Category Archives: Arts

‘Tomorrow War’ is Decent War

By: Eunice Chae

Victorville, Calif.

The Tomorrow War an Amazon Original released in July, enjoyed mixed reviews from both audiences and critics alike. The film boasts Chris Pratt in its starring role as Dan Forester, a former U.S. Army soldier who now works as a high school biology teacher. After fail-ing to get a prestigious job at a science facility, Forester has a semi-midlife crisis and waxes poetic about his life aspirations to his nine-year-old daughter.

During the World Cup, a giant wormhole opens up above the soccer field. A group of soldiers comes through, announcing that they’re from the future. They explain that by the year 2051, aliens have attacked the planet and the human race is virtually extinct. The government sends soldiers into the future to fight, and Dan is drafted.

In the future, the aliens — dubbed the Whitespikes thanks to their sharp teeth, claws and spikes — have overrun the city. Meanwhile, the humans have regular guns and regular bullets which barely do anything to the aliens. You would think that if future engineers had the technology to build a time-traveling device from “chewing gum and chicken wire,” they could have created weapons that were a teensy bit more effective.

When Dan tries to rescue a fallen team-mate, the group is trapped and everyone is killed except for Dan, Charlie (Sam Richardson), and a man named Dorian (Edwin Hodge). Later, Dan meets an older version of his daughter, Muri (Yvonne Strahovski), who develops a toxin for the Whitespikes. Just as the toxin is perfected, the aliens attack the military base. 

Muri is injured, and even though the fate of the world depends on getting the toxin to safety, Dan refuses to leave her. When Muri falls toward a frenzy of Whitespikes, Dan again makes a selfish decision and leaps after her. However, he’s transported into the present in the nick of time.

The movie takes a slightly bizarre turn when Dan, Charlie, Dorian, and Dan’s estranged father, James (J.K. Simmons), find a crashed spaceship. Instead of alerting others at once when they find it, the group traipses in alone. To be clear, humanity depends on killing these aliens, and only they know their location. If they die in the spaceship, the knowledge to save the world dies too.

Whitespikes on board eventually attack, and Dorian sacrifices himself, blowing up the ship while Dan, Charlie, James, and a female Whitespike escape. There’s a pleas-antly subversive scene near the end, when James attempts a self-sacrifice. In a small twist, Dan rescues him before he actually can, and kills the last Whitespike himself.

All in all, if you’re looking for a decently fun action flick with above-average performances of a remarkably selfish protagonist and unfortunately two-dimensional characters, The Tomorrow War fits the bill. Just don’t start squinting too hard at the plot, though, because that’s when it starts to crack under the pressure.

‘Luca’ is Accidental Hit for Disney

By: Mariah Colon

Buffalo, NY

Disney’s Pixar is a controversial topic among film critics due to what many describe as the studio’s fall from grace.  Since the end of the company’s golden g age in 2010, its films have gotten less  traction and for good reason. Recently  the studio has been producing average  children’s films, not the masterpieces  they came to be known for. “Luca,”  their most recent project, is yet another example of this mediocrity. 

“Luca” undoubtedly has made an  impression, but it’s not due to the film being good. Many viewers got at- tached to the relationship between protagonist Luca and his newfound best friend Alberto and the subtle im- plications that the feelings between the two boys were more than platonic. 

Had fans of the film not jumped and made their own narratives about  Luca and Alberto, though, it’s incred- ibly likely that the movie would have  been thrown in the pile of modern,  mediocre Pixar films. The characters are forgettable and hardly fleshed out.  

Luca doesn’t have enough traits to be  considered three-dimensional. He’s a sea  monster in a world of humans—an outcast. We’ve seen this trope countless times, and the film does nothing special with it. Alberto has the basis for an interesting character, but there isn’t enough time given to properly flesh out what makes  him compelling. He’s a young sea creature who was abandoned by his father. The movie seemingly attempts to do the found family trope with him, but it’s so glossed over that it can hardly be considered an important part of the story. Then there’s Giulia, the third protagonist in the film who befriends Luca and Alberto. To be honest, before starting this article, I had to look up her name: that’s how forgettable she is. She’s really only used to develop Luca’s character and fuel some conflict.

Characters aside, the plot itself is boring and rushed. How it manages to be both is beyond me.

So how did “Luca” become so popular? Well, simply put, it was by accident. The idea of Luca and Alberto being outsiders while also being extremely close to each other touched the hearts of many LGBTQ+ viewers. Feeling out of place is common for queer youth, and that’s exactly how the boys felt in human society. On top of that, the way Alberto and Luca interact comes off as more than just a platonic relationship. For example, at one part of the film, Alberto gets so upset with Luca for spending time with Guilia that they get in a fight and Alberto ends up outing himself as a sea monster. Tell me that’s not dripping with metaphor and implications!

When asked about “Luca” possibly being a queer story, though, director Enrico Casarosa said, “I was really keen to talk about a friendship before girlfriends and boyfriends come in to complicate things.”

Essentially, “Luca” wasn’t intended to be an LGBTQ+ film, yet the movie’s queer subtext is the reason it got so popular, despite the movie itself being mediocre.

‘Quiet Place’ Surpassed Expectations

By: Jennifer Alvarado

Phoenix, Ariz.

A movie with nearly no dialogue. You’d be surprised at how your blood runs cold at the sight of it. With a well-known career as an actor, but not as a director, it was easy to be skeptical about John Krasinki’s abilities behind the camera. Nevertheless, he surpassed everyone’s expectations with the horror/thriller movie “A Quiet Place,”  and did it once again with the sequel. 

 In a film bound by the limitations  that come with not being able to make  a sound, it can become easy to rely 

 too heavily on other elements of film- making, but Krasinski uses the perfect  balance of sound, mise-en-scène and  narrative. This, of course, is supplemented by the incredible acting of Emily Blunt, Krasinski, Cillian Murphy,  Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds.

The movie, which takes place in a small town, starts with Krasinksi’s character, Lee Abbott, and his deaf  daughter, Regan (Simmonds), walking  to their truck after seeing an unknown  object making its way to Earth. Only  moments after that, we catch our first  glimpse of the terrors in this movie. 

 After some action-packed sequences  featuring the Abbott family struggling  to escape creatures with significantly enhanced hearing abilities and a great number of sharp teeth, we move for-ward in time to day 474, after the tragic events of the first movie transpired. 

Evelyn Abbott (Blunt), along with her three children, Regan, Marcus, and baby Abbott, were forced to continue moving in search of asylum somewhere safe, all while mourning the loss of Lee, who sacri-ficed himself at the end of the first movie.

With the knowledge that Regan’s cochlear implant could produce high-frequency audio that temporarily incapacitates the creatures, the family walks a path surrounded by greenery in every direction. Slow, steady camera movements add to the tension and the constant thought that any sudden noise could alert the creatures to their presence. 

Finally, Regan and a family friend arrive at an island safe from the creatures. Mean-while, Evelyn, Marcus and baby Abbott are at an abandoned steel mAill, trying to fend off the creatures that have made their way into their temporary hiding spot. 

With scenes that display the parallels in the situations the children are in, we see that this entire time, Krasinski was setting the film up to make the kids the heroes, the ones that ultimately use their courage and creative thinking to aid the adults in finding a haven. Whereas in the first movie Krasinski primarily directed his focus to the concept of parents risking and sacrificing everything for their children, he flipped that around and allowed for Simmonds and Jupe to be given the spotlight. 

‘Black Widow’ Pairs Action and Adventure with Family Drama

By: Esmeralda Garcia-Cisneros

La Grange, N.C.

WHEN “Black Widow” was released on July 9, 2021, it quickly was hailed as one of the best movies in theaters in the past few months. “Black Widow” is a positive return to the movies for Marvel, after months of shuttered theaters, and fans are loving it. Many feel that the movie is long overdue, saying that the Black Widow character should have had a movie ages ago. But it’s safe to say better late than never. 

The movie starts with a family moment with Natasha Romanoff (the Black Widow) and her little sister Yelena playing in the backyard, and it moves to a family dinner with their mom and dad. Then the dad says it is time—but time for what? Well, you then see a scene where the family is escaping from cops and getting into an airplane, which lands in Cuba. Soon, their family life is over, and the two sisters are separated.

Like all the other Marvel movies, “Black Widow” emphasizes family and adventure amid efforts to defeat the evil of the world. Natasha confronts the darker parts of her his-tory when she faces off with the cause of all her pain. Pursued by a force that will stop at nothing to bring her down, Natasha must deal with her broken relationships from long before she became an Avenger. 

This movie offers more understanding of how this character—popularized in previous Marvel films—got to be who she was. The character of Black Widow is mysterious and exciting, and this movie really summarized her perfectly.

Feminist Theory in Disney’s ‘Cruella’

By: Roxana Martinez

San Bernardino, Calif.


Modern-day Disney films have become more progressive. Disney’s newest films—“Luca” (2021), “Cruella” (2021), and “Black Widow” (2021)—all in some way make reference to the inequalities faced by women in leadership positions, whether it be in a friendly competition or in a role in the most elite government organizations. What is most interesting is the unusual yet traditional direction in which filmmaker Craig Gillespie decided to take his film “Cruella.”

Many viewers are divided on “Cruella.” The film, derived from the classic “101 Dalmatians,” contains significant  departures from the original story. Despite this, many have come to love and support Gillespie’s masterpiece by portray-ing both the protagonist and antagonist of his story as independent and self-reliant women. 

While older crime films like “Mildred Pierce” (1945) and “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967) follow a female lead through a three-act cinematic structure, Gillespie decided to use flashbacks to break away from the traditional structure. In doing so, we are able to understand the origin story of our main characters and how they got to be the person we are seeing on screen. 

Understanding who Estella Miller was as a child helps the audience understand the goals and ambitions of her alter ego, Cruella De Vil. In most films of this genre, when an evil female character is involved, they usually face a significant event that leads to their downfall while their male counterparts, in some cases, get away. Female villains are not often successful in their evil doings. Instead of letting Cruella’s image be completely destroyed, Gillespie decides to change the narrative and allow Cruella to have a setback that she will build off of to become a better criminal. 

Not only that, but he transformed a serious storyline into one filled with comic relief that made it enjoyable for the audience. The active involvement of queer theory to create a more inclusive film was a sign that film production companies like Disney are beginning to make changes for the better. 

Although Gillespie steered away from the usual crime genre narrative, he has remained traditional in many other ways. Key elements of the genre seen in the film include the committing and solving of crimes, law enforcement involvement, and a story arc familiar to consumers of other crime TV shows, books, and movies.

The film’s approach to feminist theory was a step in the right direction for the depiction of female leadership roles in crime films. Nonetheless, it did not challenge the representation of women as much as I had hoped going into the movie. But perhaps I should take comfort in some of the words Estella says in the movie: “Don’t worry, we’re just getting started. There’s lots more bad things coming. I promise.”

‘Old Guard’ Has Little New To Show

Untitled drawing (1)Maggie Salinas

By Tara Monastesse

Warwick, R.I.

Andromache, or Andy, played by Charlize Theron, is the battle-hardened leader of a group of immortal warriors who serve as de facto protectors of the planet. In “The Old Guard,” Andy finds her crew targeted by greedy scientists who plan to kidnap them, extract their biological data, and replicate their powers of regeneration. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the film brings impressive choreography and new concepts to the action genre. But it stops just short of transcending it.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with “The Old Guard” is the risks it doesn’t take. While the rogue group of scientists is clearly immoral, the movie never delves into the serious question posed by their attempt to create a drug that extends human life: What do we owe to the rest of humanity? Moral questions like this present themselves throughout the movie, but instead of exploring them further, Prince-Bythewood always swerves back to more traditional fight sequences.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with that—after all, who doesn’t love watching Charlize Theron bring a sword to a machine gun fight? For a movie that’s trying to bring new depth to the genre, however, the lack of commitment to challenging storytelling in favor of gunshots and bloodshed feels tiresome. When a new member of the immortals’ group, Nile Freeman, played by KiKi Layne, questions Andy about the lives she takes without hesitation, the film appears to be on the cusp of an engaging conversation about the nature of life and death. Instead, they part ways and return to their action-flick adventures.

The immortals in the film feel almost hollow, as if their centuries of life had no role in shaping the people they’ve become. While Andy has mastered multiple languages and fighting styles over the course of human history, she ultimately presents herself as any other 21st century woman would. This is understandable, since hiding her immortality is easier if she blends in. But Theron doesn’t quite convey the burden you might feel defending humanity over centuries; often, she just looks tired.

However, I enjoyed the dynamic between the immortals, their camaraderie and constant wise-cracks, as well as the compelling romantic relationship between immortals Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). Despite its shortcomings, “The Old Guard” is a fun addition to the world’s pandemic playlist. I just wish it were more than that.

Immortals In ‘Old Guard’ Also Show Their Human Side

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By Hana Hammad

Debary, Fla.

The Old Guard” follows a strong female lead, Andy (Charlize Theron), an immortal trying to change the world she’s lived in for eternity. Andy stands at the head of a group of immortal warriors—Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari), and Nicky (Luca Marinelli)—that she discovered and trained over centuries.

One night, the immortals have a collective dream of a female Marine, Nile (KiKi Layne), a soldier who was killed in Afghanistan but mysteriously comes back to life. Andy seeks out the Marine to join her immortal warrior team—but Nile resists, confused about what is happening to her. Having lost her father a few years prior, she’s hesitant to leave her family.

Andy and her immortal warrior team are betrayed by an ex-CIA agent, Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), who traps them in an evil scientific research lab. The lab captures Nicky and Joe to perform tests on them for medical research. Along the way, a betrayal and plenty of action ensue.

The movie was enjoyable because it didn’t take long for the plot to pick up. The love story between Nicky and Joe was beautiful. Seeing that they had been by each other’s sides for hundreds of years softened the movie’s hard edges.

In many action movies, the theatrical fighting and explosives can be too raw, or even boring. But “The Old Guard” was able to tie in elements of love and action to make the characters seem more human, despite their immortality. Similarly, Andy’s backstory with Quynh—an immortal whose fate is revealed through a series of flashbacks—made me love the movie so much more. The strength of them together in battle scenes fighting side by side was magical.

The only downside to this movie was the predictability of some of the plotlines. The big betrayal of the film is similar to many others, such as “Big Hero 6,” “The Matrix,” and “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.” But overall, “The Old Guard” has to be one of my favorite action movies. I typically don’t care to watch action movies but this one kept me engaged the whole time.

Hollywood’s Pervasive Color Problem


The book cover of “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas (on the left) featured a dark-skinned Black girl while the movie adaption stars a light-skinned actress (on the right).

By Anne Tchuindje

Washington, D.C.

The critically acclaimed movie “The Hate U Give” began as a book. It’s the story of Starr Carter, a young Black girl who tries to balance two worlds—her low-income Black neighborhood and her wealthy white prep school—while still fighting misogyny and racism. On the cover of the book, the illustrator draws Starr Carter as a Black girl with Afro-textured hair and brown skin. The actress who plays Starr in the movie, Amandla Stenberg, is a lighter-skinned Black girl with braids.

Stenberg’s casting is an example of a lack of diversity in Hollywood that new awareness about race and representation has yet to fix: colorism. The term means “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, including prejudice held by members of their own ethnic or racial group.”

People of color have slowly, but surely, made a significant impact on the big screen. Diversity, especially in Hollywood, allows people from different backgrounds to see themselves reflected in popular culture. But when it comes to the representation of darker-skinned Black people, the movies haven’t made much progress. Executives tend to hire lighter-skinned actors to play Black roles, or to consider darker-skinned actors only for roles that fulfill a specific stereotype. Until colorism is addressed within the filmmaking industry, there will never be true diversity.

The illustrator of “The Hate U Give,” Debra Cartwright, has said in interviews that she “wasn’t thrilled” about the choice of Stenberg to play Starr. In a meeting with Fox, executives told her that they’d have to lighten her illustration, and “change the hair.”

Author Angie Thomas also criticized the colorism infecting the film adaptation, which omits the references to colorism in the Black community expressed in her original book. “It’s disheartening, because I do feel like so much money was thrown behind the movie, and so much marketing was thrown behind it,” Thomas said. “You can tell who Hollywood is pushing to be in the limelight, and everybody knows it has a lot to do with appearance, but it also is still being driven a bit by colorism.”

“The Hate U Give” is far from the only example. Among others, actress Zendaya has spoken up about issues of colorism within Hollywood and admitted to having a privilege over her “dark skin brothers and sisters.” She vowed to continue to use her platform to bring attention to issues of colorism within the industry. “Guardians of the Galaxy” actress Zoe Saldana, cast in the role of singer and songwriter Nina Simone despite her lighter skin and looser hair texture, expressed great regret for playing the role.

“I should have never played Nina,” Saldana said. “I should have done everything in my power with the leverage that I had 10 years ago, which was a different leverage, but it was leverage nonetheless.”

Colorism is also apparent in animated movies. In recent Disney films, a variety of princesses from different backgrounds and cultures have been featured— and through each movie we witness the development of each princess as she embarks on an adventure that ultimately changes her life forever. But colorism remains.

In “The Princess and the Frog,” the first Disney film to depict an African American princess, main character Tiana was trapped in the form of an animal for over 80 percent of the movie. Disney’s decision to make this princess a frog throughout the movie is not only racist, but colorist, in the sense that this plot is only used in a movie containing a dark-skinned princess.

Issues of colorism within Hollywood do not only affect who is cast to play roles, but also how they tell the story of those they play. When Hollywood does cast dark-skinned actors, they are given less screen time or made to play demeaning characters; for instance, dark skin characters make frequent appearances as maids and servants. It’s important to cast actors and actresses of darker skin in order to show more diversity, be more inclusive, and break down these stereotypes.

We need stories that spotlight more people within the Black community. Actors and actresses with a platform and leverage should give other actors and actresses of darker skin tones more opportunities and voices within casting decisions. Representation within film builds character and identity for Black people.

How Racism Leads To Anime’s Stigma

photo-1581833971358-2c8b550f87b3Credit: Tim Mossholder

By Crystyna Barnes

Elm City, N.C.

Have you ever heard of anime?” asked a student at the front of the class. My teacher looked at the kid, confused. “It’s like those weird cartoons from Japan or something,” the student added. “Don’t watch them. They’re really gross and weird.”

The students, and even the teacher himself, laughed. I sat in the back of the class beside my friend, a fellow fan of anime. We slowly turned to look at each other, puzzled. The last anime I’d watched was about a middle school boy rediscovering his love for piano. What’s so gross about that?

Cartoons are a staple of most childhoods. No one bats an eye when asked about their favorite Disney film. Why is it any different when the content originates in a foreign country? The watered-down reasoning is that it’s simply racism. But the bigger culprit is social conditioning that teaches us to think of something outside of the norm as “weird.”

What people don’t know is that they’ve probably already consumed western content inspired by anime. Ever watch “Avatar: The Last Airbender”? “Powerpuff Girls”? “Teen Titans”? All of these childhood favorites took notes from anime: exaggerated facial expressions, big eyes and mouths, and a color- ful palette for character designs. We’ve been enjoying cartoons based on anime all along.

Whenever I’ve asked someone why they don’t like anime, the answer is short: “It’s weird” or “I just don’t get it.” I have even heard people say that anime all seem per- verted. I don’t necessarily believe that the average person who says these things is outright racist, but continued anti-Asian stigma and a lack of edu- cation contribute to this pointless opposition. If all someone hears about anime is that it’s strange and distasteful, a cycle of indoctrination has been created where no one questions or denies this out of fear of being viewed as weird as well.

In the scheme of things, the only noticeable difference between the cartoons we know and love and anime is the place of origin. Anime is not just one genre or one style. Just like cartoons, there is one out there for everyone.

If we want to end the stereotypes around Asian culture, change starts with the individual. Go on Netflix, find an anime with a plot that piques your interest, and start watching it. Suggest it to friends. Normalizing content that is viewed as abnormal will only create more open-minded people and more shows and movies to enjoy.

Beyond history, ‘Hamilton’ offers lesson in dangers of ambition

By Raho Faraha

San Jose, CA

You have married an Icarus,” sings Phillipa Soo broken-heartedly in the hit Broadway musical ‘Hamilton.’ Soo plays Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, who is devastated after finding out her husband had an affair with another woman. She continues:  “He has flown too close to the sun.”

This show is known for using an unconventional medium—musical theater—to teach history, and also for exclusively casting people of color to play America’s white founding fathers. But ‘Hamilton’ is also a lesson on the danger of ambition mixed with arrogance.

In the musical, Hamilton is portrayed as a highly-intelligent, headstrong, and ambitious character at the forefront of America’s birth. His ambition was fueled by a need to escape his penniless past in the Caribbean. To join New England’s elite faction, Hamilton becomes a major general in the Revolutionary War and marries Eliza Schuyler, the daughter of a decorated war hero. Over the course of his life, his drive turns him into a power-hungry politician who becomes Secretary of the Treasury. But he still wants more.

His arrogant and overly sensitive nature stem from a place of immense insecurity. But ambition can only hide deep-seated insecurities for so long. 

Icarus fell from grace when he ignored his father’s warnings, while Hamilton fell from grace when he published the Reynolds Pamphlet, needlessly exposing the intricate details of his affair and ensuing extortion. Both Icarus and Hamilton allowed their ambition to get the better of them. Ambition can be an asset, but these stories should serve as a warning: Don’t fly too close to the sun.