Category Archives: entertainment

The Hate U Give offers powerful, relevant message about police violence

Police violence against African-Americans is a hotly debated and controversial topic in the United States. George Tillman Jr.’s movie The Hate U Give, based on the bestselling book, tackles that issue head on. It has been a good year for films that garner a political message with movies like BlacKkKlansman, and this is another worthy addition to the genre.

On the surface, it seems like just another teen drama with a slight twist to it: one that panders to teenagers to make box office money. This could not be farther from the truth. The Hate U Give centers around Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg), a teenage girl who witnesses the shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer when they were pulled over just for switching lanes without a signal. This causes contention around the community, similar to what occurred in Ferguson, Missouri with the shooting of Michael Brown Jr. The film chronicles Starr’s journey as she finds her voice and all the troubles that come with it, such as fitting in with her majority white high school and avoiding the drug dealers who want to prevent her from speaking out.

The best thing I can possibly say about The Hate U Give is that it will inspire viewers to take action. By the end of the film, anybody who received the message will want to storm out of the theater and participate in a local march. Many messages involving racism reverberate throughout this movie. One of the more relevant ones is a comment on the white people who like to act like they are black to look cool, but then disrespect the culture on their spare time. More people like this exist than one would believe, and the movie takes the time to throw some much-needed shade towards them.

The main message of the film, however, is how the public opinion on police violence is that the policeman was just doing his job despite having killed an unarmed man for no good reason. Would that same policeman have done the same thing if it was a white man? These are the questions that this film needed to ask and it definitely succeeds in asking them. It then asks the audience to examine the double standard that plagues African-Americans on the daily.

The shining stars of the film acting-wise are definitely Stenberg as the lead, who really gives the audience an insight into the trauma that one goes through when their friend is murdered right in front of them, and Russell Hornsby as Stenberg’s father, who has multiple stirring monologues that are impeccably well-delivered.

Problems with the film are relatively minimal, but they still surface, and nearly all of them have to do with the final twenty minutes. Without completely spoiling the movie, the ending felt a little sugarcoated given the gritty nature of the rest of the film. It tries to tie all the plotlines together with a bow and claims that love will prevail, but I feel the movie would have had an even bigger impact if it had left us with some of the previous, more hard-hitting messages.

Another slight flaw was a particularly cheesy scene in the end involving the main character’s little brother that I will not get into for spoiler reasons. However, the film came together well other than that, and none of these flaws were enough to degrade the powerful message that the film exhibits in the first and second acts.

The Hate U Give is definitely worth a watch, and will most likely change your perspective on the issue of police violence. This is Tillman’s best film so far, and promises great things in the future for Stenberg.

The Hate U Give will be in theaters everywhere on October 19.

-by Joel Alexander

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Spike Lee makes a powerful political statement with BlacKkKlansman: a modern-day masterwork

Acclaimed writer/director Spike Lee has returned with his newest joint and he is back with a vengeance, for BlacKkKlansman is a force to be reckoned with. Lee’s film is a true story about a black man named Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington) who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan. Sound ridiculous? It is. This is a movie that, conceptually, shouldn’t work, but somehow it is one of the most enthralling, hilarious, and powerful films of the year.

When it comes to politics, Lee is no stranger: in BlacKkKlansman he takes many controversial issues head on such as police brutality, the state of the nation, and the potential racism of the current president. He takes on all of these issues magnificently in a 1970s setting, which furthermore enforces his point that not much has changed between then and now. One would think that a historical drama about the KKK would be an exploration into history, but that is not what the movie has in store. Lee wants to shine a mirror up to every American citizen and ask them, “Are you content with the current state of society?”

Despite all of the politics, Lee still crafts a thrilling and fun ride throughout, and actually makes this one of the funniest films of the past couple months. Much of that humor is executed so well because of Adam Driver (Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), who plays the white man that physically appears in the form of Ron Stallworth at the Klan rallies. Driver is easily the standout in this film: he shows a spectrum of emotional depth, becomes one of the most likeable characters, and is at the center of the most complex and nail-biting scenes. Washington also shines as the lead role; he talks quite a bit like his all-too-famous father (Denzel), but also shows that he is an excellent actor in his own right.

One detail about BlacKkKlansman that I truly did not expect going in, was that I would get to know these Klan members. Lee portrays them not as truly evil people, but as normal citizens that just happen to have a severely misguided look at society. The film in no way supports these hateful people, but it takes the same approach that Ron Stallworth does when looking at the Klan: fascinated by what drives them and how they became to think the way they do.

The flaws this movie contains are quite minimal. Only small things stood out, such as a rally scene in the beginning that lasted about a minute too long (but it was so well shot that I didn’t mind), or the fact that I could, for the most part, tell which events were true and which weren’t (but the script was so well written that, again, I didn’t mind). The only outstanding flaw seemed to be that Stallworth himself was not given much background, but even this was pushed under the surface by the complexity of the events happening on screen.

BlacKkKlansman is important. Not everybody will agree with the political message it sends, but it is still one heck of a roller-coaster ride from beginning to end. It is funny, timely, well-acted, emotional, and a whole bunch of other qualities that Oscar voters should eat right up.

At the end of the movie, despite having laughed through the majority of it, nearly all of the audience in my theater was crying. That’s the type of impact that the message of BlacKkKlansman creates.

BlacKkKlansman is is in theaters everywhere now and it is rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, and for disturbing/violent material and some sexual references.

-by Joel Alexander

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: a charming romantic comedy with a disappointing, conventional ending

 

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before is another Netflix original film that approaches the typical high school comedy in a slightly different way. It centers around an incredibly antisocial teenage girl (Lana Condor) who writes fake letters to every boy that she’s had an intense crush on. She keeps these letters secret and hides them below her bed, but all of that changes once her little sister actually sends them out to the objects of her affection.

Netflix has released more movies recently than many of the major production companies, and, quite honestly, many of them have been completely insufferable. Getting through The Package and Brain on Fire was harder than paying attention to a three-hour powerpoint presentation on thermodynamics. Luckily, Netflix has finally shown some potential with this film, which is a charming retelling of the book of the same name by Jenny Han.

The characters are made so personable because the actors really put effort into bringing them off the page in a lifelike way. The ensemble cast is competent overall, but the one who really rises above the rest is Noah Centineo as one of the subjects of the aforementioned letters. Centineo brings a charisma to his role that, frankly, made the other actors look more mediocre than they actually were. It is also really nice to see an Asian-American female lead in a major film like this. Between Crazy Rich Asians and now To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, it seems that inclusion is making a rise in Hollywood at long last.

One particular aspect of these teen films that I always pick on is the high school part and its accuracy to high school in real life (which may be because I’m actually in high school). Thankfully my critiquing was kept to a minimum, because for the majority of the film, they portray high school as it is. There is no typical “bully” character, the high school characters aren’t pigeonholed into groups of people (thespians, jocks, etc.) and there actors don’t look like they are all thirty-six years old. One thing that struck a chord for me, in particular, was the struggle of finding people to sit with during lunch time, which is something most people can sympathise with.

However, this lack of clichés completely disappears when the final third of the movie starts, which is where nearly all of my problems with the film lie. Until then, the story involving the letters was funny, charming, and compelling, but the final act takes it to a slightly different direction that tarnishes the films experience as a whole. My biggest gripe with this movie is that the writers decide to resort to completely manufactured and unnecessary conflicts in the last thirty minutes. It is also painfully easy to tell exactly where it is going in that amount of time. It seems like the writers thought up this great plot involving letters, had it all written out, and then had absolutely no clue how to end it. So, of course, when in doubt they turned to every cliché in the book to finalize it out.

The final act didn’t keep me from enjoying the good things that To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before had to offer, but it definitely didn’t help my overall perception of the film. As Netflix teen comedies go, this is one of the better ones, probably right up there with Alex Strangelove. However, if you are looking for a good high school movie or TV show then I also highly recommend Love, Simon.

Netflix has had some real stinkers lately (*cough* Mute *cough*), so it’s nice to see a release that is a genuinely enjoyable film, even if it doesn’t 100% stick the landing. If the plot doesn’t interest you, the characters will still likely win you over by the halfway point; this is more than can be said about many other films released throughout this summer.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is streaming on Netflix today.  

by Joel Alexander

It offers haunting adventures

It is the highly-anticipated adaptation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel and the remake of the 1990 television miniseries of the same name. The film centers around a group of unpopular middle-schoolers who begin to see a monster that takes the shape of a clown named Pennywise. This monster also feeds off of the kids’ fears. Whether it be a scary painting or an abusive father, these lingering thoughts are used to the monster’s advantage.

This film has been on film-lovers’ radars for years, so to say that there is a good amount of anticipation from audiences is an understatement. Gratefully, for those looking for a fun, haunted-house-like adventure, It does not disappoint. The movie does justice to the book and the original film adaptation while paving its own path all the same.

What It does right that most horror movies recently seem to be missing is the personal aspect of the story. Where most would rely on creepy imagery and suspense, It combines the fantastical terror with elements that are all too real. Using the victim’s fears adds a realness to the horror that elevates It above other conventional scary movies. The demon in the film is played unsettlingly by Bill Skarsgård. In addition to Skarsgård’s unnerving performance, the acting from the ensemble cast is surprisingly solid, especially given all of the actors are under the legal age to see the movie they are in. Special recognition goes to Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Jaeden Lieberher, who both captured the lightheartedness of their characters with expertise.

However, there are times where the film can be a bit heavy-handed with its scares. At the end of the first act, in order to give each character a reason to be in the movie, they show each character running into the demon in some way. They show roughly six or seven scenes consecutively of the terrorizing these children, and after one or two it gets old and predictable. There may not have been a clear way to avoid this from a storytelling perspective, but it still could have been improved by either implying some of the scenes or by spreading them out within the narrative.

This movie also carries the same flaw that the majority of horror films contain: Why doesn’t the demon just kill the protagonists to begin with? There are countless scenes that involve the demon scaring the kids and the audience, but for some reason it always lets the kids escape. This is never explained, but it seems like the screenwriters needed the film to last, so they had to mask scenes with enough creepy imagery to distract the audience from the flaws of each situation. That being said, these scenes are for the most part very effective, and they give the film plenty of material to keep the audience’s eyes glued to the screen.

Overall, It conjures up some good scares even though it sometimes reverts back to the typical cliches that come with the genre. It gives each character a good arc and backstory, and uses that to make the scenes of horror all that more creepy.  While the jump scares don’t work for the majority of the time, the overall horror will leave you terrified and captivated.  It is now playing in theaters everywhere.   

~joel alexander, staff reporter

‘The Crown’ mixes history, drama, style

Netflix has delivered another astonishing series with the release of The Crown on Nov. 4. Revolving around the conflict between the private and public life of Queen Elizabeth II as she ascends the throne after her father, King George the VI, dies of lung cancer, The Crown gives viewers a glimpse into the life of the famous monarch.

The Crown portrays the Queen as something of a puppet who follows the orders and mandates of prominent men, including her husband and members of Parliament, instead of her own gut instincts. As a glorified figurehead for the people of Britain, Elizabeth ascendes the throne at 25 while trying to be a good sister, mother, wife, and Queen. Despite her desire to spend time with her children, Elizabeth must push her yearnings aside to run the “vital monarchy.”

The marriage of Elizabeth and Philip provides a spot of romance in a show dominated by politics. The Crown depicts the couple’s life in the early 1950s, including the quarrels. Although there is obviously love, chemistry, and affection, their relationship was also contentious and argumentative. They bickered over frivolous issues, such as whether the couple should keep Philip’s last name or move into Buckingham palace or details of Elizabeth’s coronation, and fought over more serious matters, like Philip’s alleged affairs.
The Crown also packs in tons of family-oriented drama. For example, Queen Mary resents her eldest son, Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American woman. In a royal snub, she refuses to extend an invitation for King George VI’s funeral or Elizabeth’s coronation to Edward’s wife. Only Elizabeth shows empathy and benevolence towards Edward, her renegade uncle, highlighting her compassionate side.

The Crown is the most expensive television program to date because of the astonishing scenery and costume design. The set designers did a remarkable job of accurately portraying the dress, architecture, customs, and setting of the era, captivating audiences with glamor and splendor.

The stunning, breath-taking acting in The Crown is one of its standout features, with raw, pure emotion, and substance. It is easy to grow emotionally attached to characters due to the depth of the performances by an all star cast comprised of seasoned actors like Claire Foy, Matt Smith, and John Lithgow. The combination of script, acting, and cinematography leads to a sublime entertainment.

Historically accurate, The Crown hits events critical to the time period, such as the re-election of prime minister Winston Churchill and a killing dense smog epidemic. However, the pace is slow, not action-packed, relying on drama that borders on the soap opera and that sometimes feels like a historical documentary without the narrator. Overall, the directors and screenwriters produced a fascinating, engaging show that is also educational. The Crown won’t thrill viewers with suspense, but if you enjoyed the quality and pacing of Downton Abbey, the 10-episode-series is a must watch.

~emma dixon, copy production editor

Newest ‘Star Wars’ reawakens fans’ passion

I experienced something odd at the movie theater lately. I believe the phenomenon is called childlike wonder and joy. Stow away any fears you may have of a Phantom Menace redux, because Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings much needed reinvigoration to a beloved series.

Director J.J. Abrams approaches the film like a Star Wars savant, stitching together elements found in the original movies while bringing in fresh faces to prevent The Force Awakens from spilling over into nostalgia overload. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill all return to reprise their roles as Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker, respectively. While Harrison is delightful as Han (his roguish wit hasn’t waned), it’s the new generation of stars who bring energy to the film. Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger on the desert planet Jakku, is effectively the new-school, female Luke. That might have been irritating if she wasn’t so downright cool; Rey proves herself to be a quick-thinking heroine slightly more reminiscent of Han than of Luke in some regards, and Ridley delivers the character with so much warmth. Other newcomers include Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper with a conscience, and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a swaggering resistance pilot. Adam Driver makes an impact as Kylo Ren, a sullen and tempestuous antagonist hiding behind a mask reminiscent of Darth Vader’s.

The settings of The Force Awakens are a marked improvement from the predecessor films. While the backdrops of the prequel trilogy always seemed so placid and artificial (I swear you could see the green screen radiating off the actors), the worlds in the newest film have depth, from desert bazaars to pirate-filled cantinas. Lightsaber combat is better than ever; the blades crackle, and stray swings slice down unfortunate trees.

And yet it isn’t perfect. The movie is a skosh too similar to A New Hope, with Rey’s background and character arc paralleling Luke’s a bit too much, down to their shared upbringings on desert planets (and similar fashion choices). And destroying entire planets! You have to hand it to Star Wars villains; they don’t think small. Moreover, the film occasionally feels too ambitious, as if there simply wasn’t enough time to jam in everything Abrams wanted to incorporate. One example is a scene in which Finn declares his affection for Rey. Although the two characters do have chemistry, the confession seems bizarre, considering they have probably only known each other for about an hour.

Despite occasionally struggling under the tremendous weight of expectations and time constraints, The Force Awakens is ultimately a triumph. I got shivers during the opening crawl with John Williams’ fantastically bombastic score. Han Solo, boarding the Millennium Falcon, echoes a sentiment all Star Wars fans felt for the new installment—“We’re home.”

~lana heltzel, editor-in-chief