Movie Review: Bad Genius

The film Bad Genius is a 2017 Thai movie filmed by Nattawut Poonpiriya and can be found on Netflix. There wasn’t much media coverage over this film simply because it wasn’t produced in the United States and therefore didn’t gain popularity outside of Thailand; nonetheless, it’s a cinematic masterpiece.

This movie is very unique; it’s difficult to find movies where you enjoy the stress and emotional rollercoasters. Although the movie is considered as a mature film, it’s an extremely underrated movie that holds a lot of meaning and can connect to students regardless of nationality. Every student understands the immense pressure of test-taking, especially for tests that can determine your entire future.

With a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this thriller-type heist movie is based on a student named Lynn, one of the best in her school, who gets accepted into a private university. Her wealthy friend Grace is struggling with school and persuades Lynn to help her cheat on an exam in exchange for money. Realizing the amount of money necessary to financially support her family and attend university, Lynn begins making money off of helping kids cheat during exams, but another top student named Bank gets suspicious, Lynn and her friends get caught, and Lynn loses her scholarship. The other kids who were caught cheating then take revenge on Bank by leaving him injured in a junkyard, forcing him to miss his exam and lose his scholarship as well. With hope for their academic future low, Lynn and Bank work together in creating a well-thought out plan to help students cheat on the STIC (an SAT exam for international countries).

At first, the plot of this movie may serve as a bad example for students, but the movie includes so much more in-depth meaning. Nattawut Poonpiriya, provides direct references to the social class inequalities and corrupt systems found in schools, specifically Thai schools. Both Lynn and Bank are underprivileged and come from poor financial backgrounds; the only reason they choose to help their rich, privileged friends cheat is because they need the money to afford a good university.

The way they filmed this movie is innovative as well, adding onto the stress and tension during specific scenes. During their exams, viewers can see that the only nervous ones are Lynn and Bank, while their friends are simply at ease; in reality, intelligence and top grades can only get you so far without family connections and wealth.

Although the message is quite negative, the impact of the movie reaches its viewers in a different way. Not only is it an external battle, but also a moral dilemma between dreams and reality.

-Natisha P.

Introducing Home Ec At Home

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Hi friends!

Beginning this month, the Teen Voice Blog will be hosting a series of posts from the Teen Advisory Board called Home Ec At Home. The idea is to present useful tips on how to perform basic but important skills you can use at home! making food, cleaning around the house, mending clothing, even what foodstuffs are safe for pets! Both myself and the Teen Advisory Board hope that you will get some use out of the material they’ve put together.

Home Ec At Home posts will appear on the front page every other week. If you end up trying out some of the activities, let us know how they worked out for you in the comments!

Thanks!

-Allen

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is about a boy named Thomas who woke up in an elevator with no memory of his past except that his name is Thomas. When the elevator opens he is greeted by people who also have no memory other than their names. Over time Thomas starts exploring the glade (what they call where they live) which the outside of where they live is the maze which they think is the key to their escape. One day after Thomas arrives this girl named Teresa shows up in the box with a note saying that she was the last one ever. Which puts the group in a panic.

This book is a fantastic read. It keeps the reader engaged the entire book because you never know the twists and turns that will happen on their journey. This book is also the intro to the other 3 books in the series which are also very good books that I highly recommend. Also, I recommend reading the books before watching the movies because I felt more connected to the characters watching the movie after reading the books and also books are usually better than the movie counterparts.

-Howard M.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

What is Modern Family?

Modern Family (season 10) - Wikipedia

I am here to recommend one of my all time favorite television shows to binge. I do know that a lot of good shows never seem to have enough episodes, so this one is a long one, the famous Modern Family. Many people have heard of it but have yet to watch it, and let me tell you it is hilarious. Modern Family ended in 2020 but has 11 seasons for you to watch. This show revolves around 3 different families that are all related. 

The first family is Gloria, Jay, Manny, and Joe Pritchett (Joe is a new addition later on in the show). Jay is an old white man while Gloria is the young Columbian that marries him and brings her son, Manny, from a past marriage. Though many are skeptical about their relationship, they are an amazing couple. Gloria is one of the characters that just make you laugh the entire time. She is full of jokes and is constantly criticizing Jay’s old man habits. 

The second family is Cameron Tucker, Mitchell Pritchett, and their adopted daughter Lily from Vietnam. Mitchel is the son of Jay Pritchett, with Jay’s past wife. This is one of those families that you cannot look away from. Cameron is from a rural town and always finds a way to include his life from the farm into every conversation while exaggerating many events. Mitchell is the put together lawyer that tries to keep him in check. One of my favorite parts of this show is them constantly criticizing others for stereotyping them as a specific type of gay couple while fulfilling half of the stereotyping at the same exact time. 

The last family is Claire, Phil, Haley, Alex, and Luke Dunphy, my personal favorite family. Haley is the typical teen that always wants to go out and part, Alex is your nerdy middle child, and Luke is the young and carefree child constantly getting into trouble. Claire Dunphy is the mother and daughter of Jay, who is a housewife with a strong opinion. Phil Dunphy will most likely be one if not your favorite character in the entire show. He is a real estate agent with a passionate hobby of magic. He always wants to be the “cool dad” who his children see as one of the “boys”. This family is one of those crazy ones with kids running around everywhere and parents who are just as crazy.

Those families sound very different, one of my favorite aspects of this show is how we get to see being brought together during family events. There are many awesome relationships between the uncles and nieces, cousins, etc. We get to see the conflicts between adult siblings and their parents along with how they end up making up with one another. You will definitely get a hoot of this show if you love comedy while following a crazy extended family.

-Lily G.

Authors We Love: Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones was a British novelist and children’s fantasy writer born in London on August 16, 1934 as the eldest of three sisters. In her early childhood, she was evacuated to Wales as a result of the bombings taking place during the Second World War. Throughout the war the family moved frequently before settling in 1943, but the result was a very complicated relationship between her and her parents, as she was largely left to care for her younger sisters. However, this only fueled Jones’s passion for reading despite struggling with dyslexia, and later transformed into a passion for writing as she wrote many short stories for her younger sisters.

She went on to study English at St. Anne’s College in Oxford, attending lectures by two very prominent authors, C.S Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time she graduated from college, she married John Burrow and had three sons with him. She read to her children as many mothers do, but this also inspired her to create Children’s books of her own. Jones submitted her works to several publishers but they were ultimately rejected until she published the Changeover, one of her few adult novels.

Overtime, her most popular works included the Chrestomanci series, the Dalemark series, and especially Howl’s Moving Castle from the Moving Castle Series. Howl’s Moving Castle soon inspired the creation of the 2004 film Howl’s Moving Castle by Studio Ghibli and Japanese director Miyazaki Hayao. She would later go on to write dozens of many more works for both children and adults, along with winning multiple writing awards such as the British Fantasy Award, the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the Mythopoetic Award.

-Elia T.

The works of Diane Wynne Jones are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Extract | The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - Penguin Books Australia

The land that was once the United States of America has been taken over by a totalitarian theocracy known as Gilead. In this new government, society is divided into rigid castes, ranging from the powerful Commanders to the lowly Handmaids, with other classes like the Commanders’ Wives and the working Marthas and Econopeople in between.

With the laws of Gilead being based on select passages from the Bible, women are reduced to almost nothing, and have little to no freedom. For instance, they are not allowed to read or write, they must cover their hair and bodies in order to avoid tempting men to sin, and they cannot even choose who they associate with or marry.

The unfortunate women who are “chosen” to become Handmaids, however, lose even more – their basic right to their own bodies. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, fertile Handmaids are assigned to bear children for elite couples that have trouble conceiving. Despite their importance, the Handmaids are treated as their Commander’s property, only to be seen and not heard.

The narrator, Offred, is among the class of the Handmaids, and she belongs to the man named Commander Fred, as well as his Wife, Serena Joy. Stripped of her name, her body, and her past life, all Offred has left is her voice, which she uses to describe the horrors of Gilead in a way that drives even the most hard-hearted audience to pity. 

Margaret Atwood’s writing skills are brilliant, and she weaves the world of Gilead in a gripping masterpiece that will occasionally cause the reader to be lost inside the dystopian hellscape that is The Handmaid’s Tale. However, the epilogue (which I will not spoil here) leaves a last bit of hope for the reader that will leave them feeling both bitter and optimistic about the future.

-Mahak M.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available for download from Overdrive

What Should Schools Teach?

Education is considered a basic human right in today’s standards. Nearly everybody in today’s America has received at least a high school level education. However, a lot of the stuff people learn in high school ends up not helping them in life. Although it may not seem obvious at first, so much time sitting in class is wasted. 

To start off, so many pieces of information that we learn during our school days are never used. According to studies from Oxford University, the best way for the brain to store information and remember things is through repetition. Specifically, studying a certain thing for 10-15 minutes per day. The thing is, once that certain chapter test or quiz is over, there is no need to keep studying that subject, so we forget it. There is not a single job in the world that requires you to know how to graph logarithmic equations except for two: mathmetician and algebra teacher. So if these two occupations are the only ones that require to learn this skill, then why do schools bother teaching it anyway? Especially considering that students will forget these skills within the next couple of months really questions the importance of learning these in the first place.

So if schools should not teach these subjects, then what should they teach? Well schools do actually do some things right. When schools offer classes like computer science or band, it opens learning opportunities for kids that will actually be useful to them later in life, as there are actual careers based off these classes. However, as these classes may be useful, there are so many other classes that should be offered. One of which is personal management, specifically talking about finance. The way society sees it is that if you have money, you are considered successful. However, so many people waste their potential and hard work through poor financial management and decision making. Another class that schools should offer are social skills. Although schools already do offer some courses similar to this, they usually are optional and do not last longer than a semester. Some scientists on forbes.com have posted that “we share mirror neurons that allow us to match each other’s emotions unconsciously and immediately”. The problem is that so many people today have terrible social skills, either saying the wrong things at the wrong time or just straight up not talking at all. 

Everybody knows that education is one of the most important things in life. However, the important thing is that people need to receive the right education and skillsets.

-Jeremy L.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie.  The hero is the famous detective, Hercule Poirot.  Poirot is described throughout Christie’s novels as a small Belgian man with an egg-shaped head and a distinctive moustache.  The novel is set almost entirely on a train called the Orient Express.  The train was on its way to London, but becomes stuck in the middle of the night due to a snowdrift.  The next morning, a man named Mr. Rachett is found dead in his bed having been stabbed multiple times.  Poirot, intrigued by the mysterious circumstances surrounding this apparent murder, puts the “little grey cells” in his mind to work.  In other words, as he always does, Poirot uses his brain power to solve the case.

One thing I enjoyed about this novel is that we have more suspects than most Poirot stories.  The various personalities made the story quite colorful and entertaining.  Many nationalities are represented, such as American, British, Hungarian, Russian, Swedish and Italian.  One of my favorite suspects is an old woman named Mrs. Hubbard.  She tends to ramble and rattle on about her daughter or anything else that pops into her head.  I found it amusing to read about the passengers’ interactions as they all claimed alibis to absolve themselves of the murder.  The victim seems to have had a very bad reputation, so many suspects might have been motivated to kill him.  This made it very hard to guess which suspect was the actual killer.

This is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books.  There are many characters to keep track of, which makes the story interesting and exciting, but the mystery becomes difficult to figure out.  The ending was quite surprising and different from other Poirot stories that I have read.  Overall, I found this novel to be quite thrilling.  I would also recommend Agatha Christie’s other Poirot books, such as Cards on the Table and The ABC Murders.  Hercule Poirot is one of my favorite characters, and I have enjoyed all of the Poirot mysteries that I have read so far.

-Oliver H.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Most of us are familiar with the monster we’ve labelled as Frankenstein, a green, grotesque creature of Hollywood films. Before reading Mary Shelley’s acclaimed novel for a high school English class, I had similar mental perceptions of the monster (I’d been envisioning the essential, go-to costume for elementary school Monster Mashes for years). After finishing the book, however, I was moved by the complexities of Shelley’s characters, their philosophy, as well as her examination of prominent social and political issues throughout the carefully woven narrative, which are still relevant today.

I’d read Gris Grimley’s Frankenstein before in middle school. Pages of colored artwork and masterful graphic design rendered an excellent adaptation of Shelley’s novel. It provided me the foundations to easily understand the basic plot of Frankenstein, yet I was still skeptic about reading the novel itself. I don’t particularly love Shakespeare or Dickens, with their fanciful ways of speech that can get tiring after a long period of reading, and I feared the same for Shelley’s work. But she was different somehow, her writing distinctively unique; perhaps this was because she was a female amidst a world of male writers, someone who had created such a haunting and gripping story so uncharacteristic of a woman of her time.

The novel centers around a gifted scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who manages to breathe life into his creation, a monstrous being. Instead of a being presented as a gift to humanity, the glorious product of defying even Nature itself, the specimen is a hideous creature that is shunned by society and his creator alike. The narrative is told from various perspectives–explorer Robert Walton’s letters, Frankenstein’s first person narration, the monster’s collection of stories–which I appreciated greatly, because it gave the storyline a certain vivacity, turning it away from the tiresome monotony of the same narrator. As the novel progresses, the monster and his creator enter into a growing spiral of violence and tragedy, and I will say (spoiler alert!) the novel is not exactly a Hallmark movie with a happy ending.

By the time I had finished the book, the ending surprisingly emotional (I had been nonchalant all throughout Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, but this ending really ran me over for good measure…go figure), I continued to mull the story’s events over in my mind. Frankenstein is a philosophical breeding ground–are monsters created or made, a victim of the cruelties of society? What are the ethical implications of science and technology (this one I consider a lot, since we are at a teetering frontier of modern scientific discovery)? Who is the real monster, the creation or its creator?

Even if you aren’t called by philosophy, read Frankenstein for it’s ingenious storyline. I didn’t think I would ever call a book published in 1818 “thrilling,” but I was pleasantly surprised at the wide range of emotions Shelley, and most good writers, can evoke through their stories, her ability to make the reader view society through a new lens. Read it for Shelley’s diction, the way she stirs to life a melancholy madness, the vividness in which she allows us to experience it, as if the character’s lives were our own, and which left me awed. It was a book that stuck with me long after I finished it, a book that I regretted misjudging before I picked it up and read it grudgingly for school, but which took me into the depths of humanity and morality.

-Katharine L.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

TV Show Review: Yu-gi-oh! 5D’s

Yu-gi-oh 5D’s is a remake of the popular children’s show Yu-gi-oh in the early 21st century. The show aired from 2008 to 2011 and has a cumulative 4 seasons. Of all the remakes of the original show, this version is often regarded as the most well built show. The show is widely popular among the younger generations as Yu-gi-oh has been a part of many people’s childhoods.

The show, primarily based on the iconic duels between card monsters, incorporates new game mechanics and gimmicks to keep the show fresh. The show adds shiny, advanced motorcycle technology and sleek character designs that come with such concepts. The monsters and main characters all are well designed and all have redeeming features that attract viewers. Fan favorites such as the main characters Yusei and Akiza are all built on their intriguing background story in addition to the well designed cards they utilize. The characters and character development in this iteration of the show is exceptional compared to previous and latter versions and is something that makes Yu-gi-oh 5D’s stand out. The story is also a boon for the show. While it may not be the greatest story in the world, it is still very good compared to most card game shows and cartoons which make it fun to follow and keeps you invested. Unlike a lot of cartoons, the story is fluent and builds on itself.

5D’s is very well built overall, the animations are not only fluent, but keep the show exciting and nostalgic for many viewers. The duels in this show are always tense and entertaining, showing why the Yu-gi-oh franchise was so popular with younger viewers in the first place. Each duel being well animated, while building lore and story at the same time is somewhat of an anomaly in cartoons and this show is a step above the others in the way the duels are integrated into the world-building. 

My only gripe with the show is that sometimes it can feel like the pace is too slow, but the action in each of those episodes makes up for it. There are rarely any filler episodes, if any, so each episode doesn’t ever feel like a waste of time as they are all important to the overall story. 

Overall, the show is a great watch if you have not seen it and want to watch something with the classic, early decade animation. There are so many interesting characters and relevant, important duels that it is easy to stay invested in the characters and show. I would rate it a 9/10 and encourage others to give it a try!

-Benjamin L.