Category Archives: entertainment

Jenkins Creates Flawless Film “If Beales Street Could Talk”

Fledgling director Barry Jenkins took the world by storm with his 2016 masterpiece Moonlight, winning the best picture Oscar of that year. Now after two years he has released his highly-anticipated follow-up: If Beale Street Could Talk. In Moonlight, though centered in Florida, Jenkins organically introduces a story that gives viewers an insight into the African-American experience in many areas around the states. With his new film, Jenkins zeroes in on the flawed prison system by adapting James Baldwin’s famous novel of the same name.

The storyline follows Tish, a pregnant girl whose father has been incarcerated for a crime he did not commit. Half of the film takes place in present day and deals with various struggles revolving around the newfound pregnancy, while the other half is told in flashback, and shows Tish and Fonny’s blossoming relationship before it all went wrong. Jenkins structures the story perfectly, with each flashback sequence giving context to the subsequent present-day scenes they accompany. Knowing what is to come during the flashback scenes adds a sense of dread, but does not stop each scene from displaying the chemistry of actors Stephen James and Regina King beautifully.

Like he does in Moonlight, Jenkins shines light on new actors who haven’t yet gotten their share of the limelight by giving each and every role breathing room to become their own important character. Smaller characters such as Fonny’s friend (Brian Tyree Henry of Atlanta) who is still scarred from his time in prison and from the evil that reared its head from the white prosecutors make up important pieces of the puzzle that Jenkins assembles.His style of direction often involves extreme close-ups of the actors’ faces, which means there can be no false move from the actors. Luckily, Jenkins picks performers who can hold up their end of the bargain; especially Stephen James, who shines as the main character who slowly realizes how hopeless his situation is as the film goes on.

Even though If Beale Street Could Talk is based on a novel, the film unfolds like a stage play. One standout scene in particular exemplifies that, in which the family of Tish must confront Fonny’s family regarding the pregnancy. The blocking and writing are top-notch during this wildly uncomfortable and contentious scene. Every actor carries their part well including the miniscule characters, such as Tish’s sister, who makes quite an impact with every line delivered.

Many important themes permeate throughout this film, including the implication that religion may not be there to save everyone, the effect of grief on a victim of a tragic event, and, most importantly, the systematic problems with the American prison system. If Beale Street Could Talk may take place in the 1970s, but this problem is just as prevalent in today’s society, which is why Jenkins thought it right to release the movie decades later. What happens to Fonny is completely out of his control, and the movie, despite its themes of love and happiness near the beginning, slowly starts to exert a feeling of hopelessness. The white system leaves black people all across the country helpless to argue or complain about their place in society, which leaves too many people in situations where they must deal with the repercussions of an action they didn’t even have anything to do with just because of the color of their skin.

Jenkins is such a precise director that it is hard to find anything wrong with this film. He makes even the smallest moment feel magical and life-altering, such as a heartwarming father-daughter moment in which Tish is getting ill and her father must comfort her. Maybe one of the only flaws would be that the ending scene is anticlimactic and not particularly memorable, which leaves the movie on a forgettable note, but this pales in comparison to the overall message the film sends. If Beale Street Could Talk is an important film that examines race relations in America today via the broken prison system. The awards attention this film is getting is justified, though instead of constantly nominating Regina King, they should be nominating Stephen James. Jenkins proves that he is not a one-and-done filmmaker with his second tour-de-force in a row, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment/Student Life Editor


A Spoonful of Salt

Mary Poppins has been a classic ever since it was brought into the world through P.L. Travers’ book series in 1934, followed by Walt Disney’s film adaptation. The 1964 film was very successful, winning five academy awards and becoming the highest grossing film of the year. With the film carrying such popularity, filmmakers though to put out a sequel. On December 19, 2018, “Mary Poppins Returns” debuted in theatres all over the US. Despite the excitement surrounding the follow up film, questions have been raised as to if the sequel can match the classic.

The story follows the lives of now-grown Jane (Emily Mortimer) and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw). The two follow in their parents footsteps, with Jane being an activist and Michael working at the bank. Michael continues to live in the house that belonged to his parents where he raises his children, Annabel, John and George Banks (Joel Dawson, Nathanael Saleh and Pixie Davies), alone due to his wife’s death. As certain conflicts arise, Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returns to aid the Banks family. Holding true to the original, Mary Poppins, the kids go on magical adventures along with lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Mary Poppins Returns is full of references from the first movie. All the hidden and obvious details brought on a lot of nostalgia. It was especially exciting to see Dick Van Dyke’s guest appearance. While all this is good, it came to a point at which the general plot and characters basically matched the first film. The storyline was almost an exact replica of Disney’s original Mary Poppins. The only difference was a slight variation in conflict.
One could say the details differed, but like the plot, only slightly. Each character is basically a doppelgänger of the original cast. The songs were decent musical numbers, but it also felt like they were trying too hard to mirror the original film. A number sung by Jack and the leeries called “Trip a Little Light Fantastic,” was supposed to be the newer version of the famous “Step in Time.” While the song was decent, no song could ever compare to “Step in Time,” and this goes for almost all other songs when compared to their original counterparts.

Some may believe mimicking the original is vital to keeping the magic and mystery that was the original film. While this is true to a certain extent, here it was overdone. It felt like I was watching a cheesier remake of the first movie.
One particular scene that I didn’t mind them bringing back however was the 2D animation chalk scene found in the original Mary Poppins, which came out better than before. Today’s new technology combined with the calling in of the original animators of the movie allowed for a truly amazing scene. The scene was colorful, detailed, and evoked a real feeling of nostalgia.

Another observation regarding the animated scene is the costume design. According to costume designer Sandy Powell, she wanted to do something new and unique for this scene. She felt that the characters in the original didn’t blend well with the scene, and wanted a better blend. Powell came up with the genius idea of painting the costumes. Although it took a lot of work, I believe it was well worth it. The costumes were colorful and blended well with the scene while also contrasting enough to allow the characters to stand out.

I was a bit worried for Emily Blunt, wondering how she was going to pull off the timeless role of Mary Poppins. After watching the film, I believe she did her best. Blunt did maintain the essence of the original Mary Poppins while adding a few things of her own. For one, she added a slight snarkiness to the character. While it made the film slightly more comedic, it also took away from the amiable nature of Mary Poppins. While some may prefer this, I was saddened because as a kid, I always saw Mary Poppins as a kindly, motherly figure and seeing her change was painful. Despite this, Blunt still did very well playing Mary Poppins as it is a very hard role to live up to.

On its own, the movie was average. It didn’t stand out as exceptional, but wasn’t completely terrible despite it being a bit underwhelming. I didn’t have extremely high expectations in the first place, but I did have a small hope that this sequel would not be as bad as most sequels are. I would recommend seeing the movie if you are feeling nostalgic. However, I wouldn’t set my expectations too high, unless you are new to Mary Poppins altogether.

by Rachel Singleton–News Editor

Birdbox Offers Thrill

Apparently, what you cannot see CAN hurt you. Or at least that’s what the new Netflix original film Bird Box claims. Starring Sandra Bullock, this sci-fi thriller was highly anticipated for many Netflix subscribers, seeing as how it has the highest starting viewership of any original Netflix film. The plot is intriguing: An unknown entity spreads across the world and forces those who look at it to kill themselves. What the affected people see is left unknown, but it is implied to be their greatest fear, thus causing them to find the easiest way to end their life.

Last year, the popular Netflix film was Bright, which was another disappointment; it’s good to see that Netflix has learned their lesson and released a good film. Bird Box is a fun, fast-paced, and tense thriller that is absolutely perfect for viewers to watch. The film stars Sandra Bullock as a pregnant mother who gets caught up in the disaster, and who eventually gets stuck in a house with a number of strangers she doesn’t know. The film cuts back and forth between this plot line and one five years in the future, in which Bullock and two children are trying to get to a sanctuary via river while blindfolded.

Compliments to give this film go to Bullock’s electric performance. She is great in all of her other works, and this is no exception. In a scene near the end, she elevates the writing given to her in a powerful scene in a forest, and does this all without the use of her eyes. The other standout is Trevante Rhodes as one of the more prominent characters in the house that the majority of the film is set in. He was magnificent in Moonlight, and he shines just as much here.

Luckily, the film’s overall plot and tense nature are more than enough to get the audience through any slowness. No performance in Bird Box is lackluster, but the writing for some of the characters can be trite. In particular, Machine Gun Kelly and Rosa Salazar are both given very little material to work with, and their presence is a hindrance to the progress of the film. I understand why they were included, but I felt little empathy for their situation. Some characters are just thrown in the script, like Jacki Weaver, who has no reason to be in the film. Others are just cliché, like John Malkovich’s character. Malkovich plays the jerk, and it just feels like he’s included in the film in order to create unnecessary conflict. Later in the film, he does get redemption, which makes up for many of the cliche writing earlier on, but it still feels like the writers were trying to make the film longer for no reason.

Luckily, the film’s overall plot and tense nature are more than enough to get the audience through any slowness, and it never gets boring.
One aspect of Bird Box that I especially appreciate is the lack of CGI and tired green screen effects. Almost the entirety of the film is done with only one exception, and this adds to the authenticity of the situation. Even the scenes on the raging river with a blindfolded Sandra Bullock have no green screen to be found, which contributes to the gorgeous cinematography.
However, this leads me to my biggest issue with Bird Box: The structure degrades the suspense. When the audience is shown Bullock five years in the future with two kids, they know exactly who is going to live and die. This does add a bit of dread to the narrative since the deaths are predictable, but this also lessens the impact of scenes that could have been riveting, but are passable. The film eventually catches up to itself, and that is where it gets the most exciting for me, which was around the final thirty minutes.

Bird Box is still a very well-made thriller, but I feel certain aspects of the story could have been rearranged in order to make a more non-stop thrill ride. The film is still a fun watch, and I definitely recommend taking the time to give you and some friends an anxiety-filled two hours.

by Joel Alexander–Student Life Editor

Lil Baby Delivers for Hip-hop Enthusiasts

On November 30th, Lil Baby, a rapper from Atlanta, Georgia,  dropped a new album called Street Gossip. Lil Baby’s last album was Drip Harder, which is a collab with Gunna. Which was released almost a month before Street Gossip.

Lil Baby has been featured on many songs with a lot of artists who are on the top of the list like Gunna and Young Thug. When he entered the game of rap, many people quickly took sight of Lil Baby. His voice was something different, and is something that fans of hip hop wanted to hear, something new. Lil Baby has been teasing fans by releasing leaks of his new album for a while.

I personally like the album, the rappers he includes make new vibes in the songs. The beats of the songs vary in the album and that’s what I enjoy in the album. My personal favorite is Ready featuring Gunna because the vibe of Lil Baby when he comes in is a new voice I have never heard before from him. What I like Lil Baby is that each song in the album gets you a different kind of vibe. When I hear the songs myself, I start to get different feelings to it. I get a chill vibe, or sometimes the beats hits hard and Lil Baby’s voice just goes on with it no matter what type of beat it produces. Street Gossip opens up with “Global” which gives the listeners a certain type of image of Lil Baby’s mental state. What is interesting in Street Gossip, is the type of instruments he adds to his songs like “Pure Cocaine”, which gives the interest of a lot of listeners.

When the features are introduced in the songs, they all have a different tone in each song. And how Lil Baby approaches after, gives the listeners a hype feeling. When Lil Baby approaches, he approaches in a different type of way on every feature in a song. This is what we want to hear. I like personally how Lil Baby’s voice changes in certain type of songs. It gives us what we want.

2018 has been the ultimate come up for Lil Baby, releasing large amount of songs with different quantity of beats. There is no doubt that Lil Baby is one of the top breakout artist in Hip-Hop 2018.

by Luis Rodriguez–Staff Reporter

Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali create comedy, emotion in Green Book

We’ve seen it before. An Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) in New York becomes the driver for a famous black pianist (Mahershala Ali) who is touring the South. As their journey through America begins their friendship grows and blah, blah, blah. Having seen the trailers and knowing the general plot going in, I thought I knew exactly what to expect, and in some respects I was correct. Green Book, however, blew any and all expectations out of the water.

This is easily one of the most heartwarming and charming films of the year so far. Peter Farrelly, the writer/director, typically does not take on films with even remotely serious subject matters. He was one of the people who did Dumb and Dumber, for Pete’s sake. However, he writes this movie better than any seasoned dramatic screenwriter could have possibly done. Farrelly injects his sense of humor into the script, and makes this drama one of the funniest movies of the season.

The screenplay may be excellent, but that is not what should be getting the Oscar buzz. Viggo Mortensen delivers a typically great performance as Tony Lip, the lower-middle class Italian whose favorite hobby is eating as much as humanly possible. The character is straight out of The Sopranos, which fits perfectly since the real-life Tony Lip had a minor role in the iconic television show, as well as iconic films like Goodfellas and The Godfather. Lip was a real-life Tony Soprano, just without the murder and mob killings. Mortensen has every single mannerism about Lip down, from the way he talks to all of the small gestures he makes. Lip was a heavyset man who loved food, so naturally Mortensen gained upwards of forty pounds for the role. Ever since The Lord of the Rings Mortensen has been hitting home run after home run, and his role in Green Book is no exception.

The glue that holds this film together is the chemistry between Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali as real-life piano player Don Shirley. Mortensen gives a more comedic performance, while Ali brings the emotion. His character is a very isolated man who has no family or friends to rely on despite his many riches. He lives all alone in a kingly apartment directly above Carnegie Hall, and he feels as though he doesn’t belong in his own African-American culture. Shirley was truly a genius piano player, and Ali absolutely nails every facet of his personality. Shirley’s personality contrasted with Lip’s is why Green Book works wonders. I could’ve watched Ali and Mortensen joke around with each other for far longer than the two hours and ten minutes that this film covers.

One of the biggest responsibilities of any biopic is representing its characters and events with relative accuracy. A major reason as to why I despise films like Bohemian Rhapsody is because all of the events were fabricated for Hollywood purposes and the subject of the biopic was not represented accurately at all. Green Book, however, gets almost everything about this unique story correct. Having researched the actual story after watching the film, it is staggering how much the writers got correct. After all, Tony Lip’s son, Nick Vallelonga, co-wrote the movie based off of stories his father told him while growing up. It is easy to see how much effort all of the filmmakers put into making the film as accurate as possible, which is exactly how every biopic should be helmed.

The fact that this film can be as true to real life as it is and still be so entertaining is a lesson to all other filmmakers who simply fabricate events and treat them as if they were real. The only slight flaw I have with Green Book is that yes, it is pretty predictable. The movie handles the plot with such expertise that it doesn’t matter most of the time, but from the beginning of the story arc it isn’t terribly difficult to see what direction the film is taking us. However, when a movie is this entertaining, whether or not the plot is predictable gets shoved into the background. Green Book is getting plenty of Oscar buzz, and it is easy to see why. Very few films this year put viewers in as good of spirits as this one does in the last few minutes. This film proves that you don’t need explosions or a big budget in order to have fun at the movie theater this holiday season. Green Book should be shown to families and schools everywhere, as it makes a better case against racism than most films, while also giving a fun and heartwarming experience that the whole family should be able to enjoy.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment Editor

Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse easily outranks predecessors with humor, depth

Ever since comic book movies and TV shows have become popularized, there have been numerous Spider-Man releases; from the good Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi Spider-Man films to the mediocre Andrew Garfield Amazing Spider-Man films, a wide range of releases have captured the character in many different styles and fashions. Therefore, when the new Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was announced, I, like many others, was very neutral on the subject. The trailers looked promising, but as of the last few years, a bit of a Spider-Man fatigue had set in, for I had seen the story told so many times before. Spider-Man: Homecoming was very good, but how many times can the same story be delivered to audiences in a slightly different manner?

An endless amount of times apparently, because Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is an absolute masterwork. All of the other Spider-Man films have focused on the character of Peter Parker, but this is the first to introduce Miles Morales as the protagonist. Yes, you’ve heard the story before: kid gets bitten by radioactive spider, his hands start sticking to random objects, he must learn to control his powers, etc, etc. This film, however, gives itself a considerable leg up from the other Spider-Man feature-length films by letting the audience know straight out the gate that they are aware the story has been told before. The filmmakers are more than aware that they are not the first to pave this territory, which means they are able to build off the conventional material to create more original extensions of the main characters.

By the way, Peter Parker is actually featured in this film via parallel universe along with Gwen Stacy, Noir Peter Parker, and Peter Porker (don’t ask). All of these characters are wonderfully introduced with sequences that reflect each other in structure, but add their own unique situation and humor depending on the character. Every character’s motivations are understandable, because they are all so similar, given they have the typical superhero backgrounds but just slightly altered due to the parallel universes.

However, these minor characters from other universes rightfully take a backseat to Miles Morales, who is one of the more likeable superhero protagonists in the last couple years. His relationship with his father and his uncle are beautifully realized, and have brilliantly executed story arcs. The film also explores Morales’ inability to fit in, whether it be with his peers in the private school he doesn’t want to attend, or the fellow Spider-Men (and Women) who are more experienced than he is. Some of the arcs can be a little predictable, but as stated before, the movie isn’t about the predictability of the story, but the personal ralizations along the way.

Not only does Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse succeed as a superhero movie, but it is also a tremendous comedy and animation film. This is far and away one of the funniest films of the year, having more self-aware humor than Deadpool 2 and better slapstick comedy than the last five Adam Sandler movies combined. I will be unnecessarily quoting this film out of nowhere at social situations for months, and I will never run out of funny moments to spout. There’s not a joke in the entire two hour runtime that doesn’t land, which is rare for any Marvel movie given their track record of injecting unnecessary humor into serious situations.

If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse doesn’t win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year then there is no justice in the world, for this is the finest animation I’ve seen in years. The city scapes have so much detail in them that it’s hard to tell if it’s animated or if it’s really good CGI; the neon-lit color palette of the nighttime scenes creates a visceral experience that is unparalleled in today’s cinema. The action scenes are enthralling and have filmed Spider-Man in ways never even conceived of in live-action alternatives. While shown in the trailer, the shot where Spider-Man falls upside-down is magnificent, and there are similarly great shots when Peter B. Parker casually walks on the side of buildings.

There is not one misstep that the directors make here. The end message is perfect, and will make many kids seeing this with their parents feel special — like they can achieve anything if they try. The directors of this film also know exactly when to cut a scene. No scene lingers too long or goes by too fast, everything is executed in the exact perfect time. Whenever I finish a movie that I think is exceptional in every way, I always go looking for flaws, for no movie is perfect. Only a couple films have been released this year where I haven’t found any, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of themThis new Spider-Man outing is easily the best of all the Spider-Man films, and is also my personal favorite movie of this year so far (yes, I like this better than Avengers: Infinity War). Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is one of the biggest surprises of 2018, and will give moviegoers of all ages a cinematic experience that they will remember for years. See this on the biggest screen possible in order to get the full experience, and definitely stick around for the end credits, because this film has the funniest after-credits scene in years.

by Joel Alexander–Entertainment Editor

Red Dead Redemption 2 Claims Spot as the Best Game of 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2 is an instant classic and fine successor to the first. The game starts off with a snowy scene, and depicts the main character as a part of a small cowboy gang running from the law and fighting for their lives. This prologue stands around two hours, and takes place in a winterous environment. The intro drags on at a slower, yet enjoyable pace; after that, the game throws you into the massive open world. It gives you the option to play main missions and experience the cowboy life, or to just explore the massive open world and experience its many wonders.

One of the ways you can truly see the density and richness of the open world is by going into one of the many towns. Once you enter a town, you can see npcs living their everyday life: drunkards in the saloons, builders building houses, and shepherds leading sheep. You can step into the general store and buy anything you see, go to the gun store and customize your rifle,  you can do nearly anything. And the best part is, you can interact and talk to anyone you see. But with the jam packed towns comes a spacious, yet full wilderness. When exploring the less populated wilderness, your surroundings feel vibrant and alive. With many random events and hidden characters, it gives you a variety of things to do while exploring this thriving open world and makes the world of Read Dead Redemption 2 feel just that much more full.

With this being a cowboy game, you would only expect a hard and unforgiving desert, yet you get quite the opposite. In Red Dead Redemption 2, you can explore great snowy mountains, dense forests, flooded swamps, and open plains. In these biomes there are a variety of animals ranging from bears to snakes, but with this open world comes a rich story. Though you would think the old cowboy western would be stale and dry, with meticulously crafted dialogue and clever character development, the story stands as the cherry on top. With the game’s realism and its ability to keep you entertained no matter what, I believe that it has easily taken the spot of the best game of 2018.

by Vincent Fanelli–Contributor