Tag Archives: Review

Fans rain praise on The Umbrella Academy

Art By Sam Haney

Story By Eleni Pappas

A day beginning like every other ends with the world forever changed when something strange occurs to women all over the globe.

Dozens of mostly-single women conceive, carry, and give birth within a matter of minutes on the same day, at the exact same time. The children of these women are special in more ways than the circumstances of their instant birth and conception. Not only do they grow up to display miraculous abilities, but these children are destined to save the world.

It was a day beginning like every other — that is, until Netflix premiered “The Umbrella Academy” on Feb. 15. Based on the comic written by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, who also serve as executive producers for the show, the series centers on the seven adopted super children of eccentric billionaire Sir Reginald Hargreeves. The show stars more than a few notable names, including Robert Sheehan (Misfits), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), and Ellen Page (Juno).

The story opens up in the year 1989, with an anonymous narrator describing the inexplicable births of 43 children all over the world. Sir Hargreeves make it his mission to adopt as many of these children as possible and manages to find and adopt seven of them. He raises them in the Academy to train as heroes rather than live as kids, and only when he builds them a robotic mother are they given real names.

Number One is Luther (Tom Hopper), Two is Diego (David Castañeda), Three is Allison (Emmy Raver-Lampman), Four is Klaus (Sheehan), and Seven is Vanya (Page). In the present the unnamed Number Five (Aidan Gallagher), has been missing for many years after he used his time travel ability to disappear into the future. Number Six, Ben (Justin H. Min), is stated to be deceased, presumably murdered on a childhood mission.

In the present, all the siblings are now 30, estranged from each other and the team long disbanded. Each of them are messed up in their own unique ways due to the strange nature of their upbringing. The sudden death of Sir Hargreeves brings them back together for the funeral, but things remain highly tense between the siblings. However, they are reunited in a common purpose when Number Five returns from the future, still a boy, and informs the team that the world ends in eight days. At first they think he might be crazy, but it soon becomes clear the fate of the world lies in their less-than capable hands.

“The Umbrella Academy” is a smash hit, complete with deep and complex characters, dark humor, tear jerking moments, great acting, and an incredible soundtrack. The shows continuing plot mixes those from the first few volumes, but still honors the source material while standing on its own. Gallagher, who is only 15, has been picked out as one of the most impressive actors on the series. Sheehan is another fan favorite, with arguably the most compelling character exploration as the show draws on. Sheehan as Klaus made fans both laugh and cry, being a source of much comedy in the show while also playing an addict who uses to numb his ability to speak with the dead.

On the negative side, some fans are disgusted with the perceived incest within the show. Throughout the show it becomes obvious two of the Hargreeves children have romantic feelings towards each other, which have made certain viewers uncomfortable. Other fans have defended this by saying they are not real siblings, as they are adopted, and were not raised as such. Instead, fans say they were raised simply to fight alongside each other, but not as regular siblings. Either way, for some, the romance felt unnecessary and did not fit with the rest of the show.

Do they end up saving the world and stopping the apocalypse? To find out watch all ten episodes of “The Umbrella Academy” on Netflix.

 

Discovering Irving Berlin’s Path to Blue Skies

By Hannah Tarr

Christmas Day, 1980. A group of carolers hark outside a house, singing the same song they have been singing at this same house for 26 years: “White Christmas.” But inside, the sole resident is having none of it. “They don’t understand the gift I’ve given them!” he cries. To understand this gift, we must first understand the old man: he is Irving Berlin, composer of White Christmas. In his performance as Berlin, Hershey Felder leads the audience to understand Berlin with healthy mix of comedy and respect.

The performance, playing now at Actor’s Theatre, is a one-man show. Felder, with a raise of his voice and a change in his body language, convincingly becomes Berlin for an uninterrupted hour and a half. Felder runs through the beats of Berlin’s life and how each inspired his music: his childhood in Imperial Russia, his family’s immigration to America, his father’s love for singing and the way that inspired him to become a singing waiter and eventually compose his own music. Felder performs all of Berlin’s standards over the course of the show at the grand piano at center stage. Unlike Berlin, who could only play in the key of F-sharp, Felder is an accomplished musician, and the musical segments are the highlight of the show.

Felder’s portrayal of Berlin’s life flows well from happy points to sad points. He marries Dorothy Goetz, and it seems like life is going to be blue skies forever. But five months after they return from their honeymoon, Goetz dies from typhoid. Berlin is depressed about this for a long time, but eventually is coaxed by Goetz’s brother into writing about it, and this becomes his first hit ballad. It resonates with people around the globe. But one way or another, life moves on, and soon enough Felder is showing us Berlin’s up-tempo songs again and smiling.

The set was a living room dressed for Christmastime, with a piano in the center, a wheelchair on one side to symbolize Berlin as an old man, and an armchair on the other to symbolize Berlin’s second wife, Ellin Mackay. This unit set allowed the focus to always be on Felder’s portrayal, without any distractions for gimmicks. The lights changed color with the mood- red at high moments in Berlin’s life, blue at the low. Area lights came up and dimmed smoothly as Felder walked across the stage, to appropriately keep him illuminated at all times. The set and lighting were enhanced effectively by projections. A picture frame on the back wall above the mantle was often used to show historical photographs of Berlin and his family, or video clips of Fred Astaire performing Berlin’s music in a moving picture. All the walls of the living room were sometimes used for atmospheric projections– the projected wallpaper would fade away, and be replaced by animations of Berlin’s home village burning down, or of his family’s tenement apartment in New York. The projections were soft enough that the light level never fluctuated, but still very easily visible.

By the end of the show, Felder has brought us to empathize with and understand Berlin. We know “God Bless America” is from an immigrant’s point of view, thanking the country for all of the opportunities it has given him. We know “White Christmas” is about how Christmas, which used to be his wife’s favorite holiday, was ruined for them when their infant son passed away Christmas morning. We know he grew bitter as an old man as young people like Elvis Presley took over the musical spotlight, and the world began to forget what Berlin’s music had been worth. But we know that in spite of all of this, he has reasons to count his blessings instead of sheep at night, and maybe Felder’s portrayal of this icon who was a real human will lead the audience to start doing that, too.

Felder began performing as Berlin on Sept. 5 of last year in New York. He is now taking the show around the country, and he is performing it at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville until Feb. 17.

‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ excites movie fans

Art by Shelby Pennington

By Reagan O’Farrell

A final group of people bustles into the already packed theater just as the lights go down, signaling the beginning of the film. People shift in their seats, turning off their phones as their focus now turns to the large screen before them.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle starts off with a bang, paralleling its predecessor of Kingsman: The Secret Service by instantly throwing moviegoers into the heat of the action. Taron Egerton returns as “Eggsy,” one of the two latest recruits to join the Kingsman, a spy organization created with the intention of upholding peace without the use of the government. Mark Strong, who plays “Merlin,” also returns, bringing with him a good portion of the comedy that makes the Kingsman movies so popular. The much-anticipated Colin Firth also returns as Harry Hart despite the seemingly fatal gunshot through the eye in the last movie.

This particular movie centers itself around a group known as The Golden Circle led by Julianne Moore as Poppy, who is the head of a major drug organization that plans on making its practices legalized by any means necessary.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle delves further into characters of whom little was really known about. Harry’s past, in particular, is subject to more scrutiny than previously, and more of Merlin’s personality is revealed through his excursions with Eggsy.

New characters are also introduced in the storyline, including Channing Tatum’s ‘Tequila,’ Halle Berry’s ‘Ginger,’ and Pedro Pascal’s ‘Whiskey.’ These players still did not quite overshadow the original characters, but Ginger and Tequila especially had fairly large roles throughout the movie. Channing Tatum did not appear in the movie nearly as often as one may have expected based on the trailers, but his presence as Tequila still impacted the actions of many characters whether or not he was on the screen.

Kingsman continues its trope of fantastical spy technology, even including a bionic arm that looks straight out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This comes as no surprise, though it did often lead to several easy wins that would never be possible without their presence. That being said, it did not hinder the movie: there are many battles that could not be solved by a nicely timed container of goop, and multiple resounding losses are faced.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle has been popular since its release on Sept. 22, possibly signaling the rise in popularity of movies that include a combination of action, adventure, and comedy. This movie blended all these genres together seamlessly, occasionally hardening back to The Secret Service in parody.

As with the first film, this movie was clever. Just like in The Secret Service where the “world ending” plot was radical though had its fair amount of reason and logic behind it, The Golden Circle has characters doing bad things for what they believe to be just reasons. While some aspects were more outlandish than others, with one of the main antagonists even bringing about some Hannibal-istic concepts, most of it was in no way entirely unheard of.

This movie does not appear to signal the end of the series: the tail end teases another sequel that may allow Kingsman to continue.

While this movie is certainly rated R for a reason, with its language, violence, and sensual content nobody can rightfully argue, it is certainly something worth seeing for the more mature audiences.

Avid readers anticipate release of Sarah J. Maas’s ‘Tower of Dawn’

Art by Ky Haney

By Reagan O’Farrell

A teenager tightly grips the hardbound pages of the book, opening up to the dog-eared spot from where she last left off. Flipping her hair from her face, she sinks her nose into the book, immediately becoming fully engrossed and incidentally ignoring the miffed stares of the people she nearly runs into.

Since the first installment of the Throne of Glass series was released in 2012, these books, written by bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, have become a hit among young adults all across the nation. The sixth book, Tower of Dawn, was released on Sept.5.

This series is set around notorious assassin Caelena Sardothien as she finds herself exonerated from slavery by boy prince Dorian Havilliard, only to be trained by Captain of the Guard Chaol Westfall with the intention of becoming a personal operative for the ruthless king. As she battles against fellow thieves and killers, she must also discover the forces that have been brutally killing her competitors before it finally attacks her while simultaneously feigning as a mild-mannered lady at the glass castle. Despite her initial intentions, Caelena finds herself befriending Dorian and Chaol alongside the mysterious yet clever princess Nehemia Ytger.

Throne of Glass is deep within the epic fantasy genre with Sarah J. Maas having built a world entirely of its own making littered with the minute details that make readers feel as though they live there themselves. Stabs at romance can be found throughout the series, though more often in its latter half, and all of the books contain several action sequences written in enough detail to seem as though the fights are taking place on the physical earth.

While the writing is extraordinarily done, many critics have risen to the front in objection to the series’ applauded nature. Many of these criticisms are founded upon the characteristics of the protagonist, Caelena. She is a typical anti-hero: parallels can be drawn between her and other radical characters such as Deadpool. Some people develop bad tastes in their mouths when they hear too much of Caelena’s snarky attitude and are forced to understand what she has done to earn her title as a famous assassin. However, a number of these critics fail to note her development as one book evolves to the next. Her cynical nature becomes far less biting and sour and instead turns into an odd form of affection, and she addresses her own behaviors with a critical eye.

Others find more objection in the narrative style itself. They are none too fond of Maas’s thorough explicitness of both violent and sensual scenes, balking at the idea that children in the fifth grade could be found engrossed in the novels despite the fact that the intended audience is people in their later teens.

Throne of Glass is not without its faults, but Maas exhibits her natural talent in regards to wielding prose with her profound descriptions of both individuals and scenery. She also manages to leave seemingly irrelevant pieces of information throughout the books only to bring those details up later and express their weighty significance. Her characters are compelling, and despite the various number of them, they each receive adequate attention and development, all of whom connect back to Caelena herself.

The next book, Tower of Dawn, differs from the rest of the books in the series. Originally intended to simply be a novella, Maas became so invested in the book that it became a crucial component to the series. It is to be told from a perspective unlike the previous, with Caelena no longer being the forefront of the novel, instead being replaced by a male lead and female secondary character. This could bring an interesting change in the dynamic of the plot, but most readers have enough faith in Maas’s abilities to eagerly anticipate the installment.

For readers already invested in the series, Maas recommended in one of her newsletters to read her previous novella collection, The Assassin’s Blade, before proceeding to read Tower of Dawn.

Throne of Glass has been revving up in popularity these past few years, enough so for HBO to decide to create a television show based upon these books known as Queen of Shadows. While the characters may not find their way on screen for a little while, fans can look forward to reading the original ink and paper.

Best of the best, or worst of the worst? ‘Suicide Squad’ Review

by Eleni Pappas

Suicide Squad, the latest feature addition from Warner Bros.’ DC Comics opened up Friday, Aug. 5 and become an instant box office hit. Although it received mixed reviews, with critics hating and fans loving it, the movie broke records and became the number one film in North American theaters. Rated PG-13 starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, and Cara Delevingne, Suicide Squad was a film definitely worth seeing. Continue reading Best of the best, or worst of the worst? ‘Suicide Squad’ Review