My Favorite Christmas Movies

Watching Christmas movies bundled up in fuzzy blankets is one of my favorite winter break traditions. There are always a few Christmas movies that my family and I watch every year, and I thought it would be fun to share them. Here are my favorite family friendly Christmas movies:

The Muppet Christmas Carol. While this movie sounds silly and even childish, I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite Christmas movies of all time. The Muppet Christmas Carol portrays the characters of Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ in a fun way that I’ve never seen before.

Elf. I feel like every Christmas lover has already seen this movie, but if you haven’t, I would definitely recommend it. It’s such a fun movie with so much energy, and it satisfies my aggressive kid urges every time I see it. When I saw Buddy the Elf eat his spaghetti with maple syrup, let me tell you, it changed my life.

8-Bit Christmas. This movie actually came out relatively recently, but my family and I have seen it at least five times. It gets a laugh out of me every time, too! This movie is very reminiscent of the 1980’s movie, ‘A Christmas Story Christmas’, although in my opinion, better.

I hope you’ll like these movies, if you haven’t already seen them, and if you have any Christmas movies you want to share, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

The Muppet Christmas Carol and Elf are available to check out from the Mission Viejo Library.

Top Gun: Maverick Movie Review

Top Gun: Maverick, the long awaited sequel to the legendary Top Gun movie, has finally debuted after 30 years. Top Gun: Maverick once again stars Tom Cruise as Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, set 30 years after the first Top Gun movie. Top Gun: Maverick was extraordinary and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. I wasn’t exactly super attached to the first Top Gun movie, but  was encouraged by my family to see Top Gun: Maverick with them. I had watched it a day after the opening of the movie, not really knowing what to expect, but after watching the movie, it blew any expectations I had out of the water. The cast was full of great picks and the characters made an impact. The story had my attention immediately and never once lost me. I stayed attentive throughout the whole thing and couldn’t turn away easily. 

Top Gun: Maverick first introduces us to Captain Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, who has now been flying and serving in the Navy for more than 30 years now, and is called back to United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, or better known as Top Gun. Maverick is asked to become an instructor for a group of Top Gun graduates to get them ready to go on a near impossible mission, which makes everyone wonder if anyone would even make it out alive. As the pilots train for the mission, Maverick rebuilds his relationships, and learns to accept the past by overcoming his fears. He does whatever is in his power to make sure that this mission and everyone’s life doesn’t blow up into smoke.

Top Gun: Maverick included something that I had never felt in a movie before. The suspense had my heart pounding in my chest, my mind unable to tell what would be coming next. Even the minor plot twists would either give me stress or relief. I felt incredibly attached to the characters and I felt as if I really knew them. Every second of the film is essential to the plot or to Maverick’s character, and it doesn’t ever feel as if there is a filler scene. Even if there had been a filler scene, it was filled with entertainment, leaving me in no way bored. There was tension and suspense, but there were also heartwarming times, heartbreaking times, and witty, humorous moments scattered throughout the film which developed the plot and developed the characters. 

Each character had their own special quality, whether it being timid, arrogant, confident, or funny, these are all qualities that can be found within each of the characters, old and new. Despite there being only two of the past characters, Maverick and Iceman (Yes, it’s really Val Kilmer!), they still hold their previous character’s charm and personality within them. The new characters are definitely not a let down, and are actually pretty interesting characters. I do, however, wish that we had more time to spend with each character and to learn about each of them a bit more. I would’ve liked a bit more insight with each character such as, who they are, relationships with each other and each of their backstories; just to fill in some plot points that I feel were missed.

I hadn’t been a huge Top Gun fan before this movie came out, but now you can definitely count me in when it comes to Top Gun. If I ever get to, I’d watch the original and sequel back to back just to get the full experience and to appreciate it even more. There are a couple of call backs from the first Top Gun movie so if you were thinking of seeing Top Gun: Maverick, I’d definitely recommend watching the first Top Gun movie to get the full experience. Top Gun: Maverick easily won a spot in my heart, making it an unforgettable movie for me, also placing the entire franchise in general on a higher pedestal than I had it on before. If you ever have the chance to see Top Gun: Maverick, I’d highly recommend that you do. It is an amazing movie, with amazing people in it, and I couldn’t be happier to have watched it. 

-Nicole R.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Movie Review

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has been out for a long time, but I wasn’t too interested in checking it out. Don’t get me wrong, it looked like a great movie, I just wasn’t interested in watching movies at the time. One day, my parents put it on and I decided to sit down and watch it. When I sat down to watch, I didn’t know what I was expecting. Marvel movies always have a way of surprising me. I usually have no idea what I’m in for when I start a Marvel movie. This time, Marvel introduced a completely new character to me. I had never seen or heard the name of Shang-Chi (despite him being in the Marvel comics), and I had no idea what the ten rings were. Despite these factors, I had a good time watching the movie.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings follows the story of Shaun. Shaun is a seemingly normal individual; he works as a valet driver with his best friend, Katy. Stuck in their teenage delusions, they continue to live their life normally, until a group of shady individuals attack them both on their bus to work. Shaun figures out that these individuals are a part of his father’s group, the Ten Rings, and he makes it his mission to go find his sister. In hopes to find and help his sister, Shaun and Katy go to China, only to get himself and Katy into more trouble. Him, Katy, and his sister have to deal with larger problems than just Shaun’s father’s organization, and along the way, they uncover more secrets. 

In the end, Shang-Chi was a great movie. I had a lot of fun while watching it; the action scenes were wonderful and well done, and there were times where they gave me a good laugh. Like most marvel movies, the music completely enhanced the scenes and made the action so much better. I enjoyed how fast paced the movie felt, and even by the end, I wanted more. The movie felt short, despite it being over two hours long. The fight scenes had remarkable choreography and had a great sense of timing. It didn’t feel too fast that I couldn’t understand what was happening, but it wasn’t too slow that it felt boring. The slow downs within the fights were a nice touch and gave me a little more time to breathe. However, I did feel as if there was more action than dialogue. Most of the dialogue was needed for the story to continue, and somewhat impactful. The dialogue was mostly to show who the characters were and to move the story. Every now and then, there would be some quips, and some small jokes that I would chuckle at, but overall, I felt as if there was more action than dialogue. But considering it’s a superhero action movie, it would make sense.

Although not knowing anything going into the movie, I found Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings to be a great movie and I am quite excited to see these characters in future Marvel movies. I can’t wait until they interact with more characters from the Marvel universe, and to see what other problems they encounter. This movie is definitely a fun one to watch and I would recommend it to people who enjoy action and to even just try it if you don’t.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Thor: Love and Thunder

In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela destroys Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. During Avengers: Infinity War, Thor creates a new weapon: Stormbreaker. Eventually, Jane Foster, Thor’s ex-girlfriend, develops cancer. While attempting to create a cure for herself, she discovers she is worthy of wielding Mjolnir. Thor is off-planet helping the Guardians of the Galaxy to fight other villains across the galaxy. One of these, Gorr, is plotting to kill every god, as he believes they are all selfish and do not deserve to live. He decides to set a trap for Thor in New Asgard, hoping to lure Thor to his own death. Jane also shows up wielding a (mostly) repaired Mjolnir and fights against Gorr with Valkyrie and Thor. It is soon revealed that every time Jane uses Mjolnir, her cancer treatments are reversed. In other words, the more Jane uses Mjolnir, the more likely she is to die. Despite this, Jane hides it from Thor and joins him in his battles against Gorr. 

Meanwhile, Gorr is trying to get to Eternity at the very center of the universe. According to a legend, the first one to find Eternity will have one wish granted to them. Knowing what could happen if Gorr gets to Eternity first, Thor, Jane, and Valkyrie are in a race against Gorr to get to Eternity first and ensure Gorr does not.

Overall, there was a lot more humor in this movie compared to other Marvel movies. I felt that this made the movie more entertaining to watch, but also subtracted a little bit from the more serious scenes at some points during the movie.

– Peri A.

Movie Review: Minions: The Rise of Gru

Are you looking for a fun activity to do with friends or family before everyone heads back to school?  If you want a fun, comical and entertaining movie to watch together, look no further than Minions: The Rise of Gru. Released on July 1, 2022 by Illumination and Universal Pictures this animated movie is sure to put a smile on your face. This new prequel sequel to the Despicable Me franchise, “Minions 2” tells the story of Gru growing up in the 1970s. Kevin, Stuart and Bob are all back with their new “boss” eleven year old Gru. Added to the bunch is Otto, a new minion. Having always admired the “Vicious 6” a group of dangerous criminals and the world’s greatest super villains, Gru is excited to get to interview to become one of them and the chaos ensues.

Typical of what you’d expect from a Minion movie, mayhem and destruction, explosions, fights and battles take place during the approximately 90 minute movie. This issue of the franchise was particularly amusing as Gru is kidnapped and taken to San Francisco where a group of minions travel to rescue Gru.  You will see places you may have visited like Chinatown in true to life animation. Without revealing too much of the storyline, you can assume much of the movie revolves around comical criminal activity and hysterical animation including seeing the backside of minions with and without their trunks on. Rated PG for action/violence and rude humor, this is an animated movie that is fairly family friendly if only for a few crude jokes and animated bombings and similar. I’d recommend it to all of my family and friends looking for some lighthearted fun where you can laugh your worries away whether you are 1 or 101.

Horror Movie Recommendations

The best holiday of the year is coming up at the moment: Halloween. Apart from getting candy, the thrill this holiday brings, either from getting scared or scaring other people, excites many like me. But nothing gives me more joy than watching scary movies during this time of year and if you are a lover of getting scared, these movies are what I recommend!

Sinister (2012): A man who writers true crime wishes to discern how an entire family was murdered in their house. He moves into that house (you can tell he isn’t very smart) and immediately starts to solve the mystery. However, when it becomes apparent that a monster of some sort lives in the house and starts to target him and his family, he realizes his fatal mistake. I found this movie very engaging when I first watched it and at the times when the paranormal force striked, I felt myself unnerved and looking away at some parts. The plot twist at the end will always amaze me and I now try to decipher clues hinting to that end.

Sinister is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Insidious (2010): The house of an ordinary family shows signs of being haunted when the son of the family falls into a coma. They hire a person who tells them that evil spirits from another world is using the son’s unconscious body to venture the living world. This horror movie was less scary than the others I have watched but it still entertained me with its random twists and turns. I have watched all of the movies in these series and love all of the movies, which is rare for me as a tough critic of horror movies.

It (2017): The story starts when the main character’s brother goes missing and is presumably dead. The main character and 6 high schoolers also fall victim to the cause of the missing brother: a clown who lives in a sewer and unleashes evil in the small town of Derry every 27 years. They must work together and learn to defeat their fears to take on the clown who calls himself Pennywise. I only advocate for the first movie of It and not the second one (I DO NOT like the second one at all). The first movie of IT terrified at 13 years old with some of the scenes they displayed and the reality of this movie. There were many times where I got so scared that I screamed because the jumpscares in this movie were amazing. Afterwards, I thought about how funny Pennywise was but during the movie, I was so engrossed that I got scared of looking at him.

IT is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Conjuring (2013): When a family moves into this haunted house, they call on the expert opinions of two private investigators: a man who is married to a woman who can detect supernatural activity whenever she is near to it. At first, the parents didn’t see any substance in their daughters’ worries about the house but as soon as some things escalate, they feel the need to call for someone’s help. The random appearances of Annabelle throughout this movie terrified me greatly as I am deathly afraid of her appearance. This was the first movie that I watched where I actually got scared, unlike some of the horror movies on Netflix. And knowing that it is a true story really got into my nerves.

These movies are really popular and most people probably already watched them but I still find them amazing and for those who haven’t watched it, I feel like you should give them a watch!

Rise of Gru Movie

Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, and Despicable Me 3 all follow similar storylines where the main character Gru and his minions fight other super-villains, whether it’s for the safety of the world or for selfish reasons. However, in the newly released movie Minions: The Rise of Gru, there’s a different plot where 11-year-old Gru is trying to prove that he can be a successful supervillain. After being rejected by the Vicious Six villain group, Gru steals their most valuable treasure and becomes their target. When an independent supervillain, Wild Knuckles, finds out about Gru and his robbery, he kidnaps him with the hope that Gru’s minions will pay him the ransom of the special jewel, which is also the treasure Gru stole. 

This movie was, and probably will be for a very long time, the funniest movie I have ever seen. Having the minions in the movie already guarantees some high-level comedy, but the way the movie was planned to include silliness every few minutes constantly kept me laughing! 

Not only was this movie hilarious, but it was also a great movie in general. There were numerous plot twists, but also some sad moments, which were followed by humorous ones. In this movie, Gru, despite being a youngster, showed his potential to be an incredible super-villain (which he eventually achieved in Despicable Me). Also, after partnering with Wild Knuckles, Gru learns how to be a true villain and discovers his aspirations for his career. 

I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoyed the Despicable Me series. However, you don’t need to have watched the previous Minions movies to enjoy this movie. If you like to laugh, I suggest you give this movie a try! You won’t be disappointed!

Film Review: The 33

The 33 is a movie based on a true story about an event that happened on August 5th, 2010. On this day, 33 miners got trapped under diorite. They were working in the San Jose gold and copper mine when the collapse occurred.

When the mine collapsed, the miners were forced to go to the refuge of 50 square meters of space. They had to survive on 3 days’ supply of food.

They were trapped in the refuge for 69 days. The Chilean Government sent ministers to help with the rescue. Many different companies, including NASA, helped with the rescue. The movie was very moving because it showed a group of everyday average people overcoming hardships. They came together and helped each other through the 69 days of pure fear and despair.

Citations:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Copiap%C3%B3_mining_accident

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-11170852#florencio-avalos

-Ella Y.

The 33 is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Cruella: Movie Review

I ended up watching Cruella when my Mom told me to get off my phone and watch a movie instead. We ended up finding Cruella and watching it. To those who don’t know, Cruella is Cruella deVille’s backstory and there were a couple of unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming. Cruella deVille was originally just a part of Disney’s 101 Dalmations and acted as the villain for the movie. But since Cruella deVille became a pretty well known Disney villain, I can see why they made a whole movie dedicated to her. 

Cruella starts off in 1970’s London and follows a young girl called Cruella, or better known in the beginning of the movie as Estella, who has always been a bit different than the other kids. Never following rules, getting into trouble, always curious, but was definitely creative. But when the saying ‘curiosity kills the cat’ actually comes to mess up Estella’s life the repercussions leave Estella homeless, orphaned, and alone. Until she meets two boys, Jasper and Horace, and soon finds a new family among them. They turn into a band of thieves but of course, it was never the life they wanted; especially Estella. Estella had always wanted to become a fashion designer and when Jasper and Horace help make that happen, she is thrilled. But her new job ends up in twists and turns making the movie exciting. 

I enjoyed this movie and was thoroughly entertained. This movie is definitely not the best example for kids to act but it is definitely enjoyable and a movie for the whole family to watch. I’m sure everyone can enjoy a little Disney every once in a while, even more so now since it’s starring a villain instead of a princess. Movies starring villains are usually pretty different from what Disney’s usual theme is. This movie is definitely a lot darker than some other Disney movies but enjoyable nonetheless. 

For a Disney movie, I haven’t heard much talk about the movie. Cruella first came out May 28, 2021 and I haven’t heard too much about it even though it is a pretty good movie. Cruella, with 74% rating on rotten tomatoes, is a great movie that many are sure to enjoy. I would definitely recommend this movie for anyone wanting something to watch. Now streaming on Disney+, you can go watch it now. 

-Nicole R.

Film Review: Whisper of the Heart

Now that the school year is starting, I thought this would be the best time to write about a movie that relates to many students, specifically high schoolers such as myself. As a sophomore, I’m already beginning to think about what universities I should attend, what career I should have for the rest of my life, and how I’m able to achieve any of these goals in the first place. The main character in the film, Whisper of the Heart, faces many of these “coming-of-age” challenges as well. In another masterpiece created by the Studio Ghibli franchise, viewers are taken on a journey that—quite frankly—they never thought they needed.

The movie introduces the main character, Shizuku Tsukishima, who has a passion for stories and writing. After discovering that her library books have all been previously checked out by one person, she meets Seiji Amasawa, a boy whom she finds annoying but is also the mystery student from the library. As they grow closer, Seiji explains to Shizuku his dream in becoming a professional violin maker in Italy. This makes Shizuku question her future path in life—or lack thereof. By using her love for writing, she creates a novel about a cat named Baron, inspired by a cat statue owned by Seiji’s grandfather. Seiji and Shizuku fall in love, but Seiji is given the opportunity to pursue his dream and has to leave Shizuku. However, Seiji surprises Shizuku early the next morning and takes her to see the sunrise. The boy promises to wait for her and reunite once they both achieve their dreams.

I’ll always applaud Studio Ghibli for being able to create such breathtaking imagery, albeit there’s a message far beyond the surface of this film that requires deeper analysis and understanding. The director of this movie, Yoshifumi Kondō, creates a balance between dreams and reality. Seiji’s dream forces Shizuku to realize that he’s moving forward with his life, whereas Shizuku is receding into her childhood self. Throughout the film, Shizuku constantly prioritizes her novels first because they help her escape the burdens of our world, but this proves consequential when she begins to fall behind on classes and relationships. While the director reminds us that making sacrifices is a part of growing older, he also shows how important it is to create our own path in life. As a result, Shizuku is able to intertwine her childhood into her future path by becoming a writer, regardless of how difficult it may be.

Typically, I’m not the type of person who enjoys romance or dramas, especially movies as cliché as this one. On the other hand, this movie is possibly one of the greatest romance movies I’ve ever seen because it genuinely relates to me from a high schooler’s perspective. The end of Whisper of the Heart is open-ended, leaving many viewers wondering if the two protagonists ever achieve their dreams. We can only assume, but our assumptions will determine our sense of the world.

– Natisha P.