TV Review: The Umbrella Academy

Earlier this year, Netflix took the streaming world by storm once again with the release of its own original superhero ensemble TV-show, The Umbrella Academy. It follows the Hargreeves family, a family composed of seven adopted children, six of whom are superpowered. When the family learns that the world is going to end in eight days, they are forced to confront their childhood traumas and reunite to save the world. The show itself was released on February 15th, but it took me an appalling two months before I actually got around to watching it. When I finally did, it is safe to say that I was absolutely blown away. I binged the entire show in a single day. 10 hours worth of content, and I was riveted to the screen for every moment of it. So, what exactly makes this show so special?

There is no single answer to such a complex question, but after several re-watches, I can identify several elements which make the show so extraordinary (if you’ve seen the show- you see what I did there). When a viewer begins to watch The Umbrella Academy, the first thing which strikes them is how different this view of the superhero genre is from what we are so used to seeing. Most ensemble TV shows focus on the heroes, well, becoming heroes. The Umbrella Academy adeptly avoids this classic trope by presenting us with characters who are not learning to become heroes, but struggling with the fallout of their heroic childhoods. These so-called superheroes are deeply damaged, and their family dynamic is highly dysfunctional. The members of the Academy are not learning how to become heroes, but learning to cope with the struggles of everyday life after an abusive childhood. Of course, they have to save the world along the way, but the show leaves you with the impression that this plot is not as important as the development of the characters within it. Further, the plot itself is deeply shaped by character development of certain key characters who are coming to terms with their powers, or, their lack thereof.

Aside from subversion of the classic superhero origin story, The Umbrella Academy also sets itself apart from the pack through its depiction of relationships between characters. Each of the Hargreeves siblings has a unique connection with each other sibling, a fact which is never brushed over nor forgotten throughout the series. The tapestry of character connections is artfully written, artfully acted, and artfully produced. In essence, at every level of this show, attention was paid to depicting the interactions between its characters in a nuanced, cohesive way. Each character has highly specific thoughts and emotions towards each other character, many of which are unveiled gradually throughout the season.

There are so many other ways that The Umbrella Academy kept me hooked: the random, whimsical, yet dark nature of the show, multiple plotlines which eventually converge, leaving the viewer simultaneously dumbfounded and awestruck, LGBTQ+ representation, and an absolutely fire soundtrack. It would take an eternity for me to detail everything that I adored about this show.

I would recommend this show to any fans of the superhero genre who want to see a fresh take on the definition of heroism. However, one does not need to be a fan of superheroes to enjoy this show. If a whimsical, dark, time-travel centered mystery sounds at all interesting to you- give it a watch! I promise you will not be disappointed (A quick disclaimer- this show does discuss some mature themes and has several violent action sequences, hence its TV-14 rating, so it is definitely more suited to older audiences).

-Mirabella S.

The Umbrella Academy graphic novel by Gerard Way is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library

“The Outsiders” Remains Outside the Classics

Image result for the outsiders movie poster

Based on the book of the same name by S.E. Hinton, Francis F. Coppola’s The Outsiders, originally released in 1983, is a movie that desperately attempts to capture the ideas and morals of the original novel but falls conspicuously flat in movie magic.

Featuring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane, this coming-of-age drama touches on the starkly contrasting ideas of violence and hope, dark and light, poor and rich. The soon-to-be-famous actors and actresses starring in this film lent it potential, but it was quickly squandered with a weak script, courtesy of Kathleen Rowell, and egregious directing.

Ultimately, a combination of horrible camerawork, awful acting, and mistimed music, create The Outsiders, a movie that even the inspirational message cannot improve.

Ponyboy Curtis (Howell), the movie’s protagonist, is a fourteen-year-old orphan who lives with his older brothers Darry (Swayze) and Sodapop (Lowe) in the poorer north side of town, the “wrong” side. Known as the “greasers” for their greased hair, they and their gang, which consists of Dally Winston (Dillon), Johnny Cade (Macchio), Two-Bit Mathews (Estevez), and Steve Randle (Cruise), have a bitter rivalry with the Socs (short for ‘Socialites’), the rich kids on the south side.

For as long as anyone can remember, these two groups have been at each other’s throats, always jumping and getting jumped by the other, but there were always limits, an unspoken line never to be crossed – until the day that the life of one is weighed as more than the life of another, and Johnny murders a Soc to save Ponyboy’s life.

The Outsiders is the kind of movie that has the potential to either become an all-time classic or an all-time flop and after one watches it for the first time, it is obvious that this film strongly inclines to the latter. Some things that immediately stand out to the viewer are the lack of proper filming technique and a distinct dearth in emotional acting, but the most pressing issue with this movie is the background music. Not only do the pieces performed not fit the mood of the shots at all, but they also appear at the most inopportune moments, blocking out what the actual characters are saying at the same time, which can become rather tedious to the audience.

All in all, The Outsiders is a film which had promise, but did not take advantage of it to leap to great heights. Though some fans may enjoy the film for its accurate events compared to the novel, even the most dedicated of followers may not be able to sit through this train wreck of a film, with atrocious acting and misplaced music. Out of five stars, this movie deserves a two, because while it did maintain the novel’s message and plot, it failed in all the aspects that make a movie a classic.

-Mahak M.

Film Review: Avengers: Endgame

As all of you probably know, Marvel Studios just released the record-shattering finale to the ‘Avengers’ movie series. It is the only film in history to make over $1 billion in its debut, breaking the record previously held by its prequel, Avengers: Infinity War. Furthermore, it broke the record, which was also previously held by ‘Infinity War,’ for most money made opening weekend in the United States. It managed to score a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an A+ on CinemaScore. Needless to say, this movie was groundbreaking and has definitely scored a place in the cinematic hall of fame.

I don’t even know where to start with this movie, but I can warn you that there will be spoilers in this review. I think I’ll begin with the groundbreaking female empowerment exhibited in the film. It’s been well known that women will play a strong role in the next movement of Marvel’s plotlines after the release of movies like ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Captain Marvel.’ But ‘Endgame’ really went above and beyond in this area- there was a moment during the final battle which I loved. Spider-Man questions Captain Marvel, and all of our favorite female superheroes, such as Shuri, Okoye, Gamora, Nebula, Pepper Potts, The Wasp, Scarlet Witch, and Valykrie, rally behind her. The movie also touches on core female character from the past, such as Frigga and Peggy Carter. Additionally, Marvel gives Natasha Romanov a beautiful heroic send-off, with Clint Barton and Wanda Maximoff paying respects to her sacrifice.

To add to the wonder of the movie, the story-line was perfect. I laughed, I cried, and I laughed and cried at the same time. One of my favorite pieces of the movie was Tony Stark’s new family. He married Pepper and had a beautiful daughter. I have wanted to see Tony flourish as the perfect father he never had for what seems like forever. Even though Tony ends up dying after using the infinity stones to defeat Thanos’ army, I cherished the scenes featuring the Stark family. Additionally, I loved the character development for Steve Rogers, Bruce Banner, and Thor. Steve finally opened up and let loose, starting a post-snap therapy group and letting loose a little bad language here and there. Bruce Banner finally came to terms with his other half, introducing Professor Hulk to the MCU and becoming an instant sensation with the Avenger fanbase in New York. Thor’s development, on the other hand, was not exactly positive. The viewer sees him spiral after the immense losses he has suffered- the deaths of his brother, mother, father, and half his people. He has become a drunkard, pot-bellied and lazy. The viewer finally sees the hidden side of Thor, the one he always covers up with his relentless positive attitude.

Overall, I thought this movie was perfect and served its purpose (to transition from Phase 3 to Phase 4) excellently. I would really recommend seeing this movie to Marvel fans, since you do need some background to understand what is happening. However, if you have not seen the movies, I would suggest that you do, just so that you can understand this one. This movie was absolutely amazing, it satisfied me and made me feel all sorts of wonderful feelings.

-Arushi S.

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel actually exceeded my expectations. I went into the movie thinking that it would be extremely hyper-feminized in a way where it would actually take away from the movie especially, because of all the controversy surrounded the main actor Brie Larson. However, this movie did represent feminism in a way that was not annoyed and seemingly forced unlike many other movies that have been coming out recently. Which was nice. It showed the empowerment of women but did not push the idea so much that it took away from the movie.

The movie was by no means amazing or anything revolutionary or new. But, it was a pretty good average superhero origin story. It had some good actions scenes mixed in with an okay story line. Though nothing was truly that originally or different from any other super hero movie that has come out. There was a pretty cool plot twist which, I am not going to ruin which did make it a little bit more interesting. But, many of the main concepts where just like any other movie, the main character gets in a battle, looses, so then she goes back and finds her roots and all of a sudden she is a lot stronger. It is nothing new.

Overall though, the movie was entertaining and it was nice to see a woman taking a lead role in a superhero movie and showing the empowerment of woman and what they can do. It was cool to see that women where being represented in action movies and not just romance movies. The actions scenes where also very well done and the music chosen for the movie was amazing.

This movie is a great one to see to just pass some time and have some fun with friends or family. It is enjoyable to watch and is relatively engaging. I would suggest this movie to anyone who just wants have to have a movie night with others.

-Ava G.

Film Review: Aquaman

I recently went and saw Aquaman, and walked into the theater with the mindset that it would be just like all the other Marvel movies, super dark, a lot of action, a little storyline and some comic relief. And, this movie finally broke that formula though, it wasn’t necessarily anything that seemed that original. But, it was more of a fluff movie than some of the other recent and extremely dark Marvel movies that had been coming out like Avengers. So, it was nice to have something different that was slightly less dark with a little more storyline.

In essence, the movie seemed pretty typical. A forbidden love between two worlds with a child that has to bring the two together. And, of course, the child at first does not want to but, in the end, decides to try to save the day. So, the storyline is pretty much predictable. Though, the actions scenes where cool and the special effects throughout the entire movie were extremely well done.

This movie is the perfect movie to go and watch and turn your brain off. It is entertaining without much substance. But it provides a nice break to just stop thinking. I would suggest as a movie to go out and see with your friends and family to just have some fun. Since it is more of a light fluffy movie than a typical dark Marvel movie, you can finish the movie and not have that air of darkness and instead, it leaves you with a happy humorous mood. So it is great to just have some fun.

-Ava G.

Theater Review: Dear Evan Hansen

The Tony-winning Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen is currently on tour around the US, and I was lucky enough to snag tickets for a show in Costa Mesa. I had already listened to the soundtrack more times than I could count, but I was ridiculously excited anyway. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time, and it is the second musical ever that I have seen live. And, let me tell you, it was a treat.

This musical addresses one of today’s biggest issues: teen suicide and anxiety. The main character, Evan Hansen, has extreme social anxiety, and his therapist tells him to write positive letters to himself. However, when he prints a failed version one of these letters (it was very pessimistic) out in his school’s computer lab, Connor Murphy, a fellow student, snatches it from him and shoves him. Later, the characters find that Connor has committed suicide, and they find Evan’s letter in his pocket. They think that the letter is Connor’s suicide note, addressed to Evan, and them Evan and his family friend, Jared, get dragged into a huge mess of lies and deception. Evan and Jared write fake emails to Connor to “prove” that they are friends, and they start a huge project to spread awareness for Connor’s death. Evan even gets together with his long-time crush, Zoe Murphy, who also happens to be Connor’s sister.

However, nothing this perfect can last, especially if it is based on a lie. Evan’s mom finds out about the Connor project and how he has been spending almost every night at the Murphys’ home. The whole charade falls apart, Evan eaves the Connor Project, and he and Zoe break up. Although he and Zoe do make peace at the end of the musical, I was still in tears throughout the entirety of Act 2.

Although the soundtrack was very differet from the actual live musical, both are thoroughly enjoyable. Dear Evan Hansen is one of my favorite musicals of all time for its storyline and beautifully written characters, and seeing it live is not something that I will ever forget. This musical is truly fantastic, and I would definitely encourage seeing it if possible.

-Arushi S.

Titanfall 2 by Respawn Entertainment

Titanfall was a great game, winning over 60 rewards at its 2013 reveal, but Titanfall 2 was definitely was a step up. Titanfall 2 was nominated  for multiple year-end accolades including Game of the Year and Best Shooter awards, by several gaming publications. Just talking about Respawn’s success with Titanfall makes it sound like a good game! Trust me, it gets better.

Titanfall 2’s high success was due to its captivating campaign mode and its various online multiplayer modes. Titanfall 2’s many online modes put it above its first game. You can play Free for all, capture the flag, and attrition just to name a few. You play as a pilot, being a pilot gives you a massive variety of guns and abilities. You have sniper rifles, shotguns, and automatic guns. You can also grapple buildings, run on walls, and turn invisible!

Running and jumping around as a pilot is only half of the game, the other half you play in a titan. Titans are giant mecha-style exoskeletions that will crush the battlefield.  If you played the original Titanfall, you would know that there was only one titan you could play as. In Titanfall 2, you have seven different titans to chose from! But I’ll say no more, so I don’t spoil the game for you.

One final thing that separated Titanfall 2 from Titanfall was its single player campaign mode. In campaign, you play as rifleman Jack Cooper. He hopes to one day become a pilot of a titan. And he becomes a pilot of titan BT-7274, but in a way he did not expect. Together you switch between Jack Cooper and BT-7274 as you try to stop the IMC. I enjoyed the campaign adventure a lot. It has great a great back round and has great storytelling. Plus you get to do things that you would never be able to do in multiplayer.(E.g. traveling in time!) But I’ll let you play the game to find out on your own. This is definitely an FPS you should consider getting. Five star game.

-Brandon D.