Lee was barely involved in the making of the movie adaption of the novel, which became a box-office hit (it made over three times its budget!).

Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a magnificent literary tapestry, with intricately woven characters and artfully spun plots and subplots. It addresses issues that were relevant in its time and, some may argue, even more, relevant today. It is a novel that has affected people’s lives, in ways that are clear but also subconscious, and has educated many on the subject of racism amid the early 1930s.

-Arushi S.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Event Recap: Symphony In The Cities

On Saturday, July 27th, the City of Mission Viejo hosted The Symphony in the Cities at Newhart Middle School. I was fortunate enough to volunteer at the symphony, being stationed at the “Instrument Petting Zoo.” I helped teach children how to play a variety of instruments, including violin, viola, trumpet, flute, and a few types of percussion instruments.

Although it was an extremely hot, the even was really fun. There were horse drawn carriages, bountiful stands and booths for entertainment, and ice water so that everyone stayed hydrated. The entire event was free (excluding ticket costs) and the Pacific Symphony Orchestra also performed at 7 PM.

All of the volunteer coordinators were super knowledgeable and kind, and they answered any questions we had. It was extraordinarily well-organized, and the kids loved our booth! (At least, they seemed to.)

Additionally, the Symphony was an incredible opportunity for me to make friends. The volunteers are my booth and I all got super close throughout the course of the extreme heat of our 4-hour shift. We are actually making plans to volunteer at more evets like this already!

Overall, Mission Viejo’s Symphony in the Cities was a really fun, albeit boiling, event. I enjoyed volunteering and teaching children about one of my passions, and I loved watching the orchestra perform. I ardently recommend this event, and if you didn’t go this year, you should plan to go in 2020. It really is a treat!

-Arushi S.