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by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Charlie Brown and his friends have returned to the big screen for the first time in years, giving new and old fans alike a consistently entertaining experience.

The Peanuts Movie’s premise is exceedingly simple. Charlie Brown falls in love, as does Snoopy. His crush is on the new kid at school, the little redheaded girl (whose name is never known and whose face is rarely seen). Snoopy meanwhile lives in his fantasy as the flying ace, trying to be with his love Fifi (an entirely new character who looks like Snoopy with a pom pom on his head) and defeat the dreaded Red Baron.

The characters contain all of the traits given to them in previous incarnations, each varying slightly. This is mainly due to the voice cast. As with the other films and specials, children were hired to do all of the voices. The new actors bring different dimensions to loved pieces of Peanuts. 

Keeping with tradition, adults talk in an augmented trombone. Snoopy and Woodstock’s noises are all recycled from the other movies in the canon, staying true yet again to the original fans.

The animation of the film is beautiful. Capturing all of the unique poses and moments that recurred throughout Schultz’s comics must have been a hefty task. The 3-D animation captured the visual style of Peanuts while adding dimensions to it. Similarly to last year’s Lego Movie, which looked like stop-motion despite being animated, the animation is the most impressive thing about the film.

The film stays true to the original incarnations in every way. The film remains extremely entertaining and mildly humorous for all of it’s runtime, which was a classic trait of Peanuts. Some modernization and more funny moments may have elevated it further, but the final product remains incredible.

The Peanuts Movie will delight older fans while introducing younger ones to the universe of The Peanuts. It is an excellent film, and definitely worth watching 8/10.

Image Credit: Brandi Korte, Flickr

Check out more from the Charlie Brown and Peanuts crew here

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: This film is rated R. 

When talking to people about the film Steve Jobs, the reaction is almost the same from everyone. “They made another movie about Steve Jobs? Isn’t one enough?” And I agree with them. There is no need for two films about Steve Jobs to exist. However, the one to have been released in 2015 is the one that should have been made in the first place.

Steve Jobs stars Michael Fassbender in the titular role and Kate Winslet as his Polish assistant. Among the supporting characters, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, and Michael Stuhlbarg contribute their acting talents along with countless other people. The acting truly elevates this movie over other films made recently. Every actor devotes their entire being to their role, and it shows. The audience feels like they are privy to secret information and have a special insight into the life of Steve Jobs never before available to the public. Fassbender especially shines, bringing humanity to a man many thought as heartless and robotic.

The screenplay is the best thing about the film, even better than Fassbender’s devoted performance. Penned by Aaron Sorkin, writer of The Social Network and Moneyball, the script has an intelligent air to it. The writing is elevated, witty, funny, and exciting all at the same time. This is partially due to the way Sorkin decided to structure the film.

Almost every film ever made has had a three act structure, but few are as defined or influential to the plot as this one is. The entire film takes place before a presentation. The first act is before the launch of the Mac, the second act takes place before the Next Cube launch, and the third takes place before the launch of the iMac. In each section there are a few flashback sequences, but everything else takes place in the highly chaotic pre-presentation scramble. This creates every exchange Steve Jobs has contain elevated importance, as he must be on stage momentarily. It is in these moments the various conflicts arise. Steve Job’s friends and family decide that right before these monumental parts in his life are the best time to bring up quarrels. Seems like convenient timing, but more on that later.

Danny Boyle’s direction pushes the film forward, electrifying it and giving every frame importance and urgency. He continually finds ways to make things interesting and new. For example, every act was filmed on a different camera, each one reflecting the time period it takes place in. Little embellishments like this continually make the film feel fresh. For a movie mainly made up of conversations, this is an essential piece of what makes it so appealing and enthralling.

Many criticize the structure and events of the film, like the convenient timing mentioned above. People say that it’s unrealistic and not historically accurate that the events in the film all lined up near the launches. And they’re right. Many of the events in the film, although taking place at some point in Steve Jobs life, didn’t happen when they do in the film. Aaron Sorkin didn’t strive to have a historically accurate movie about Steve Jobs, however. That was already done. It’s called Jobs and it’s awful. He instead created an interesting character study into the man Jobs was. Sorkin changed events around and embellished different parts of his life in order to dive into the man Steve Jobs was. So while not necessarily accurate or probable, the film remains fascinating.

Steve Jobs is one of the best films of the year. All components combine to create an interesting and dynamic story about one of the technological pioneers. Everyone should definitely go see it. 9/10

Image credit: Charis Tsevis on Flickr.

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: This film is rated R.

In talking about the movie Hell and Back, we must first talk about bad movies as a whole. In the world of film, a hierarchy of bad films has been created. The top level I call the enjoyable films. There are films that are definitely not good but not too bad. These movies, such as Pain and Gain, can be enjoyed, just not necessarily cerebrally. The next tier down are where tolerable films live, such as The Green Inferno. These are have good aspects but are widely underwhelming. Intolerable films are worse yet. There is no enjoyment to be had while watching these, just regret. Interestingly enough, all the movies worse than Intolerable steadily become more enjoyable. Films like The Room possess a “so bad it’s good quality.” Hell and Back unfortunately lands under the category of intolerable, full of terrible things.

It focuses on three stoner friends who run a decrepit amusement park. When one makes the other take a blood oath (some stupid thing about a mint) and fails, two must save the other, who is being held captive by the devil. And if it sounds like I’m being vague, that’s only because this film is an awful failure of cinema.

I feel it necessary to discuss the positives first, as this film is so mind-numbingly stupid I could talk for pages about what would make it better. The voice cast is great, featuring Nick Swardson, Mila Kunis, and T.J. Miller to name a few. And they do well with what they’re given (more on that later).

The stop motion animation is cool and well done. Often these types of movies are not very smooth and tend to give me headaches. No headache in my book equals well done stop motion.

There is a recurring joke involving a spirit and a demon. The demon tortures the spirit in an underwhelming way, and the spirit is clearly put out by the punishment. These events happen four times throughout the film. I tell you this for two reasons. First, these jokes are hilarious and had me laughing hard every time the characters returned. Second, these scenes are legitimately the only funny parts of this so called “comedy,” and now that I have told you what happens, you will be less inclined to see the film. 

The film’s script is terrible. Less concerned with being funny, more so with how raunchy it can get, the jokes grow uncomfortable. An extended monologue about a tree comes to mind, The script doesn’t make any of the main characters likeable. They all are just terrible with no redeeming qualities. The film gives us no reason to want them to succeed. And I spent the run time hoping they would all die. In addition to being raunchy, it is also incredibly misogynistic. The writers were probably in middle school and just learned about girls existing when they wrote the waste of money.

And really, a comedy should first and foremost be funny. When it fails to live up to that expectation, a comedy fails. When it is additionally stupid and childish, then it becomes a truly terrible movie. This has 4 hysterical parts, and a lot of terrible parts. earning itself a score of 2/10.

Check out some more stop-motion animation films here

Image Credit: Ros Alhague on Flickr

by: 
Caitlin, Teen Contributor

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 

Book Basics: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 

Copyright: 2015, Balzer + Bray 

Genre: YA, LGBT, coming-of-age, 

Star Rating: ★★★½  Borrow It First, Then Buy It 

Short Summary: When sixteen-year-old Simon Spier’s secret emails fall into the wrong hands, he has no choice but to go along with being blackmailed, out of fear of his entire Georgia high school finding out that he’s gay. As Simon struggles with keeping his secret, he falls more and more in love with Blue (the guy he’s been emailing) and becomes more and more curious about Blue’s true identity, knowing that Blue is one of his fellow classmates.    

What I Liked: This book was absolutely adorable. Like seriously, Simon and Blue’s emails made me squirm and squeal on the inside, it was so cute. Reading the book is like watching baby animal videos on YouTube: it’s just so cute it makes your heart explode. Becky Albertalli did an excellent job of writing Simon and Blue’s relationship and developed it very nicely, even though it was all online. Cuteness factor aside, the main characters were very well developed and there was an awesome message about stereotyping and how  the “default” person shouldn’t be straight and white.   

What I Didn’t Like: Overall, the writing could have been a bit better. At times, the plot felt a little dry, like it wasn’t going anywhere, and it kind of went in circles. A lot of the supporting characters were undeveloped, which was unfortunate, as they were really awesome people, just not really awesome characters. 

In Conclusion: This was a super cute book. As I said before, the writing could have been better, but it had a great central message, and it’s always good to see diversity in YA novels, especially romance novels. If you like romance novels or you’re looking for something different, or you just want something fun and light to read, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is ADORABLE.  

 

Don’t forget to check out my blog for more YA book reviews & recommendations!  

Check out Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda here.

 

by: 
William, Teen Contributor

Come to a wonderful  tea party… Or should I say ScArY PArTy? Come join us for a very happy un-birthday at the Golden Library after hours to solve a Murder Mystery. The characters from Alice IN Wonderland come and have some tea with cookies. Suddenly one of the characters Drops to the floor in misery… THEN THE CHARACTER DIES ON THE FLOOR… Find out who killed the character by asking other characters and finding clues around the library and find the MURDERER!!!

Friday Oct. 23, 6-9 PM

Golden Library

Costumes required, cosplay encouraged

Register: www.tinyurl.com/TwistedGolden

 

by: 
Lydia, Teen Contributor

Folds of soft-serve creamy delight curl into the crystalline glass.

Smooth chocolate syrup is marbled with the icy vanilla.

Atop this sugary-sweet delight rests a light puffed whipped cream.

Ripples of fluffy white cream twirl into a peak, held in place only by the stickiness of the ice cream chocolate mixture.

Crushed almonds are sprinkled over the light whipped cream, adding a hint of crunch to the soft dessert delicacy.

Alas, that is not all!

Like a queen sits on her throne, this candy-apple empress stands atop her kingdom of cream.

Ruby staff in hand, the maraschino cherry queen sits amongst the almond bits.

The dessert is complete.

*This entry was submitted by a Lakewood High School student for our Teen Blog Contest*

Image credit: Christi on Flickr

by: 
Shelby, Teen Contributor

 

He had cut the wood by hand. He had spent all day and night splitting wood from fallen trees and old logs, determined to have his work done by the time the sun rose above the mountain valley that surrounded his new property of land. He had been successful. Now, Tomlin had four mounds of chopped wood lined up along what would be the front door of his cabin. Iceland was the perfect place for his new beginning. Or so he thought.

 

Beyond his small eiker of land, was a forest. It lay dark and abandoned, hidden from the shine of the sun's light by the looming mountains. The sun's warmth and light, never touched the forest. Not even the tips of the trees. Leaving it desolate, dark, and cold. 

 

The villagers of the small town just a few miles down the road, warned not to go into that dark, cold forest. It was said that once you went in, you never came out. The legend behind the forest, was made up from the missing villagers that courageously stepped foot in the woods to find new land, but never reported back.

 

"To find fortune and new land." One of the villagers had explained to Tomlin. "But was never heard from again. Never let greed control your common sense."

 

The stories were enough to scare Tomlin away from the woods. But something lurked in those woods that was determined to lead him into doom. A greedy fox sat watching Tomlin. The fox mumbled to himself about how much he hated this new intruder. The land that he now claimed to own, belonged to the fox. And the fox wanted his land back. He did not want to prowl around in the forest where sunshine was not relevant, where nothing lived, where nothing thrived. No he would not be doomed to that forest. He would not be doomed to a lifetime of darkness. But how would he get the new man to leave what rightfully belonged to the fox? Well, the fox had some tricks up his sleeve. This was not the first time someone had tried to steal his land.

 

The fox slowly walked out of the wood line, swishing his tail back and forth and walking with grace. The man jumped at his approach. "I don't mean any harm." The fox said to the man in his low rhythmic voice. "I actually have an offer to give."

 

"What might that be?" Tomlin asked, leaning against his shovel.

 

"In this forest behind me, there waits a cabin that has already been built. If you go into the forest, you will find the cabin waiting. No one lives inside."

 

"The villagers say not to go into the woods." Tomlin replied. "Besides, I have enough wood to build a cabin here. I'll pass."

 

So, the fox walked back into the forest. The next day, the fox tried again. This time offering fresh food that the villagers could not supply. But Tomlin turned down the offer again. The day after that, the fox offered a beautiful hidden land that was bigger than just one eiker and had all of the things one person desired. But Tomlin once again denied the fox's offer. The fox tried to trick Tomlin into going into the woods day after day. Plotting new plans, but always getting the same response, and failing each time. Until finally, the fox thought of something that he was sure would convince the human elsewise.

 

"I'm sorry to bother you again." The fox said as he stepped out of the woods.

 

"Don't even bother." Tomlin said. "I have already told you no many times now. So, go home fox."

 

"I know." Said the fox. "But I was just walking around back there last night, when I stumbled upon a cave. When I went inside, I found piles upon piles of riches. Gold, silver, jewels. You name it."

 

This got the man's attention. Tomlin knew that there was something off about this fox, but the offer of piles upon piles of riches, was just too tempting.

 

"Really? Then where is this cave?"

 

"Back in the forest." The fox replied. "Just keep walking and you'll find it. It's not very far at all. There is no way you'll get lost." Then the fox smiled, like mud smeared across the wall, that smile.

 

If what the fox said is true, then I'll be rich. Tomlin thought. This offer was too good to pass up. So, without thinking about how the fox was a deceitful liar, Tomlin walked into the forest to find the riches. Never to be heard from, or seen again. And the fox laughed and mocked him behind his back as he disappeared into the darkness. Because the fox knew that he had won. 

 

"The fox's land the fox's land!" He chanted as he pranced around. He had won back was was rightfully his. Silly man. All it had took was greed and foolishness and the fox had won.

*This story was submitted by a Lakewood High School student for our Teen Blog Contest.*

Image Credit: Miss Barabanov on Flickr

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: This film is rated R.

Sicario is a tense film to say the least. At all times, it is both an intriguing mystery and an action filled thriller. No one knows what really is happening for the majority of the movie, elevating the tension further. Denis Villeneuve (director of the Hugh Jackman gem that is Prisoners) created a fantastic, incredibly exciting movie about the drug trade in Mexico.

Emily Blunt stars as Kate, a young ambitious member of the Arizona Kidnap Response Team. After raiding an explosive rigged house, she is chosen for an interdepartmental operation aimed at screwing up the operations of the Mexican Cartel, specifically bringing down the boss. Soon however, she starts to find out what really is going on. Emily, her boss Matt (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious teammate Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) depart to Mexico, not exactly knowing what will happen. 

Villeneuve is a master of building tension. He excels at using the frame of the shot to capture this, limiting what the viewer sees and knows. This creates the uneasy feeling that anything, or anyone, could be around the corner. Using a screenplay that is complicated to say the least, Villeneuve captures the essence of every character and every scene.

The bleak landscape perfectly captures the tone of the film. The cinematographer Roger Deakins had worked previously with Villeneuve, delivering the bleak world of Prisoners. This time around, he captures the beauty and desolate landscape around the characters, showing how small they truly are compared to the world. 

Even though there is fantastic directing, brilliant cinematography, and a great script, the film really shines with the acting. Blunt is shown to be physically weaker than her counterparts, but morally stronger. She carries the viewer through all of the disturbing parts of the film, creating a relatable, believable protagonist. It’s an incredibly hard thing to do, and she does it masterfully. Benicio Del Toro is at his most awesome since The Usual Suspects, portraying Alejandro as a mysterious, incredibly dangerous man with nothing to lose. Josh Brolin delivers needed comic relief at the best times as Matt. All three of the actors give Oscar worthy performances. 

The film begins explaining the name Sicario. It is spanish for hitman, originating in ancient Jerusalem for hunters of Romans. And really, it could describe almost any of the characters in the film, the notions of good and bad mixed up. The film masterfully delivers a morally ambiguous tale wrought with tension, and is highly recommended. 9/10

Browse our catalog for more films by Denis Villeneuve.  

Image Credit:Roey Ahram on Flickr.

by: 
Jeremiah, Teen Contributor

Be warned: This film is rated R.

 

The Green Inferno is gruesome but not great.

Eli Roth has developed somewhat of a cult following. With his films like Hostel and Cabin Fever, horror fans were excited to see a new, interesting, and incredibly graphic voice in Hollywood. 8 years after the disappointment that was Hostel: Part 2, Roth returns to director's chair for his new offering of gory violence in the form of The Green Inferno.

Clearly inspired by older films like Cannibal Holocaust, The Green Inferno’s story is familiar to say the least. It focuses on the young college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) as she joins a group called ACT, devoted to social justice. The group, led by the charismatic Alejandro (Ariel Levy), travels to Peru to stop the demolition of the rainforest. While trying to stop the construction workers, the group’s plane crashes in the middle of the forest and the survivors captured by a primitive tribe of cannibals. 

This film, although wrought with great ideas and great things, comes together to form an incredibly underwhelming movie. The first act, focused on New York and Justine’s college is by far the weakest. The production value looked exceedingly low, like a cheap television show. None of it was pleasant to watch. Justine’s roommate Kaycee (Sky Ferreria) was notably an unpleasant presence. The overall acting of the entire film was subpar. No one actor was outstanding or even particularly believable. 

The writing didn’t do them any favors however. The characters are extremely flat, offering no humanity among the horror. The villain is extremely evil. The hero is extremely innocent and noble. The list goes on from there, and these characters create other problems. They don’t allow the audience to really connect with any characters. The only reason to not want someone to die is so one doesn’t have to endure another bloodbath. That is unless of course you enjoy excessive gore, in which case you just want all the characters to die as soon as possible.

The gore was excessive, creating an overall cartoonish tone rather than tension. Strange bits of bad humor are peppered throughout the film too, creating an extremely inconsistent tone. For example, one of the characters gets sick and excretes fecal matter all over the corner of the cage the tribespeople are keeping them in. What was probably meant to be a joke just makes the audience uncomfortable, pulling them out of the experience.

The film does have a lot of really good attributes. The tribe was extremely creepy and scary, both in behavior and physically. The two head tribe members extremely memorable. The concept of ACT not sharing moral similarities with the tribe heightens the tension, allowing no middle ground between the two groups.

The directing is also excellent. This being Roth’s fourth movie, he has gotten tension building down. (When the script allows it) Roth genuinely makes things tense when people aren’t getting eaten or mutilated. Using a red and green color palate, the entire setting comes alive.

The Green Inferno also has some interesting story ideas. The evil and good forces repeatedly get muddled throughout the movie, keeping with a theme that there is no absolute bad or good.

In the end, The Green Inferno is just sort of mediocre. The violence is excessive, the acting is subpar, the writing is less than good. Despite the interesting story and cool tribe, I can’t recommend this film to anyone unless they are a die hard Eli Roth fan or are looking for an exceedingly gorey distraction. 5/10

Browse our catalog for additional films by Eli Roth

Image credit: Erin from Flickr

by: 
Cheynne, Teen Contributor

*This review may contain spoilers*

Okay, now before I begin, I would like to get one thing straight. The movie is nothing like the book. Now I know a lot of people get bent out of shape about this, but at the cost of turning a successful book into a movie, in had to be made so people who didn’t read the book can understand and enjoy it. This particular series in question has a lot of mysterious elements and plot points, which can be tedious for people who haven’t read the book. So in the movie, they removed these parts and added explanations that were not book canon. Now that that is out of the way, here’s my opinion: It was a bad movie.

I saw The Scorch Trials the day before it was released, as I do for every successful movie, and I was not impressed. The movie started out fine. Not a spitting image of the book, but I can get past that. However, there was a huge plot reveal really soon that was not only poorly timed, but poorly handled. None of the previous characterizations from the books or the first movie were present in this chain of events. It also had no sense of urgency; none of the main cast were affected by it, nor were any secondary characters.

After this plot reveal, the main cast was in a tedious state of constant peril. They were never stable, even for five minutes. WCKD would find them, or the Cranks would. It was supposed to show the danger of their situation, but honestly it was like they had no actual plot to fill the 2 hour run time so they filled it with running and firefights. 

Then the fight scenes. There were wayyyyy too many. Again, I believe that these were just to fill time. But they became extraneous and tiring. I had a headache at the end, no joke. I have a feeling the purpose of these scenes was to show that they were “No longer in the maaazzzeeee” (cue dramatic music), but the transition was rocky, and it felt like the Maze never happened, as it was rarely mentioned and the characters immediately adjusted to the Scorch.

Last, over the course of the movie, I felt like there was little of the original characterizations that were prevalent in The Maze Runner series and movie. Thomas was impulsive as always, but not at the right times. He fought the wrong fight, to put it simply. Like, why the heck did he care so much about x subject, even though it had no effect on him? Minho had very few lines as far as I can remember, and as for being the “Leader”, he did very little leading. He also lost all of his snarkiness, which was important part of his character. Newt went out the window. Honestly they were like two different people. I didn’t really like Teresa, even in the first one, so I didn’t pay all that much attention to her. However, even just recalling this stuff (all of the prior and future comments are/were thoughts made during movie), her motives were unclear, even in the times she was literally EXPLAINING her motives. And Frypan didn’t even cook (that’s all I remember about his character). Winston dies, who was inexplicably my favorite character in the book/movie, but his death was meant to be way more of a shock than it really was.

Overall, I thought it was a poorly written movie, and although the actors were good in it, I feel like this movie was very bad, and so different than the predecessor that if you liked The Maze Runner movie (like myself), I recommend skipping this one and just reading what happened on the Wikipedia page later. However, if you hated the first movie, I don't know, maybe give this one a try. You’ll probably hate this one too, but maybe not. And if you’re one of those people who bookmark every inaccuracy made in the movie into the book, don’t see it. However, if you want to see a movie that doesn’t require much concentration, or like Dylan O’Brien, definitely see this movie.

 

Check out the Scorch Trials book before the movie!

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