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

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Imagine if aliens lived among us. Not the aliens you might think of immediately (like E.T.), but aliens who cloud blend in, who look just like us. We would never know, they could be anyone: your next-door neighbor, your own best friend.

John Smith, to everyone around him, appears to be a typical teenage boy beginning his sophomore year of high school in Paradise, Ohio. But in actuality, John Smith is but one of many of his fake identities. His real name, if you could even really call it that, is Number Four. He comes from a planet far, far, away called Lorien. He is one of the nine powerful children who were taken to Earth about ten years ago, before Lorien was attacked by another alien planet: Mogadore.

Before the nine children were sent to Earth, they were each assigned a number (one through nine), and a Loric elder cast a charm, making it so that, should the Mogadorians ever go after these nine remaining Lorien descendants, they would only be able to kill them in order of the their numbers. Thus far, numbers one through three have been hunted down and killed by the Mogadorians, and John Smith, who is number four, knows that he is next.

When I first heard of this book, and was told that it was about aliens, I honestly didn’t have very high expectations for it. That probably wouldn’t have been the case for everyone, I just don’t typically like stories/books that are about aliens. But, when I started reading it, I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop. Luckily for me, this is a series, and three of the books were out when I started. Now, there are a total of seven in the series, the most recent having come out last year.

I can’t really pinpoint what it is about this book that sets it apart from other stories about aliens. Maybe it’s because the Loric look like us? I really don’t know, but I do really love this series, and I love all the characters that are introduced later on in the series as well. Despite the fact that three different authors have contributed to this series (all under the pseudonym of Pittacus Lore), the story flows very smoothly, and I could never wait for the next book to come out.

I don’t know how many times I’ve re-read this book, but it must be a lot because my copy’s falling apart (the only thing that’s holding it together is scotch tape). It’s definitely a great read, but don’t start unless you haven’t got anything planned for the rest of the day because trust me, you won’t be able to put it down.

-Elina T.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

TV Review: BBC’s Sherlock

Maybe we’re not all nearly as intelligent as Sherlock, but we can, at the very least, tune in and try to decipher and understand his thought process (even though we’ll most likely never succeed in this – his thought process is very complicated).

Sherlock Holmes has been acting as a consulting detective for the Scotland Yard Police Department in London for some time now, and has been very helpful in successfully solving many of their cases. He does, however, seem to lack the sort of emotion that most people have. In fact, he himself identifies as a sociopath. But this does not, in any way, inhibit his incredible ability of making amazingly accurate deductions and thinking far faster than even his own brain can follow. 

Because of his keen intellect and blunt demeanor, he comes off as a rude know-it-all to nearly everyone he meets. That is why it’s not surprising that Dr. John Watson, a veteran, is taken a bit off guard when he first encounters Sherlock and is asked if wants to share a flat despite the fact that he had only just met him. 

After getting over the initial shock of someone knowing so much about him by merely looking at him, John moves in with Sherlock at 221B Baker Street and promptly begins solving crimes with him. John turns out to be a very valuable asset in his contributions to investigations, but more importantly, Sherlock grows to care about him, which is most uncharacteristic of a sociopath. 

I think this is an excellent show, especially for people who like crime/mystery. It gives a unique, contemporary take by placing these original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in modern London, making it easier for people today to understand and relate to the familiar culture. It’s also got some really funny parts. The mysteries are always really well thought out, and I love how well and thoroughly they’re solved by Sherlock, John and Scotland Yard. I also like how there’s such a wide variety in the types of mysteries that they solve. No two of them are alike- they’re always very different so it never gets repetitive. 

This is an amazing, humorous, yet sophisticated show with great characters, intriguing crimes, and a suspenseful and thrilling story line that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s easily one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. 

-Elina T.

Season One of Sherlock is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

He’s battled dragons, fended off numerous Dementors, and even faced He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named multiple times in the flesh. Harry’s been through quite a lot for a sixteen year old boy, and now he is entering his sixth year, nearing the end of his time at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

This year is different though. As it is now known publicly that an infamous dark wizard is at large once again, the quest to defeat him once and for all has become ever more imminent. Dumbledore begins showing Harry what he knows about Tom Riddle’s past in the hopes that it will help him understand how this dark wizard must be defeated. However, much of it is speculation and guesswork based on the memories that Dumbledore has procured over the years relating to Tom. Unfortunately, a vital piece of information is still missing, and Dumbledore assigns Harry to retrieve it.

As if this were not enough for Harry to worry about, he still has to fulfill his role as captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and all the stress that comes with recruiting new members, cope with the increasing amounts of work they’re being assigned for classes, deal with Ron and Hermione’s intermittent bickering, and pursue his hunch about what Draco Malfoy might be up to.

As with all the other books in this series, I really love how J. K. Rowling so seamlessly intertwines so much humor and thought into such a complex story line. Though the danger of an extremely skilled and dangerous wizard is constantly looming about, Ron is still there eating and making snarky remarks, while dealing with his own problems having to do with girls. Hermione, too, is always there to keep Harry and Ron on top of their school work, and even often correcting their papers.

I think this book is amazing, as all the others are, and I’m always laughing out loud at what the characters do and think. I always have to tell myself before I watch a movie that has been adapted from a book that they can’t keep every single detail from the book and put it in the movie. It’s just not possible, especially with this book which is about 600 pages long. Keeping this in mind, I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie. I think that the director did a great job at choosing what to put in the movie and what might not have been as relevant (of course, being a huge fan of the book, I’m inclined to think that everything is relevant, but again, it would be impossible to keep every single detail). I think that the movie definitely sticks to the main story line and includes all the necessary information needed to understand the plot.

But the wish is always in the back of mind of being able to watch a Harry Potter movie in which every single detail from the books is preserved. Even if it were five hours long (or longer), I would still watch it – over and over again probably.

-Elina T.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K Rowling is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Court of Thorns and Roses (series) by Sarah J. Maas

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the saying: “don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is something I generally try to abide by, but if I’m being honest with myself, it doesn’t always work out that way.

If I were to go into a bookstore or library looking for a book to read, this definitely would not be one I’d consider choosing. (Now since I’ve read the series, the covers have kind of grown on me). Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to have friends who love reading as much as I do who recommended this book to me.

The story follows a mortal girl named Feyre (fay-ruh) who lives with her father and two older sisters. Her town lives in fear of the immortal faeries who live beyond the forest and the invisible wall that separates the faerie realms from those of the mortals. They’re a poor family, and Feyre’s father, who is crippled, has given up hope and has stopped supporting his own family. It has become Feyre’s duty to go hunting every day to keep her family alive.

One day, while hunting, Feyre encounters a wolf, and shoots it. This proves to be a grave mistake, and Feyre gets taken off to Prythian (a realm on the other side of the wall) to live with immortal faeries. The immortal faeries she’d grown up fearing and hating.

I absolutely loved the first book! It’s based off of Beauty and the Beast, so the story is kind of familiar, but it’s also very different. The second book was even better! And don’t even get me started on the third one. I don’t know how many times I’ve read series were the first book is great, but it just goes downhill from there. I’m telling you, this series starts off great, and just gets better and better.

I don’t really want to talk too much about the individual characters because I might spoil something, but I’ll just say that Sarah J. Maas (the author) is so skilled at creating characters that readers will love and care about (this doesn’t even do her justice, you won’t really know until you read the series how amazing, funny, and lovable the characters are!). I also love how she describes the settings so vividly. I would do almost anything to be able spend time in Prythian (the world that this book takes place in) and hang out with all the characters!

So if you’re looking for a fantasy book filled with adventure, romance, humor, and emotion (I almost cried while reading the last book which is saying something because I practically never cry while reading), I highly, highly recommend this series.

-Elina T.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

A Tribute to Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington was an extraordinary and talented musician, most prominently known for his role as lead vocalist for Linkin Park. He was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and he developed an interest in music at a very young age. His childhood was troubling: his parents got a divorce when he was eleven, he began abusing drugs, and he was picked on at school. He drew solace in writing songs and poetry and was able, with difficulty and after denouncing drugs, to pull through and achieve his true dream of becoming a professional musician.

As stated earlier, Chester Bennington was a member of the band Linkin Park, a popular rock band. He worked in tandem with Mike Shinoda to write the lyrics for the band’s debut album: Hybrid Theory, which was an enormous success. The band continued producing albums, some of the most popular of which are Minutes to Midnight, and Meteora, and have sold over 70 million albums worldwide. Chester also co-founded the band Dead by Sunrise and was recruited to Stone Temple Pilots when the former singer of the band, Scott Weiland, left.

My favorite song by Linkin Park and Chester Bennington is called “Castle of Glass”, from the album Living Things. It sounds very different from a lot of their other music, which is often composed generously of rap and other electronic elements. Although the song was given mixed reviews by critics, I absolutely love it. I admire the use of imagery and metaphors, especially with the title. Glass is fragile, but castles are supposed to be strong and fortifying. The line: “‘Cause I’m only a crack in this castle of glass” is repeated throughout the song, which I think is a very strong metaphor. To me, the castle (of glass) represents a person, and the crack represents hurt or an injury that the person has sustained. Though the injury or hurt may seem insignificant, a crack on a castle made of glass would greatly affect and even threaten the whole structure. If pushed upon even just a little, the crack would grow exponentially. The fact that he says “…I’m just a crack…” makes me feel as if he (or the person) feels insignificant, when in fact, he could be the cause of the entire structure’s demise.

Though I only discussed one song in detail, I do appreciate the band and Chester Bennington very much. The lyrics that Chester has written are unique, introspective, and compelling, and I think that he was definitely one of my favorite singers/songwriters. I love the music that he produced; the sound and feel to it was always very distinctive. He was a very strong, gifted, and inspirational person. Chester Bennington will be sorely missed by many. May he rest in peace.

-Elina T.

TV Review: Riverdale

This is one of those shows I probably never would have watched had everyone not been raving about it. Well, maybe not everyone was raving. 

Riverdale is based off of the Archie comics, which I had never heard of before, so unfortunately can’t really tell you whether the show holds true to the source material. 

Anyway, the show takes place in a town called Riverdale (hence the name) which was a perfectly normal place. But a boy’s body, Jason Blossom, has been discovered by the rivers’ edge. As the city’s police begin investigating the case, Riverdale’s less flattering qualities start to surface. The town isn’t as perfect as it had once appeared to be. 

The show follows a group of students: Archie Andrews, Betty Cooper, Veronica Lodge, Jughead Jones, and some of their other friends. As the shows progresses, the students begin uncovering secrets that bring them closer to discovering who killed Jason Blossom. 

Thus far, there is only one season – the entirety of which I watched in two days, which is pretty impressive because I don’t typically binge watch shows like that. So I actually really liked it even though I didn’t think I would. I love Jughead of course, and the other characters are pretty cool as well. Riverdale is one of those shows where you have to watch the next episode, and the episode after that, and so on, because you always have to know what happens next. That’s how it was for me at least. 

I actually heard mixed reviews about the show before I watched it, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I really liked it and can’t wait for the next season! 

The one thing I didn’t really like about it though (and it’s really not that important, it’s like this for practically any show/movie that takes place in high school) was that the actors are all in their twenties and they’re supposed to be sophomores in high school. Like I said, most people probably wouldn’t even be bothered by this, but I just thought I’d mention it. 

All in all, I thought I it was a great show. I really enjoyed it, and if you’re thinking about watching it, I’d definitely say give it a go!

-Elina T.