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.

Movie Review: Les Miserables

Les Misérables (2012 film) - Wikipedia

So, I finally got around to watching arguably one of the most iconic films of all time- Les Miserables, about France in the 1800s. The film opens with Jean Valjean, a prisoner, being released from prison after a nearly 20-year long imprisonment simply for stealing bread. As a former convict, he cannot find a job or a place to stay, but a generous Bishop offers to take him in. However, Valjean tries to steal the Bishop’s silverware and run away, but is caught by the police- still, the Bishop stands up for him, saying that he himself gave Valjean the silver so he could start a new life in the world. Valjean is stunned and ashamed- to honor the Bishop, he makes himself a new persona to save other people.

Almost ten years later, Valjean is a rich factory owner- but he is shocked when a man named Javert (formerly a prison guard at the prison where Valjean was held) comes to meet Valjean as the new police chief. Javert begins to suspect Valjean’s real identity. Concurrently, one of the factory workers named Fantine is fired for having a daughter out of wedlock, named Cosette. Cosette is revealed to be living with a greedy family named the Thenardiers, who demand money from Fantine. Fantine, desperate, becomes a prostitute to pay her debts. After she attacks an abusive customer, Javert arrests her, but Valjean remembers her as a factory worker and takes her to a doctor. However, the unrest in Paris has festered for too long- things are about to get, for lack of a better term, heated.

Les Miserables takes place during the French Revolution. The movie is set amongst many historical landmarks in Paris- such as Notre Dame. The time period shines through- the deep social divides and political unrest of the Revolution bleed through and impact all the characters in different ways. 

A big social issue in the film was the issue of poverty and criminality. Deep social and class divides between the rich and poor were very common at this time, leading to deep feelings of unrest in the country. In addition, even stealing was treated as a serious offense- leading to decade-long prison sentences and sometimes even execution. In turn, the imprisoned people were unable to provide for their families- which just reinforced the cycle of poverty and forced their children into stealing in order to survive.

A big social issue mentioned in the film was Cosette living with the Thenardiers. One might ask, why would Fantine send Cosette away? The truth is, it was very common in this time period for working-class women to send their daughters away to live with slightly better-off individuals who could provide the child with some education (for a fee).

There were many cultural differences shown in this movie I wasn’t aware of- for example, the practice of sending daughters away. In addition, I was unaware of the practice of the police dealing with the revolters in those days- I had no idea it was so brutal. I was also surprised by the truly horrible living conditions of the poor shown in the movie- I really had no clue they were that bad. 

The issues this film deals with- poverty, criminality, and doing anything to survive- are definitely universal, and prominent even today, and even in the United States- with the wage gap and class gap that we are currently experiencing in our society. It was heartwarming, though, to see the sense of community, love, and kindness shown by Valjean, even in this brutal situation.

-Vaidehi B.

Les Miserables is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

The Life Aquatic & Learning to Live with Sadness

The Life Aquatic (2004) | Life aquatic, Steve zissou, Zissou

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is one of my favorite Wes Anderson films. Its plot—combined with its direction, soundtrack, and cast—makes the film stand out against most of the films I’ve watched before. It centers around the themes of familial love as well as sadness, letting go of your past, and looking to the future. 

The story follows Steve Zissou, an oceanographer and filmmaker, on a mission to kill a shark—specifically a “jaguar” shark (which he coined himself)—that ate his best friend and partner, Esteban. He’s pretty washed up, with his funds for his films low—due to how badly his films were doing. He’s out to kill this shark solely for revenge, and he says he’ll do whatever it takes to get justice for his friend. Zissou is accompanied by his friends—the crew of his ship, the Belafonte. There’s one special member, though—and it’s what sets the film into motion. 

Irony, Control, and Distance in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou –  Offscreen

That special member is Ned Plimpton, a polite, young man who came to Zissou during the premiere of his latest film. Ned claims to be Zissou’s son, the child of Catherine Plimpton, a woman Zissou remembered and supposedly had an affair with. At first, Zissou doubts this—because both of them aren’t really sure. It’s only when Ned is invited to stay at Zissou’s island and headquarters, and Zissou wakes him up in the middle of the night to film some “jellyfish” on the shore. Standing there, with his boom microphone—Ned adlibs along with Zissou. Though it’s awkward, Zissou figures out that a narrative between him and Ned could make his next film—and mission—successful. He hires Ned right there, and Ned joins the crew. 

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review

I won’t be discussing the film in its entirety, but what I found very compelling about the film was how it handled the themes of familial love—specifically paternal love. 

Ned and Steve are awkward together. The two of them tiptoe around the fact that Steve might or might not be his real father. They avoid even breaching the topic. But, when they do, Steve confesses that he never wanted to be a father, right in front of Ned. After that, they don’t talk about their relationship with one another. 

During this, Steve is also still weighed down by the grief of losing his best friend. He’s mourning him, and his anger is what drives him throughout the entire film. Most of the crew is telling him not to do it, not to kill the shark—or that the shark didn’t even exist. Even so, Steve still pushes on—through bad weather, a pirate attack, and even a kidnapping of one of his crew members. They go through a lot, just trying to find this shark. 

The most devastating part of the film happens next. The crew finally gets the shark on their radar, and they realize they’re only a few miles away. A helicopter ride. So, Steve and Ned—a pilot—climb into the Belafonte’s worn out helicopter and fly away. On the ride, Steve and Ned talk about a letter Ned sent to Steve when he was younger. He admired Steve, and admitted that he wanted to be an oceanographer when he grew up. Turns out, Steve had kept the letter all these years, and he pulls it out to show it to Ned. This connection shows that the two of them, especially Steve, care for each other—and that Steve was ready to become a father to Ned. 

YARN | "Thank you for your good work. Sincerely, Ned Plimpton, | The Life  Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) | Video clips by quotes | 00cb57e4 | 紗

But, due to the helicopter being worn down and broken—they end up crashing into the water, just where the shark was. And although Steve is fine, Ned… wasn’t. The most interesting thing about this scene is that it’s framed to look like a shark attack—with Ned hanging onto a floating piece of debris, and red filling the water around them. Almost exactly the way Steve lost Esteban. (It’s later revealed that Steve was infertile. He couldn’t have children.) 

From Failed Parenting to Reunion: Analyzing the Impact of Dysfunctional  Families in Wes Anderson Films | by Joseph Massaro | Medium

Eventually, though, Steve and the crew are able to get into a submarine and see the shark up close. It’s my favorite, and most beautiful part of the film. The shark is swimming around them, glittering and beautiful, capturing the eyes of all the crew members—shocked that the shark was actually real. In the center of the frame is Steve, quietly reflecting on the events that had happened leading up to this moment—the moment where he’s “supposed” to kill the shark. 

Instead, when asked if he still wants to kill the shark—Steve shakes his head, claiming they ran out of dynamite anyway. He tears up, and he asks, “I wonder if he still remembers me.” The whole crew then puts their arms on Steve, holding him as he cries, the shark still circling around. 

The Life Aquatic might not be Wes Anderson's best film. But it is his  greatest. - Vox

I believe that the shark represents sadness. Something that is looming, circling, engulfing us. And when it attacks, there’s no stopping it. Steve has been going through this ever since Esteban died. His sadness and his grief engulfs him, consumes him, to the point where it causes the death of someone else close to him. It’s destructive, not only to others, but to himself. In an effort to find peace, Steve sets out to kill the shark—or, his sadness. He goes through so much, just to get rid of it. 

In the end, when faced with it—when faced with his grief and he’s given the chance to finally kill it, he turns it down. He looks right into its eyes and says, “I wonder if he remembers me.” This is when Steve learns that sadness cannot be killed. It cannot be obliterated. Sadness can only be lived with, and that’s something we need to learn. It’s what comes with life. But what we can do is have others who support us and love us anyway. This is represented by his crew—his family—putting his arms around him and holding him as he cries. Even though his grief was engulfing, drowning him, the people who loved him and who he loved in return—were still there every step of the way. 

Their film ends up getting produced, and receives lots of support. They’ve dedicated it to Ned.

The ending credits of the film leave a bittersweet feeling in your stomach. As the crew is walking down the pier, Buckaroo Banzai credits style, in the background you can see the Belafonte. It’s ready for their new adventure. And there, at the very top—with his signature pilot’s uniform and spyglass, stands Ned—guiding Steve and his crew, onward towards the future. 

Steve Zissou » BAMF Style

– Claire C.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is available for checkout as a DVD or Blu-Ray at the Mission Viejo Library.

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.

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.

Movie Review: Knives Out

Boy, oh boy, was this a good movie. I wanted to wait until the official end of awards season to write this review, so I could add in any awards it won or was nominated for. It didn’t win any, but I think it deserved far more.

If you weren’t already aware, Knives Out is something of a whodunit film, with innumerable red herrings and so many (and I mean SO many) twists. Due to the mysterious nature of the film, I’m going to refrain from revealing too much of the plot. Plus, the point of this review is to entice you just enough to go see it yourself and spoiling the movie would spoil the effect of that enticement.

So basically, the movie is centered around this extremely wealthy family, and all their wealth comes from their patriarch, mystery author, and owner of a successful publishing company Harlan Thrombey. The morning after his 85th birthday, Harlan is found in his study with a slit throat, and police deem it a suicide; however, an anonymous party calls Benoit Blanc, a renowned private detective, to the scene because they suspect foul play. There definitely was foul play at hand, but the viewer finds that every member of Harlan’s family had a strained relation with him, and so they all had a theoretical motive.

The movie follows Blanc through his case with subplots surrounding Marta, who was Harlan Thrombey’s caretaker. The viewer has no idea what could possibly happen next, right up to the very last scene. The plots take riveting and unexpected turns, and the whole movie is the best kind of roller coaster. I won’t give any explicit spoilers, but the ending of the movie was absolute gold and gave me almost complete close (I am holding out for a sequel!) If you are looking for a movie that will have you glued to your seat and pondering for hours afterward, or even just something to watch on family movie night, Knives Out is definitely a contender.

-Arushi S. 

Knives Out is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Film Review: Little Children by Todd Field

Little Children | Full Movie | Movies Anywhere

“Little Children” is a romantic film produced by New Line Films. Directed by Todd Field and starring Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson, it was released in the US on November 3, 2006. The story takes place in a small wealthy community in a small town in Massachusetts. The camera starts with the chatter of four young mothers sitting together. Compared with the other three women, who are all croaking and chattering, Sarah Pierce appears to be much more quiet. She looks at her daughter and seems to be lost in deep thought. Then came a dashing young father, Brad Adamson, famous among young mothers.

Sarah bet with three other female friends that she can get Brad’s phone number, and then Sarah not only gets Brad’s phone number, but also forcefully kisses him. It was this kiss that brought two unrelated people together so quickly and so closely. Gradually, Sarah and Brad’s dissatisfaction with their shallow lives begins to surface. Once a graduate student majoring in English and American literature and an activist for gender equality at her university, Sarah now sadly finds herself a worthless housewife. When she found her husband Robert was addicted to internet porn, she felt more gloomy and hopeless.

Brad was a policeman but also feels depressed because of his wife Kathy. Kathy forced Brad to continue his education, but instead of spending his evenings in the library, he spent playing soccer with his former cop buddy Larry. So, they found an excuse to meet again and again, in the hot summer, after they and their children spent countless peaceful afternoons together, finally surrendered to desire. On the other hand, the town’s apparent calmness has been shaken by the emergence of Ronnie James McGoway, a former child molestation prisoner. All the mothers in the community are up against each other, and the real conflict erupts when Sarah and Brad innocently invite Robert and Kathy to have a family dinner.

At the dinner table, Sarah slips up and Kathy confirms what she has long suspected about her husband’s infidelity. Chaos has officially descended on the small, already sweltering town. “Little Children” is not so much a complex love-hate drama between two couples in a languid marriage as a concrete insight into the lives of ordinary people. Director Todd Field keeps a cool, compassionate eye on the crowd as it spins out of control through heart-stopping choices. And the visual enjoyment presented by the picture and the moving mirror is so beautiful in the tragic style that it makes people confused and moved.

The film does a good job of capturing the essence of the original, blending satire with a sensitive and slightly neurotic portrayal of love. The film is animated by the group performances of its four main characters, Kate Winslet, Jackie Earle Haley, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly. The plot of the film is more appealing than the narration, and it deeply expresses the struggle and search, insecurity and anxiety of the middle class in the face of the ideal and reality. “Little Children” is an interesting film, even drawing on Hitchcock’s thriller elements. The actors in this film make this film funny, sexy and sad.

Film Review: A Room with a View

In the England of Victorian times, the upper class teenager Lucy and her cousin Charlotte go to Italian Florence to go vacationing together, encounter English youth George and his father living together in a hotel. Lucy was so upset that she couldn’t see the view from her room that George’s father gave up his room to Lucy. Lucy and George are falling in love. But George, who came from a laboring family, was a straightforward man, and his manners did not fit in with the high-class bureaucracy to which Lucy was accustomed. Inhibited Charlotte was also very uncomfortable with George. On one occasion, George could not help kissing Lucy, which was considered deviant behavior in Britain in the last century. Lucy thinks George’s behavior is not proper and returns to England without him.

After returning home, Lucy is engaged to Vyse, a musician. Vyse is empty on the inside and obsessed with external etiquette. Lucy, however, felt in him the hypocrisy of the pomp and ceremony which might have been just what Lucy’s family wanted, and began to miss George’s little brash, unceremonious, but youthful passion. When George returns to England, the two meet again. But Lucy is still stuck in a hypocritical and a primly way of telling whether she accepts George’s love or not. George had no choice but to go away sadly. After several twists and turns, Lucy’s cousin Charlotte saw that George was a little bold, but he really loved Lucy, so she secretly arranged George’s father to inspire Lucy, so that Lucy finally abandoned the shackles of etiquette, to find her beloved man.

In the movie A Room with A View, the control and oppression of men and the impulse to pursue happiness and love make Lucy finally begins to awaken her self-consciousness. As a woman living in a traditional male-dominated society in Britain, it is impossible to say that her ideas have not been affected by the real society at all. Fierce arguments inevitably followed her life. But, remarkably, Lucy was not assimilated into the way that her mother and Miss Bartley had been. As described later in the film, when she played the piano, she entered the real world. In that world, she was her own master, she was responsible for her actions, she didn’t have to depend on men to live, and she did the unusual things she wanted to do. A Room with A View belongs to the so-called literary heritage genre, which refers to the period blockbusters that were popular in Europe and the United States in the 1980s and 1990s.

These films are usually adapted from famous literary works, and tend to be classical in aesthetics. They are usually performed by numerous international movie stars, and have high artistic value. At the same time, this kind of films prefers the long town head and depth of field shots, the film is often interspersed with beautiful symphony and elegant natural and cultural scenery. The film gives priority to with downy tonal, dim yellow, sky blue, pure white, light gray foil give a warm, detailed atmosphere, providing a kind of proper ground color for rendering a wonderful cherishing story. The audience unconsciously relaxes and revels in the delicate and elegant rococo environment. At the same time, the soft and fresh colors echo the theme of love in the film.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu

Although this movie released in May, I didn’t see it in theaters because the feedback wasn’t all that stellar. In fact, I only got around to watching it today, and only because my sister called in a favor I owed her.

Despite the mostly-negative feedback, I was kind of excited to watch it, since I’m a fan of Ryan Reynolds. I don’t know much about Pokemon, I must admit, and I have never played any form of it. All I know is the theme song and a couple of characters. However, even with my very limited knowledge, the movie was great.

It was a little confusing, and had a couple of plot holes, but nothing that couldn’t be ignored. Although it was not an Oscar-worthy piece of art, and the predictable plot and less-than-perfect CGI were questionable, I enjoyed it, and so did the rest of my family. It was funny and lighthearted, perfect for a family movie night of a laid-back night with friends.

The characters were dynamic, and the plot was cute, and predictable to a certain extent. Or maybe I’m just spoiled by the horrible plot twists gifted to viewers by Marvel. Either way, the movie managed to make it onto my good list despite a few flaws. If you are looking for an airy and light film to watch with a family of friends, or both, this may be it for you. It’s funny, dynamic, and has a really happy ending.

-Arushi S.