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The Riviera Press

The Student News Site of Riviera Preparatory School

The Riviera Press

The Student News Site of Riviera Preparatory School

The Riviera Press

Review Roundup

Two Streaming and Two Theater-Worthy Films You Can’t Miss
Review+Roundup

Riding the blockbuster high of Barbie-Heimer, the season promised a continuation of fantastic films. This season is full of movies to remember, from anthropomorphic bears to mythical sharks.

 

Warner Bros. Pictures

Five Nights at Freddy’s

April-meter: 70% | Rotten Tomatoes: 30% | Audience Score: 87%

PG-13 | Mystery/Thriller

Five Nights at Freddy’s is a movie based on the video game series of the same name. To support his younger sister Abby (Piper Rubio), Mike Schmidt (Josh Hutcherson) begins working as a night guard at the failing restaurant Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. Schmidt soon realizes the sinister secrets hiding beneath the animatronic exoskeleton.

Like most kids in the 2000s, I was heavily into the Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) game series. As a child, I spent hours watching YouTube videos about the game’s plot. So, I acknowledge my bias as a fan of the franchise.

I acknowledge this because when Matthew Patrick of the YouTube channel Game Theory showed up on screen, I was ready to give this movie 100%. The sight of MatPat, a famous YouTuber whose FNAF lore videos are etched in YouTube history, triggered an eruption of cheers throughout the entire theater. Moments like that will endear the movie to franchise fans. Another great aspect of the movie was the design of the animatronics, which were crafted through puppeteering rather than CGI. This film detail significantly contributes to immersing the audience in the FNAF experience.

However, people who are not fans of the game franchise will find the movie less enjoyable. The movie is not scary. Are there scary moments? Yes, but it is not nearly up to par with the game’s never-ending horror. A movie’s gore is limited to a PG-13 rating, but that’s no excuse. My main critique is that the exposition takes up too much of the movie. For example, viewers spend hours learning about Schmidt’s custody battle with his aunt over his sister, only to have Freddy Fazbear murder the aunt with no repercussions. Josh Hutcherson can only distract me for so long, and there were points in the movie where I admittedly became bored.

To conclude, the FNAF movie earned 70% on the April meter. The movie is good and entertaining but falls short on horror.

 

 

Lionsgate

Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

April-meter: 95% | Rotten Tomatoes: 66% | Audience Score: 89%

PG-13 | Action/Adventure

The Hunger Games is an esteemed franchise that was over after four movies. The Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes blessed fans everywhere with a prequel to the movies. Before he was President Snow, Coriolanus Snow (Tom Blyth) was an academy student determined to win the Plinth Prize scholarship by mentoring tribute Lucy Grey (Rachel Zegler) in the 10th Annual Hunger Games.

I watched Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on a rainy Thanksgiving day. Squinting while looking at my friend’s tiny computer screen, I tried to ignore the poor quality. Twenty minutes in, I shut off the computer and looked up the nearest movie theaters in Islamorada, part of the Keys. The film was too good to watch on a tiny screen; I had to get the whole experience.

The first thing that stood out to me was the movie’s diversity. As a person with a shaved head, I felt represented when Coriolanus Snow (Tom Bythe) got a buzz cut. I audibly screamed in the movie theater. It was a win for buzzed people everywhere. Songs were a big locomotive for storytelling in the movie. The songs did not feel out of place or random; they served a purpose and fitted the aesthetic. Ziegler as Grey was a fantastic casting choice. She is highly experienced in acting in movie musicals and excels at every song.

Although bookworms, beware! The translation from book to movie fails to highlight inferior aspects of Snow’s characterization. Consequently, the film portrays Snow as excessively likable and insufficiently authoritarian in his character.

Hunger Games: Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes earns a 95% on the April meter. It is a riveting and dystopian tale but it fails to live up to the source material.

 

 

Warner Bros. Pictures

Meg 2: The Trench

April-meter: 80%| Rotten Tomatoes: 27% | Audience Score: 73%

PG-13 | Action/Adventure

Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) leads a crew on another deep-sea expedition, Meg 2: The Trench. In this sharky sequel, an underwater mining operation threatens Taylor’s team and leads to a face-off between a plethora of prehistoric reptiles, including a giant squid and multiple megalodons.

The perfect escape from a hot Miami day is a trip to the movie theater, which I decided to do one September day. Having never seen the first one, I walked into Meg 2 with low expectations. I’ll admit I don’t have the most sophisticated movie palette, but nothing beats the excitement of Meg 2. After watching the sequel, I went home and watched the first movie, but this is a rare instance in which the sequel is undeniably better.

My biggest complaint is how the writers wrote the character Suyin Zhang (Li Bingbing) out of the movie. Zhang was a big part of the first movie, serving as the mother of Meiying (Shuya Sophia Cai), the supporting character, and a love interest to Taylor. Due to unknown reasons, Zhang is not in the second film, leading writers to kill her offscreen. It feels very cheap and adds no motivation to the plot. Zhang easily could’ve been “away” on business, and nothing would’ve changed. Portraying Zhang as a deceased character makes the first Meg feel pointless when so much time is spent establishing their relationship.

Likable characters and an interesting plot make for a compelling narrative about a giant shark. The Meg franchise provides a lighthearted, often hilarious perspective on an otherwise inundated genre. At several points throughout the movie, I was shocked at the plot armor given to the characters; the number of things Taylor survives was jaw-dropping. For example, when Taylor travels across the ocean floor with a defective exosuit, fighting three megalodons, several lizard creatures, and a giant octopus with nothing but a jet-ski and a dream, it makes for an enjoyable 116 minutes. Through several creative camera shots and PG-13 violence, director Ben Wheatley reminds the audience that the actual main characters are the reptiles.

Meg 2: The Trench gets an 80% on the April meter. It is a hidden gem among action movies, yet it invalidates the storyline of its predecessor.

 

 

Happy Madison Productions

Leo

April-meter: 50% |Rotten Tomatoes: 80% | Audience Score: 93%

PG | Comedy/Musical

Leo (Adam Sandler), the tuatara, and Squirtle (Bill Burr), the tortoise, are class pets for a 5th-grade classroom. Upon learning he has one year to live, Leo plans to escape when taken home each weekend. Instead of escaping, Leo emotionally supports the students, while mean substitute Ms. Melkin (Cecily Strong) takes over the class.

Tuesday’s drive home proved tedious, filled with twists, turns, and traffic. On this drive, I have a lot of time to ponder. While thinking about homework, I stared at a bus that advertised Leo, a movie streaming on Netflix. I took the advertisement as a sign from the universe and watched the movie.

In previous years, famous actors have taken over the voice acting industry, with studios opting for big celebrities instead of trained voice actors. I thought it would be the same for Adam Sandler, who plays Leo. I turned out to be wrong (first time for everything). I don’t know if Adam Sandler was an aged lizard in a previous lifetime, but he did a great job voice-acting for Leo. The movie’s original plot and surprisingly funny moments make Leo a great movie for the whole family.

The biggest problem with the movie is that it’s a movie musical. I did not know this fact, and boy, was I surprised! The songs are short and far apart. The lizard starts singing again as soon as you forget it’s a musical. The songs lack plot depth, as the script avoids profound moments and inserts songs abruptly. Notably, Leo gives some terrible advice, such as singing about how crying is annoying when a child is dealing with their parent’s divorce. A different movie could’ve gotten away with this, but a kids’ movie has to be conscious of the messages it spreads. The final issue lies in Ms. Malkin’s character. She embodies the stereotypical “mean” substitute. The teacher abandons Leo in the Everglades when the kids win a field trip to Magic Land Park to take credit for their recent success in school. Squirtle exposes this scheme, prompting Malkin to switch her opinion of Leo and hijack the bus to save him. Despite her actions, Malkin doesn’t apologize, yet everyone, including Leo, forgives her.

At the movie’s end, Malkin becomes a full-time teacher, and Leo and Squirtle become her class pets for the following year. Leo and Squirtle oddly celebrate this, disregarding the fact that Malkin attempted to harm Leo just twenty minutes ago. Perhaps it’s the Floridian in me, but dumping a pet in the Everglades rubs me the wrong way. 

Leo earns 50% on the April meter. It’s an interesting family movie ruined by mediocre songs.

Overall, August to December has been a great season for movies. With movies like Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget and Timothée Chalamet’s Wonka on the horizon, it is clear that 2023’s streak of quality movies is not ending anytime soon.

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About the Contributor
April Kelly, Writer
April Kelly is a senior and staff writer for the Riviera Press. She enjoys walking her dog and hanging out with friends. April is looking forward to participating in senior activities and soaking up every moment of her last year. When asked to share a fun quote about her year so far April said, “I’m not a catchprase person”.
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