The Reviews included so far...
2. Static Shock
3. Silent Voice
7. The Road
10. Anne with an E
13. Station Eleven
21. The Hunger Games
23. The Last of Us
Haunting of Hill House
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Review by Alijuandra Street
The Haunting of Hill House is beyond what was expected through a simple trailer. The very first episode seemed to open every detail that was needed to get so wrapped up in the show that you did not need to wait till the third or fourth episode to be caught up in such an interesting ghost story. The first episode had you craving the next episode as soon as the first begun.
The series unraveled characters with realistic issues that happen in everyday life that being family issues, substance abuse, and daily battles with life. Then with those issues at hand, there are GHOSTS, of course in the name, The Haunting of Hill House, what else would you expect? The way the show is so well balanced of jump scares that are not cheap or misplaced always kept one on edge, but in the most wonderful way, if you’re into that. So let’s get into it.
The character consists of a family of seven, mother, father, three daughters, and two sons. The series starts with the family running out of the house with their father, at this point they’re all children. Why are you guys running? What’s going on? “DON’T LOOK BACK” but why not? Already your heart is pumping like alright got it, dad, we have to go. Then you start to think about why are we leaving mom in the house? The kids are frantic like that’s their mother we can not leave her! What are you thinking? The dad is determined to get the children to safety and at this point, you are compelled to get to safety as well, not even knowing what is happening yet!
Throughout each episode we get a sense of each individual’s traumas and a look into their life as they lived very different, yet, same life in this haunted house. Starting with the baby of the family, Eleanor Vance, also known as “Nellie/ Nell”. Nell is described as the protagonist of the series. Nell is also battling with sleep paralysis as she struggles to move while in her sleep she always greeted by the “Bent neck lady” as Nell has described this figure that haunts her often. During her battle of sleep paralysis, she sought out help from a sleep technician where she found the love of her life, Arthur Vance, who is a black man! Get over yourself, yes, a black man! She also finds herself helping her twin brother who is battling addiction. Luke is the next youngest, battling his addiction to heroin to prevent visions of this extremely tall man who just appears whenever. Luke is portrayed as the black sheep of the family since he is either dropping out of treatments for his addiction or begging for money to buy drugs. Now, Theodora Crain is a child therapist who uses her empathetic abilities to get to the bottom of what is happening with the children. She wears these gloves all the time! She gets picked on often about these in the series but it’s because she senses beings or attains past information through the touch of her hands. She is also a wonderful lesbian who has an extremely hard time expressing her feeling to someone who loves her so much but does not accept easily at all. Shirley is the second oldest of the family, as she feels that her dad has not done enough to be a presentable figure for the family, she and her husband turn to be the authoritative figure of the series. She owns that big mean sister role but also faces a bunch of trauma that makes her feel this way. Steven Crain is the oldest brother who is a writer, he then wrote a book about what he believed that happened in the house even though he does not know much because he was not really at the age to understand. He is conflicted with himself because he seems to not have as much touch with the supernatural as his other siblings. Hugh and Olivia Crain are the parents of these wonderful yet extremely hurt children and make the best of this in the scenarios they are presented within the series. Hugh will do anything and everything to help his children be safe, now, if that includes holding valuable information that could save their life, so be it.
The series does a fantastic job at flashbacks and connecting the past with the future and having the audience understand and start connecting the dots to what the situation at hand is on their own without making it too obvious which I enjoy. I also loved the realistic factors of the series and the parts that intrigue one into wanting to know what’s happening with little treats of hints that captivate you into continuing watching this masterpiece.
Review by: Kyleaf Holland
Static Shock, is an action filled superhero TV show that dives into the daily balance of teenagehood and heroic duties of a fifteen year old by the name, Virgil Hawkins. Virgil is a very studious person academically and awakens his robust, electrical abilities through exposure to experimental mutagen gas while running away from a gang war between his bullies and the cool kids at school he had just met. Virgil is an African-American teen who grew up without a mother and lived with his sister along with his father. His mother died trying to rescue a man in a shootout during a Dakota riot on her job as part of the ambulance while he was only a toddler. I would be lying to say that this cartoon is mediocre when in fact, not only is the show teemed with huge character developments, but Static Shock (Virgil’s alter ego/name of the show) portrays a mirroring identity of hardships in the world culturally, racially, and even with issues such as gun violence.
Another honorable mention is that many escalated dangers of these topics became scenarios within the show through a bully, or racist parent in which Virgil encounters personally. These very elements of Static Shock give me comfort in knowing that there are industries that are aware of such realities that many teens, including myself go through and face, especially in urban areas. Another pivotal aspect for me is that Kid’s WB acknowledged African-American kids and people through Static Shock or Virgil without trying to overly exert effort into his character (because of his race) and in return, Virgil’s character was heavily relatable, impactful, authentic and tasteful. I did research and I found out Virgil’s full name, “Virgil Hawkins” was inspired by a man named “Virgil D. Hawkins” who was applying for a university of Law in Florida but was denied admission because of his race. Knowing such a background about the creation of the show Static Shock felt good because oftentimes the role of African-Americans in films are often antagonists, background characters, or falls second to the main character.
Furthermore, I think Static Shock proves that a person who is studious or a bookworm can still be a normal person in society and accepted. Virgil has powers and becomes strong not only physically, but he becomes more intelligent when analyzing people/different environments. These dynamics debunk the beliefs that the school nerds/studious classmate is small, weak and unconfident. Keep in mind during his teenage years, Virgil helped de-escalate a situation with gun violence at his school, putting his life at risk with the very thing that killed his mother. The “nerd” can come in many shapes, forms, and appearances with various character traits.
In conclusion, Static Shock is the embodiment of reality that is present in society and trickles down generation after generation through the lenses of a teenager/high schoolers. While this may be the case the film is fairly balanced with positive outlooks and resolves to scenarios like the racism Virgil encounters in the show, or the scenarios of gun violence along with the consequences the situations bring. The show does not get too graphic with violence, but the scenarios given are very much real-life conflicts transitioned into positive messages that I, as a child, took away from various episodes. This show also promoted many to be family oriented and to never take family for granted. You will not be disappointed by this astonishing show! There are comic books, movies, and the TV show itself on the website dcuniverse.com to examine more on Virgil’s background.
A Silent Voice
A Silent Voice: Discovering the Answer to Forgiving One’s Self
TW: bullying, depression, anxiety, suicide
If you are reading this, I can keep your attention for the next few minutes. If you are someone who refers to themselves as “stubborn as a mule”, allow yourself to at least be intrigued by my recommendation for your next movie night. A Silent Voice is a film adapted from the collection of its original seven mangas. Conveniently spread across two hours, this movie is one I will forever be crying out for family, friends, and society to watch at least once in their life times. However, before telling you anymore about this film, please take discretion with the trigger warnings above. Yes, I recommend this movie often, but I always make sure to give warning when potential trigger topics are included. If you are still here with me, let us get started.
The movie opens with our protagonist Shoya Ishida observing his calendar before preparing to meet with his manager about leaving his job. Soon after, he sells his entire manga collection for thirty-thousand yen and milks all the money in his bank account before leaving it securely packaged by his mother’s pillow with the note, “Here’s the money I owe you”. By now, you can assume what his plan of action is when he stands up on the railing of a local bridge, staring down at the expecting, still waters below. Not even five minutes into this eerie monologue and I am pitying this troubled teen while trying to piece together what has made him come to the present decision of letting go of it all. What has his life been up until now? Would it be worth leaving it all behind? It is then we are brought back to our protagonist’s time in grade school. Spunky and full of childish joy, it is soon revealed that this same young man preparing to leave what he has ever known behind was a bully in one of the most influential eras of his life.
Shouko Nishimiya was the new student at Ishida’s grade school with a disability that made it unknown to her that her classmates would be mocking her in the very same room she exchanged smiles with them; she could not hear. Yes, she was and presently is still deaf. Nishimiya did not let this stop her though; she would attempt to make friends with her classmates with an enthusiastic yet twisted tongue, but they laughed and chastised her inability to form coherent words. Ishida would be one of these classmates who affected Nishimiya for the rest of her life.
We do not stay with the young age of these two for very long. Back to the present year, there is still much to follow before meeting with Ishida back on the bridge. Our protagonist has realized the fault in his bitter heart as a child, how could anyone--especially himself--ever forgive the malicious actions towards Nishimiya? This is a question you may find asking yourself because you and Ishida go on the coming-of-age journey to discover what can make this right.
I will never forget trying to process my emotions when watching this film for the first time. If I could go back and relish every eye-opening minute of this incredible story all over again, I would without even thinking twice. Several moments in this film moved me deeply, but the ending is what gripped my heart and touched me like no other film has ever had before. A Silent Voice will forever be a film I will recommend to anyone as it tastefully approaches the discovery of how one can forgive oneself. Is it possible? For Shoya Ishida, is he able to reach out to Nishimiya before it is too late? Please, do yourself the favor and go into this movie as blind as possible. I wish I could express my endless adoration for this film, but it would take away from the unexplainable experience of following these characters and the essential lessons packed in
the span of two hours.
Experience the unforgettable moments of this film so you can wish you could rediscover the beauty of it all over again as I have.
A Silent Voice is available for streaming on Netflix in English, Spanish, and japanese dub. Subtitles are offered as well.
“Be careful with your words. They can only be forgiven, not forgotten.”
The Walking Dead: Praise for One Hell of a Title Reveal
Based on the comic book series written by
Scott Gimple, Frank Darabont,
and Robert Kirkman
Review and Analysis
by Morgan Ingram
In season 5, Episode 10 of The Walking Dead, the opening scene is bleak to say the least. Our heroes are starving, and hope is dying in their eyes. Malnourished, weak, and mourning the loss of a major character, they hobble along the landscape, not looking so different from the roaming corpses that crave their flesh.
After binge-ing the entire series up until this point, this episode struck a nerve deep within my mind. The directors and screenwriters have perfectly engineered this transitional episode to involve the audience within the logic of the plot. I felt their primal hunger, like your stomach is gnawing at your spine and your friends start to look like competition. . . or worse, your next meal. I considered the dry, stifling heat that sucks the life from the cells. Perhaps the most unsettling aspect the audience is forced to consider is the question that everyone has asked themselves at least once: what is the purpose of living? The writers of this comic book adaptation have never shied from the taboo, political, or controversial that exist in society, and continue to exist after civilization has been mostly destroyed. However, this philosophical approach to confronting the character’s grief, trauma, and depression makes an absolute treasure trove of an episode to those who appreciate the study of psychology and philosophy.
The barn scene in this episode has haunted me and provoked my curiosity for years after I first watched it. The characters are sitting together by a fire in an old barn to escape a raging storm, reflecting on the youth’s resilience to hardship in the post-apocalyptic world. Michonne says, “This is not the world”. In the scene, it is night. The only light is from the fire that burns in front of them and casts shadows on the walls of the cave—er, I mean, barn. I believe that this scene is a reference and application of Plato’s Allegory of the cave. In the allegory, three people have been confined to sit and stare at the wall of a cave for the entirety of their lives. Behind them is a fire that never is extinguished. Figures of humans and animals walk in front of the fire, casting shadows on the cave walls that the three people perceive. To these people that have only ever seen the shadows, the world seems to consist only of shadows and the absence of shadows. We know that the world consists of many things, and shadows are simply the consequence of people, animals, and structures existing in light. We also know that these three people are experiencing a great ethical injustice by being confined to the cave when a whole world of colors, figures, experiences, and sensations are a few steps away.
When the heroic and optimistic Michonne says, “This is not the world. It’s not it”, what she means is that there is more to live for beyond just surviving. “It might be”, replies Glenn as he looks to his grief-stricken wife. The group, centrally Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Carol, Daryl, and Maggie are forced to consider that death may feel like a more endurable option than living on to only to frequently experience malnourishment, violence, paranoia, and grieving the loss of loved-ones. Rick, the fearless and wise leader, leads the group through a war story about his grandfather. It’s a story of triumph, but also the disturbing horrors of soldier psychology. The story is a gift to the viewer, as it adds very human dimensions to Rick at a time when his humanity is questionable. Rick concludes that the group must survive everyday by believing that they are already dead, accepting only the primal instincts and considering the conscience to be non-existent. Rick believes that if they all let go of their humanity to survive the elements, meaningful life will come to them later when survival is more easily achieved. “We do what we need to do. Then, we get to live” he says, looking at each of his friends, “… This is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead.” The title reveal has a startling effect after so many years of The Walking Dead being on air. The title referring to the heroes as the ‘walking dead’ is a jarring revelation that haunts the entirety of my viewing experience of the series. In his quiet, contemplative way, Daryl shakes his head defiantly and says, “We ain’t them.”
I won’t spoil anymore of this cinematic masterpiece of an episode by analyzing one of the most memorable scenes in television history, but I will encourage you to watch it yourself. If you are a loyal follower of The Walking Dead’s ‘Atlanta Five’, this one’s for you. The visual portrayal of the climax of the episode is a picturesque cinematic triumph that will make your heart swell. I, once again, highly recommend that you give this episode a watch.
“Them” is an episode that gives the audience everything, even more than everything, that we needed in its chronology. However, its chronology does not matter in the slightest to its themes and scenario. The episode’s themes are timeless not only in the world of The Walking Dead, but also in our own lives where the dead ~usually~ stay dead. Hopelessness is a disease of perspective. Hunger, loss, exhaustion, routine, trauma, and guilt twist the world into a dark reality. They cast shadows that make the world seem to only consist of darkness and ambiguity. One only needs to turn the other direction, stare at the flame for what it truly is, and continue towards the inevitable light on the other side. By the time the pain subsides, you’ll already be basking in the light of morning.
“Every day he got up and told himself ‘Rest in peace. Now get up, and go to war,’ and then after a few years of pretending he was dead, he made it out alive.” -Rick Grimes
Review by Amber Corn
TW: Sexaul Assult, Abuse, and Bullying
Laurie Halse Anderson’s book Speak was one of my favorite books for years. Anderson is known for her ability to explain concepts to teens that most won’t even talk about from eating disorders to suicide, she often writes about these complex concepts in language meant for teens. Speak is no different, as Speak follows a young girl named Melinda who is starting her first year of high school, after being a social outcast for calling the cops at one of the biggest parties of the summer. After that night, she became mute to cope with the trauma of the actual events that had occurred at the party. Anderson shows the true trauma of being a victim of sexual assault and how people can cope differently, it even shows the power perpetrators hold over their victims when they cannot disclose.
The movie was released in 2004, staring Kirsten Stewart as Melinda. I do not want to give away too much but both the book and the movie are fantastic representations of how sexual assult can change a person and how those around the victim make an impact. Mr. Neck, Melinda’s art teacher, is the only one who lets Melinda be herself and is understanding of her selective mutism. This allows Melinda to take up art as a way of coping, before anyone even knows of the assault. All things said, there are many problematic things throughout but it does show some realness. From the fact that once her best friend, Nicole, found out, Nicole denies her and goes on to date her rapist, Andy. The entire book and movie are powerful messages about sexual assault, showing a victims journey through self validation and victimizing oneself. It also does a good job portraying the importance of believing victims and being empathetic when someone discloses that they have been a victim of sexual assault to you.
Both the book and the movie hit close to home for myself, as myself and a close friend of mine were victims of sexual assault. Both facing similar struggles as Melinda, with people who told us we were lying or that we just didn’t know what we were talking about. Melinda was the story of validation that as a teen I needed to hear. Many victims related to this story and it showed us that we were valid. So take the time to listen to Melinda because “Melinda” could be a sister, brother, friend, classmate, co-worker, etc.
This movie is not for the faint of heart, it does a good job with the message of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, but it does stray somewhat from the books original plot taking out somethings such as dialogue and some character building, but all around the movie does an amazing job portraying what it is like being a victim of sexual assault and not disclosing. I will never say it is an easy thing to discuss but this movie makes it easier. Kirsten Stewart embodies Melinda and takes her role seriously, knowing the impact Melinda’s story can have on those watching. Critics raved about the moving story and if you can get past the cringey jokes, trends, etc portrayed in this 2004 film, the message is worth hearing.
In the end, both the book and the movie Speak are very well written. Casting was done well and it sticks to the original message quite well, the only thing I wish was changed is that they kept in some more of the dialogue between Melinda and her friends after she discloses, because the movie did not draw out these things so we get less of the resolution. However, at its core the movie does an amazing job telling Melinda’s story and I would recommend everyone to watch this movie to get a better understanding of victimization and how that impacts the victims of sexual assault.
Review by Alayna Eure
I am about to tell you this movie isn't just some regular movie; It's a movie with a story to tell and teaches a valuable lesson.
Tyler Perry's movie Temptation is about a woman named Judith; she was raised in a church, and she and this boy named Bryce were best friends since they were young and became her high school sweethearts and fell in love and got married. Judith wants to be a marriage counselor and start her own practice, but she works for someone, and her husband is a pharmacist.
At Judith's job, this guy comes in she wasn't interested in because she's married, and they end up doing business together. When the man she is working with, named Harley. Harley starts to take an interest in Judith when they get to know each other more, and he is saying all these things to tempt her.
Judith feels like her husband Bryce doesn't appreciate her anymore because he forgets her birthday, doesn't stand up for her, and takes her for granted. Harley, the man she works with, does all these things to make her feel wanted and appreciated, so Judith started to think about all the things he was saying to her and began to believing him and slowly started to want him more and more but wasn't admitting it. It wasn't until Harley and Judith went on a business trip and kissed her and slept with her, and that's Judith changed completely; she started lying and staying out late to see Harley and began doing drugs like cocaine and all this horrible stuff that's not her. Judith's husband found out and beat him up, but in the end, they didn't stay married because she ended up with AIDS.
This movie just goes to show the grass isn't greener on the other side. Personally, I feel like this movie is one of Tyler Perry’s best movies and I feel like everyone should check it out because it teaches you a life lesson.
Review by Cortney Queen
“You ever wish you would die?”
“No. It’s foolish to ask for luxury in times like these.”
You have come this far, digesting two hundred eighty-seven pages of a literary masterpiece. You have labored over coming to terms with the father’s demise and leaving your hope with the little boy who carries the fire. McCarthy leaves you feeling oddly satisfied, however. Your next move lies with watching John Hillcoat’s film adaptation in hopes it offers the same beautiful story McCarthy depicted so well through words. You prepare yourself for a dark two hours, knowing the grim realities the man and boy will face. But what does Hillcoat leave you with? A painstakingly long sorry excuse of an adaptation. The film leaves viewers irritated as they suffer through the boy’s whiny temperament and the father’s lack of paternal love. The director fails to fully capture the boy’s childlike innocence and God-like ethics. Hillcoat may have included a few scenes like the father referring to the boy as “God’s word,” but viewers of the film do not cherish the boy’s purity. Instead, they find themselves wishing the boy was a mute. As for the relationships between the characters in the movie, they are nonexistent. The boy feels like a burden to the father, and the father speaks to the boy with a matter-of-fact tone. There is an absence of love that seeped through the words in the novel, even with the limited dialogue McCarthy offers.
So, what is the final consensus? Surprisingly, the movie received fairly decent ratings. I could potentially see why as there were a couple brief moments in the movie which halted my breath. For instance, the father holding his boy at gunpoint or the scraggly-looking man approaching the boy at the end of the film. Nevertheless, book nerds and people with a good taste in movies alike find this film drastically short of the emotion the plot could have offered viewers. In no way, shape, or form does this adaptation give McCarthy’s poetic apocalyptic story justice.
Pride and Prejudice
Review by Kelly Fried
Pride and Prejudice is my mom’s favorite movie so I had very high expectations of the film, but then again, my mom has twenty different favorite movies. Nonetheless, I was not let down. The film is both accurate to the novel by Jane Austen and society in the early 1800’s. The setting, the attire, the language, the acting, are all that makes the audience truly feel like they are looking back in time. The scenery is breathtaking. Between Mr.Darcy’s extravagant home and the sun setting on the countryside, every scene has something to offer visually that is unique. The costume design also plays a role in the visuals. I loved looking at all the dresses the women were wearing at the ball. Something I thought was interesting about the clothing was when two of the sisters are getting ready for the ball, one is tying the corset for the other and the one tying it says, “Breathe in more!” which I thought brought some humor as well as a portrayal of how much went into the attire of the 19th century.
The language and script writing is another thing I loved about this film. Although the language and terminology of this time period can seem confusing in the modern day, the language was never too prolific for the audience to understand. The general plot as well as the progression of the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr.Darcy is conveyed just as wonderfully as in the novel. I believe the actors that played those roles are a main reason as to why this film is so accurate. I was so moved by the last scene of just the two of them that I was going to cry. I really thought these two were in love! Another scene that was quite emotional was with Elizabeth and her father when Elizabeth is asking for her father’s permission to marry. The scene was filled with tears of joy when Elizabeth declares her love for Mr.Darcy and her father is happy to see that she is marrying someone deserving of her love. Needless to say, I think this film had an amazing cast that illustrated the emotions of the story beautifully. I loved watching Pride and Prejudice, and it is truly one of my favorites now.
Review by Dr. Ashley Schoppe
TW: Sexual assault
Review from a wonderful professor from Pfeiffer University, where The Phoenix is based.
Last Christmas was a weird time for me, as it was for many of us, traditional season festivities replaced by pandemic-imposed isolation. Thus, instead of my annual road trip to Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas to visit family and friends, December 2020 found me alone in my apartment in North Carolina. However, all was not doom and gloom, as season one of Bridgerton dropped on Netflix on Christmas Day. I spent the last days of the year devouring the series with my bestie and sister-in-law, physically apart but emotionally connected through the wonders of a group text thread.
Bridgerton is based on author Julia Quinn’s series of romance novels, published in the early 2000s. The novels are set in Regency England and follow the romantic exploits of the many (eight, to be exact) Bridgerton siblings: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. Yes, the children are named in alphabetical order; no, the books do not follow this order as the female Bridgertons get married at younger ages than their male counterparts. Thus, the series begins with Daphne’s story, The Duke and I, and it is this particular work that season one adapts.
The first result of the $100 million deal Netflix brokered with producer Shonda Rhimes, Bridgerton follows the plot of The Duke and I, but the television series makes some notable creative departures from the source material. When the orchestra plays an instrumental version of Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” in episode one, the viewer immediately recognizes that this series is not the typical period drama. (Other contemporary songs given the orchestra treatment include Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Billie Eilish’s “bad guy,” Shawn Mendes’s “In My Blood,” and my personal favorite, Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams.”)
The most significant departure from Quinn’s book is the diverse cast, with black actors portraying several important characters, including Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury, and our hero, Simon Bassett, Duke of Hastings, played gloriously by Regé-Jean Page. While representation in Hollywood has historically left much to be desired, period dramas are perhaps the worst offenders. That Bridgerton incorporates people of color into its leads is in many ways a breath of fresh air. However, the series does not do much with this casting choice, refusing to address race except in the briefest blink-and-you-miss-it dialogue. On the one hand, black people deserve escapist entertainment that does not solely center on trauma; on the other hand, refusing to address the realities of race at all erases and sanitizes the black experience. Bridgerton fails at this admittedly tricky balancing act.
A more successful change, perhaps, is Bridgerton’s exploration of the ways that the refusal to educate girls about their bodies and sexuality leaves them vulnerable. When it is revealed that Marina is unmarried and pregnant, Eloise and Penelope are shocked and befuddled, ignorant of how such an occurrence is even possible. Penelope announces her determination to discover an explanation, and Eloise retorts, “You must. Otherwise, how can we make sure it never happens to us? We have accomplishments to acquire.” Delivered with Eloise’s characteristic wit and sarcasm, the line is funny, but it is also deeply disturbing, and it reveals how a lack of sex
education negatively impacts women, a subject still relevant today. This ignorance of the mechanisms of sex and its connections to pregnancy is also central to Daphne’s storyline.
And now we come to Bridgerton’s most substantial flaw. Angered by a misrepresentation of Simon made possible by her lack of knowledge about the most basic facts of human reproduction, Daphne rapes Simon. Like the book, it must be said, the series neglects to acknowledge this act as the violation and betrayal that it is. Put simply, the series itself does not seem to realize that Daphne’s actions constitute rape. That this failure centers around a black male character is particularly egregious, as men, especially black men, are too often overlooked as victims of sexual assault.
In summation, then, Bridgerton is commendable for its casting of black actors and its tackling of questions surrounding sexual education and female autonomy, but it must do better on the topic of race and its handling of consent. Season two, slated for release in January 2022, focuses on Anthony’s story, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Following the pattern of season one, it will continue the practice of diverse casting, with Simone Ashley, a British actor with Indian heritage, in the role of Kate Sheffield, Anthony’s love interest. The Viscount Who Loved Me happens to be my favorite Bridgerton novel, so a head’s up to the writers and producers: Do better. I will be watching.
Anne with an E
Review by Barbs Stuckey
As an English major, I have encountered many novels throughout my life but the first piece of literature I read that made me feel as though I was maturing as a reader was Anne of Green Gables. It was the first classic novel I ever read so when Anne With An E came out, I was very excited to see how it would compare to my beloved novel.
This adaption is one I fell in love with and have watched a couple of times, it became a comfort show of mine. Firstly, the way they are able to transfer much of what was from the book into the show is what surprised me. As always, things are left out but overall, the theme is gotten across the same as in the book. The actors and actresses in this show did a phenomenal job of portraying the iconic characters which is incredible when looking at their ages. The characters of Anne and Gilbert have undeniable chemistry throughout the show and it helps highlight their relationship as they navigate their first encounter with true romance. Throughout the series, you are kept on the edge of your seat even if you have read the book. Anne is the main character and while she has a romantic counterpart, this is not the only relationship the show explores. It shows her struggles as she interacts with a familial unit for the first time as she is originally an infant. It takes a look at class as she interacts and even befriends girls in higher classes.
Overall, this show tackles some tough topics as well as simple trials of coming of age phenomenally and is worth a weekend binge.
Review by Louisa Parrish
One night I was scrolling through Netflix during some downtime I had this Summer and I stumbled upon Ophelia (2018). It is an adaptation of Hamlet but told from Ophelia’s point of view. Having read Hamlet, I was skeptical to watch the movie. Boredom won out, however, so I hit play.
The movie, like under a spell, instantly entranced me. Ophelia captivated me and had my full attention until the very end. It was heartbreaking to hear the lines of Hamlet insisting the Ophelia leave and go to the nunnery. I was never impressed in Hamlet with the way the insanity was executed, but Ophelia does it in a way that not only makes sense but makes you love Hamlet and Ophelia even more. Everything that could have been a joke in the play version takes a solemn note now in Ophelia.
Ophelia’s character is more developed, and after watching this movie, I think it was always supposed to be Ophelia’s story; Hamlet only shined so bright because of her and the fact that he was a prince. Ophelia is smart and not depicted as a lowly woman who completely depends on a man, while still being semi-realistic to the time period the play is set in. The connection between Ophelia and Hamlet becomes more than “well she is pretty” and “he’s the prince.” They get along; they have a genuine love for each other. Ophelia showcases that insanity and jealously were never the driving factors of the story, it was always love that drove through the life and death in the play.
The ending leaves a soft ache in your heart. It isn’t happily ever after, but you still want the characters to get the life they deserved. Ophelia shows courage and tries her best to save those that she loves, but even she realizes that she can only do so much. Ophelia gives life to the women in the play, from being characters to accentuate the male characters to fully developed characters that you love all on their own, even if you just love to hate them.
Ophelia is definitely worth the watch.
The Untamed: A Path of Sacrifice, Love, and Salvation
By Logan Hill
Quarantine provided ample time for many of us to explore new hobbies, interests and habits that we had previously not had time to. Besides doing school work, I did not have many other things to fill up my time in my house. I decided to visit my trusty friend Netflix and explore what shows I could watch now that the time was available. What I came about was a wonderfully crafted show, called “The Untamed.” I had seen this show recommended previously and was intrigued by the absolute beauty of its scenery and characters. So, I decided to delve into it, 50 episodes and all. Yes, a full 50. While that may seem daunting, let me assure you, it goes by incredibly quick. It is one that will definitely leave you wanting more. I found myself binging episodes in every second before, during (shhh) and after classes. That is why I say, if you are going to put time into any show, I implore you to put it into this one. I will not go into depth about everything, as I would like you to give it a chance yourself, but allow me to tell you a bit about the sheer masterpiece The Untamed really is.
The Untamed is a historical Chinese TV series that was adapted from a Chinese novel called Mo Dao Zu Shi, or MDZS for short. The Untamed follows the main character, Wei Wuxian, who is a spiritual cultivator. Spiritual cultivators are those who have special cores that allow them to hone certain powers and weapons. I will not get into more specifics, as it can get complicated, but understand that not everyone is born with one. Through Wei Wuxian, we learn about his tragic past and upbringing that brought him to his current status. If you are looking for morally grey, perfectly sarcastic, red-coded, kinda-villain kinda-not character, then he is your man. Wei Wuxian frequently interacts with another character, Lan Wangji, who is another main protagonist that practices spiritual cultivation. If you are looking for a mysteriously reserved, quietly sassy, blue-coded, low key badass, then he is the man for you. The chemistry between the two in the show can be considered romantic. If you are looking for it, the insinuations are there. The book it was based on did confirm their relationship, but censorship laws in China did not allow for that to be transferred on screen. Either way, the interpretation is up to you.
Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji are both teamed up and pitted against each other at many times throughout the show, whether it be for fighting demons, solving problems, or disagreements amongst themselves or others. Through this, you get to watch as their relationship ebbs and flows as they grow and change as characters. It is truly some of the most in-depth character development that I have ever viewed. Along with that, you are introduced to a plethora of characters, like siblings or other clan members, which leads to a series of beautiful side stories and intermingling plot lines. I know this may sound confusing and strike fear in your heart, but worry not, viewer. The journey you take with this show and its characters is not one of ease, but it is one that is more worthy than any you may take before. The characters you meet are all delightfully fleshed out and indicative of talented writing. I honestly fell in love with almost all of them and I can tell you that you will too, with such ease as comes with breathing. Be prepared for certain characters and story lines to take a special place in your heart, even if you go into it not believing so.
I am sure you have noticed by now that I have not revealed much about the plot. That was intentional. There really is a lot going on within this show, more than could be easily explained in this short essay. I do not want to disgrace it by trying to squish everything into here. However, I will tell you some things that are not only helpful to know, but also what wonderful things you can look forward to if you take interest in it. Firstly, I must warn you that the first couple of episodes may feel confusing or slow, but do not let that throw you off. The plot-line speed will sky rocket after that and you will be along for the ride of a lifetime. Secondly, even though it may feel like you are left out of the loop, do not overthink, everything will be explained in due time. The Untamed is set up in a way that most stories are not and it is meant to be that way. One last helpful thing, you will want to learn some about Chinese culture as you go along with it, if you really want to be immersed in the show. It is a historically based drama, so some nicknames, terms, and customs may be confusing, especially if you have not watched a Chinese TV show before. A simple google search can help solve any of that for you.
Now, let me tell you about what The Untamed has to offer. I really could go on for days about this, but I will tone it down for the sake of you all. For one, I will let you know that the first episode will catch you by the neck. I have dealt with cliffhangers before, but having one in the first episode is not something that I have experienced very often. This may not make sense right now, but after you watch it, you will know. If that is not enough to make you curious, then maybe the twist ending will. I, of course, will not tell you that ending, but I will let you know it is there, and it is perfect; it is decadent. If you are looking for rad fight scenes with swords or magic battles, then jump right in, there is tons of it. Albeit, with some pretty questionable CGI at times, but it is still there nonetheless. Even if you are not interested in this plot, do your eyes a favor and bless them with this show. If the plot being up to your liking is not enough, literally everything about the show is gorgeous: the scenery, the outfits, the characters, the music. Everything. If you like aesthetic scenery, it's got it. If you like pretty women AND men, it's got it. If you like emotionally tantalizing music, it's got it. There are no misses when it comes to this show.
I know I have thrown a lot at you in this review, but know that all that I have said is from strong feelings. There were few things that were enjoyable about the quarantine, but this show was able to bring light back into my day. It is so incredibly versatile and crafted like a fine wine, it is hard not to partake in its glory. It is hard not to find something you like from it. Please do not be fearful of the length; it holds great things that I am positive will leave you on the edge of your seat wanting more. The Untamed is a show that should be regarded in the highest marks and I leave you with that to go explore it on your own.
By Dr. Edward Royston
Review from a wonderful professor from Pfeiffer University, where The Phoenix is based.
Station Eleven is a 2014 novel by Emily St. John
Mandel. Station Eleven is also a 2021 miniseries on
HBO-Max. And within the novel and the miniseries,
Station Eleven is an indie comic book that inspires
and informs disparate characters. The novel, the
miniseries, and the fictional comic book within
them are all about apocalypse, endurance, survival,
and art. In the novel and miniseries, a plague known
as the Georgia flu wipes out 99% of humanity. In the
fictional comic book, an accident aboard the titular
Station Eleven, a sort of artificial planet or space
station, achieves much the same effect. The novel
and show follow roughly the same group of characters, artists and actors, before, during, and after the apocalyptic plague. Some of these characters find solace and inspiration in the fictional comic book as they endure and work to build futures for themselves. The fictional comic follows Dr. Eleven, one of the few survivors aboard the titular station as he tries to come to grips with his damaged world. So in a sense, Station Eleven, whether the novel, miniseries, or comic book, is about adaptation—how people adapt to survive in a new world and how people adapt art into new contexts to find new meanings.
The differences between the novel and miniseries are few, but they are significant. Connections are drawn more strongly between characters, especially protagonists Kirsten and Jeevan. Other characters receive more development and attention, like Tyler, the son of the actor whose indifference to their relationship inspired his first wife to write and draw the comic book. The comic book is incomplete in the novel, but complete in the miniseries. Also, there’s a lot more violence and action, as befitting a show streaming on HBO-Max.
So what is the sum of these changes, you might ask, do they make the miniseries better or worse than the novel on which it’s based? And the answer is neither. They make the miniseries different, but ultimately both works (really all three) are about our search for meaning and connection with other people and the art we create and about how different people make different meanings and connections, sometimes to wildly different results. Those connections are more explicitly drawn in the miniseries, but fundamentally they are not different from those in the novel.
What ultimately makes the novel and the show so powerful is their approach to apocalyptic fiction. Often, apocalyptic fiction is action filled and spends little time on mourning the world and the people who were lost. Station Eleven takes a different tack, one that recalls Neville Shute’s On The Beach, in that it approaches its subject with an appropriate sense of melancholy. And yet unlike Shute’s novel, there is a promise for a better future. Whichever version we are talking about at this point—novel, miniseries, imaginary comic book—is sure to fill you with wonder and sadness as you follow the characters’ lives and ponder the choices they make before, during, and after the devastation of their world.
Best lines: “Because Survival is Insufficient.” (taken from Star Trek Voyager)
“I remember damage. Then escape. Then adrift in a stranger’s galaxy for a long time. But I’m safe now. I found it again. My home.”
The Handmaid's Tale
By Kelly Fried
The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) is an adaptation of the novel by Margaret Atwood. The story takes place in a dystopian former America where women are slaves and have to have children due to a population crisis. The protagonist, June Osborne, was married with a child before she was taken and separated from them. She is a handmaid called Offred, because Fred is the head of the household, and handmaids are forced against their will to try to conceive a child with the man of the house. June has no other choice but to work and do whatever Fred and his wife tell her, but she is determined to escape and find her daughter and husband. She becomes friends with other handmaids and tries to make plans with them to escape and to get their families. This is very difficult however, because there is a strict military everywhere watching their every move. In the midst of all this, June starts a romance with a man named Nick and June gets pregnant by him. Even though the child is Nick’s, Fred and his wife get the child because June is their handmaid. She is able to stay their handmaid though so she can be with her child, which is a rare occurrence for handmaids. In the end of season one, June is able to help some handmaids get to Canada, which is a free country, but stays behind for her daughter and future child.
The Handmaid's Tale is very thought-provoking in the way it makes the dystopian setting seem so real. The novel was written in 1985 with no specific setting in time, but hints at a relatively soon future. The television series however, appears to be current day, with the use of modern technology and everyday settings. The dystopian setting is very dark and gloomy and features many Victorian style homes but also includes ordinary settings like the grocery store. The characters are typical people who lived free lives before the takeover. The audience gets to know the characters, even slightly insignificant ones, in great detail, dedicating episodes to flashbacks of their lives. With this background of who the characters are, gives depth to tragic lives they now live, knowing they lived everyday lives like each of us. This also illustrates the concept of this dystopian world being a very soon future which could easily happen today if the wrong people abuse power. The Handmaid’s Tale makes the audience think about their own lives as well as other difficult subjects such as religion, freedom, politics, marginalized groups, and sexual abuse. The Handmaid’s Tale is a great example of how science fiction makes insightful commentary on the real world.
Review by Dr. Edward Royston
I am a Dune expert. For real. Not only is Dune my favorite novel, but it is also a subject of my scholarship. I’ve presented on Dune at national conferences, and I’ve written a chapter about it in a forthcoming scholarly collection. So I’m biased, like really biased.
Denis Villeneuve’s is now the fourth attempt at adapting Frank Herbert’s stunning epic. It’s the third that has made it to screens after David Lynch’s critically panned yet cult appreciated 1984 film and the SyFy Channel’s ambitious but under-budgeted miniseries from 2000. Alejandro Jodorowski’s attempt to adapt the novel never made it past the pre-production phase, though there is a fascinating documentary about it. The failures of these attempts have led many to believe that Dune is unadaptable.
Villeneuve has put that belief to rest. With this film he has shown that one can stay mostly true to the themes and content of the novel while bringing it to the screen. I was ready for disappointment. I didn’t expect to be so impressed. I knew Villeneuve was capable of creating a stunning visual vocabulary—see his work in Sicario, Arrival, and Blade Runner 2049—but I wondered if he could capture the subtleties beneath the surface of Dune’s relatively familiar hero’s journey plot.
He’s done both in ways that truly impress me. Visually, Dune can only be described with the word “grandeur”. Villeneuve captures both the sense that his movie takes place in a far distant future and the sense that this future is itself an old world. The setting for the final act, an abandoned ecological station on the titular desert planet, is massive and imposing. It looks like a site that is as old as the pyramids and yet it will not be built for another ten thousand years.
But perhaps even more impressive than the gorgeous visuals is the conveyance of Dune’s central warning against heroes and messianic figures. Unlike Lynch’s film that transforms Paul Atreides into a true messiah and deliberately at odds with the white savior imagery, Villeneuve clearly shows that the Atreides do not come to Dune to save its native Fremen and Paul only walks towards his messianic role among them to achieve retribution for his family’s destruction and disposition at the hands of their political rivals. As it ends at only the halfway point of the novel, this is made even more clear: Paul does not save the Fremen; he instead finds salvation among them. Let’s hope Villeneuve gets the greenlight for part 2.
It has to be: “I must not fear. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when it has gone past, only I will remain.”
Review from a wonderful professor from Pfeiffer University, where The Phoenix is based.
Much Ado About Nothing
Review by Cortney Queen
If 't be True Shakespeare Confuses Thee, Gaze this Playeth or In Other Words, “Girl Watch This Play!”
If Shakespeare has always felt like a distant untouchable language only scholars converse in, I encourage you to sit down and grab some popcorn (or a whole pizza) for the two hour and fifteen-minute Great Performances production of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Great Performances’ adaptation is a must see for any modern audience as the director embraces and celebrates African American culture in a 21st century context all while remaining true to Shakespeare’s plot and language. If you’ve read Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing you are quite familiar with the basic plot of the adaptation: a group of men return from battle, and the soldier Claudio soon plans to marry Hero but not before Don John tries to spoil it. Oh! and you can’t forget about the romantic subplot of Beatrice and Benedick. Great Performances, however, tweaks this plot to position Shakespeare into modern context. The soldiers who return from battle in Shakespeare’s play are now men who are returning from a Black Lives Matter protest. The use of facial expressions, African American Vernacular, and modern reference like “Kobe” and the dap pen make Elizabethan language accessible to audiences.
Additionally, Shakespeare finally feels like a comedy, especially as the audience experiences Beatrice’s character, played by Orange is the New Black’s Danielle Brooks. Her delivery and inflection of voice allow you to truly understand Shakespeare’s punch lines. Benedick now becomes “BeneDICK,” and that is only a glance at the comedy you will experience throughout the play. Great Performances’ Much Ado About Nothing is the adaptation we all needed. After Shakesperean adaptations like Julie Taymor’s The Tempest and Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, it is refreshing to finally get an adaptation that effectively incorporates and exalts the culture and lived experiences of African Americans. Great Performances Much Ado About Nothing is a standard we should hold all modern Shakespeare adaptations to.
To All The Boys I've Ever Loved Before
Review by Alayna Eure
If you're looking for an unforgettable romantic movie, this movie is for you. The story starts following an Asian American teenage girl named Lara Jean; she has always wanted love, like in the movies, and always has been a hopeless romantic. Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved before; she has written five love letters keeping them hidden, so no one knows. A part of her wants to love, but another part is scared to fall in love, scared that her fantasies might turn into reality. Lara Jean's sister, Kitty, knows about her love letters and secretly takes her letters and sends them out to all the boys she has written about. One boy Named Peter, that goes to school with Lara Jean gets the letter that her sister sent out; he's flattered but tells her he just broke up with his ex. His ex is also Lara Jean's ex-friend, Jen, who hates her and is jealous. Later on, Peter comes up with a plan to be a fake couple so that he can make his ex jealous so that they can eventually get back together. Lara Jean agrees, they start to get to know each other, and Peter starts developing feelings for her the more and more they are in this fake relationship Lara Jean also starts developing feelings for him. Still, she is scared to tell him how she feels because she's not sure he feels the same way. Eventually, they end up being a real couple, but Peters ex Jen tries to get into the middle of them, causing them to break up because of a misunderstanding. Ultimately Lara and Peter end up back together because she realizes he has had feelings for her throughout the fake relationship and, in the end, tells him that she likes him. He tells her he's in love with her and continues their relationship as a real couple, and the movie doesn't stop there because two others movies show the highs and lows of their relationship.
Call Me By Your Name
Review by Kayla G Cordero
Call Me By Your Name is a coming of age film released in 2017. This film followed the romantic story of 17 year old Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet, and 24 year old Oliver, played by Armie Hammer. It is summer of 1983 in Northern Italy when Elio’s father invites Oliver, a graduate student to live with the family for a few weeks to work as his annual assistant. This is when the two meet and ultimately develop feelings for each other. Right from the beginning of the film, the visuals were so appealing. It felt like it was right out of a magical story. If you have never traveled to Italy, all you have to do is watch this film. The music paired with the scenes of Northern Italy transported you to these places along with the characters. I felt a longing to be there. It’s honestly a really beautiful film, and the way the movie was captured makes you feel like you’re a witness to this story, not just watching a movie. As Elio and Oliver spend more and more time together, Elio begins to question his sexuality and Oliver begins to feel something as well. Eventually Elio ends up confessing his feelings to Oliver, who quickly lets him know that such things cannot be discussed. As the story develops, both of them are developing a much deeper relationship. They are able to spend a few romantic days together. I haven’t spoiled too much, but you can tell that this summer fling is gonna be super cheesy. It encaptures all the emotions that come along with having a crush, and a first love. That feeling in your stomach is felt throughout this story as their forbidden love develops. We have to remember this story occurred in the 80’s, the start of the AIDS epidemic. Same-sex relationships were not encouraged. However, there are so many ways for anyone to relate to some aspect of this film. It’s relatable and you definitely see yourself in these characters. You feel every emotion about this true love story that does not work out.
Putting aside how visually striking this film is, the music and sound does a great job to make you feel like you’re living a blurry memory. “Mystery of Love” by Sufjan Stevens is the song many may recognize this movie from. The bittersweet song captures the feelings behind this relationship. The song had me longing to walk outside and feel the sun's warmth on my skin. I believe the director, Luca Guadagnino captured every detail well enough to make you feel present during the story. The use of camera movement makes you feel like you’re in the room watching Elio and Oliver. The film also used hand held cameras so there is a deep sense of perspective. The novel is recounted through Elio’s perspective while the film is able to put us in this story while giving both characters perspective. Some may say that the movie is slow-paced, or has unnecessary scenes, but these are actually crucial to how the movie plays out. The amount of focus on the smallest details like the sound of how slowly Oliver walks down the stairs or how Elio traces his hand along the railing while walking by, helps to put the viewer in the setting. You may reminisce on whenever your hand has traced a railing and in that way, you feel like the character in that moment. The length of the scene also makes the viewer focus on how slowly and carefully Oliver is walking down these steps. The sounds and body language throughout this film help make you feel these small moments in real time. The house is given character because of how it creaks, how empty it sounds, and the loud bells. No detail is overlooked and you hear everything as if you were walking through the house as well. These sensory details are so important to this film's imagery and you really transport to these settings. Guadagnino is able to give off this energy in subtle ways. A simple touch or glance lets you know everything you need to. This movie lives out the show, don't tell technique.
Call Me By Your Name does a great job at truly showing the experience of a first love and heartbreak. There is a lack of conflict in this film’s plot that some may find boring or maybe even lazy, but honestly I think it was very refreshing to see. Again, I feel like the slow pace of the film played an important part in capturing those details that transport you into the story. In most same-sex romance films, we are used to seeing the homophobia and usual struggles these couples may go through, but this film really just shows them as two people in love. They are living out the summer romance 12 year old me dreamed of. I enjoyed watching this film a lot, I felt like I was living in this summer utopia along with the characters. The idea of riding bikes in fields, swimming in rivers, and constantly eating good food for the entire summer would be desirable to any viewer. The name of the film comes directly from a scene where Oliver tells Elio “Call me by your name, and I'll call you by mine.” I won’t spoil this sweet scene but it was so cute and I love when the title of a movie comes directly from a character's dialogue. After the two spend a few days together, Oliver has to return back to the U.S. This leaves Elio heartbroken and he is left to deal with this loss. This is when his father has a heart to heart with him and tells Elio to let himself grieve and grow, not to rush the healing process. It was so refreshing to see a father and son have this intimate moment. Usually these scenes are played by a mother and daughter but in this film, we are able to see how vulnerable Elio is with his father. This just shows how much he trusts him. After Elio talks to his father, his father reveals he experienced a similar relationship during his youth. It was then, when Elio is praised for taking the chance of this romance, something his own father never did. This film is definitely a masterpiece in so many aspects and I loved the rollercoaster of emotions it made me feel. I felt like I was experiencing a first love all over again. The scenes do such a great job of bringing butterflies to your stomach, just because it is such a painfully beautiful love story. I loved being able to feel as if I was in Northern Italy and I definitely want to visit for my next vacation! I would definitely recommend this film if you want to watch a heart-wrenching love story, while experiencing some of the most beautiful scenery. However, it is an erotic film that is rated R so please do not watch with any kids. There are some questionable scenes… with a peach LOL.
House of The Dragon
Review by Dr. Ashley Schoppe
Review from a wonderful professor from Pfeiffer University, where The Phoenix is based.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for Game of Thrones.
It is 9 PM on a Sunday, and I am screaming at my television.
The words “172 years before Daenerys Targaryen” have just appeared as an introduction to the new Game of Thrones spinoff, House of the Dragon.
For fans of Game of Thrones, Daenerys is a touchy subject. For seven seasons, we watched as Daenerys annihilated those that doubted her ability to rule. In season three, she used her dragon Drogon to take out a slave master who had referred to her as a “slut,” among other offensive terms. In season seven, she burned alive a host of warlords who had threatened to rape her. The framing of each scene—the music, the camera angles, the dialogue—all together encouraged the audience to recognize Daenerys as a heroic figure.
Then, in the middle of a truncated season eight, Daenerys inexplicably commits genocide on King’s Landing, and we are meant to applaud when Jon Snow stabs her to death during a kiss in the season finale.
Here’s how to make sense of such an incomprehensible storyline: I thought I was watching a series celebrating feminist empowerment, only to learn in the final three episodes (of an eight season show) that I had been watching a critique of monarchy and absolute power.
Thus, I was a tad put-out when House of the Dragon began using Daenerys Targaryen as a marketing ploy. “It’s like they want us to forget that season eight even happened,” I texted a friend after seeing an advertisement that showed side-by-side images of Daenerys and Rhaenyra (House of the Dragon’s main character) seated on the Iron throne.
Speaking from the authority of having read Fire and Blood, George R. R. Martin’s book upon which the show is based, she replied, “I think this show is going to be even worse, although hopefully they learned enough not to make Rhaenyra a symbol of female inspiration,” warning me not to fangirl Rhaenyra.
Easier said than done.
If you enjoyed Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will envelop you in waves of nostalgia. The two shows share the same thrilling theme song and both drop episodes on Sunday nights.
The showrunners have also made some improvements to correct common critiques of Thrones: onscreen nudity so frequent and unnecessary that the term “sexposition” was coined and the frequent use of rape as a plot device. (Aside from Daenerys’s storyline pre-season eight, Thrones suffered from accusations of sexism.)
Nudity in House of the Dragon has been rare, and sexual assault focuses on the victim’s pain. For example, an instance of marital rape features no nudity, and it is filmed in a manner as far from titillating as possible.
Instead, the show has a fixation on depicting childbirth in graphic and gory detail. Viewers have been divided on how to interpret these scenes through a feminist lens. Some have applauded the series for exposing labor as the dangerous and painful experience it is. Further, scenes of delivery prior to modern medicine simply hit differently after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as stories of physicians wavering on offering lifesaving care because of a fear of lawsuits swirl throughout the news. However, some of those who have experienced pregnancy and labor have found the scenes triggering, traumatic, and unnecessary.
Despite its differences, House of the Dragon treads much of the same plotline as Game of Thrones. Thrones traced Daenerys’s path to reclaim the Iron Throne, just as House of the Dragon focuses on the resistance facing Rhaenrya’s status as heir.
Notes to read the series as an allegory for women in positions of power triumphing over sexism abound. “Men would sooner put the realm to the torch than see a woman ascend the Iron Throne,” Rhaenys warns Rhaenyra. Decades later, Rhaenys is now a medieval Sheryl Sandberg, admonishing Alicent Hightower to lean in: “You toil still in service to men. Your father, your husband, your son. You desire not to be free, but to make a window in the wall of your prison. Have you never imagined yourself on the Iron Throne?” In addition to explicit dialogue, the audience is encouraged to celebrate as if a glass ceiling has been broken by composer Ramin Djawadi, who returns to provide uplifting backing tracks to scenes of Rhaenyra’s triumph featuring the same female choral callbacks to memorable moments for Daenerys, such as her crossing the Narrow Sea with her fleet. (Just listen to “Winds of Winter” and “The Crown of Jaeharys” back-to-back and see if you don’t agree.)
Sure, the interpretation that House of the Dragons is a critique of the institution of monarchy are there if you squint. Bonds of friendship and family are broken by the struggle for power. Viserys and Rhaenyra make choices that are not problematic on their face (such as marrying for love or enjoying pre-marital sex) but damning for monarchs or heirs to a throne. However, this storyline is not nearly as thrilling as rooting for a badass queen, a reality the showrunners seem to embrace.
I will savor each and every episode of House of the Dragon, but I will not be buying celebratory Rhaenyra merch as I did for Daenerys. No “Mother of Dragons” t-shirts or mugs for me this time around, no sirree.
Just kidding. I’m searching Etsy as we speak.
Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power
Review by Tyler Linsz
The Rings of Power is based on the novel The Lord of the Rings and its appendices by J.R.R. Tolkien. The series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, thousands of years before Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This first season of the show follows fan favorites Lady Galadriel played by Morfydd Clark and Elrond played by Robert Aramayo. There are also many new characters: Nori, Halbrand, Arondir, Prince Durin IV, King Durin III, Isildur and The Stranger.
The show is a prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and while it is based on some of Tolkien’s work, the writers and directors walked a thin line in trying to keep true to Tolkien’s writings while also trying to create mystery and new storylines. The huge investment by Amazon paid off in my opinion. The show is not perfect. The first few episodes were slow paced but once we were introduced to more of the intertwining storylines the show picked up pace. The first two episodes were released the same night and despite the slow pace, after watching both episodes I was hooked.
As the most expensive TV show ever made, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power faced a huge amount of pressure to live up to the hype and big budget expectations. The show faced many challenges such as trying to satisfy the hardcore J.R.R Tolkien fans while also trying to draw in new fans who don’t know much about Middle Earth. The writers and directors had a difficult task set out for them. They decided to world-build and introduce the audience to many new characters in this first season which can be boring at times if not done right.
My favorite character was The Stranger just because of the mystery surrounding him and because of who he is hinted to be. My favorite episode was the last episode of the season. This episode was action packed, the visuals were stunning, the music was amazing and the character reveals were awesome. The watching experience for the last episode almost felt like I was watching a short movie. The whole show felt very big budget and did not feel cheap or small like some tv shows do compared to the big blockbuster movies. For being a first season I think the pacing was alright and looking back at the show as a whole in a few years time I believe the pacing will make sense. I will also say that the overarching plot that connects to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings was fascinating and I cannot wait to see it play out. I will absolutely be tuning in for season two to see what is next and I would rate this show a solid eight out of ten.
The Hunger Games
Review by Alayna Eure
If you still need to watch or read the excellent series of The Hunger Games, then you are in for a treat. I feel like this is one of the best trilogies I have seen. The first movie, The Hunger Games, is about a girl named Katniss Everdeen who doesn't live in the best condition because her family is poor and they live in District 12, the last and poorest district. Katniss has a best friend named Gale and a sister named Prim; every year, each district has a Reaping day where they pick a boy and a girl, from age twelve to eighteen. Everyone from all the districts has to participate, and everyone's name goes into a bowl, and that's how they pick people from each district to represent in the annual Hunger Games. How the Hunger Games works is they put two people from each district to battle to the death, and whoever is left standing is the winner. When the day arrives, Katniss goes with her sister Prim to the reaping, and the whole district is there to see who will be in the hunger games. Effie is one of the women from the capitol, and the capitol is a city where the rich live and people who are higher up live, but Effie is assigned to District 12 to help them along their journey. As Effie is picking names, she calls Katniss's sister's name, and Katniss volunteers for her sister because she loves her sister so much that she takes her place as a volunteer, which has never been done in District 12.
Then she calls a boy named Peeta, a baker's son who helps his dad in his store. When both their names are called, they are mortified. Katniss and Peeta have to learn and train for the games, and Haymitch, one of the winners from previous games, mentors them so they can try to survive. When they learn and train all they can, they are finally put into the arena, but Katniss and Peeta split up, and both of them are trying to find their way. People have died, but they have been surviving, and when there are only four people left, Katniss tries to find Peeta, and when he is found, they stick together, trying to win it all.
When it comes to this series, I feel like This movie caught my attention from start to finish. I remember watching this in theaters for the first time in 2012, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I rewatch all the movies to this day because it's just that good. All the characters, I feel, are interesting, and all have a story to make the movie come to life. The acting is good; there aren't any parts where I cringe because of the acting, and everything beautifully fell into place, and the actors to play this part was perfect; I couldn't see any other actors playing their roles. I give this film a 10/10 and recommend this to anyone. When I compare the movie to the book, it's pretty much the same; of course, there will be some differences, but overall I recommend this movie to everyone.
Don't Worry Darling
Review by Louisa Parrish
“Are you ready for the life you deserve?”
Regardless of what Rotten Tomatoes says and personal opinions of the drama surrounding the cast and production, people should watch this movie at least once. I don’t know how to explain what the movie was about without giving anything away; going into the viewing experience of this movie blind is part of the fun and makes the movie better.
This movie could quickly become a comfort film for some people, while the premise of this movie will unsettle others. The visuals were impeccable, and it is a nice juxtaposition of what is occurring in the film.
Okay… spoilers ahead.
The movie follows Jack (Harry Styles) and Alice (Florence Pugh), a married couple living their “perfect life” at the end of the cul-de-sac in Victory. The idea of this community is that men created it to live out their fantasy of “going back in time” and living in the 1950s/1960s. The wife stays at home all day, and when the husband returns, they are pampered, fed, and the wife tends to every need. As the movie progresses, Alice realizes something is wrong and that the men in Victory are hiding something terrible. The world of Victory is revealed to be completely virtual, and the “husbands” enter themselves and their “wives” to live there by brainwashing their “wives” into forgetting their life before Victory and being in love with their husbands. It is never shown that the men in Victory have to be in a successful relationship before selecting their wives for their life in Victory. All of the wives there are trapped and brainwashed into thinking that this is the only life they have ever known; they are happy, safe, and content in their life, when the reality is their life is stolen from them. This is the scariest part of the movie; people have their life stolen from them to live another because someone chose them to play a part they never agreed to play.
I’ll be re-watching the movie when it is released to streaming services, but my experience in the theater was unforgettable. I had a death grip on the arms of my chair for most of the movie. Grab some snacks and watch this movie soon!
The Last of Us
Review by Dr. Edward Royston
Video game adaptations have a poor reputation, almost as poor as live-action anime adaptations’ reputation. Whether they be oddball attempts to make the Mario Brothers into an anti-Trump satire (back in 1993!), one couple’s quest to make their own extended Resident Evil continuity, or forgettable attempts to have Sonic the Hedgehog team up with James Marsden, they all tend to be cringe-worthy and raise the question, “who’s dumbass idea was this crap?”
HBO’s adaptation of the 2013 Naughty Dog survival horror game, The Last of Us, does some admirable work in rehabilitating the reputation of video game adaptations, but at the same time, it lays bare why video game adaptations tend to be so bad.
I loved The Last of Us when I played it 10 years ago. It combined tense survival horror gameplay with gorgeous graphics and an emotionally resonant story that subverted the normal heroic power fantasies at the heart of action-adventure games. I’ll always remember that poignant moment with the giraffes.
Aside from being tired of zombies and wondering if, after The Mandalorian and Prospect, we really need another science fiction adventure where a reluctant Pedro Pascal escorts a child, I was very excited about the HBO show. It’s why I’ve yet to cancel my HBO-Max subscription after hearing about their plans to start dropping series from the service.
And my excitement was rewarded with an excellent show filled with great performances from regulars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey and guests like Nick Offerman, Melanie Lynskey, Lamar Johnson, and Elaine Miles. The production is beautiful. The fungal zombies are truly gross. The action is on par with any other prestige television show. The changes from the video game flesh out the world and draw pathos from unexpected places, like a romance between two minor characters. And the show’s willingness to experiment with prestige TV pacing—like dedicating an entire extra-long episode to that romance between two minor characters—is refreshing and demonstrates the producers’ competence and confidence.
So why does it sound like there is a “but” coming?
It’s because all of the great production, performances, and departures from the game’s story end up highlighting how one note that story really is. The Last of Us, both the game and the show, has one theme—how far will a man go for love—and it hammers that theme home brutally and repeatedly like Joel smashing a FEDRA guard’s face. That beautiful extra-long romance episode is all about how far one man will go in his love for another man. The touching two-parter the series hinges on is all about how far one man will go for his little brother. The finale, for all its shock and awe, should not come as a surprise to anyone, even those who’ve meticulously avoided story spoilers for the last decade because it is all about how far one man will go for his surrogate daughter.
Furthermore, by expanding and fleshing out the game’s story, the show inadvertently reveals how little there really is to that story. The beautiful romance I keep referring to is barely even hinted at by the game. Yes, there is a story about survivors in the game that the show glosses over with a brief respite for the heroes in an underground bunker, but that story is told well enough by the set dressing and props in that bunker. This all becomes especially apparent when the show decides to gloss over the same 3 months of apparently uneventful travel as the game does. The game can pad its one-note story out with stealth, crafting, and combat. The show needs to add more notes.
Playing one note with a lot of skill and passion was enough to make a great video game story ten years ago, and The Last of Us still deserves all the praise it received at the time as well as acclaim for laying the foundation for all sorts of emotionally resonant and narrative-focused games like the latter Gears titles, the God of War reboots, and the Plague Tale series. But ten years on, game narratives have grown in their sophistication and complexity. Plague Tale: Requiem could easily be called Le Dernier d'entre Nous for basically being The Last of Us in medieval France, but that would dismiss all the ways in which it complicates and expands its very similar story. The bar has been raised.
And a prestige TV show needs a lot more than one note, especially if it’s a prestige Sunday night TV show from the purveyor of prestige Sunday night TV shows. HBO set the bar very high back with the Sopranos and, aside from stumbles like the final seasons of Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, has been raising it ever since. In terms of production and performance, The Last of Us easily reaches that bar. In terms of willingness to experiment with the form and pacing of prestige TV shows, The Last of Us even raises that bar some. But in terms of narrative complexity and depth, it falls short and reminds us why we usually scoff at video game adaptations.