Teen Book Talk features reviews by local teen writers. This week, we’re sharing a review of another movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The DVD is now available to place on hold at the library (there is currently quite a long hold list!)

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Neha H., Teen Reviewer

Name of Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Release Date: November 18, 2016

MPAA Rating : PG-13

My rating : 4 stars

Genre : Fantasy, action, thriller

Set roughly seventy years before the timeline of the Ha rry Potter series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first entry in a five-part series of prequels that will focus on the events leading up to the climactic duel between Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald and Albus Dumbledore. With a screenplay penned by J.K. Rowling, F anta stic Beasts is directed by David Yates, and produced by David Heyman and Steve Kloves — all of whom worked on the original Harry Potter film ser ies. The film follows the adventures of British magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), after he arrives in 1920s New York City with a briefcase filled with magical creatures.

Newt finds himself directly in the midst of the sudden chaos and turmoil that wreak havoc on New York streets; the mayhem gradually reveals the longstanding tension and deep distrust between the American magical community and the “No-Majs” (non-magical people, the equivalent of Muggles). Although Newt evidently prefers the company of the beloved creatures he carries with him, he encounters demoted Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston), her Legilimens sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), and Jacob Kowalski, a No-Maj (Dan Fogler), all of whom help him in his quest to save the American Wizarding World from total anarchy.

Each of the actors deliver superb performances; Oscar-winner Redmayne, in particular, perfectly captures the charisma and charm of Newt. While not quite as emotionally powerful and gripping as on the page, Rowling’s talent still shines through her screenwriting; she expertly conveys the developing relationships between the characters through memorable lines of dialogue.

The thrilling, fast-paced action sequences are supplemented by a lilting score courtesy of James Newton Howard ( The Hunger Games, T he Dark Knight, Maleficent), who incorporates snippets of John Williams’ classic “Hedwig’s Theme” along with refreshingly original elements. However, a few scenes in the middle of the film seem a bit too drawn out, and the magical creatures — which were promoted as the core of Fantastic Beasts — are quickly forgotten in the midst of the action. Nevertheless, Fantastic Beasts makes for an entertaining fantasy adventure sure to enchant audiences; moreover, its underlying commentary about the dangers of intolerance and paranoia is just as riveting as it is deeply unsettling.

Teen Book Talk returns! After a short hiatus, teen book talk is back, with all new reviews, written by local teens. This week, we’re sharing a review of the film, Hidden Figures.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Written by teen reviewer, Neha H.

Name of Movie: Hidden Figures
Release Date: December 25, 2016
MPAA Rating : PG
My rating : 5 stars
Genre : Biographical drama

A poignant, inspiring tale of perseverance, determination, and courage in the face of oppression, Hidden Figures is the true story of three brilliant African-American women who worked at NASA in the 1950s and 1960s as “human computers”, and helped the Space Task Group send astronaut John Glenn into orbit around Earth.

Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) all work in the segregated West Area Computers division of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. When the director of the Space Task Group, Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) requests for a theoretical mathematician to help NASA outstrip the Russians in the Space Race, Katherine is assigned to his team. Katherine struggles to have her contributions recognized and accepted by the team; meanwhile, Dorothy teaches herself the FORTRAN programming language and works toward becoming the supervisor of her group, and Mary pursues an engineering degree from graduate school.

Hidden Figures memorializes the vital, yet widely overlooked contributions of these three women during a crucial period of American space history. The film combines dazzling cinematography and standout performances by Henson, Spencer, and Monáe, to create an engaging, heartfelt masterpiece. This uplifting, feel-good film should not be missed!


This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer talks about an older movie release, Red Riding Hood, that was released in 2011.

*Side note: if you enjoyed the movie, or if you enjoy fairy tale and folk tale retellings, check out Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge.* 

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Chaturya G., Teen Reviewer

Name of Movie: Red Riding Hood

Release Date: March 11, 2011

Rating: PG-13

My Rating: 3.5/5

Genre: Fantasy/Thriller

The setting in this film takes place in a fantasy medieval village setting. The main character of the film is a girl named Valerie. She’s in love with a man named Peter, but her parents want her to marry someone else; Henry. Their village is haunted by a werewolf, who originally stopped killing humans years ago. However, Valerie’s sister is killed by this werewolf who has now become a threat once more. The village calls upon someone named Father Solomon to get rid of this werewolf. The rest of the film is about the village trying to get rid of the wolf, and Valerie’s conflicts regarding her love life and the werewolf, who she is able to communicate with and fears is actually someone very close to her.

I thought this was a pretty engaging movie, but I felt like something was lacking throughout. This was redeemed through pretty much the last ten minutes of the movie when a twist is revealed and it really gets intense. I liked the mystery and romance aspects of the film, but I wish that the “werewolf” (and its human character) had more screen time because I felt as if the character wasn’t developed well enough when it’s finally revealed who it is. Overall, it was a pretty good film and the soundtrack was great.

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer went to see Independence Day: Resurgence and has a review to share about the movie. (The movie is not yet available in the library catalog, as the DVD has not been released at the time of this review). 

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Neha H., Teen Reviewer

MV5BMjIyMTg5MTg4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzkzMjY5NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_Name of Movie: Independence Day: Resurgence
Release Date: June 24, 2016
MPAA Rating: PG‐13
My rating: 2.5 stars
Genre: Action, science‐fiction
“We had twenty years to prepare…So did they.”

This is the tagline for Independence Day: Resurgence, the action‐packed sequel to 1996’s highest‐grossing film. It features plenty of undeniably impressive visual effects, but is a shallow attempt at recapturing the exhilaration and success of its predecessor.

Resurgence stars an ensemble cast of Jessie Usher, Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, and Charlotte Gainsbourg, with Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Brent Spiner,
and Vivica A. Fox reprising their roles. Notably missing is Will Smith, who played the charming original protagonist, Captain Steven Hiller ‐ his circumstances of death are very vaguely conveyed in the film.

Directed by Roland Emmerich, the film takes place twenty years following the disastrous events of Independence Day, after which world nations have deeply studied extraterrestrial technology and formed the Earth Space Defense organization (ESD).

However, as the Fourth of July approaches, the ESD becomes embroiled in a second battle with alien invaders, who attack with exceptional force. Once again, teams of scientists collaborate with valiant fighter pilots and the President of the United States to save the world from a seemingly insurmountable foe.

The plot feels tired and hollow; it attempts at originality, but is such a disaster that one begins to wonder whether a sequel was even necessary. The plethora of special effects just couldn’t compensate for the shaky storyline with its abysmal writing.

This largely “spectacle‐driven blockbuster” has drawn generally unfavorable reviews from seasoned critics. Even with its visceral thrills, Resurgence cannot make up for its overall deficiencies in ingenuity and emotional warmth, making it stand incontrovertibly pale in comparison to the 1996 original.

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer gives us an overview of the movie Lucy. Lucy was released in theaters in 2014, but is now available without holds at your local Alameda County Library branch!

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Chaturya, Teen Reviewer

Lucy_(2014_film)_posterName of Movie: Lucy

Release Date: July 24, 2014

Rating: R

My Rating: 4/5

Genre: Sci-fi/Action

This is one of my favorite sci-fi movies I’ve ever watched. This movie is basically about a young woman who’s dragged into a mess involving drugs because of her boyfriend who was working for a Korean gang. Lucy delivers a briefcase to the drug lord Mr. Jang, which contains a valuable synthetic drug called CPH4. She is then captured and has a bag of this drug sewn into her abdomen, and so do a few other people. This is so that the drug can sent off to Europe and distributed there. While she’s in captivity, she gets kicked really hard by one of the captors and the bag of drugs inside her bursts, causing the drug to flow throughout her blood. Lucy then acquires heightened physical and mental capabilities and the rest of the movie is basically what she does (with the power growing inside her) to stop the Korean gang.

First of all, the setting of this movie was absolutely gorgeous, and Scarlett Johansson did a great job portraying the character Lucy. Of course this movie is science fiction so the scientific parts aren’t 100% accurate. This movie basically revolves around the myth that the average human uses only 10% of their brain, and that this synthetic drug called CPH4 unlocks the other parts of the brain, giving Lucy powers that no one could’ve ever imagined.

Overall, this wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but I did enjoy watching it. The movie does contain some disturbing parts such as murder and dehumanizing a woman so this could make some people uncomfortable. The science part isn’t really true either, but that doesn’t make this movie terrible. It was a pretty good movie which made me really think about the life surrounding us, and its relation to time. I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes the sci-fi genre.

This week for Teen Book Talk, our reviewer gives her take on a Disney movie, Lemonade Mouth (release date 2011).

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Natlie L., Grade 11, Teen Reviewer

lemonade mouthMovie: Lemonade Mouth

Release Date: April 15, 2011

Rating: PG

My Rating: 3 Stars

Genre: Musical, Drama, Comedy

Five students from Mesa High School run into trouble with the school’s authorities, and they all end up in detention. There, they realize that their mutual musical compatibility can lead to the start of a revolution that will overthrow—or at least change—the tyrannical rule of Principal Brenigan, a man who’s obsessed with school sports, sponsorships, and his own reputation. Through their band, Lemonade Mouth, they learn to overcome personal problems, family issues, and foreign obstacles in order to prove to the world that the arts, self-expression, and friendship are all important values that should be upheld.

I’m not a huge fan of a certain dairy product called “cheese,” and it’s a bit unfortunate that this film contains a lot of it. The story itself is just like a pepperoni pizza—very simple and delightful to consume—but the creation of it could’ve used some more pepperoni, not more cheese. By too much cheesiness, I mean much of the plot and characters’ lines are predictable, which made several scenes seem to drag on forever because I already knew how it would end. I credit this lack of suspense to the fact that it’s a Disney film because—let’s face it—Disney productions are always heavy on the cheese, and everyone already knows what that tastes like.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed this film because—cutting out predictability, the fairytale-like ending to romances, and the needlessly tragic backstories—it spreads great messages to its intended audience—little kids. The themes of individuality, self-expression, perseverance and the values of friendship and family are heavily stressed throughout the whole movie. These themes are incredibly important for kids to know because they will always be relevant to real-life situations that kids will encounter in both the near and distant future.

Parents, I say this film is a fantastic way to get your children started on learning about expressing themselves without fear of parental and societal pressures. You can watch with them, and who knows? Maybe you’ll find yourself dancing to the catchy tunes as well!

This week for Teen Book Talk our reviewer talks about a summer movie, Jurassic World. The DVD has been released and is available to be put on hold through the library’s catalog.

Teen reviewers select which titles and movies they’d like to review, and opinions are their own. **Teens use a scale of 1-5 stars, with one star being poor and five stars being excellent, for their reviews**

Natlie L., Grade 11, Teen Reviewer

18095805714_64c6c580fd_oMovie: Jurassic World

Release Date: June 12, 2015

Rating: PG-13

My Rating: 3 Stars

Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure

It has been 22 years since the disastrous incident at Jurassic Park, and—in case you’re wondering—no, these people still haven’t learned from their past mistakes. Another theme park featuring genetically-modified prehistoric creatures opens up where its predecessor fell, and this time, the monsters are bigger, badder, and scarier than ever. When the Indominus rex, a gigantic genetically-modified dinosaur with extreme predatory senses and intelligence, outsmarts and overpowers the park’s “top-notch” management, the lives of everyone on the island are jeopardized. It’s up to an unbalanced businesswoman (Claire Dearing), her cynical teenage nephew (Zach Mitchell), his bubbly younger brother (Gray Mitchell), and the dinosaur-whisperer (Owen Grady) to save the day.

I walked into the theater with popcorn in one hand, soda in the other, and high expectations for endless scenes of mass dino-destruction.

I was not disappointed.

As someone who has never seen Jurassic Park, or Jurassic-anything for that matter, I am surprised by the technological expertise that the movie displays. I know it’s already 2015, but I am still amazed by the CG and sound effects. I cannot recall a single point in the movie where I felt that either one of those are off. Whenever the Indominus rex showed up on screen, I got crazy goosebumps up my arms simply due to the combination of the CG team’s hyper-attention to detail, bone-shatteringly good sound effects, and extreme tension built up by background music. The technical aspects of this movie are as close as they can get to flawless in my book.

I’m giving this movie a lot of slack when it comes to character development because I understand that the whole incident took place over the course of one day. It’s difficult to write a character that gives the audience a natural feeling of his or her development when everything happens within 24 hours.

Jurassic World lacks the most in the plot department. Typical adventure-movie clichés are used everywhere and make the plot predictable. Certain characters’ actions made me want to scream and wonder how they could be so unbelievably brainless. It’s almost as if I somehow started watching a horror movie, seeing as these characters also seem to feel obligated to disregard signs like “DANGER” and “NO TRESPASSING”. But how else can the producers get the stars of the show to literally land themselves in the jaws of an indomitable giant lizard? Not to mention, the deaths of certain characters were not as impactful as producers intended for them to be; there was no shock factor, much less any tears. I consider one death in particular to be entirely pointless and a complete screen-time-waster.

This combination of dinosaurs and destruction inevitably calls for a lot of gore and violence, so if that type of stuff isn’t your cup of tea, I recommend that you don’t pick it up, much less consume it. If you’re just looking for an exciting thriller to watch with friends, it’s definitely worth your time and money.