directed by: David Fincher

5 Stars

David Fincher’s 1999 film Fight Club is an adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel of the same name. It tells the story of an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton). The narrator has a very ordinary life. He works a 9-5 job, he goes on frequent business trips, and he has an addiction to the IKEA furniture catalogue. That is until he meets the enigmatic Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). A soap salesman by day and taking on different jobs each night, Tyler is everything the narrator is not. The two men go on to start a fight club together, believing that one must reach physical rock bottom in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

I would consider Fight Club to be one of my favourite movies. I think that the film has a lot of interesting things to say about themes such as masculinity, obsession, consumerism, and identity. I’ve seen Fight Club three times, and on each watch, I notice something new and have a slightly different takeaway. The film is very sharp and quickly paced. The two hours and twenty minutes go by quite quickly. The three main characters are all very interesting, and I think the film serves as a very compelling character study of the narrator. The iconic ending is excellent, in my opinion, and you will walk away from the film somewhat haunted. I would definitely recommend Fight Club. While it may not be for everyone, I think that most people can get something very valuable out of the film. People tend to consider this film to be an overly nihilistic celebration of violence, but I think it’s essentially the opposite. I would recommend going into the movie with a clear mind, and you may find yourself loving it.

Ainsley M.

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by: Barbara Kingsolver

  In 1959, a family of evangelical Baptists from America relocated to the Belgian Congo on a mission to spread Christianity. Led by Nathan Price, the father of the family, the mother and four children experience the beauty, horror, and undoing of their family, all while the Congo faces its own political turmoil. Nathan Price is a single-minded man, not letting anything get in between him and his dream of setting up a church and baptizing the people of the village where they reside. The people of this village have different views on religion and community than Nathan, yet he is determined to turn them into his way of thinking. He drags the family with him on his mission. This book spans three decades, each with new problems for the family. Told from the perspectives of each of the four children, they give their own insight into the Congo, their father, and their other siblings. Each character has their own voice that you can easily pick up on throughout the writing.

I loved this book because of how Barbara Kingsolver discussed religion, politics, race, and of course, both America and postcolonial Africa through the lens of the Christian Americans. Not only that, but Kingsolver also examined the character’s journeys in understanding more about the people of the Congo. It is a good look into an issue I didn’t know anything about before. We hear from the children as they move away from their preconceived ideas about Christianity and assimilate further into the Congo’s culture. Kingsolver has created a wonderful book full of thought-provoking ideas, characters that you both resent and feel for at the same time, and the misunderstanding from the American standpoint of other cultures, people, and languages that leads to the Poisonwood Bible.

Piper I.

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by: Taylor Jenkins Reid

5 Stars

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was the first book I read last year, and it was a great choice. Ageing and unsociable Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is ready; to tell the truth about her glamourous and notorious life. But when she chooses an unknown magazine reporter named Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astonished than Monique herself. This book goes over the themes of loyalty, betrayal, loss, sacrifice, and tragedy. Despite what the title may imply, it doesn’t focus so much on the husbands; but rather on Evelyn herself, where we learn very quickly that there’s much more than meets the eye. I would have to say that I didn’t just enjoy the book and that I loved it, and I recommend everyone to at least read it once in their life because it was beautiful.


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directed by: Robert Iscove

3 Stars

This movie, released in 1999 and directed by Robert Iscove, is considered a Teen Fiction classic. It’s set in California and follows Zach Siler. Torrance High‘s star student and athlete who accepts a bet with one of his jock friends. It entails turning one of their school’s most undesirable girls into the prom queen. Enter Laney Boggs, a clumsy, unpopular, glasses-wearing art student.

The starter plot is rather straightforward. However, the movie prompts quite a few themes that feel almost scattered. Along with the movie being reasonably fast-paced, it becomes a bit hard to pinpoint the real message or focus of the story. Is it the inciting incident, the resulting unintentional teen romance, the social hierarchy, or the characters’ coming of age? It doesn’t prioritize or invest enough into any of these areas after promoting a mirage of conflicts concerning each.

Overall, by not trying to mean so much, it had the potential to mean more or could’ve, at least, made more sense. However, this may very well be a subconscious comparison with other movies with similar settings. Why might this movie have the renown that it does? Perhaps, ditching my Mean Girls conditioning, it’s not one to be analyzed in the first place. After all, it is a relatively short circa 2000 teen fiction cliché. So, almost naturally, other aspects of the film, such as the soundtrack “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer and the flippancy of movies of the era are what count because She’s All That is not at all incapable of being enjoyed. I recommend this movie for those ages 14+

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Directed by: Amma Asante

 Though 2014’s Belle, directed by Amma Asante, is based on true events and adapted from a 2014 book of a similar name, I can neither evaluate its historical accuracy nor compare it to the preceding book. I can merely comment—or rather rave—on its delivery in this medium. It follows the early years of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of the late Royal Navy Admiral Captain Sir John Lindsay, a good man and the second son of Britain’s Lord Chief Justice. At this point in history, someone of Dido’s complexion might not be kept a house slave on a plantation, much less in the fine linens and high standing in the household of an aristocratic British superior. Hers is a fascinating story in which she navigates the implications of her extraordinary circumstances—a maze of racism, gender inequality and sexual harassment, classism and love, and how they all affect every significant relationship in her life.

We spectate as a fresh acquaintanceship, initially of evident animosity, what becomes a gentle romance. One forbidden if not doomed by various social constraints—not at all rushed despite the movie not being agonizingly long. As a matter of fact, in those respects, Belle might just rival the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Simultaneously, but not at all shoved to the back burner, we witness some of the world’s first steps towards societies truly concerned about human rights with respect to race.

The story is propelled by an amazing script and actors who give unquestionable performances. To name a few, Elizabeth Belle, Sam Reid playing an intelligent and determined man yet sensitive inamorato, and Tom Felton playing yet another crude character. Needless to say, Belle is a painfully underrated long-time personal favourite, suitable for those ages 14+.

5 Stars

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Directed by: Shawn Levy

This 2011 movie, directed by Shawn Levy, is set in the year 2020—which might suggest that we, in the real world, are a bit behind—an age in which not much has changed except that rather monstrous and mechanical robots have replaced human boxers in the fighting ring. Boxing is now a sport of “metal smashing metal and steel smashing steel.” Retired boxer Charlie Kenton is an absentee father and underground fighter-bot handler whose playing fast and loose has landed him deep in debt. After practically selling his son to the aunt by his late mother, the boy must spend the summer with Charlie as per the custody deal. Max, a stubborn, mouthy, and profit-oriented 11-year-old with slightly less crook-like tendencies, takes after his father with whom—humorously for us—he butts heads. Amid Charlie’s downward spiral, the two resort to searching a scrapyard for fighter-bot parts, and frightening events precede a discovery, a machine not too powerful but built to take hits. This meagre sparring bot—Atom—incredibly takes them from the junkyard to the leagues.

It’s a fulfilling combination of an engaging contest and Charlie’s character development from crook to father. Still, it isn’t agonizingly happy or unrealistic. It offers a side dish of romance, homage to Charlie’s boxing years, and a semblance of a personality in a robot who can’t talk, think or feel.

Real Steel keeps us guessing in terms of Charlie’s fatherly efforts and responsibilities after the movie and the deets or emotional implications of the mother’s death. To add to the positives, the soundtrack, consisting of mostly rap, hip-hop, and rock hype music by Eminen, among other artists of the late 90s and 2010s, propels it. Furthermore, Hugh Jackson and young Dakota Goyo have amazing on-screen chemistry playing father and son. For ages 13+, I most definitely recommend it.

4 Stars

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Directed by: Dean Israelite

Much like 2013’s Man of Steel, Power Rangers, released in 2017 and directed by Dean Israelite, begins with the failure of a previous generation of heroes. The main characters go on to uncover buried spaceships that house all the answers to the powers they have been bestowed. Their conflicts and responsibilities as heroes ensue from there, except the Power Rangers’ inheritance of their abilities isn’t familial but rather subject to five coloured stones which have dictated that five teenagers from Angel Grove be the saviours of their world.

The timeline of this movie is a bit unrealistic, and the fighting scenes, appropriately, aren’t too mature. That being said, it’s a reminder that Power Rangers was, after all, a kids’ superhero series about a band of teenagers. On the bright side, the movie stayed quite true to what details I can recall from the original 1990s series by incorporating chief Power Rangers terms, feats, antagonists, and even the theme song. The positives don’t stop there. The rangers’ suits were nothing short of an upgrade, the graphics were also impressive, and the soundtrack, heroic and intense but also young and hype when it needed to be, was more than effective. Furthermore, despite the movie being relatively short and there are a handful of main characters—which admittedly work well together—it develops them well, giving just enough insight into their individual lives, relationships, pasts, and personalities.

Overall, other than a few minor plot holes, a common occurrence in this genre of movie, it’s a compelling story of teamwork and responsibility as well as loss and triumph in which humorous immaturity and relatability duly shine through. Surprised it didn’t gain more traction after the initial release since it was a fantastic reintroduction of the old show. For ages 13+, I seriously recommend it.

4 Stars

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Directed by: Ron Howard

It’s 1820, the streets and much else are long-lit, and whale oil is a paramount commodity. Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea, released in 2015, recounts the events of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick and more. However, this is a mere commentary on the storytelling in this medium as opposed to a comparison of the preceding book. The movie follows: In a sit-down with Melville himself, the riveting tale is told via the last survivor, Thomas Nickerson, who was merely 14 years of age at the time of the ruinous voyage of Nantucket’s “Essex”. The crew, lead by the overconfidence of posh newbie Captain George Pollard Jr. and the zeal of rugged and experienced first mate, Owen Chase, sailing 1000 leagues along the equator. Seemingly for the “edge of sanity,” they discover the sperm whale oasis that brings them a rather fleeting victory. Fleeting since among the pod is a monstrosity of a whale—Moby Dick—ghostly in colour and vengeful.

In terms of themes, the movie is humbling and demonstrates how easily the authority of nature diminishes the whims of men as there is a palpable shift in conflict from profit to survival for which the crew must commit abominations. It’s an amazing film that develops the characters as well as the growth and relationships among them quite well and provides an incredible sense of closure despite all the loss.

Comparing this to a fair share of historical dramas/adventures watched, this one doesn’t warrant much criticism at all. It’s arguable, as an adaptation of such a prominent story, the soundtrack could’ve been a bit more distinct and memorable. Still, this movie, starring Chris Hemsworth and Tom Holland, who played major characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, certainly does this classic justice. I recommend this movie for ages 13+.

5 Stars

Chaya J.

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by Karen M. McManus

One of Us Is Lying was my first YA “Whodunit” book, and it did not disappoint. Karen M. McManus writes in a way that hooks you right from the very beginning and keeps you guessing until the end!  

One of Us Is Lying follows the story of five Bayview High students, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper and Simon. Bronwyn is an intelligent and introverted girl whose goal is to get into Yale. Addy is the popular high school girl who wishes to become the homecoming princess. Nate, also known as the school “bad boy”, is on probation for dealing and doesn’t believe he has a future doing much else. Cooper is a star athlete who has many successes ahead of him. Finally, there is Simon, the outcast and the creator of Simon Says, the high school’s notorious gossip app.  

On Monday, these five students find themselves all wound up in detention. At the end, only four exit the classroom. Why you ask? Because Simon is dead, and according to the investigation, it wasn’t an accident. Simon had planned to reveal dirty secrets on the four survivors the next day. Once this is found, Bronwyn, Addy, Nate and Cooper all become prime suspects… is one or all of them guilty? 

This novel is definitely a page-turner. It is impossible to put down once you start reading as you want to figure out what happened to Simon. The story is told from the viewpoint of the 4 “prime suspects”, so you get to really relate to each of the characters in unique ways. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to any teenager or YA!

4 Stars

Emma O.

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by Justin A. Reynolds

I was first intrigued in Opposite of Always because I saw that Angie Thomas, one of my favourite authors, had commented that she thoroughly enjoyed this book. I can confirm that this book is one of the best love stories I have ever read. Justin A. Reynolds has done a beautiful job with this novel. When reading the back of the novel, you might think that it could come across as a bit “sci-fi”, but I guarantee it isn’t like that at all.  

Opposite of Always follows the story of two teenagers, Jack and Kate. When Jack and Kate meet at a party, they are instantly compatible. Jack feels as though he might be falling hard for this girl. Soon enough, Kate is meeting Jack’s best friends, Jilian and Franny, who she wins over just as quickly as she did Jack…  

But then Kate dies. Typically this is where the story would end, but no. Kate’s death sends Jack right back to the party where they met. Jack thinks he might be losing his mind because there is Kate standing right next time him, breathing, alive and healthy. Jack doesn’t know what is happening, but if he has the chance to save Kate, he will take it. Will he be able to save Kate, or will their story end just as abruptly as it did the first time? 

This novel is funny, heartfelt, beautiful and everything in between. I strongly suggest this book to any YA reader or even a young teen who loves unexpected love stories. Justin A. Reynolds had me hooked right from the first sentence all the way to the last. This book is definitely one of my top three favourite books that I have read. I look forward to reading more books by this amazing author.

4.5 Stars

Emma O.

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