Film Review: Gladiator — When Rome Comes Back to Light

“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.” ― Marcus Aurelius

What was Rome like? Based on all the historical texts and books we read, and the movies and videos that we watched — extravagant and grandiose couldn’t be more pertinent here. In the magnificent villas surrounded by luxurious furnishings, rich men and women in crimson, indigo, and saffron yellow silk tunics were served with cornucopia and exotic dishes. Servants and singers chanted carmens and played tibias along with Roman poetry written by Virgil, Horace, and Ovid. A Roman bath at the end of the day and away from partying lives would be more than one could ask for…

Maximus Decimus Meridus made Rome’s march to victory against the barbarians possible.  He brought prosperity and glory to Rome and the Empire. Yet, the greatest General of the Roman Empire had not even set foot in this Xanadu once in his life. He was out on the battlefields when Commodus, the son of the Emperor, hid in the carriage. It was not because of Maximus’ bravery and excellence in war that earned him the trust of the man in purple, but it was his heart for the people that ‘persuaded” the emperor to give him Rome.

He declined. All he ever wanted was to return to his family. He turned his back from this beautiful city, the fruit of his accomplishment.

But…it was too late…

Fate seemed to detest a hero who did not follow the conventional path. No one would have thought Maximus would eventually enter the gates of Rome invited by vengeance. Sold as a slave who is “a father to a murdered son and a husband to a murdered wife, Maximus became a gladiator. Driven by intense grief and the desire for revenge, he fought his way to most grandeur fighting pit in all of history only to discover the truth about himself and Rome.

The reality was antithetical. Under the facade and the rule of a tyrant, daily lives of the people were casted over with a shadow of suffering and fear.  It is till then that Maximus understood why Marcus Aurelius trusted him instead of his very own son. The emperor’s words of responsibility, “To give power back to the people of Rome and end the corruption that has crippled it. ”

The story of Maximus’ return of power to Rome is intertwined with trust and betrayal, hope and despair, as well as love and camaraderie. Rome is the light of the world, but it can be dimmed if misruled. Is Maximus truly the one to bring back and turn on this light?

The ending is very sentimental (not going to spoil anything, just my personal feeling). But Maximus Decimus Meridus will be forever known by time as the general who became a slave, the slave who became a gladiator, and the gladiator who defied an emperor.

There was a dream that was Rome. It was light.

-Kate L.

The film Gladiator is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Event Review: The Phantom of the Opera

This past month, my band class played The Phantom of the Opera at our Fall concert and must I say, was it a big hit! In order to prepare for the music piece, we also watch the live musical that was performed at the Royal Albert Hall. The “opera” itself is absolutely amazing. The vocals, the dancing, the acting, the string music, and the costumes–everything about the musical was breathtaking.

The musical was based on the 1910 French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux. It is basically about an opera house in Paris that is essentially “haunted”. As they are rehearsing for an upcoming play, the backdrop wall falls down frightening everyone. What does not help is that the owner of the opera house suddenly retires… Hmm, that seems a bit suspicious does it not?

The main soprano and star of the play Carlotta storms off the stage in fury as the directors do not seem to do anything about it. Carlotta is soon replaced by Christine Daaé, a chorus girl who is taught by her “Angel of Music” who is actually the Phantom of the opera house who lives under the opera house (creepy isn’t it).

Then everything from that point on goes hay-wire. The opera house continues to have suspicious occurrences because of the Phantom which scares everyone off. Eventually, the Phantom gives up terrorizing the opera house, and everyone continues on with their lives and everyone lives happily ever after.. or so they think so.

The musical is absolutely amazing even though it is slightly creepy. If you enjoy fantastic  singers singing to amazing music, I recommend the musical

-Phoebe L.

School of Rock Movie vs. Musical

Both the movie and play School of Rock is about a guitarist Dewey Finn who has been living off of his friend Ned who is a substitute teacher. Ned’s girlfriend gets annoyed that Dewey keeps living off of them and tells him that he has to pay rent or get kicked out. So he poses as Ned to become a substitute teacher at Horace Green, an expensive well known school. Instead of teaching his class normal things, he teaches them about rock and roll, turning them into a rock band to preform at the battle of the bands which Dewey hopes will earn him some money and be his breakthrough.

Both the movie and the musical were very good and where very similar. The movie, which was the original had a couple classic rock songs in it, which I really enjoyed. I actually enjoyed the movie even though I normally don’t like children’s movies. It was different then everything else I had recently seen. It was really nice seeing something that was different then every generic movie that has been coming out. So, even though it is 15 years old it is still a great family friendly movie.

I saw the musical first and when I saw the movie pretty much the same story line, which I liked. Because, it meant that the musical adaption of the movie didn’t take to many liberties and didn’t completely change the meaning of the story. Though, the musical did have some differences, it was obvious that it was purely just to make it work as a musical adaption. They had also added some modern day jokes and themes into the musical which kept it interesting. It was also nice that they had kept some of the original songs from the movie as well as adding some originals. They also had all the kids playing their instruments live which was cool to see.

Overall, I really enjoyed both the movie and the musical. Though the entire story is a bit childish and dumb. It was different and I liked that. I would totally suggest seeing the movie and the musical if you have a chance. I found it as something that was just kind of fun to see.

-Ava G.

Film Review: Sierra Burgess is a Loser

This teen rom-com movie was released on Friday, September 7, 2018. This movie can literally make you die from laughter one minute and cry in another. A basic rundown is that there is this girl named Sierra Burgess, played by Shannon Purser. She is an insecure yet empowering young women. One day she gets a text from a random number which she soon finds out that it’s from the most popular guy of her rival school, Jamey (played by the one and only Noah Centineo).

Sierra ends up catfishing Jamey and doesn’t tell him who she really is. This leads her down a long path of having to tutor the most popular girl in her school Veronica who also low-key bullies her in the beginning, lying to Jamey, her best friend Dan, but most importantly, herself.

The next part is sort of a spoiler so don’t read this next part: Jamey ends up finding out that Sierra was the one who was catfishing him and is so shocked that he demands that both Sierra AND Veronica stay away from him. In this process, Sierra also loses her best friend Dan (who is one of THE best characters in the movie.)

Sierra ends up making a song for Veronica called “Sunflower” which is basically an apology to Veronica for embarrassing Veronica in front of the whole school.

Overall this movie is super entertaining and has great messages behind it. I totally recommend this movie. It’s out now on Netflix.

-Phoebe L.

Film Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians, the movie everybody is obsessed with. And yes, it was nice to see a lot of diversity in a movie but, as a Romantic Comedy goes, it did not really have that many jokes. And the story line was just like every other Romantic movie that has every been made. Though, Constance Wu is a great actor and I was really excited to see her in something other than Fresh Off the Boat, I was just kind of expecting more.

As someone who is Asian, I could definitely appreciate the jokes that was in the movie because, most of them were pretty relatable. But, in my opinion there could have been more jokes. Because, even though it was labeled a Rom Com I feel like it was mostly just a romantic movie with a little bit of comedy sprinkled in. Which, was not the way it was advertised or talked about. From they way people talked about it, I was expected it to be super funny and I had really high expectations which where not met.

Overall, the story line was about a New York economics professor Rachel Chu who falls in love with Nick Young who is part of a super rich family for Singapore. Nick brings Rachel to Singapore to meet his family who does not approve of her. But, eventually she gets their approval and Nick proposes to her. This follows the typical Romantic movie formula and as someone who doesn’t really care for Romantic movies to begin with it kind of bored me. Though, I might have not liked it because it is not really a style of movie that I care for.

But, if you are someone who is into Romantic Movies, it is probably a great movie for you to watch. And it is still slightly funny, especially if you can get the jokes. So if you’re looking for a Romantic Movie to watch I would watch this one but, just don’t expect it to be that different from any other romantic movie.

-Ava G.

Film Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

This amazing rom-com movie was released through Netflix on August 17, 2018. Normally, the thought of a romantic movie makes me cringe, but when I first saw the trailer for the movie, I was immediately hooked.

This movie is based on the book series To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before written by Jenny Han. I personally have not read the books (but planning to read them later). This story has everything from romance, to comedy, to the important lessons every teenager should know not only life but love as well.

The movie is about a girl named Lara Jean Covey. She is half-American and half-Korean. Her mother passed away when she was young, so her father raises her and two other sisters (one older, one younger) by himself. Basically, the main plot of the story is that Lara Jean has these five letters. She writes them when she has a crush, “..so intense, [she] doesn’t know what else to do..” One day she finds that all the letters have been sent out… all FIVE of them!! The recipients of the letters are Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo (a dreamboat may I add), who is the hottest boy in school, John Ambrose from Model UN, Lucas from homecoming, Kenny from camp, and Josh, the boy next door (who is her older sister’s boyfriend).

The rest of the movie is just about how she handles the whole situation, and the lessons she learns along the way. I totally recommend this movie. It is an amazing movie with an Asian lead– which you don’t see very often.

Jenny Han’s novel, To All the Boys I Loved Before, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Hamilton: An American Musical

Mostly everyone has heard of the musical that has swept theatre geeks off their feet when it first came out in 2015. Yes, I’m talking about Hamilton. If you don’t love it, you’ve heard of it. If you haven’t heard of it… you’ve come to the right blog.

Hamilton: An American Musical was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda who has had experience in writing a musical with In The Heights. He co-wrote the songs from Disney’s Moana. But, Lin-Manuel Miranda is most popular for writing Hamilton.

Hamilton is a perfect combination of spunky, fast-moving rap, and slow, sweet, and sad melodies. I’ve listened to the music over and over, until it’s been ingrained into my memory, like the true geek I am. Unfortunately, this means I have physically lost the power to cry over ‘It’s Quiet Uptown’. Now, listening to the soundtrack on YouTube and watching the musical are two very different things. I had the privilege to go see it at Segerstrom Theater. I think when we entered the waiting room to buy tickets online, it was the most stressful 43 minutes of my theatre life. And that’s saying a lot, because I’ve had to wait a week to get my part in multiple musicals. When I was watching Hamilton, it was different from listening, partially because it wasn’t the original cast (I wish it was!), and of course they sounded different. But, watching the actors pour their souls into the life of a man who lived centuries ago.

If you were to ask me who my favorite character was, or who stole the show, I wouldn’t say Angelica, Eliza, or even Peggy (although she was amazing). King George was a showstopper. Though he stood in one place for the remainder of his songs, something about him, singing about death, completely calm, just made everyone laugh. In the beginning, he stood calmly, but in the second half of the show, King George, just like in real life, started to go mad. His eyes were wild, and his laugh maniacal. He completely stole the show, in my opinion.

Hamilton: An American Musical, is something me and my theater friends bond over. Before rehearsals, we could be heard singing Farmers Refuted, or Cabinet Battle #1. Hamilton is the perfect mix for anyone, whether you like rap, or slow, sweet songs, it has it all.

-Sophia D.