A&E brings you good tidings and cheer, along with a bevy of must-see films and ear-popping albums released in 2017.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is the eighth episode in this mega-franchise, serving as a direct sequel to 2015’s “The Force Awakens.” Director Rian Johnson takes the helm this time around, injecting the film with some of his own creative flair. That means character-driven plotting, kinetic action sequences and sweeping shots filled with color. The film saw favorable reviews among critics and general audiences but also generated deeply polarizing views among the fandom. Love it or hate it, it’s still standard Star Wars fare, which means more space battles, magic knights with laser swords, and explosions. Also, there are some genuinely awe-inspiring scenes that make full use of the CGI technology we have today. From a purely cinematic perspective, I think it definitely deserves a watch.
— Derek Deng, Senior Staff Writer
“Darkest Hour” brings an almost apocalyptic feel to a part of the past that has grown stagnant between the pages of history books. Gary Oldman portrays British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his controversial rise to power during Britain’s titular “darkest hour.” France teeters on the verge of being overtaken by invading Nazi forces and the Europe-of-old seems to near its end. This results in a clash of ideologies from within the British government, as Churchill’s intense verbosity and determination to send Britain careening into battle until the bitter end is met with opposition from all sides. “Darkest Hour” is grim, gripping, and intense as Oldman brings to life Churchill’s blustering personality, as well as the massive stakes he faces as he nearly deteriorates into collapse alongside his nation.
— Chloe Esser, A&E Editorial Assistant
“The Carrie Diaries”
Are you a fan of “Sex and the City”? Check out “The Carrie Diaries” — the prequel to Carrie Bradshaw’s fabulous New York life. See what growing up during the ‘80s for the young Carrie Bradshaw was like and follow her along for the emotional rollercoaster that is high school. Along for the ride are her three best friends Walt, Mouse, and Maggie. Bradshaw and her crew deal with everything from coping with the death of a loved one to figuring out their place in the world and discovering a world of culture outside their small town. Find out how Bradshaw transforms from a simple suburban girl into the fearless, fabulous New Yorker sex columnist of today.
— Lorena Espinoza, Senior Staff Writer
“Antisocialities” by Alvvays
I did myself a great disservice by putting this album off til December. Before listening to “Antisocialites,” I only knew of Alvvays as the band behind “Archie, Marry Me” — a deliriously warm pop track with calls for matrimony abound and a precise sense of melody — a track that I overplayed early into my freshman year. Three years removed, I am much more nostalgic for the song than the year and have been lucky enough to capitalize on that with the release of Alvvays’ newest album, “Antisocialites.” It’s blisteringly bright pop with fuzzy guitars, like “Souvlaki Soup” on speed. None of the songs overstay their visit, forming an incredible sense of momentum that carries throughout an album of only 10 tracks that each have their own identity thanks to an adept ability at capturing moods. Pop this punctilious is nothing short of a gift.
— Samuel Velazquez, Senior Staff Writer
“SYRE” by Jaden Smith
“SYRE” dropkicks the listener into a fantastical world only capable of being built by Jaden Smith, an experience comparable to a transcendental fever dream. Comprising 17 tracks and clocking in at over an hour, the album is a behemoth to not only get through but process as well. Smith spins an epic adventure with a rapping style similar to stream-of-consciousness as he juggles biblical allusions, historical references, and extensive metaphors alongside plenty mentions of his Tesla.
It isn’t a conventional rap album in the slightest, hopping from the heavy pulse of trap music, gentle acoustic guitar strums, and grating Jimi Hendrix-inspired guitar riffs in a single track; strangely enough, it flows seamlessly. Smith’s focus on fluidity bears testament to the outstanding production quality of “SYRE.” While Smith’s fake-deep anecdotes might be too much to handle at times, even so, the album’s enjoyable enough — just don’t think too hard.
— Jahfreen Alam, Staff Writer
“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”
On Dec. 10 and Dec. 13, Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies hosted 50th-anniversary screenings of the classic family drama, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” across the country. Starring Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier, this 1967 film explores love amidst racism, as a young woman brings home her black fiance, John (Poitier), to meet her white, older parents, Mr. and Mrs. Drayton (Tracy and Hepburn). As preparations for the dinner ensue, it is revealed that while the Draytons are self-proclaimed liberals politically, they tend to be less understanding with their own family. This trend is mirrored in John’s family as well, making for a series of sobering conversations about equality and the acceptance of love, no matter the parties involved. In addition to its clear social relevance, this film is notable for being the last Spencer Tracy made, and for winning Academy Awards for “Best Actress” and “Best Original Screenplay.” Overall, despite its age, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” deft handling of civil rights issues and iconic acting results in a timeless movie that is just as important, if not more so, today.
— Daisy Scott, Senior Staff Writer
With awards season in full swing, one of the most talked-about films of 2017 is director Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird.” In essence, it is a coming-of-age story about a girl named Lady Bird and the events of her 18-year-old life. It may be surprising, then, that a movie with such a simple premise currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 99 percent and numerous accolades. So, how does it work?
“Lady Bird” is a prime example of how the relatability of a character or a story influences how much one enjoys a movie. Saoirse Ronan wonderfully plays the titular lead, bringing a fitting restless energy into her role of someone on the delicate cusp of adulthood. We’ve seen — even lived — through it all before: financial problems, college applications, sexuality struggles, emotionally-distant parents, and more. But this movie isn’t a cliched trip down memory lane. It’s emotional and funny at the right times, and tastefully refrains from becoming manipulatively sappy or pretentiously quirky. With lines and scenes that’ll make you laugh or sigh with bittersweet nostalgia, you’ll leave wanting to hug your family member, your best friend, and yourself a little bit tighter.
— Natalie Tran, Staff Writer
“The End of the F***ing World”
“The End of the F***ing World” follows two teen pariahs who impulsively embark on a darkly disturbing yet comical road trip in Bonnie-and-Clyde fashion. James is a self-diagnosed, budding psychopath, and Alyssa is a tumultuous, self-destructive nuisance. When Alyssa plans to escape from the dysfunctionality of her family, she convinces James to tag along with her, unaware that he has targeted her as his first murder victim. Individually, they’re unlikable personalities, but together, their rough edges soften as we begin to see the vulnerabilities and poignancy of neglected children. The series portrays the utmost ugliness of the outside world, that its absurdity and cruelty make our protagonists resort to sinister actions and mindsets that become sane and justified. So, the viewers find themselves laughing at their gauche, juvenile moments, which remind us of the bewilderment in adolescence, and rooting for their delinquent behavior, which we begin to sympathize with. In the end, it surprises us with the compelling story about loss of innocence, self-discovery and, most importantly, therapeutic love between two young and broken individuals.
— Ashley Chen, Staff Writer
“The Disaster Artist”
“The Disaster Artist” tells the story of “The Room,” a film that failed so spectacularly it flopped its way into the pop-culture zeitgeist. This film could have easily been a 90-minute clip show of James Franco’s Tommy Wiseau impression and it would have been fine. It would have been another goofy two-star comedy in the vein of every recent Will Ferrell movie. But what makes this film so special is its heart. Underneath the goofy accent, the jilted dialogue, and the bogus lighting, this is story about two friends chasing their dreams in a city that couldn’t care less about them. “The Disaster Artist” is just as weirdly beautiful and hilarious as the film that inspired it.
— Nolan Willett, Staff Writer
“The Big Sick”
Based on the real-life romance between actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gardner, “The Big Sick” follows the first year of their relationship and all the struggles Kumail must deal with after Emily suddenly falls into a coma. It’s hard to find adequate words to describe the film without resorting to cliches — it’s funny, romantic, heartwarming, bittersweet, inspirational, and more. Beyond that, “The Big Sick” fearlessly explores complicated themes such as cultural identity and fear of commitment in such a real and raw manner that you feel like you’re watching a documentary rather than a rom-com. With relatable characters and a storyline that hit all of your feelings, “The Big Sick” refreshingly subverts cliche romantic tropes in favor of a lighthearted yet deeply emotional story that highlights the complexities of relationships, families and clashing cultures. Best of all, it’s available to watch online for free with Amazon Prime!
— Ellysa Lim, Senior Staff Writer
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