Film Review: The Shining

The Shining is a horror movie about a man named Jack Torrance and his wife and son. Jack and his family stay at an isolated, massive hotel called the Overlook Hotel. Jack plans to spend his time at the hotel writing, attempting to cure his writer’s block. The Shining is based on a book written by Stephen King. The story slowly evolves as Stephen King’s character becomes an abusive and manipulative man towards his family. The audience realizes that Jack is mentally ill and his family is not safe with him staying at the hotel. Originally, it is perceived by the audience that Jack had been at the hotel before and he was not mentally ill. Jack’s son played an extremely important role in this movie because he was connected to the hotel through a concept called “shining.” He becomes apart of an alternate universe and communicates with a voice inside of his head. Originally, it was inferred that the son was the one that was mentally ill; however, the voice inside of his head was really trying to protect him and his mom from his father. The hotel was portrayed as a haunted building with no way out. Small clues such as the massive pantry and freezers with locks foreshadowed the scene when the mother locks Jack inside the pantry.

Throughout the movie, Jack plays mind games with his clearly oblivious wife and manipulates her into leaving him alone while he writes. One scene was particularly disturbing in which the wife finds Jack’s book that he had been writing while they were at the hotel. It is revealed that Jack was not actually writing a book and the papers were filled with the same sentence over and over again, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” The movie the Shining transformed from a story about a family staying at a hotel by themselves to an alarming and captivating film about Jack Torrance’s disturbing mind and past at the hotel. His wife and son no longer felt safe at the hotel anymore and ran from him and hid from him until they got away. This movie displayed the disturbing effect of mental illness and how you never know who a person really is. The way Jack chased his family around the hotel and kept drifting in and out of the alternate universe kept the audience attentive.

-Sasha B.

The Shining is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

Christmas Movies!

Home Alone (1990) - IMDb

During the winter season, there are a plethora of different Christmas movies to choose from. Once I sit down to watch Christmas movies with my family or friends the hardest part is choosing which one to watch. There are varieties of different Christmas that appeal to different people. I will be breaking down my favorite Christmas movie of all time.

My personal favorite Christmas movie of all time has to be Home Alone. I have watched it over and over again since I was a kid. Starring Kevin McCallister played by Macaulay Culkin this movie is a comedy that will never grow old. Beginning with young Kevin who got in trouble and was sent to sleep in his family’s attic.

The following day Kevin’s family was going on their holiday trip, but they forget Kevin at home. Kevin thought his wish to have no family, since they were mean to him, had come true. Living up his solo life until 2 thugs come to try and rob the McCallister’s house. Kevin then sets up bobby traps and tricks to try and protect his house from the robbers. Kevin successfully fights them off multiple times, but the robber’s Harry and Marv will not quit. After many battle rounds Kevin was finally able to fight the burglars off permanently. Later on, Kevin befriends an elderly man, who was known to be a criminal, but finds out he is just a man who lost his connection to his son and feels lonely. After Kevin encourages him to make up with his son, he realizes that family is important along with the impact children have on their parents. During all these events Kevin’s mother was finding the fastest way home from Paris to make sure Kevin was safe at home. Once his whole family returns they get to spend the Christmas holiday together and realize the importance of family.

Though it may be a little cheesy, this movie remains one of the best Christmas movies. Not only is it a classic, but it is also a rollercoaster ride. The character development from a bratty kid to one that is able to spread joy and love. The action scenes are also a great laugh. We get to see a little boy beating up two full-grown men with his mischievous little tricks up his sleeve.

-Lilly G.

Home Alone is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: A Christmas Catch

When December hits around, everyone’s got that holiday spirit and I always find myself binge-watching 100 different holiday movies. Out of the ones I’ve seen so far, A Christmas Catch has been my absolute favorite. It combines my crime, romance, and the holidays perfectly. This combination makes it stand out from the rest and every time I rewatch it, the movie gets better and better

Detective Mackenzie Bennett meets a guy, Carson, who’s perfect for her. Unfortunately the next day she finds out that she’s supposed to be going undercover to investigate Carson. Could the man of her dreams be a thief? She goes on all of these dates and reports back to uncover all of Carson’s past and his secrets. Things about his ex-wife and his childhood. Will this push them apart or bring them closer? Will he ever figure out that she’s an investigator? As they fall head over heels for each other, this movie covers all of their ups and downs and even has a holiday theme. 

One of my favorite things to watch includes crime and if that’s your thing as well as holiday movies, I highly recommend this movie for the holiday season. The ending blew my mind, and I hope it leaves you speechless too.

-Kaitlyn Y.

Movies During Break

During this break, I have found myself with nothing to do and lots of free time. With it, I decided to watch a whole bunch of movies from “before my time.” I found that even after my family decided to let me watch the movie alone, I would find them coming in to watch with me, then asking me to wait until they had free time to finish it with me. 

My friends also decided they wanted to watch movies with me and kept recommending more and more movies that we could eventually watch together. Then we could talk about them later and watch other movies based on the ones we liked. 

I have found that there are many benefits to watching these movies. Though it may seem to some like you are just sitting around on a couch, I have found that with finals coming up for many teens, it has been a way to destress. Often with current movies, they are all the same and watching one is like watching them all. When watching older movies, they’re often much more interesting and I pay a lot more attention to them.

Another benefit of these movies is that I have been spending a lot less time on my phone. Watching a movie is still watching a screen, but I think it’s been a lot less harmful to watch a movie from farther away than being on my phone close to my face 24/7. 

As for recommendations, if you’re into classic movies from the 80s or 90s, I recommend Dirty Dancing, Dave, and The American President. As for movies from earlier years, Singin’ in the Rain and The Aristocats as well as Breakfast at Tiffany’s are all amazing movies. I do have to warn that some of them carry a PG-13 rating, so check with a guardian before watching. 

Watching movies is something that can be done year round and every day of the week, but especially on breaks when all you want to do is get away from the modern world and all of the issues going on right now. Watching them from past years, rather than one that came out three months ago can be therapeutic in that you can look back on what was good then and what you wish you had now and vice versa. 

So next time you have a long weekend off of school, or a week-long break, take some time to make a list of movies to watch and sit down with some popcorn. You might surprise yourself with what you end up loving.

-Danielle B.

TV Series Review: White Collar


Clever criminal Neil Caffrey has finally been caught after years of Agent Peter Burke chasing him, yet manages to escape jail only to be caught once again. While other agents would immediately put him into a different jail facility, Peter Burke sees an opportunity in Neil. They work out a deal where Neil can’t go outside his two-mile radius and is tracked at all times by his anklet and he stays out of jail by helping Peter catch other criminals. Neil had skill as he was one of the top criminals and Peter saw that as an advantage because who else would know how someone committed a crime better than a former criminal! The show, White Collar, follows Neil and Peter’s journey. It’s one of those shows with the perfect balance of new mysteries every episode and ongoing mysteries.

I watched this show at a friends house, but we watched something from season 5 out of the 6 seasons and I believe that’s why I was so drawn in. Personally, I have trouble committing to shows which is why I stick to movies, but seeing all the action made me want to continue watching it from the beginning. If I had watched the first episode, I probably wouldn’t have been motivated enough. Now I’m not saying to randomly watch an episode from the middle, but I am encouraging you to watch a couple of them in order to fully get an idea of your preference on the show. All the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat and I continuously admired how clever Neal truly was. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who likes crime and adventure. It has some hints of romance in there as well. This show will always be my favorite!

-Kaitlyn Y

TV Review: Criminal Minds

If you enjoy crime shows like NCIS, then you will also enjoy Criminal Minds.

The show is about a group of FBI agents with the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Every episode there is a new crime to solve. Whether it is a murder on the loose or a crazy person reeking havoc. The agents try to get into the unsubs’ (unknown criminal) mind by traveling to the crime scenes and talking to witnesses as well as locals. Garcia is the girl behind the magic. She is the one to call when you need police reports, hospital records, and other important documents. With her help the agents are able to find out more about the unsubs’ criminal record as well as the back story so they know what caused the crime.

Criminal Minds does a great job of allowing you to also pick up clues, this makes you feel like you are apart of the crime scene and the FBI. You will never be bored with this show. It walks you through what the FBI does and introduces you to criminal psychology.

I am still relatively new to this show but I am now binging it when I have the time. Just a warning, I do not recommend this show if you are iffy with blood or death in general.

– Giovanna S.

Why Avatar: The Last Airbender Deserves All the Hype it Gets

February 21, 2005.

The day that the legendary TV show Avatar:The Last Airbender (A:TLA) debuted on Nickelodeon. Now, you might be thinking, what’s so cool about a kid’s cartoon show? But, from it’s beautiful cultural representation to how it introduces mature themes in a lighthearted way, I can say with 100% certainty that A:TLA has forever made its mark as one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

I’m sure that all of us have heard the iconic intro of A:TLA one way or another:

“Water. Earth. Fire. Air.

Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked.

Only the Avatar, master of all four elements, could stop them. But when the world needed him most, he vanished.

A hundred years passed and my brother and I discovered the new Avatar, an airbender named Aang, and although his airbending skills are great, he still has a lot to learn before he’s ready to save anyone.

But I believe Aang can save the world.”

To provide a brief summary, this TV show takes place in a world divided into four different nations that are based on elements of the world: Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and the Air Nomads. In this universe, there are people who are called Benders, who are able to control and manipulate the element of their respective nation. And as you probably read from the opening, the Avatar is a person who is able to control all 4 elements. Aang, who is an airbender and happens to be the last one of his kind, is discovered in an iceberg (along with his amazing sky bison, Appa) by Katara, a waterbender, and her brother Sokka, who are members of the Southern Water Tribe. The Water Tribes take inspiration from Inuit, Yupik, and Sirenik Eskimos (which can be seen in their attire and their living conditions), and waterbending is a clear parallel to the Chinese martial art Tai Chi!

Because Aang was discovered to be alive, since it was widely believed that the Avatar had died (because Aang was trapped in that iceberg for 100 years), Zuko, the prince of the Fire Nation, along with his wise Uncle Iroh are on the hunt to find the Avatar and reclaim Zuko’s honor. To provide some background, during the time when Aang was in the iceberg, the Hundred-Year War raged on, allowing the Fire Nation to take over many parts of the world. The Fire Nation is a very well done portrayal of real-life imperialism, and firebending takes inspiration from the Northern Shaolin martial art.

Along the way, they encounter many different types of people, including a talented earthbender named Toph, a skilled warrior named Suki, and Azula, Zuko’s younger sister who is a firebending prodigy and a manipulative mastermind, along with her two friends, Mai and Ty Lee.

Of course, the things that I have described in this review is only a brief summary of this show and only scratches the surface of what this show has to offer. It explores how to live with the loss of loved ones, with Katara losing her mother to the Fire Nation, understanding inner turmoils when deciding your identity, which is shown in Zuko’s beautiful character arc, and even dealing with other historical events, such as underground brainwashing and corrupt governments. Yet, despite the various themes and dark occurrences that this show goes in-depth about, A:TLA still manages to capture the attention of viewers from all ages, while still having a detailed, well-written plot intertwined with the illustration of various cultures. I really cannot stress enough how much I love this show, and being able to rewatch it on Netflix after years and years of not remembering it was an amazing experience for me. So please, if you haven’t seen this show, I am urging you to watch it, and I hope that you too can embark on this journey as Team Avatar works together to save the world!!

Yip yip!

-Juianne T.

Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Many of us find the struggle of picking a movie to watch relatable. Unlike other movies, The Pursuit of Happyness emotionally moves the audience as it is inspired by a true story.

Following Chris Gardner’s life in poverty, the movie captures the sense of chaos and struggles he faces. Chris, as a single father, does anything and everything for his (adorable) son to keep him happy. Will Smith’s acting along with his son, Jaden Smith’s acting makes the audience keep their eyes glued to the screen.

This family movie is a breath of fresh air in a world of chaos and fast-pasted materialism. It makes the audience empathize with the hard work and failures that Chris faces. From sleeping at a public restroom to chasing a bus, the main character’s efforts inspire the audience.

Chris’s optimism and spontaneous trait despite his situation can move viewers to heart-felt tears. The famous scene of Chris telling his son to never give up uplifts all our spirits:

“Don’t ever let somebody tell you you can’t do something. Not even me…People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”

Also, the movie reminds us of how short life truly is to not be as happy as we can be. We forget to be grateful in this fast-paced world, and this movie reminds us just that. Reality can break you, but it is up to you how you deal with it all. For me, it reminded me to be thankful for being with the ones I love.

Overall, the movie teaches that happiness is something that we often try to pursue when we miss the smaller “happiness” in our lives. Personally, this message in the movie was exactly what I needed to hear.

If you find yourself bored or you feel helpless or down during quarantine, sit together with your family and watch “The Pursuit of Happyness.” You can thank me later!

-Zohal N.

The Pursuit of Happyness is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

TV Show Review: The Office

Starring Steve Carell, John Krasinski, and Rainn Wilson, The Office is about a group of staff members who work for a Dunder Mifflin Paper Company branch in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The group is followed around by a documentary crew that is filming them for a PBS special. This series is an adaptation of the show The Office from BBC.

Throughout the show, you will witness the love drama of Jim and Pam, pranks made by Jim and Michael, as well as funny office gossip. Steve Carell plays Michael Scott, the obnoxious boss who rose to the level of incompetence. Michael Scott frustrates anyone he comes in contact with, even his boss Jan Levinson. Meanwhile, Jim (played by John Krasinski) and Dwight (played by Rainn Wilson) have an ongoing battle. Jim is always playing pranks on Dwight, trying to disturb and anger him. You have most likely seen scenes of these famous pranks on social media. Dwight, throughout the whole series, tries to land a Branch Manager job, but Michael demotes him to “Assistant to the regional manager” instead of “Assistant regional manager.” The entire staff makes fun of him for this and brings it up any time they can.

Like in any typical American Office, there is a sales team, which includes Jim and Dwight, an accountant team, who includes Angela, Oscar, and Kevin as well as human resources and costumer service with Toby and Kelley. Later on in the show we meet some new characters like Andy Bernard aka the Nard Dog (played by Ed Helms) and Karen Filippelli (played by Rashida Jones).

I have watched this series many times before and I laugh each time I watch. Especially in these times of uncertainty, people need light, funny shows to keep them sane and have a good laugh, and The Office is no doubt one of those shows. I recommend to watch this show soon because they are taking it off of Netflix on January 1st 2021. However there is talk that The Office might movie to the streaming service Peacock. If you don’t have either of those streaming networks, the series is always playing on comedy central.

-Giovanna S.

Movie Review: Knives Out

Boy, oh boy, was this a good movie. I wanted to wait until the official end of awards season to write this review, so I could add in any awards it won or was nominated for. It didn’t win any, but I think it deserved far more.

If you weren’t already aware, Knives Out is something of a whodunit film, with innumerable red herrings and so many (and I mean SO many) twists. Due to the mysterious nature of the film, I’m going to refrain from revealing too much of the plot. Plus, the point of this review is to entice you just enough to go see it yourself and spoiling the movie would spoil the effect of that enticement.

So basically, the movie is centered around this extremely wealthy family, and all their wealth comes from their patriarch, mystery author, and owner of a successful publishing company Harlan Thrombey. The morning after his 85th birthday, Harlan is found in his study with a slit throat, and police deem it a suicide; however, an anonymous party calls Benoit Blanc, a renowned private detective, to the scene because they suspect foul play. There definitely was foul play at hand, but the viewer finds that every member of Harlan’s family had a strained relation with him, and so they all had a theoretical motive.

The movie follows Blanc through his case with subplots surrounding Marta, who was Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker. The viewer has no idea what could possibly happen next, right up to the very last scene. The plots take riveting and unexpected turns, and the whole movie is the best kind of roller coaster. I won’t give any explicit spoilers, but the ending of the movie was absolute gold and gave me almost complete close (I am holding out for a sequel!) If you are looking for a movie that will have you glued to your seat and pondering for hours afterward, or even just something to watch on family movie night, Knives Out is definitely a contender.

-Arushi S. 

Knives Out is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library