3/16/2017
By: Brittany Coffman

Princess Cassia Rose never imagined that fleeing her home world because of an arranged marriage would trigger a war. Now, after hiding as a ship hand aboard the Banshee for two years, she’s finally returning to her beloved Eturia. However, it is not the homecoming she would have preferred. Shackled and beaten by Daeva bounty hunters, Cassia is dragged back home to face her crimes, and her vile fiancé. Her only comfort is that the rest of the Banshee crew is still out there, including her best friend (with benefits), Kane Arric.

While Cassia is forced to reconcile with the past, Kane and the crew scramble to rescue her. But when they arrive on Eturia, Cassia isn’t exactly in need of the bravado. She’s claimed her birthright as Queen, but has also inherited a war-ridden country sparking with rebellion. Cassia now must make decisions not only for herself, but for the good of her people who would rather see the monarchy crumble. Kane, the bastard son of a merchant, isn’t exactly an alliance that will win her any points. Kane knows this, but he also knows that there will never be a replacement for Cassia - and is certain that she returns his feelings. Yet how can he and Cassia possibly be together? Especially since the entire galaxy seems to be against them, and the fact that they both may not make it out of this fight alive.

 

In “Starflight,” the first book, we were reading from the point of view of Solara and Doran, a mechanical genius and a blue-blood who come aboard the Banshee under interesting circumstances. In “Starfall,” we are experiencing the galaxy through the eyes of Kane and Cassia, a star-crossed seducer and a displaced princess-turned queen. The transition of the points of view across two novels was a unique concept that I quite enjoyed. It allows you to experience two characters that you didn’t discover a ton about in book one, while still keeping the others in the mix.

 

The writing, as Melissa Lander’s writing always is, very well-voiced. Her style is unique and really shines through in all of her novels, not just the Starflight duology. Landscapes are descriptive, fights are epic, and characters develop further and further while still managing to surprise us now and again. Overall the skill and technique is a ten out of ten.  

 

The only bad thing that I have to say about the novel is the timeline transitions. One minute Cassia is being held captive by her fiancé, then escapes and the chapter ends. Then immediately in the next chapter, she’s Queen and struggling to put her country back together. This sort of thing happens a few times in the majority of the book, but I understand the familiar concept: make a sudden plot introduction, then develop the backstory of it later. Nevertheless, I thought that it made the novel just the slightest bit choppy and a little confusing at times.     

 

In the long run, I give “Starfall” a 6.5/10. We explore Cassia and Kane’s points of view, and also get to learn a lot more about our beloved kleptomaniac Renny, which I thought was a well-deserved. Although some of the timeline seemed askew, the excellent writing skill and talent made up for it in this wonderful continuation of the Starflight series.

 


 

2/27/2017
By: Brittany Coffman

It’s red carpet time again, and The Owl staff has cast the winners from the 2017 Oscar lineup. 

And the Best Picture is...

“Hidden Figures”

This film documents the true story of three African-American women who serve a key role in the early days of NASA and the race against Soviet Union to put a man in space. It stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson. 

We picked “Hidden Figures” as the best picture because of how inspiring the film is. The story is told with incredible honesty and heart, with dashes of humor to lighten the mood now and then. The struggle of these three intelligent women and all the others trying to get where they deserved to be, is especially moving. The antagonists, those who kept changing the finish line, are played with terrible candor and gave the movie the bittersweetness that it needed. It has no contest, it deserves to win.

And the Best Leading Actor is...

Denzel Washington 

Denzel is a clear winner for best actor in leading role. In “Fences,” an award-winning play to film that Washington directed himself, he plays the part of Troy Maxson, a working-class man trying to raise his family, while also trying to come to terms with his life. Washington is astounding. In every role that he plays, including this one, he steps fully into the shoes of who he was picked to portray. His skills have definitely not gone unnoticed, due to the amount of respect and awards he has received in the acting community. Washington does what every truly gifted actor does, he becomes his character.

And the Best Leading Actress is...

Taraji P. Henson 

Henson is an amazing actress and definitely is our winner for best actress in leading role. She is best known for her part as Cookie Lyon in the popular television series “Empire,” but has recently come to the big screen as the main character from “Hidden Figures.” She plays Katherine Johnson, an African American woman working at NASA trying to send a man into space even if some of her coworkers and the times are against her. Taraji’s performance is great - she’s strong and smart and determined to reach her goals, no matter what is in her way. Henson really embraced this character and in our opinion she did the true-story the justice that it deserved.

And the Best Animated Film is...

“Zootopia”  

In this film, anthropomorphic animals live in a city where an optimistic bunny cop named Judy and a pessimistic con-artist fox named Nick have to work together to solve a mysterious plot. 

“Zootopia” was picked as best animated feature because of the message and inspiration that it expels. It speaks to those kids out there who want to be something but are torn down and told that they have to be something else. The film also relates with a little girl power, Judy is looked down upon by the other officers because she is smaller than them and if applied to real life circumstances, it was also probably because she was a girl. The movie speaks with a powerful message: it doesn’t matter who you are or if you’re a boy or girl, be what you want.

And the Best Visual Effects are... 

“Doctor Strange”

In this latest Marvel triumph, intelligent but arrogant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange gets some new perspectives on life when a terrible accident leaves him broken and an ancient sorceress takes him under her wing to fight the mystical forces of evil. 

There is no possible competition for best visual effects, especially if you’ve seen this movie in an IMAX theater. The film has a lot to do with reality and how the sorcerers effect it, so you see a lot of mindblowing visuals that are almost illusion-like. Buildings twist and fold in on themselves, the world turns inside-out with different dimensions, the sorcerers draw on the energy of these dimensions to make their weapons, everything is visually masterful.

And the Best Book to Screen is...

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

From the book to the screen, this film tells the tale of Jacob Portman, an ordinary kid from Florida. When his grandfather suddenly dies, the stories he told Jacob as a child, stories of an island and an orphanage full of special children, come to the surface along with many unanswered questions. Jacob heads to the island to find some answers, but gets a lot more than he bargained for when he discovers that the children and headmistress are in terrible danger. 

This was our pick for best book to screen because of how it is portrayed. Director Tim Burton does a great job sticking with some of the more eerie aspects that made the novel so popular, but also didn’t overwhelm the audience with it. The mood is lightened in the right places, and darkened in the corresponding scenes where it needed to be. Portrayal of the characters, from Eva Green as Miss Peregrine to Finlay MacMillan as Enoch, is well thought out. Eva Green is clever and quick in her role, and even the Odwell brothers did their part to bring the beloved twins to life, even if they had no actual speaking roles. This film stuck to the book a lot, which makes it our win for best book to movie.

And the Worst Movie is...

“The 5th Wave”

Four waves of lethal alien attacks have destroyed most of the Earth and its inhabitants. Cassie Sullivan, an ordinary teenager until now, is on the run, frantically searching for her younger brother Sam in a world where you can no longer tell the difference between friend or foe. As the inevitable fifth wave approaches, Cassie meets a young man who may be her only hope, but can she actually trust him? 

“The 5th Wave” was chosen as worst movie for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is the acting. Most of the character roles, Chloë Grace Moretz being a prime example, seem too put-on. The level of acting is just not set at a high enough standard. Another reason it fails is that the whole thing simply comes off as though it’s thrown together, with the visual effects attempting to gloss over some parts of the film. All of it factored into the results, which, we’re sorry to say, end up rather cringe-worthy.

2/23/2017
By: Brittany Coffman

“Battlefield 1”

Compatible with: PC, Xbox One, PS4.

Takes place in the midst of the World War I, where the gamer can play as multiple characters in various locations. Throughout the game, the player assumes roles such as several Harlem Hellfighters, a British tank driver, a fighter pilot, an ANZAC message runner, and a Bedouin warrior, each with a different war story to experience. 

Date released: October 21, 2016.

 

Johnathan Corona, junior: “I would recommend it to other people, in my opinion I believe it has a very consistent fan base and along with that it’s not very hard to learn to play.” 

IGN.com, “The crude, archaic charm of  World War I’s weaponry lends unique personality to ‘Battlefield’s’ already strong first-person shooting.”

 

Cameron Chevrier, junior: 

“My prefered video game is ‘Fallout 3’ because of the entrepreneurship of Bethesda to model the world of RPG’s and intertwined story complexity.”  

Pro: The large quantity of easter eggs that can be located in “Fallout.” 

Con: Has a large amount of bugs, but this is expected for a game of such complexity. 

 

Eric Razo, junior: 

“I prefer ‘League of Legends’ because the difficulty is directly related to your skill cap.” 

Pro: The community is supportive and awesome.

Con: In order to be very good you have to extremely dedicated.

 

2/23/2017
By: Brittany Coffman

The Future of Gaming: VR versus AR

 

What is the ultimate difference between virtual reality and augmented reality? VR is the creation of a virtual world that users can fully interact with, using VR headsets that are compatible with phones and computers. Included in those are the Samsung Gear VR, the Oculus Rift and the Google Cardboard. 

AR is the blending of virtual reality and real life, like the well-known Pokémon Go or Minecraft Reality. Both are done using the corresponding apps, implementing your love of the game into your everyday life and everywhere you go.   

But which reality, VR or AR, is essentially better? 

According to junior Gavryn King, VR is an overall better experience. “I like the ‘idea’ of completely immersing myself. Also, AR is normally really buggy and doesn’t look as good.” 

Deja Pierce, also a junior, said, “I would say VR, because you feel more engaged and closer to the game.” 

To back up the prevalent opinion, Zach, an employee at Best Buy said, “In my opinion I haven’t dabbled much in augmented reality, but I feel like virtual reality would be more fluid.” So, VR three, AR zero.  

The Nintendo Switch

 

One of the most talked about gadgets of the new year is Nintendo’s latest creation, the Nintendo Switch. It’s a hybrid console; the Switch itself, a tablet, rests in the Nintendo Switch docking station, where you can play on your TV at home. By taking the Switch out, it instantly becomes a portable console, and you can play it anywhere. It also comes with detachable Joy-Con controllers, giving it a bit of a Wii vibe. 

The tech was revealed back in October 2016, during a live streaming event from Tokyo on Nintendo’s Youtube channels. Currently the release date for the Switch is March 3, 2017, with a starting price of around $300. 

Something else that has gamers abuzz is one of the Nintendo Switch’s games, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Also compatible with the WiiU, the game is one of the most anticipated games of the year, IGN.com calling it, “The open world Zelda that we’ve always wanted.” And Zelda fans won’t have much longer to wait, “Breath of the Wild” is set to be released on March 3, 2017, the same day as the Nintendo Switch itself.  

 

2/17/2017
By: Austin Hood

It is no secret: those summer blockbusters which receive the most attention and ticket sales often do not live up to the hype. Many viewers have been fooled into thinking a movie is good after rousing trailers and high ticket sales, only to be left disappointed and full of expensive popcorn.  

On the other hand, it is often the movies which are at first overlooked which turn out to be the most rewarding to watch. The last three Oscar Best Picture winners have not opened their weekend as the number one box office seller. 2015’s winner, “Spotlight,” has grossed less than $100 million since its release in November. 

With this in mind, the Owl has created a list of movies which, even though they aren’t likely to be high-grossing blockbusters, are sure to leave theatregoers satisfied. So, ditch the long lines and packed cinemas this summer and check out films that are a little off the beaten path.

“The Founder”:

“The Founder,” directed by John Lee Hancock and written by Robert Siegel, tells the story behind the success of the McDonald’s Corporation. The red-hot Michael Keaton, fresh off a wildly successful run with the 2016 Academy Award for Best Picture winner “Spotlight,” plays the business mogul Ray Kroc as he develops his brainchild fast food brand. “The Founder” is set for wide release by The Weinstein Company on August 5.

“The Nice Guys”:

“The Nice Guys,” a buddy cop movie starring Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling, is set for release on May 20. Directed by Shane Black, the film follows private investigators Holland March, played by Gosling, and Jackson Healy, played by Crowe, as they dig into a case involving a missing girl. The film, set in 1970s Los Angeles, is sure to provide plenty of laughs to distract from the summer heat. 

 

 

 

“Free State of Jones”:

Often times the best historical dramas are those which document little known niches in the past. Such is the case with Gary Ross’ “Free States of Jones.” Starring Matthew McConaughey as the Southern abolitionist Newton Knight, the film tells the true story of an armed rebellion in Confederate Mississippi during the winter of 1862. “The Free State of Jones” is set for wide release by STX Entertainment on June 24. 

 

 

“The Infiltrator”:

“The Infiltrator,” directed by Brad Furman and written by Ellen Brown Furman, follows DEA agent Robert Mazur as he goes undercover in an attempt to undermine the cartel led by Pablo Escobar. Mazur, played by Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad,” assumes the name Bob Musella and acts as a money-launderer for Escobar. “The Infiltrator,” is set for wide release by Broad Green Pictures on July 15. 

“Elvis & Nixon” :

Truth really is stranger than fiction. Nowhere does this ring more true than in the events documented in the upcoming film “Elvis & Nixon,” in which the conservative president, played by Kevin Spacey, meets with the fading pop star, played by Michael Shannon, on December 21, 1970. Officially, the meeting was seen as a goodwill conversation between the two men. Unofficially, however, Elvis came to Nixon with a request to work as an undercover agent for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, the predecessor to the DEA. The comedy-drama, a joint effort between Amazon Studios and Bleecker Street, is directed by Liza Johnson and produced by Cassian Elwes and Holly Wiersma. With its all-star cast and promising storyline, “Elvis & Nixon,” set for release on April 22, is sure to be a delightful alternative to the summer blockbuster. 

 

President Richard Nixon pictured alongside Elvis Presley during their meeting on December 21, 1970. 

Picture courtesy of Creative Commons


 

1/26/2017
By: Brittany Coffman

It’s 6:45 p.m. at the AMC Washington Square Theater on Friday, Nov 18. Sheets of rain drench the parking lot as devoted witches, wizards, and even a few Muggles and No-Majs crowd into the theatre for the release of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” a highly-anticipated film directed by David Yates and produced by David Heyman.

 

One young wizard comes through the doors soaked to the bone, but grins as he turns to his friend to say, “All this for Harry Potter.” And he is not the only one representing the same statement. One witch is dressed in a familiar Gryffindor tie with a matching lightning scar. Another wears a stunning set of Hogwarts robes, accompanied by a Hufflepuff scarf identical to a certain magizoologist’s.  

 

Everyone moves like a herd of excited hippogriffs to their seats. Those clever enough to come an hour early triumphantly in the top two rows. There’s quiet chatter throughout the room as everyone settles, then silenced altogether 15 minutes later as the clock strikes seven.

 

The lights darken, and for a moment there is nothing to be heard, not even breathing. Suddenly, the heart-stopping sound of Hedwig’s theme reaches the audience, and the new wizarding era begins.

 

A movie has at least three main concepts that it must accomplish to become exceptional: phenomenal acting in character roles, a solid plot line with an abundance of twists and turns, and a stunning soundtrack playing in the background. Fantastic Beasts has all three.

 

First up is Eddie Redmayne, best known for his roles in “Les Misérables,” “The Theory of Everything,” and “The Danish Girl,” the 34-year-old Britain is one of the most respected actors around today. His commitment and work ethic are astounding, a prime example being his role as theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking in the 2014 film, “The Theory of Everything.” Redmayne spent six months researching Hawking’s life, watching countless interviews and studying the physicist’s speech patterns and accent. He even had to learn to walk like someone with ALS. After seeing the film, the real Stephen Hawking himself said, “At times, I thought he was me.” All that work must have paid off, because “The Theory of Everything” won Redmayne a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actor.

 

Now Redmayne has been invited into J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World to be magizoologist Newt Scamander. He must have been thrilled, not many roles require the use of a handcrafted wand and the signature blue peacock coat that made Daniel Radcliffe jealous.

 

Almost immediately, I fell in love with the way Eddie embraced this role. His interactions with the creatures were so expertly done, but also genuine, even if they were computer animated. It’s almost as though he has been a magizoologist his entire life. Eddie Redmayne became the eccentric, awkward Newt, and there is absolutely no other actor that could have pulled off the part to the extent that he did.      

 

Dan Fogler is a 40-year-old American actor and stand-up comedian who, in the past, hasn’t been in a lot of well-known blockbuster films, although he did win a Tony award in 2005 for his performance in the Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. But of late, he gets to play the resident No-Maj in Fantastic Beasts, Jacob Kowalski.

 

I feel like a good chunk of humor in this movie comes from Jacob, and his entrance into the magical world. Throughout the film, our No-Maj is always in complete awe of the extraordinary things that have been introduced to him, (especially a certain Goldstein sister). He is almost a representation of the audience, we experience a lot of the movie through him and his reactions. It is rather funny, because Jacob came to New York for the simple reason of opening up a bakery, but ended up stumbling into this magical world that he previously knew nothing about. Fogler entered London for auditions and a part that he didn’t even think he would get, but ended up suddenly receiving an invitation into Rowling’s extraordinary Wizarding World. It was clearly the right choice, Fogler’s acting skills are very good, he truly brings to life this wonderful, likeable, very charismatic character.

 

The last actor I want to call attention to is Ezra Miller, best known for his role as Patrick in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and his current part as the Flash in the DC Comics cinematic universe. In Fantastic Beasts, he plays the mysterious new character Credence Barebone. Now most readers would expect me to talk about Tina or Percival or Queenie, and don’t get me wrong, they were fantastic. But I feel like Ezra is a bit of an underdog when it comes to this movie. He may not be on all the posters like Redmayne or Katherine Waterston (Tina Goldstein), but Credence is definitely not a character to be dismissed out of hand. Just like the other actors in this film, Miller does a great job bringing his character from a script to the big screen. In some of the rather dark scenes, he is astounding in his ability to project his emotions, to make his suffering seem so real that you can’t help but feel some measure of sympathy for the boy.

 

As far as the plot is concerned, I swear on Dobby’s grave that I won’t utter a single spoiler. But I will say to my fellow Potterheads out there: you will not be disappointed. So be prepared for as many twists and turns as you can handle.

 

For those readers who love listening to movie scores, the Fantastic Beasts soundtrack is just the new material that you needed. It’s composed by none other than James Newton Howard himself, who has worked on over 120 movies in his career, including “The Hunger Games” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.” His vast experience and talent make him one of the best composers in the field.

 

Personally, I think that one of the most important parts of a movie is its score. The music makes the film, it creates the mood and adds underlying layers to the plot. In Fantastic Beasts, Howard’s impeccable soundtrack was imperative, making the light-hearted scenes just right and the darker, more serious scenes even darker than they already were.   

J.K. Rowling commented at the film’s European premiere, “This feels very familiar. I feel like the family’s back together because it’s the same team but we have new family members. We’ve got Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston and Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol and Ezra Miller… They’re amazing. I mean, the chemistry between those four… and Ezra just puts in the most magnificent performance. They’ve knocked it out of the park, I’m thrilled.”