Film Review: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

“Punch it!”

The Empire Strikes Back, aka Episode V, is the second installment in the original trilogy and the fifth episode of the “Skywalker Saga”. Three years after the Death Star’s destruction, the Galactic Empire hunts the scattered Rebel Alliance throughout the galaxy. Darth Vader pursues Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca while Luke studies the ways of the Force and trains under former Jedi Grand Master Yoda in preparation for his inevitable duel with Vader.

Despite the first’s film surprise success in the box office, ESB became the highest-grossing film of 1980 with $440 million. Considered to be the best Star Wars film, it’s the second highest-grossing sequel of all time and has been labeled as “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”. The film’s climax, Vader revealing his parentage to Luke that he is his father, is credited as one of the greatest plot twists in film history.

Watching ESB from my perspective, I too believe it’s the best Star Wars film besides Revenge of the Sith. The choreography and pleasing sound effects of the lightsaber battles are always jaw-dropping. Watching Vader confront Luke about Obi-Wan was a shocker to me the first time I watched Star Wars. (I gasped out loud)

-Bree K.

The Empire Strikes Back is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Film Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

I remember watching Mulan from the floor of my living room, gazing up to the screen, a little girl absolutely fascinated by a princess who looks like me–and yet, doesn’t at the same time. As a first-generation of Southeastern Asian descent, I felt like Mulan didn’t represent my culture. Even as Disney created a female Asian who takes the lead role, I still felt left out. After watching Raya and The Last Dragon, I felt like my culture was now being appreciated.

A heroine who doesn’t undergo typical coming-of-age experiences, but instead carves her own path to save her world and even becomes the villain of her own story–Raya is undoubtedly one of the best Disney princesses for Asian Americans to look up to. In the fantasy world of Kumandra, humans and dragons used to live in harmony. With different kingdoms who are separated by hate, Raya finds the last dragon Sisu and embarks on a quest to restore their uninhabitable land.

I have quite a few things to mention about the movie. In regards to animation, the movie is bright and colorful with realistic shots–the perfect setting for a hero’s journey. To be honest, the plot itself was often predictable; it seemed too straight forward, especially as a quest plot. The characters however, were extremely diverse and versatile in personality and never fall short to entertain the audience. There’s never a specific villain, but rather applies to everyone in the movie–a well-thought aspect to include. All of the characters show real human emotions at the right times; negative characteristics such as anger, hatred, and mistrust contributes greatly to the story’s plot and message.

As for the Southeast Asian references, Raya and the Last Dragon does so well in including details from every Southeast Asian culture. From my perspective, I was finally able to see a representative of my culture, regardless of it being a nonfictional movie. Raya is a bold, empowering female figure that I believe many little girls can look up to, no matter the race. Unfortunately, I’ve already grown out of my childhood, yet I’m grateful nonetheless. Disney has finally created a movie that girls of Southeast Asian descent can watch on the floor of their living room, gaze up to the screen, and see a courageous princess who actually looks like them.

– Natisha P.

TV Review: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Six months after Endgame, Sam Wilson struggles with the responsibility of handling the mantle of Captain America. Meanwhile Bucky Barnes, formerly known as the Winter Soldier, has been pardoned for his former crimes by the US Government following rehabilitation in Wakanda. Despite Steve’s choice of stepping down as Cap, Sam returned the shield to the government: believing that Steve’s legacy ended. Now that life has been returned to “normal” after Thanos’ Snap, the world has entered a new stage in which alliances between countries have been demobilized, and anti-patriotic organizations have been established (believing life was better when half of the world’s population was gone). Although, due to Sam’s choice of giving up the shield, the government chose a new “Captain America”. John Walker, a high-ranking member of the Army is chosen due to his strength, testament, and will. Despite his physical abilities, he lacks Steve’s heart and sees himself as a better embodiment of American values.

Following WandaVision’s end, I was thrilled for tFatWS to start, now being able to see Sam and Bucky interact more: and by interact I mean fight like a married couple. Since they were both snapped away, the concept of them working together to retrieve the shield back is what defines them as Steve’s right-hand men. But with Steve gone, I feel as if they’re missing apart of themselves. Although only three episodes have been released, I can’t wait to see what else Marvel has!

-Bree K.

Throwback TV Show for Teens

With quarantine, I found myself bored, and without new episodes of shows coming out, I turned to Netflix and Disney+ with shows from my early childhood years. One I watched over and over in elementary and middle school was H20: Just Add Water. The Australian show originally came out in 2006 and ran until 2010. It was followed by a spin-off 3 years later that ran until 2016. The original series follows three teenage girls as they become mermaids and navigate how to keep their secret hidden from their family and friends while also still maintaining a normal social and school life. The spin off series follows three mermaids who have been mermaids since birth as they discover the human world and deal with threats towards their home.

Since becoming a teenager and entering high school, I began to find new respect for the shows I watched as a kid/pre-teen. Being in high school, especially not as a freshman, allows for me to experience the shows I used to enjoy in a new light since I know some of the struggles they are talking about more, like lots of homework and more friendship drama. Shows, specifically H20: Just Add Water allow me, for at least 30 minutes per episode, allow me to both reminiscence on the past of my childhood as well as appreciate the show in the format it provided for teenage audiences. 

I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoyed shows like this as a kid and want something both familiar and refreshing. I would also recommend that even if you have seen this show before, watch it again if you haven’t recently. Shows like this, and others on Netflix and Disney+ have been great to watch back as a teenager, especially with free time during quarantine and hybrid schooling. 

Movie Directors We Love: Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg has one of the best resumes when it comes to movies he has directed. His movies have grossed more than $25 billion in the box office which is a feat that has not been passed by any other director in the business. The Movie list that Speilberg has directed is unparalleled. Let me just list a few: Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, E.T., Ready Player One, and Jaws. That’s only a few of the amazing movies that he has directed and those movies are all fantastic movies that have made hundreds of millions in the box office. His record when it comes to making movies is unparalleled in the business because he has made so many big hits at the box office and that is not a thing that many movie directors can say about the movies that they have directed. Another thing that sets Speilberg apart from other directors is his style of filming by using a cinematic style while using minimal cuts in between scenes. Also, Speilberg likes to talk about family issues in his movies often using them to help the characters overcome their struggles and end up succeeding in the end and prevailing over their foe.

-Howard M.

The films of Steven Spielberg are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Brooklyn 99: show review

“Let’s give the people want they want.” -Gina Linetti

Don’t get mad at me or anything but personally, Brooklyn 99 is a much better show than The Office or Friends. (If you chose to skip this post, no biggie-we all have preferences). I mean I’ve seen The Office and Friends since they’re extremely popular, but I feel as if the episodes were always predictable and sometimes, boring even. But with Brooklyn 99, every episode makes me laugh until my sides hurt. From the first episode, the foundation and purpose of the 99th Precinct are laid out with the arrival of the precinct’s new captain, Raymond Holt. Detective Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) is the childish, yet ace investigator who maintains a high rate of successfully solved cases. The two officers being polar opposites find themselves in an amazing father-son bond that only grows as the series progresses, to the point where Jake calls Holt Captain Dad.

“I highly recommended this show, you will be in a state of euphoria.” -to be read in Holt’s voice.

-Bree K.

Film Review: Moxie

Netflix’s new teen movie Moxie largely fails in its potential and is decent overall, but still has something important to offer. Directed by Amy Poehler and based on a book of the same name by Jennifer Mathieu, Moxie is a high school movie whose aim is to discuss feminist topics.

The movie follows shy 16 year-old Vivian (Hadley Robinson) who begins anonymously making zines calling out the sexism in her school after meeting the valiant new girl Lucy Hernandez (Alycia Pascual) who won’t back down to sexism so easily. Later on, the two girls along with some friends made along the way form a group called Moxie, which actively challenges the problems the group faces.  

Throughout the movie, Vivian encounters many challenges. From dress codes to more serious offenses, the movie aims to discuss a wide-range of topics in feminism but fails to do so in an effective way. Because it’s so ambitious and eager to take on all of these topics within a 2-hour time frame, the movie can’t explore them in ground-breaking depth, creating a touch-and-go effect. 

The overwhelming amount of content here also detracts from the development of the characters as well, leading most of them to appear underbaked. Several times during the movie, there seems to be an attempt to explore these characters in more depth, but there’s never any further discussion later on. The marginalized identities of some of these characters seem to suffer from the same problem as they get caught up in the fray of inclusivity and are hardly ever discussed despite being involved in the Moxie group. 

But even though Moxie is rough around the edges, when I first watched Moxie, I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting yet another poorly written Netflix high school movie with the same overdone cliches, and even though Moxie is a lot of those things, I was happy to see a teen movie eager to spread a powerful and important message rather than a televised Wattpad fanfic.

While the movie’s received a lot of criticism online, most of which I’d agree with, I still think it’s important to acknowledge that its existence is a good thing. Not many movies are willing to even attempt discussing these topics or providing the amount of representation this movie did. So to that I give it props as a good next step for future movies that want to delve in these topics too. 

The one good thing about the movie is that it’s different. It tries to discuss something important which is always something worth thinking about. So for those of you at least interested in the movie, I’d still encourage watching it and forming your own opinion of the movie and how it handles these topics. 

-Elia T.

TV Review: Legend of Korra Season One

The Legend of Korra was one of the most anticipated animated sequels for its time, given that it is the successor to the widely popular Avatar the Last Airbender. The show had a lot of expectations on its initial release and after rewatching it years later, I would say that, overall, it is actually a good show even with the harsh criticism from devoted fans.

In general, I would still recommend watching the show given that it is still an entertaining show like its predecessor and still has quality animations. I still enjoyed watching the fights and scenes overall but it felt like the story was lacking compared to the previous show.

The characters were still appealing overall, with few exceptions, and the world itself was well built and introduced an interesting dynamic that was engaging and different from the original show.

Some complaints I had were that many characters and their stories felt rushed and incomplete, with the finale of season one being very anticlimactic compared to any of the other finales in the previous show, although it is understandable given that the show was created under the pretense that it would only have one season and 12 episodes compared to the vast size of the previous seasons of Avatar. Overall the story and characters still meshed together in spite of this and the episodes were exciting up to the finale.

Overall, I would still rate the show highly given the conditions of the show, regardless if
the expectations were initially high. I think that initial expectations and comparisons between the show and its predecessor played a major role in the reaction of the fans, although if looked at as an independent show, it is still high enough quality overall to be rated well and is still a good watch.

-Benjamin L.

The Legend of Korra is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The 100: Books vs. TV Show

The book series The 100 by Kass Morgan was made into a television show on the CW, and the similarities between the books and the show stop at the title. 

The television series uses the same plotline; however, it is sped up and changed. In the show, the officials, and parents of the children, are shown regularly, unlike in the book. The entire four-book series is changed and made into one season. Then, the next 6 seasons are created from scratch. 

Not only are the plot lines modified in the television series, but the characters are as well. In the novels, the main characters are Clarke, Bellamy, Wells and Glass. Whereas in the television series, the main characters are Clarke, Finn, Bellamy, Finn, Raven, Jasper, Octavia, and Monte. The show does not include the main characters Wells or Glass from the books. Furthermore, the television series features the parents of the children as main characters. In the books, the parents are barely mentioned or dead.

 I personally have not watched the entire series, but I have read the book series. If you were to pick one to read/watch, I would recommend doing both, as they are completely different stories. However, I did enjoy the book series a bit more because it was more detailed and suspenseful.  

-Hidaya R.

The 100 by Kass Morgan is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Film Review: The War With Grandpa

Do you need a movie for Family Movie Night? Do you want a funny movie to bring you into the weekend, or do you want a movie that has valuable lessons in it? Well, you’re lucky because this movie will bring you all of those experiences. The War With Grandpa is a super entertaining and exciting movie. When Peter’s grandpa, who’s wife has died,  is experiencing some difficult times, Peter’s mom invites him in. Unfortunately, they don’t have an extra room in their house, and they have to give him Peter’s room. Peter moves to the attic. Both Peter and his grandpa are not happy about that. Peter wants his room back, and his grandpa doesn’t want to be living in his daughter’s home. To get his room back, Peter decides to declare war on his grandpa. Don’t worry! It is not an actual war, just a fun prank war! Peter and the grandpa each keep quiet about the war, but the pranks are brutal! It’s like a boxing match where each side is struggling, but they don’t throw the towel. The pranks go on and on and get worse and worse, but no one surrenders. Towards the end of the movie, Peter’s pranks end up ruining his little sister’s birthday party and injuring his grandpa. In the end, the grandpa shares the main lesson of the war with Peter. He tells Peter that even though one side comes up victorious, none of the sides actually win because they lose soldiers, citizens, cities, and they are emotionally bruised. 

I love this movie because of how funny and entertaining it is. The pranks are hilarious, and the events in the story are fun to watch. With an amazing plot, this movie is easily one of the best movies that I have ever seen. This movie was actually written as a book first. 

I give this movie a 10 out of 10 stars because it is hilarious. I love comedy movies, so I especially enjoyed this movie. The lessons that the grandpa teaches to Peter are very valuable and deep. I would definitely recommend this movie to a friend. 

-Mert A.