Voltron: Legendary Defender, Rebooted and Rewarding

voltronNetflix’s new animated series, Voltron: Legendary Defender, takes the much-beloved 80’s cartoon Voltron: Defender of the Universe and rebuilds the world of space battles, robotic lions, and strong friendships in a new take on the classic sci-fi adventure. With its second season having been recently released on Jan. 20th, fans have jumped at the chance to devour the new set of 13 episodes and now eagerly await more.

Our story centers around five humans from Earth – Shiro, Lance, Hunk, Pidge, and Keith – that discover a giant blue robotic lion that’s been sitting dormant in the desert. Once they’re inside, the lion activates and flies the five heroes into space – yes, a flying lion spaceship – where they meet two aliens named Coran and Allura. They are from the planet Altea, which was destroyed by the Galra Empire thousands of years ago. The Galra Empire has been continuing its tyrannical takeover ever since, and the universe needs Voltron to save it. What is Voltron, you ask? Coran and Allura explain to the five heroes that the blue lion they uncovered is one of five robotic lions that, when piloted, can combine into a massive, human-shaped robot of great power named Voltron. Sounds ridiculous, right?

Despite the absurdity of the idea, this show executes it so well. The action is intense, the alien civilizations wildly creative, and the animation a far leap ahead of its 80’s counterpart. The characters are developed and getting deeper as the show goes on, and the plot is fast-paced and entertaining. I saw the first season when it first released early in 2016, and the year long wait for Season 2 was worth it. The creators of the show, Joaquin Dos Santos and Lauren Montgomery, stay true enough to the original but have updated it in many, much-needed ways. They pay attention to their ever-growing fanbase and deliver quality episodes that continue to appease and surprise.

The characters are all individually enjoyable and have great dynamics together. Shiro leads the group as the paladin, or pilot, of the Black Lion and acts as the head of the group, as opposed to Keith doing so in the original series. Keith now pilots the Red Lion as its impulsive, ready-to-fight paladin. Lance is the flirtatious jokester and sharpshooter paladin of the Blue Lion. Hunk is the food-loving engineer and pilot of the Yellow Lion. Pidge, who is now a girl as opposed to her male 80’s counterpart, is a tech genius and the youngest of the group, piloting the Green Lion. Allura is the princess of Altea, and Coran is her advisor.

Not only have these characters been fully-fleshed out with backstories (although we’re still waiting on Lance’s and Hunk’s backstories) and motivations, but the new Voltron has made an effort to diversify its cast. Allura, Hunk, Shiro, and Lance are all people of color now, and Pidge’s gender change has brought a second female into the limelight. I for one am incredibly happy to see this push for diversity. The dialogue is conversational and natural, and the tone switches appropriately from light-hearted and goofy to serious and heartfelt when called for. In the newest season, the concept of prejudice is brought up and addressed exceptionally well. It’s progressive, and I love it.

Of course, the past 30 years have led to much better quality animation, leaving Netflix’s version with a style reminiscent of the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender. Voltron mixes CGI into the mainly 2D show in order to make the lions, Voltron, and fight scenes stand out. The character animation is exaggerated for comedy and detailed for intensity, switching it up depending on what the story calls for.

Voltron: Legendary Defender deserves a watch; go and see Season 1’s first episode, which is pretty plot-heavy, and you’ll have a good sense of the show’s dynamic. I applaud Netflix’s approach to this classic and anticipate next year’s season!

-Abby F., 12th grade

 

Adventures in Ilvermorny (Creative writing: Short story)

In the spirit of learning more about the  magical world in the U.S. with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I decided it would be fun to write a little short story on some kids that attend llvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (US version of Hogwarts). Enjoy!


      Jane had been dressed, packed, and ready to leave since 4:30 this morning. And while waiting for her mother to get ready to take her to the airport, she had brushed her teeth six times and continuously rearranged her chestnut bangs until she gave up in a huff and left them down. Jane was going to Ilvermorny for the first time, something she had been dreaming of the entirety of her eleven years. It was also the first time she would be without her mother, the first time she would leave Florida, and her first time going on an airplane. There was a lot to be nervous about.

     When Jane and her mother finally got to the airport, her mother knelt down and looked into her daughter’s matching honey colored eyes. Her eyes became glossy as she whispered, “Jane, don’t worry about a thing Ilvermorny is going to be the best times of your life, and I can’t wait to hear which House you get into. Don’t think you have to be a Pukwudgie like me, because all of the houses are wonderful. Don’t forget to write darling, I’ll see you soon!”. Jane felt herself get teary eyed as well and was only able to nod and hug her mother one last time before she turned towards the terminals.

      Her ticket, unlike other tickets, had a shimmering red and blue Ilvermorny stamp which was invisible to No Maj’s. As her mother instructed, Jane promptly pressed the stamped ticket onto the oddly shimmering wall at the end of all of the terminals. Before Jane had time to worry that it wouldn’t work, the shimmering wall glowed more intensely and like a magnet, pulled her onto the other side. With a slight yelp, Jane was on the Ilvermorny terminal going from the Miami to Massachusetts.  

      Witches and wizards from ages 11 to 17 sat, ran, and laughed in the terminal, waiting for boarding. Jane chose a seat in the corner and watched all of the kids, trying to see if she could tell what house they were in. She guessed that the small framed, black haired, 15 year old looking boy listening to music was a Horned Serpent. Jane looked over at a tall girl chatting loudly, wearing a basketball tee, and speculated that she must be a Wampus, when suddenly the girl caught her eye and said, “What? Have you never seen a witch before?”.

      Startled, Jane just looked at her blankly. A boy who had similar red hair to the girl, looked over to Jane and said reassuringly, “Don’t mind my sister, she’s just being a jerk because she’s nervous”. The sister immediately interjected with, “I’m am not! I just….hope my roommates aren’t lame…”. The boy rolled his eyes at his sister and holds his hand out to Jane, stating, “I’m Cyrus, and this is my sister Eyla”. Jane hesitates before shaking the boy’s hand and firmly replying with, “Jane”.


To be continued! (P.S.) Many of these Ilvermorny descriptions will be false as there is little information about how Ilvermorny operates and really looks like. Thanks for reading!

-Ava K.

Authors We Love: Tahereh Mafi

taherehmafiThe abstract noun “freedom” incites hope for oppressed prisoners; the matrimonial vow “I do” begets tears in the eyes of lovers; and a pastor’s statement “Amen” generates evangelical zeal in a Christian crowd. Above all other human capabilities, the power of the written word reigns as the most impactful. As an author who acknowledges the power of the written word, Tahereh Mafi ranks as one of the best authors in both children and young adult literature.

With her eloquent writing style, Tahereh Mafi crafts her words as masterfully as a blacksmith forges metal. It’s no surprise that her Shatter Me and Furthermore series rank as high as the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series (after all, Ransom Riggs, the author of the latter series, is her husband!).

In each of her novels, Mafi pours every ounce of her heart and soul. She even states that most of the characters in her novels reflect certain aspects of her life, generating more meaning into them. Tahereh Mafi’s plotlines simply just don’t tell stories; they reflect on modern-day society, they empower people of different backgrounds, and they become personal stories for younger generations to relate to.

The following excerpt from Shatter Me serves as one of Mafi’s most popular quotes:

“I only know now that the scientists are wrong.

The world is flat.

I know because I was tossed right off the edge and I’ve been trying to hold on for 17 years. I’ve been trying to climb back up for 17 years but it’s nearly impossible to beat gravity when no one is willing to give you a hand.”

The previous quote resonates well with many of her readers, and it has been circulated so many times that there are now altered forms of the quote. Despite these changes, many young readers empathize with the speaker of the quote, for the metaphor of hardship as a heavy force is quite accurate. Both younger and older readers can agree that Tahereh Mafi’s rendition of life in her novels parallels to the plights of reality.

Both younger and older readers can agree that Tahereh Mafi’s rendition of life in her novels parallels to the plights of reality. In fact, her dystopian novel Shatter Me resonated so well with many readers that it is now moving on to the big screen. However, the whole novel simply cannot be portrayed in the 2-hour time frame of a movie, so it will be ad0pted as a TV show. Mafi’s eloquence in writing and her brilliant storyline can soon be seen on one’s TV screen, for she will also be one of the show’s producers. Fans all around the world cannot contain the excitement as they blog about their dream cast.

Whether it is through the medium of print or through the medium of film, Tahereh Mafi never fails to impress readers with her skills. Regardless of the time periods, situations, and characters in her novels, Mafi crafts fictional worlds with her outstanding language, leaving any onlooker in complete awe.

-Elaha N.

Books written by Tahereh Mafi are available to checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Rogue One

rogueone_onesheetaSpoiler Alert!

I recently saw the film Rogue One, the latest film in the Star Wars franchise. I have to say, it was pretty amazing. The basic plot for the story takes place right before Episode IV A New Hope and follows the actions of the main character Jyn. Her dad, Galen was a well known engineer who was taken by the Empire to complete the Death Star. Galen hid Jyn away to save her from the Empire. Many years later the Rebel Alliance finds out who Jyn is and rescues her, as she was being held by the Empire for some small crimes. Their plan is to use her to gain the trust of her long time friend Saw Gerrera, who leads his own rebellion but it is much more chaotic and has been causing problems.

She gets there with the aid of a Rebel Intelligence agent named Cassian Andor, however the Empire decides to test out their newly constructed Death Star while the Rebels meet with Saw. Jyn and Cassian barely manage to get away, and receive a transmission from Jyn’s father (the main engineer on the Death Star) saying he hid a undetectable flaw in the space station as a chance for the Rebellion to destroy the evil weapon. They organize an attack on the archives that have the Death Star plans, which combined with the information Jyn’s father told them would be enough for the Rebellion to attempt the Death Star.

This obviously leads into the plot of A New Hope, and it is done very well. I felt like you really got to bond with the characters, but unfortunately they had to kill them all off because none of them show up in A New Hope. It really explained how the Rebels did get the plans for the Death Star, and the sacrifices that it took to get there. This was a outstanding spin-off movie which definitely should set a standard for any other spin-off movies.

-Max G.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix Show?

seriesofunfortunateevents_netflixIf you have never read A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, you are missing out on an incredibly unique and amazing book series. This series is what made me fascinated in books as a child because it has such an alluring plot and intriguing narration. The story follows three bright young children named Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, who have recently been orphaned due to a fire in their mansion.Violet, the oldest Baudelaire, is fourteen at the start of the series and is known for the signature black ribbon in her hair and scrappiness in inventing. Klaus, her younger brother is twelve and has read more non fiction books than all of us combined, and therefore is knowledgeable in many topics. And last but not least, we have Sunny, a mere baby who has an insane talent of biting. Because of the children’s large inheritance, a sinister man named Count Olaf hunts these children down throughout the series and continuously conjures up plots to steal their fortune. These poor siblings are left to constantly move from one home to another, forced to always look over their shoulder.

Although this is a children’s series, it is evident from the summary that interwoven are themes of survival, tragedy, and woe, which allows it to be a series that can be enjoyed by all generations. Don’t be alarmed however, because this series does not leave you depressed and solemn, but rather fascinated by the twisting plot, and heart-warmed by the Baudelaire children. There are thirteen books, but most of them are thin enough to easily be finished in a day or two, so do yourself a favor and pick up A Bad Beginning, which is the first book, and you will not be disappointed.

In 2004 there was a movie made about this series, encompassing the first three books, however it did not continue on. Excitingly, Netflix has announced a TV show of A Series of Unfortunate Events, in cooperation with Paramount Pictures. This show is said to have a slightly darker atmosphere than the series, due to the fact that the book series’ original fans are not children anymore. I have linked the newly released trailer to the TV show, which stars Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire, Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire, Aasif Mandvi as Uncle Monty, and many more.What I love about this cast is that the actors who play the Baudelaire orphans are around the same age their characters are, rather than being an 18 year old playing a 14 year old, which many book to screen adaptations do. The first season drops on Netflix THIS January, Friday the 13th. For fans like me who have been waiting for more than a decade, this is pretty monumental.

I would love to hear who else is excited about the Netflix reboot, so comment away!

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

fantastic-beastsThe Wizarding World of Harry Potter appears to be undying, coming back in the form of new books, new amusement parks, and new stories that continue to grow in popularity. J.K. Rowling’s universe now travels to America for Warner Bros. latest movie: Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them. 

It’s the 1920s, and wizards in America are in hiding. All signs of magic must be kept on the down-low, especially with a Muggle (Or No-Maj, as the American wizards call them) group called the Second Salemers protesting magic in the streets. Tensions are high; a mysterious shadow-like creature is terrorizing New York, and wizardry is on the brink of being revealed to the public. The last thing New York needs is an awkward Hufflepuff carrying a poorly-sealed case full of beasts around town.

Newt Scamander, an ex-Hogwarts student and magical creature extraordinaire, arrives in New York City in the hopes of purchasing a rare beast. However, instead of obtaining a new creature, he accidentally lets his own loose in the city. He and his human friend Jacob, the Ex-Auror Tina her mind-reading sister Queenie must scour New York for the lost beasts, all while evading capture from the Magical Congress and keeping an eye out for the shadowy force attacking New York’s streets and buildings.

It wasn’t until I saw magic on the big screen again did I realize just how much I’d missed the Harry Potter universe. It was, well, fantastic to be brought back into a world of wands and wizards. Eddie Redmayne plays the perfect Newt Scamander, what with his nervous stature and lovable awkwardness. He devoted himself to the role, and the character really came alive for me. Tina (Katherine Waterson), Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) were also very well cast and incredibly enjoyable to watch. When Jacob could’ve easily been reduced to purely comic relief, the film turns his character into a wonderful and loyal friend for Newt. Mr. Graves, a fitting name for a villain, was convincing, but I have to say that the Second Salemer family- the Barebones- was far more chilling and creepy.

I must say what stole the show were the visual effects. All of the CG and computer-animated magic and monsters were absolutely phenomenal. I was blown away by how real everything looked, and the sheer creativeness when it came to Newt’s beasts or his briefcase was outstanding. The finale in particular used today’s technology in its full potential, delivering visual effects so mind-blowing that I couldn’t bear to blink and miss a second of it. I predict an Oscar nomination, and hopefully a win, for the cinematography in Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.

I highly recommend this movie to everyone, Harry Potter fans in particular. One of my friends, who has never really been a fan of the franchise, went to see it anyways and came out loving it. I want to go see it over and over, re-immerse myself in that world and see the magic again. The movie’s four upcoming sequels primarily seemed unnecessary, but I cannot wait for each and every one!

-Abby F.

Film Review: Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein

frankensteinAs it is that time of year again, I decided to revisit one of the most recognizable horror movies Frankenstein and its comedy counterpart, Young Frankenstein. The classic movie Frankenstein is about a scientist named Victor Frankenstein who is obsessed with using the power of electricity to bring life into a dead body. After years of work, he finally reanimates a corpse with a brain from a recently deceased corpse. However his assistant “Fritz” (Also commonly known as Igor), drops the good brain, and gives Frankenstein an abnormal brain. Due to this, the creature has a short temper and is [rone to violence. After a few incidents, the town decides to hunt down this monster and end it once and for all. They corner Frankenstein’s Monster in a windmill and burn him to death.

Young Frankenstein is hilarious comedy that really pokes fun of the original film. The main character is Fredrick Frankenstein, the son of Victor Frankenstein. Fredrick wants nothing to do with his father’s work and to disassociate himself with the family name, he pronounces the name as “Fronkensteen”. Fredrick learns that his grandfather recently passed and willed him the family’s estate in Transylvania. He travels to his family’s homeland and meets the hunchback Igor and Inga, a lab assistant. When the three of them arrives at the castle, they are greeted by the mysterious housekeeper Frau Blücher. Her name is a running joke throughout the film, as Blücher means “glue” in German, and during that time people used horses to make glue.  youngfrankensteinSo whenever her name is mentioned you always hear the horse in the background neighing.

After a short time Fredrick starts to get into his father’s work, and begins to follow the same obsession as his father Victor. Just like the classic he sends Igor to fetch the brain of a recently deceased historian, but Igor drops it and instead grabs a brain that is labeled “Abnormal! Do not use!”. Igor reads this as a name “Abby Normal” and unknowingly says it is the correct brain. When Fredrick installs the brain in the corpse  and reanimates the body, it starts to attack Fredrick and they have to sedate the monster. Fredrick then confronts Igor who confessed that he got the brain of “Abby Normal”.

This monster goes on a rampage and is hunted by a mob but is lured to the castle and Fredrick invents a machine to give the monster some of his intelligence, and then the monster is able to negotiate with the crowd, and be accepted as a sane human being. This film was a hilarious comedy that was a great comedic counterpart to the classic film, but maybe not for the younger audience.

-Max G.

Frankenstein and Young Frankenstein are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.