Movie Review: The Magnificent Seven

magnificent7Today, western cowboy films with their gun slinging and horse riding are largely regarded a past era. Magnificent Seven may just prove otherwise.

I recently had the opportunity to watch this movie in the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood. (If you have a chance I recommending visiting the theater as it is truly “magnificent”) This movie is actually a remake of a 1960 of the same name, which in turn was based off of 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai. 

It is 1879, the mining town of Rose Creek has been taken over by the corrupt Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). He slaughters anyone in his way including Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) husband, who tries to stand up to him. Emma, in part for revenge and in part for justice, sets out with her friend, Teddy Q (Luke Grimes), to find someone to help their town. They meet, Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), a bounty hunter, who agrees to help after knowing Bogue was involved. With Sam’s help, they assemble a crew of men from all parts of life: gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt), sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), knife-wielding assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), skilled tracker Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier) and notorious Mexican outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo). With this rag-tag crew, they will attempt to drive out Bogue and defend Rose Creek.

Overall the can be considered to be average. The storyline does not stick after very long and the main focus of the film seem to be on the fight scenes. I personally felt that Magnificent Seven was underdeveloped in terms of character, but developed the characters enough not to harm the film. There is a large group of main actors and it become very difficult to catch each of their names, but it was help with the characters being very unique in personality. Emma Cullen is a  relatively strong female character, which was refreshing. The main cast was obviously an effort to represent diversity of the film but it lead to some parts of the movie seeming to farfetched.  Cinematography wise, it does feature the classical sweeping landscapes of western films.

This was a one time movie for me. It is great for those who want to see a western film but not so much for me. Note that it has a lot of fighting, and it can go on for a while. This is not recommended for a younger audience. Of course this is only by opinion of the movie, see it for yourself to truly decide.

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

Movie Review: Big Hero 6

Disney_BigHero6_Poster_BaymaxThis past weekend, I got a chance to see Big Hero 6, a Disney movie about a 13 year old robotics prodigy named Hiro, who, after his brother, Tadashi, dies in a freak accident, is left with Tadashi’s health care robot, Baymax. After Hiro’s microbots (little robots) are stolen, and it is discovered that they are being used to do evil, Hiro and Baymax, with the help of Tadashi’s college friends, set out to find the man responsible for Tadashi’s death and the microbots’ evil escapades.

At first, Big Hero 6 may seem like a basic kid’s movie- a battle between good and evil. However, Big Hero 6 carries some more subtle, deeper messages. One of the themes of the movie is the message of the power of friendship. Big Hero 6 shows that by working together, even the biggest of problems can be solved. The movie also leans away from gender bias. Two of Tadashi’s friends are girls, and they are equally important and smart as the boys in the movie. Big Hero 6 also sets up a diverse cast of characters, characters of different races and from different backgrounds.

Big Hero 6 shows that decisions made in the quest for revenge and in anger are never good. When Hiro tries to get revenge from the man who killed Tadashi by taking out Baymax’s health care chip and leaving in his fighting chip, things go wrong. The movie also supports the idea of innovation and robotics, two things that can help society.
The main message in the movie is that those who are loved can always be remembered. When Tadashi dies, Hiro does not think this way. However, Baymax shows him that loved ones can always be remembered. This causes Hiro to think differently about things.

This movie is great for people of all ages, go see it as soon as possible.

Two series of books that I recommend to those who liked this movie:

  • The Moomintroll series, by Tove Jansson. Although these books may be hard to find, the Moomintrolls have the same kind of cuddly appearance and personality as Baymax.
  • Alex Rider series, by Anthony Horowitz. Just like Big Hero 6, these book are packed full of action and adventure.

-Will R., 10th grade

Book vs. Movie: The Giver

giver_bookvmovieThe Giver is an award-winning book written by Lois Lowry about a futuristic dystopian community of “Sameness.” The book was written in 1993 – before the teen dystopian literature era took off so I guess you could say it was before its time in two ways!

Because most middle-schoolers end up reading The Giver as part of their curriculum, I don’t want to go into the novel or movie details. However, I will share that the novel was originally written by Ms. Lowry as a result of realizing her father was losing his memory. This sad, negative situation was developed into imagining a society that had lost its memory; that is, it had no past. Eliminating a “history” means that many ingredients making up that “history” must also be eliminated. The protagonist in The Giver is Jonas, an 11-year old who lives in this resulting community known as “Sameness,” a seemingly utopian society where everything is the same and everything is equal. Jonas, through a developing uniqueness, is able to see past this “sameness” and perceived utopia.

After 18-19 long years of hoping and trying to bring the novel to the big screen, Jeff Bridges, who plays The Giver in the movie, successfully premiered the movie on August 11th and opened it nationwide on August 15th. I have seen it twice: I attended a special showing on premiere night and then saw a regular showing about a week later. I had been anticipating the release of this movie since last August when I first learned that Taylor Swift was going to play a small, but important character role of “Rosemary.”   As a Swiftie and a lover of Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet (of which The Giver is the first novel), my excitement was barely containable!

So because I saw the movie twice within one week, you probably think I LOVED the movie the first time and went back to enjoy it a second time. Not exactly . . .

I was actually disappointed when I saw The Giver movie the first time. I thought the beginning was very rushed. I was annoyed by the changes made in the movie. I sort of expected the movie to be a bit more accurate because I had read they kept writing, discarding, and rewriting the screenplay in those 18 or so years. And I was extremely “let down” that the anticipation of the movie was over.

When I saw it the second time, I went into it expecting to be disappointed again. (I had promised my friend to see it with her.) Surprisingly, I found I liked the movie this time. I really did!! So what changed?

Yes, compared to the book, the beginning is rushed. But you can’t fit a 200+ page book into a two-hour movie. So, I guess I’m okay with that. The “rushed beginning” still set the stage for the movie which was what it needed to do.

As for the changes in the screenplay . . .all the people involved, including Lois Lowry, agreed that the movie stayed true to the book’s storyline. So who am I to get upset with the changes? Yes, the movie is different than the book.   But that’s not necessarily a bad or negative thing.

And as for being “let down” . . . I left the movie the second time feeling more satisfied, happier, seeing the positives more, and appreciating the movie for its differences. I actually LIKE the movie and hope that the other Lois Lowry books in The Giver Quartet also find their way to the big screen!

-Danielle L., 7th grade

Book Review: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

giver_coverAuthor Lois Lowry does an amazing job in the unique, science-fiction novel The Giver. The highly-anticipated movie adaptation just released on August 15. Have you seen it?

In the novel, we are introduced to a boy named Jonas, who lives in a utopian society that has eradicated conflict, poverty, unemployment, divorce, injustice, and inequality. In the annual Ceremony, where every twelve-year-old gets a life assignment prearranged by the Elders, Jonas is selected to inherit the position of “Receiver of Memory.”

When Jonas spends more & more time with the Giver, he learns the power of wisdom. Even though the people in his community have been shielded from life’s many problems, Jonas realizes that they do not know about the things that give life meaning such as sunshine, color, music, and love.

Becoming wiser everyday, Jonas doesn’t want to bear all the memories, both joyful and painful, by himself. He wants to share the many freedoms with his community, even if it means disrupting the safe, current life of innocence and order. Together the Giver and Jonas formulate a plan that will have instant, severe outcome on the entire community, especially on Jonas himself.

Jonas, portrayed by Brenton Thwaites in the movie, is naïve in the story and I like how he matures during the course of the story. One main reason I liked this book is that it is unlike other dystopian novels I have read. The Giver is one of the books that I have read over and over again because it is so well written. This is truly Lois Lowry’s masterpiece and in my opinion she totally deserves the John Newbery Award for it. The ending of The Giver was not the best, but I have not read all the books in the Giver Quartet. It might make more sense in the latter books. I am especially excited to see the movie because I loved the book. It’s been hard waiting for the movie to be released, but I am going to see it for sure.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

Book vs. Movie: Divergent

divergent_bookvsmovieThe night Divergent was released, I was there, excited and anxious with anticipation.. I went in with high expectations, as I have been in love with the book series since it was first released in 2011.

So perhaps it was my unrealistically high expectations of a book that I am thoroughly devoted to and invested in that contributed to the fact that I thought the movie was a big disappointment. People who I have talked to that did not read the book first before watching the movie have told me that they thought it was great, and maybe if I’d never read the books before watching the movie, I would have felt the same way.

Let’s start with how startlingly different it was from the book. I know book to movie adaptions are difficult to accomplish, but in this case it was significantly different. First off, they left out very important scenes from the book- scenes that are pivotal and important for the rest of the series. They also changed scenes– and not little scenes. Major scenes that, too, would affect the whole series.

-Edward. He barely has a presence in the movie (I think his name shows up on the scoreboard for a second?) and there is no book scene where he gets stabbed in the eye by Peter.

-Will and Cristina?!! It hardly shows their relationship, they’re pretty much portrayed just as friends, which is problematic, because in the books, it affects the plot and characters (especially Tris and Christina) in major way.

-There’s no Visiting Day in the movie, and some important information is found out from that scene. In the book, Tris never meets her mom in the shipping yard.

-Rachel L., 10th grade

Saving Mr. Banks: The Making of Mary Poppins

Saving_Mr_Banks_posterI recently saw the Saving Mr. Banks movie and I thought it was fascinating! I feel that what this movie unveils is unprecedented in the multimedia world because it actually takes you into the making of the movie. However, the movie was really more about the author of Mary Poppins, and her struggles in maintaining control over her story in the film making process. I read the original Mary Poppins this past summer, and I was shocked at how different the book is from the Julie Andrew’s nanny figure we all know.

First of all, how does one put music to a book? That is amazing that the Walt Disney musicians could actually make the book into a musical‼ In the movie, P.L. Travers (played in this film by Emma Thompson) explicitly states no singing or dancing in her movie. But by the end of the process, well… let’s just say that she was inspired. You’ll have to watch the movie to see what happens!

The most important part of Mary Poppins is not the Mary Poppins character, however- it’s Mr. Banks, the father of the Banks children whom Mrs. Poppins watches over. The movie really went into the depth of Mrs. Travers’ childhood inspiration. Throughout the movie, Mrs. Travers has flashbacks to her childhood and it is revealed to the viewer the hardships her family underwent. In the current time of the movie- around the 1960s- it was very common for authors to take a pen name, especially ones that did not reveal their gender. P.L. Travers adopted her father’s name as her own because it is obvious that she greatly loved and respected him. During a few flashbacks, her father tells her to never stop dreaming despite her mother’s practicality. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) tries desperately to understand why this woman is so hard to please in the movie room-all of their suggestions fail in the eyes of Mrs. Travers. Towards the end of the movie, Walt shows up at Mrs. Travers’ apartment in England, where he shows her that Mary Poppins is family to him also. He finally connects Mrs. Travers’ father to Mr. Banks and understands why she was having such trouble with their portrayal of him.

I love how Emma Thompson portrays this abrupt, posh English author. She does such a phenomenal job at showing the transition from this uptight woman into a fun, emotional lady at the end of the movie. I can easily connect P.L. Travers to Mary Poppins, because they are both proper, British, and inwardly kind. I really enjoyed the movie and the “behind the scenes” of one of the most classic stories of all time.

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Movie Review: The Hobbit Part 2: The Desolation of Smaug

hobbit_smaug_posterLast month, The Hobbit Part 2: The Desolation of Smaug was released into theaters. The movie was a continuation of An Unexpected Journey and set the stage for the next and final installment of The Hobbit trilogy. Since The Hobbit was such a short book but the film was split into a trilogy, much was added into the film that was not a part of the book.

—Spoilers below!!!—

The movie begins with Thorin sitting in a pub and two bounty hunters attempting to kill him. They are however stopped by the presence of Gandalf. Gandalf convinces Thorin that he can reclaim the mountain but Thorin claims that the only way he can unite his company of dwarves is by regaining the Arkenstone which is guarded amongst others treasures by Smaug, the dragon under the mountain. Thorin and company journey to the mountain, however Gandalf leaves them to attend to more pressing matters. He senses a darkness that he discovers to be the Necromancer. He also finds that Necromancer has been leading the orcs.

Meanwhile, Thorin and company make their way through the Mirkwood forest, where they are captured by giant spiders and later freed by Bilbo. The company is soon captured by elves. Legolas was added to the plot as well as a new elf, Tauriel. Tauriel is a “non-canon” character that is captain of the guard for the palace of Thranduil. It is revealed by Thranduil that Legolas has feelings for Tauriel but he forbids his son to marry someone of her status so he tells her to discourage his feelings for her. It is also revealed that Kili, the dwarf, falls for Tauriel.

Bilbo avoids capture with aid of the ring and frees Thorin and company. They escape the palace in barrels but Kili is shot in the leg by an orc and is badly injured for the rest of the movie. Legolas and Tauriel leave the place to pursue the orcs. Once out of the palace grounds, Thorin and company seek assistance from Bard, another “non-canon” character who is a resident from Laketown and a descendent to the bowman that tried to take down Smaug long ago. Bard takes them to Laketown to get weapons and restore themselves in order to continue their journey. The dwarves promise to share the riches of the mountain with the residents of Laketown and they leave to get them. Kili is left behind because his injury is too deliberating and Fili and Bofur stay behind as well.

Tauriel and Legolas reach Laketown just in time to save the town from orcs but Tauriel stays behind to heal Kili. Thorin and company finally reach the mountain and Bilbo is sent to reclaim the Arkenstone. Biblo retrieves the Arkenstone but does not tell Thorin out of fear of his corruption. They try and kill Smaug by drowning him in melted gold but he escapes and the movie ends with Smaug going to seek revenge on Laketown.