Category Archives: On the Silver & Small Screens

Movie reviews and discussions.

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

by Sabrina Z., who knows this is being posted on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. Sorry, I am late. 

By now, just about everyone in the world has seen The Force Awakens. I base that statement on the billion dollar marker the film just passed.

But if you have not see it yet, then do NOT read ahead…SPOILERS!

**Actually, since this is posting later than I intended, I am expecting everyone to have seen the film. It will be released on DVD and in Digital Format in April.**

It is no secret to the members of the Student Success Center (the main division over The ACE) that I am a Jedi. I state this proudly. It is a title that I have worked many years for, and I try to live my life as a Jedi.

On December 18, 2015, I walked into Santikos Palladium with my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and good friends to watch the premiere showing of Episode VII. I was humming with excitement, unable to speculate what was going to happen in this film. I had spoilers running through my head, fan ideas (both good and bad), slight expectations…my brain was counting down to a complete meltdown!!

And when the movie started, I nearly died from pent-up excitement!

I will not go into a full review, as this movie has been picked apart by countless reviewers and film blog sites. But I will cover what I enjoyed and my own speculations about the coming episodes.

1.)  Abrams played it safe. We all know that. And I don’t blame him for making this long-awaited opening to an expansion of the Star Wars universe as similar to the original as can be. Why?? Because if he had botched this first film, the world would never forgive him. The fans hated Lucas for the prequels (THEY WEREN’T THAT BAD, PEOPLE!! GET OVER IT!), and I can imagine Abrams was fearful of the same reaction. Nevertheless, it was a safe re-introduction into the universe and I loved it. It was simple, classic, and had the right balance of story elements. Some genuine shockers too! (You know what I am talking about! Was not expecting that to happen in the first film.)

2.)  Rey, Finn, and Poe: The Next Generation. So I am all for female heroes, and I loved the development of Rey in this film. The mystery around her is just as intriguing as her force sensitivity. Finn and Poe are a great bromance, reminiscent of classic Han and Luke from the OT (original trilogy). I am curious about Poe Dameron’s role in the next two films. There was a lot of hype about this character, and something tells me we will get to know his full story in Episode VIII.

The inclusion of the beloved original characters, Han, Luke, Chewie, and Leia, was what really drew me to the film. I wanted to see more of them, especially Leia’s force abilities (she is force sensitive, though not as strong or trained as Luke). I knew they were going to keep Luke a secret for most of the first film. That line of the story, I think, will take on a whole new life in the next two films.

3.)  The mystery of the force-strong survivalist, Rey. There are so many fan rumors going around about who Rey is and who are her parents. I too have participated in several conversations about this mysterious young woman, and my take is that she is Luke’s daughter. At least I am hoping she is. I get the want for new force-sensitive characters that are not related to the main characters, but this is something is building to an epic battle that I have longed to see since reading books from the Expanded Uni–sorry, Star Wars Legacy (why they changed the name, I do not understand).

4.) Kylo Ren, the emo bad guy who stole hearts…and cut through a few of them, maybe. Kylo is not fully immersed in his villain status, at least I thought so for the majority of the film. Then that one scene comes up and I am starting to think he really is the guy we are all going to hate. Most do hate him by the end of the film. But there is something else to this Vader “fanboy” that makes me think he will NOT be able to match Vader.

Alright, kids! I am stopping there. I spent most of this on characters, because that is what is important in a semi-recycled story line. The story is classic, and stable, but it is HOW it introduces new individuals into the universe that should get the attention. These characters are going to become heroes to a new generation of Star Wars fans, and I am very excited to see how it progresses.

On a side note, I am a major fan of Star Wars: Rebels and I recommend that fans check this show out for new adventures in an old universe that we know and love.

Sorry this has come so late, readers. But I am reading some new books that will be reviewed in the coming months.

Happy Writing and May The Force Be With You All!!


Tuesday Reviews-Day RETRO Edition: Labyrinth (1986)

by Sabrina Z.

January 11, 2016 was a heartbreaking day for me. I woke up to find out that David Bowie had passed away on January 10.  All day, I listened to some of his tracks from Blackstar. 

Some of my earliest experiences with Bowie came from the film I will be “reviewing” today, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. Labyrinth is a 1986 musical-fantasy produced by George Lucas and based on artwork and design by Brian Froud. **Trivia: Star Trek’s Gates McFadden was a puppet and dance choreographer for the film.**

The film starred a young Jennifer Connelly as Sarah and the magnificent David Bowie as Jareth, the Goblin King.

Plot: Teenage Sarah is budding thespian, and often states how unfair it is that she babysit her half-brother while her father and step-mother go out in the evenings. One night, frustrated that Toby (half-brother) will not stop crying, she recites lines from a play asking that the Goblin King come and take Toby away.  And as the sentiment states…be careful what you wish for.

Jareth, the Goblin King, takes Toby away to his castle in the center of the labyrinth. Sarah takes on the journey to get Toby back, facing challenges and tricks meant to keep her from succeeding.  At this point, I would describe more but I am sort of hoping that you will watch the film.

Moral: I can give you this moral of this moral of the story, as it will not spoil things too much. LIFE IS NOT FAIR! I will keep my soapbox under the bed, but that is truth that everyone learns. Life just is not fair. Sarah learns this. I learned this. It is just the way things are. Though it may not be fair, life has its interesting moments that we, as feeling and thinking people, need to be open to.

Music: The music is really what makes this film on of my all-time favorites. Bowie sings the film’s songs perfectly, delivering tunes that are fun, romantic, and hauntingly enchanting. “Underground” is Jareth’s song to Sarah, and features some of the most poignant lyrics that caught my attention when I first heard it.

“Life can be easy/
It’s not always swell/
Don’t tell me truth hurts, little girl/
‘Cause it hurts like hell/”

The music compliments the film so well. The ballroom dance scene is beautifully done, and features a masquerade dance between Jareth and Sarah.

Modern generations may watch this film and think it to be a bit ridiculous. It is a fantasy-musical; the story is constructed very similar to a fairy tale. But watch it, not for the realism or blockbuster-exploding films of today; watch if for the simple magic of dance, music, and storytelling that was once held as imaginative entertainment.

Labyrinth was one of the films that prompted me to become a filmmaker. While I learned in the midst of my college studies that I was not a good director (George Lucas and I have this in common), I found my niche in screenwriting. The films I write contain some of the same magic that sparked in my heart after watching Labyrinth.

Till next time, gentle readers!

I leave you with this scene from the film (one of my favorites):


Tuesday Reviews-Day: Thanksgiving Style!

by Sabrina C. Zertuche

This week is Thanksgiving. As you celebrate with family, friends, and stuff yourselves silly with food, do not forget to partake in some relaxing movie watching.

There are many, MANY Christmas movies, but have you ever thought about the number of Thanksgiving-themed movies?
There are not that many, but there are a few in the slim selection that are some of my favorites.

If you are a Drama lover, then nothing beats Jodie Foster’s 1995 holiday unicorn, Home for the Holidays. This film centers on the family drama from the perspective of Holly Hunter’s Claudia, a single mom recently fired and heading home to celebrate with family. Through a series of adventures and secret-revealing angst among her siblings and parents, the movie leaves viewers with a sense that despite the hurtful words (that cannot be taken back) said to each other, the family finally comes to an understanding that they all lead different lives and no one life is perfect. It is a great watch for drama + comedy, but be warned that there are some curse words thrown around.

Now one of my holiday classics is the eternal A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Snoopy is the only Beagle around that can make toast and jelly beans look so appetizing. The comedic happenings of the Peanuts Gang often lightens my spirits and is a great transition into the Holiday season. I love Charlie Brown’s generosity to have his friends over for Thanksgiving, even if Peppermint Patty (nicely) pressured him into it.

Now my third favorite is one that includes Thanksgiving, but covers a larger span of time in the lives of two people navigating love. The 1998 classic, You Got Mail, is a go-to movie for me when I am feeling down. Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are fabulous as two strangers who met in a chat room and who actually cross paths in their real life. Through hardships and “business,” the two characters find each other in the big city of New York.

There are many other films that are about or include Thanksgiving. These are just some of my favorites, but I encourage you all to go out and find a move for yourself that resonates with your feelings this time of year.

I do apologize for missing may deadline last week. The end of the semester is rather busy. Here is hoping that the next few weeks leave me some time to get another one or two reviews out.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Grammar Ninja

by Sabrina C. Zertuche

As a writing consultant, I see grammar and punctuation issues everyday. These are natural issues, things that even English majors (like my colleagues and I) still work with despite our years of writing.

We see a lot of requests from writers looking for help with their grammar. In Academic writing, most grammar mistakes are attributed to other factors, like misunderstanding the content, not knowing who your audience is, or a disconnect between the writer and content they are writing about.  But sometimes, this request for help with grammar comes from a shaky grammatical foundation that was not strengthened in the elementary or high school years.

Grammar mistakes plague everyone, even the most experienced writers. As writing consultants, my colleagues and I often share our writing with each other to check for correct tense, sentence structure, etc.

For me, I like to refresh my memory of nouns, verbs, and adjectives so that I can properly assist students when they come into the center. Rather than bore myself with reading a handbook, I like to add a little fun to my learning. That is how I found Grammar Ninja, an online learning game designed by a Software Engineer named Greg Lieberman.

Grammar Ninja lets players select from three levels, Beginner, Skilled, or Master Ninja. A sentence appears and the game asks that the player identify the nouns, verbs, adjectives, or other sentence parts. There is also a bar that tells you how many parts of the sentence are left for players to identify (e.x. 2 nouns left, 3 adjectives left).

My coworker and colleague Ana Flores, OLLU’s Retention Coordinator, played through all of the levels several times and found that the game was a nice challenge for us to remember the things we learned in our early school years.

To wrap up, I pose a question to all readers:

Are you a master of the grammatical arts?

If not, it is okay. I don’t think anyone can fully master grammar, but you can definitely help yourself stay refreshed on these pesky parts of writing.

Play the game and brush up on your grammar here:

Next Tuesday Reviews-Day will be a Retro Edition with a favorite, book, movie, or game from the past.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday Reviews-Day: Hello, Sweetie! (Can you guess what I am writing about?)

by Sabrina C. Zertuche

For any member of this fandom, there is nothing better than hearing the words, “I’m The Doctor, and I save people!”

One of my favorite shows is the British entertainment masterpiece, Doctor Who. The complex nature of the stories and the beloved characters of this legendary television show attracted my attention many years ago.

Most Whovians will say that everyone has “their” Doctor. The first face they saw the first time they watched the show. For me, that was Twelve. Played by the lovable, real-life Tigger Matt Smith, Twelve was a bundle of excitement, dorky clothes, and deep-rooted emotions. Smith played the Doctor as an awkward genius that felt much more than his two hearts could handle.

The Doctor (the only name he is called) travels with a companion(s). My personal favorites are Amy Pond, Clara Oswald, and River Song (though she has never technically been a companion. Wink! Wink!). In the long history of companions, there have been many wonderful adventurers to accompany the Doctor. Many have left a lasting impression on fans (Ahem! Rose Tyler).

What really makes Doctor Who interesting is that when it comes time to switch actors, the Doctor regenerates and gets a new face (makes for an easy switch). Most recently, Matt Smith left the show and Peter Capaldi became the Twelfth Doctor. Now I loved Matt Smith and Eleven, but Peter Capaldi is really growing on me as Twelve!! Capaldi brings a new edge to the Doctor (only hugging when really emotional), and a lot of fans are falling for the Twelfth Doctor.

Doctor Who goes back to 1963, when William Hartnell became the First Doctor. The Doctor is a time lord from the planet Gallifrey. His adventures began when he stole the T.A.R.D.I.S., which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space. Since then, he has been running from a lengthy and secretive past, and he carries the memories of his 900+ years with him.

The Doctor is Earth’s Champion. He loves humans, and he fights for them. He uses science, compassion, and wit to fight monsters and the things that we see in the corner of our eye that should not be there.

I recommend the show to anyone who is interested. Try it. You may not like it, but that is okay. You do not have to. I believe all of the seasons can be found on Netflix. Start from the beginning with Hartnell. Start in 2005 with the Ninth Doctor and his cool leather jacket.  But if you have ever been curious about the show, go give it a watch.

Till next time!