The Russell Review: Your Name

Minor Spoilers Ahead: You’ve been Warned!

If you had the opportunity to temporarily switch places with someone in a different situation than your own, what would you do with that time? This is an idea explored at length in Makoto Shinkai’s animated film Your Name, which was released last year in Japan. Thanks to critical and commercial acclaim in Japan, it was recently sent to American cinemas for a limited run. While the movie comes off as predictable at first, as everyone has seen the “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” stories, but this feature brings some interesting magic and originality to the plot that make it refreshing and heartwarming.

Mitsuha is a teenage girl living in rural Japan. She lives with her younger sister and her grandmother, where they run the local religious shrine. Mitsuha tires of the country life and wants to run off to Tokyo once she’s done with high school. Taki is a teenage boy living in the heart of Tokyo, where he goes to school and also works at a restaurant. Taki tires of the fast-paced nature of Tokyo at times and wishes he could relax for a bit. When a comet flies over the night sky, a change occurs and Mitsuha and Taki find themselves in very different bodies the next day. At first, the two think that they’re just having very vivid dreams. However, from talking to their friends the next day and from looking in their journals, they discover that they’re switching bodies randomly. What follows is a chain of events I would rather not spoil, but I was happy to see that the filmmakers did a relatively good job staying away from cliché and recycled plot.

Taki and Mitsuha from Your Name. Photo Credit: Kimi no na wa
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5311514/mediaviewer/rm3024826368.

There were two things that stood out to me from the beginning of the film and all throughout: the animation and the soundtrack. I can, without a doubt, say that this film had some of the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen. The colors were intensely vibrant, the movement of characters was incredibly fluid, and the lighting, both natural and artificial, had the glimmer of the real thing. Japanese music can be pretty hit and miss for me, but every song from this movie’s soundtrack had me tapping my foot in my seat, to the annoyance of those next to me I’m sure.

This is certainly an anime movie, and those who are turned off by that style of animation may wish to steer clear from this one. Like most anime, the emotions are quite a bit more exaggerated than they have any right to be, although it is far from the most “over-the-top” one that I’ve seen. There’s also a recurring plot point that has to do with one character’s obsession with breasts that, while funny the first time, overstays its welcome after a while.

Taki looking out at the comet flying overhead. Photo Credit: Kimi no na wa
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5311514/mediaviewer/rm2675849216.

The version that is playing in American theaters right now is still in Japanese, so there will be a bit of reading subtitles, but I think it is worth hearing it the way that the director intended it to be heard.  Often, the English translation will change some of the dialogue to fit American audiences better, and it can often change the tone of the film.

Final Verdict

Your Name is a very sweet and heartwarming anime. It sent me on a wide range of emotions throughout its run time, and I found myself constantly mesmerized by its startling artwork and energetic soundtrack. I think that any fan of anime should see this movie, and even those who don’t normally watch anime but enjoy a cute story should give it a shot. If this movie does well, this could open the door for more anime releases in America in the future. However, if you can’t stand anime, I can assure you that this will not change your opinion on the genre. If you could swap minds with an anime lover, even for just a little bit, I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

The Russell Review: Power Rangers

Minor Spoilers Ahead: You’ve been Warned!

It was difficult to watch Power Rangers without feeling like I was 6 years old again. I haven’t felt nostalgia and childlike wonder in the theater like this in quite some time. The Power Rangers were a big part of my after-school ritual for years, and knowing that a big budget version of the costumed “teenagers with attitude” was coming to theaters got me more excited than I expected. While it’s not a revolutionary movie, Power Rangers is arguably the best children’s show movie when held up to the Transformers, Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe series.

The main thing that stood out to me about this movie was the actual depth of the characters. In the original series, the Rangers themselves were very one-dimensional. Billy was nerdy, Kimberly was a gymnast, Jason was the leader, Zack was a dancer and Trini was just…Trini. However, in this new movie, all of the kids have problems. Sexual orientation, learning disabilities, sexting, and broken families all play a part in the lives of the teenagers in this movie. I think it was bold of the movie’s screenwriters to go down this path, as the young audience of this movie might have similar problems, and they now have new idols to aspire to. Often, heroes are these perfect paragons of humanity, so it’s refreshing to see people come together because they’re far from perfect.

Becky G. as Trini, Dacre Montgomery as Jason, Naomi Scott as Kimberly, Ludi Lin as Zack, and RJ Cyler as Billy in Power Rangers. (Photo Credit: Kimberley French, Lions Gate Entertainment
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3717490/mediaviewer/rm203162905).

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Theatre TCC to Present Production of Award-winning Musical “Pippin”

(Photo courtesy of www.tallahasseearts.org)

Theatre TCC has a history of producing a variety of world-renowned and award-winning plays.

From Young Frankenstein, to Catch Me If You Can, to The Crucible, TCC’s performing arts program has covered a wide berth of classic and widely accessible musicals and comedies. This semester, this trend will continue.

Theatre TCC will be putting on a production of “Pippin,” the famous play by Stephen Schwartz and Bob Fosse, on April 6-8 and April 13-15. The play will start at 8 p.m. and will focus on Pippin, the son of Charlemagne, searching for his purpose and fulfillment in life.

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The Russell Review: Kong: Skull Island

Minor Spoilers Ahead: You’ve Been Warned!

Few movie monsters are as iconic as King Kong. Originally introduced in 1933, this gigantic ape has been a mainstay in Hollywood cinema, popping up in some sort of reboot or remake every couple of decades. There were the mostly unenthused 1976 and 1986 versions, the wonderful 2005 portrayal directed by Peter Jackson, and now the latest movie, Kong: Skull Island which takes the most drastically different approach. One of the most interesting changes is the setting. While essentially every King Kong movie so far has taken place in the ‘30s, Skull Island changes it up and places the story right after the end of the Vietnam War. Being someone who enjoys the style and music of this era, this instantly made me more excited for the film.

This movie has one of the largest ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time, and some problems come with this. While some characters are intriguing and very well done, such as Tom Hiddleston’s Conrad and Brie Larson’s Weaver, others just seem there to raise the death toll, including most of the soldiers that accompany the scientists on their expedition. One character who comes to mind is Toby Kebbel’s Chapman, who just seemed to be there to break up the action at parts. There is one scene in particular where he watches on as Kong battles a giant squid, and it’s obvious that he’s just there to be the audience’s eyes into an action sequence.

Tom Hiddleston as Conrad, Brie Larson as Weaver, and John C. Reilly as Marlow in Kong: Skull Island. Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Entertainment
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3731562/mediaviewer/rm316645043.

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The Russell Review: Logan

Minor spoilers ahead. Consider yourself warned!

Having been a comic book and superhero fan my whole life, I have always been invested in the “X-Men” franchise, through the good (X2, Days of Future Past) and the bad (I’m looking at you X3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine). One of the consistencies through the whole series, however, has been Hugh Jackman’s performance as Logan, the Wolverine. Knowing that Logan was his last performance, I already went into the movie with a flood of emotions. I must say, those emotions didn’t stop through the whole 2-hour runtime.

I think one of the most enticing things about Logan is that it can still be enjoyed without having a knowledge of the X-Men universe. While having seen the other movies increases the emotions felt throughout the film, it can truly be enjoyed as a standalone piece. It also transcends the label of “superhero movie,” becoming a great movie in the process.

Hugh Jackman as Logan/The Wolverine in Logan. Photo credit: Ben Rothstein http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3315342/mediaviewer/rm2077504256

One of the most jarring changes in this movie when compared to past X-Men movies is the change from a PG-13 rating to an R. There’s something strange but also entertaining about hearing Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier drop the f-bomb. But the most glorious part about the new rating is finally seeing Wolverine (and Laura, a young girl with very similar abilities) maim, butcher and brutalize anyone in his path. One of the biggest complaints about the past films is that Wolverine didn’t get to show off the true bloodthirsty rage that he is known for. This is not the case in Logan, as the titular character goes on a tour de force through countless enemies, treating them as obstacles on what is clearly his last mission.

One of the most touching moments early on is when Logan visits Charles Xavier, the closest thing he ever had to a father figure, in a bunker made of what appears to be a fallen water tower. Mutant-kind has all but disappeared from Earth, and it’s clear early on that Xavier possibly had something to do with it. They make a point of addressing that the telepath’s mind is considered a “weapon of mass destruction,” which makes the audience intrigued as to why it has been classified as such. We see a Charles Xavier we’ve never seen before, beaten and delusional. This movie has better performances than any “superhero” film has a right to have, and they really contribute to the emotional weight of the film.

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen (playing the quiet, but fierce Laura) truly allow this film to break the bonds of the genre. This shows that superhero movies truly can tell tough, real stories that can be enjoyed by anybody, a trend started by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008. While Laura remains quiet for most the film, her body language and ferocity when fighting showcase an actress who hopefully has a bright future ahead of her.

Dafne Keen as Laura in Logan. Photo Credit: IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3315342/mediaviewer/rm2647012096

While this movie doesn’t have many things wrong with it, I believe that the villains leave a bit to be desired. While Boyd Holbrook’s “Pierce” was entertaining as a mutant fanboy working for the wrong people, two villains introduced later in the film feel very hollow. One barely gets any time at all, and the other just seemed brought in for the express purpose of giving Wolverine something just as fierce and unstoppable as him to allow for exciting fight sequences.

It was bittersweet to see Hugh Jackman’s run as Logan end, but I don’t think it could have ended any better than it did. It will be interesting to see the X-Men franchise live on without his presence there, as he has been in every movie so far, whether starring or cameo. I also believe it would be a shame to never use Laura again in the movies, but I’m not sure how they would incorporate her into the future movies with how the timelines are set up. However, I don’t think they should ever try to recast the character. Jackman has played the character for 17 years, and I think that it’s time to hang up the claws.

Final Verdict

Logan is an emotional tour de force that had me on the verge of tears for the majority of its runtime. It was a bittersweet end to an iconic character, but it’s just great to know that it broke the curse of bad Wolverine movies to give him the proper sendoff he deserved.

I am going to be changing my rating system now, as I feel that a grading scale seems quite arbitrary and that it compares them to other movies that really aren’t comparable. From now on, I’ll simply be recommending if people should see the movie or not.

Logan is a must see for all, not just superhero fans. Go watch it!

The Russell Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Minor spoilers ahead. Consider yourself warned!

Few words in Hollywood bring up mixed feelings as much as “sequel.” It tends to bring up a feeling of hesitance from critics and audiences alike. Even though fantastic sequels like The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather Part II, and The Dark Knight exist, there’s also Speed 2: Cruise Control, Taken 2, and The Exorcist 2. Will the movie up the ante and stakes of the first? Will it just retread familiar plot points? Will the villain be as good in the sequel?

Keanu Reeves as John Wick in John Wick: Chapter 2 picture credit: http://www.indiewire.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/wickbar.jpg

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Rally On Tally (April 12)

Do you find yourself wondering how you can get more involved in the local political process? The Broward Young Black Progressives are hosting a “Rally On Tally” two-day event, starting on Wednesday, April 12. The main goal of these two days of civic engagement is to get millennials more involved with their local legislation while letting their local legislators know how they feel about some of the recent controversial decisions made by the state’s government. Those attending will be addressed by guest speakers including local officials and community leaders. The event will be held in front of the State Capitol, and some issues that will be focused on are: education reform, the criminal justice system, and environmental protection. For more information, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/rally-on-tally-tickets-32014634634.

The Russell Review: Split

In 1999, few film directors were getting as much buzz as M. Night Shyamalan. Hot off of the release of his breakout hit The Sixth Sense, people were eager to see what he would do next. While his next few releases, Unbreakable and Signs, were met with generally positive reviews, it was clear that the quality of his movies was slowly deteriorating. A decade later, his movies were becoming critically panned. Ask anyone who saw The Last Airbender or The Happening and they probably won’t have much, if anything, good to say about it. However, in 2015, Shyamalan surprised skeptic audiences with his horror-comedy The Visit.  With the announcement of his next movie, Split, a thriller starring James McAvoy as a man diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder who abducts three teenage girls, many were cautiously excited. Would Shyamalan be able to produce two hits in a row after nearly a whole decade of misfires? This reviewer is happy to say that he absolutely accomplished this task.

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#Overheard@TCC

“There’s people on this campus I wouldn’t want to suck the secondhand air from.”

“My head just exploded, you got my brains all over her. You should feel bad for putting her through such a traumatic experience.”

“You really shouldn’t tell people you dream about stabbing people. Martin Luther King had a dream, too.”

“I’m gonna be in there, praying for God to come down and hand me a piece of paper with the test answers on it.”