Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Review


Get ready for the Wizarding World to come back to life! Five years after the last installment of the Harry Potter series, Potter fans rejoice as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them hits the screens. Fantastic Beasts takes place in 1920’s as Newt Scamander and his case of beasts enter New York. Scamander has an interesting exchange with a muggle, Jacob Kowalski.  From this exchange, Newt gets in some serious trouble and has to race the Aurors to rescue the escaped beasts while the rest of Magical Officials search after a mysterious magical force, mostly likely connect to the dark wizard Gellert Grindlewald, terrorizes New York. Watch as the adventure plays out on the quest to right all the wrongs while trying to keep the Wizarding World a secret. Fantastic Beasts does a great job keeping all the things we love the Harry Potter era, while introducing many new aspects. Discover the Wizarding World in America and how it differs from the world we already know (No-Maj, really?).

The cast is phenomenal. Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Katherine Waterston all have amazing performances. Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander perfectly. Johnny Depp even appears for a few minutes.  The special effects in Fantastic Beasts are everything you would expect from previous Harry Potter movies. The beasts seem so life-like. As Newt cares for them, you feel like you are right there with them.  You feel all the emotions the beasts have and get swept away in the beasts’ world. Overall, Fantastic Beasts is a great movie. Harry Potter fans will love it and maybe even some non Harry Potter fans. Fantastic Beasts is a great movie to bring back that world you have been trying to keep alive since the Harry Potter era ended.

Ouija: Origin of Evil


Ouija: Origin of Evil is the second installment of the Ouija franchise. The film follows the Zander family in wake of their father’s death. Struggling financially, Alice, the mother of the family, decides to buy a Ouija board to add to her act. In attempt to reach her father, Doris, the youngest daughter, uses the board to contact him. Instead, she contacts an evil spirit and ultimately becomes possessed.  Slowly, Alice and the oldest daughter, Lena, starts to pick up on it and requests the help from Father Tom. The lead-up to the actual scary part of the movie is a bit slow. It takes awhile for the film to pick up momentum in the beginning. A few bits of entertaining humor grace the screen as do little teases of scary moments. While no big scares happen until the end of the movie, causal creepy moments and some jump scares keep the audience entertained until then. The ending starts to get into the interesting part of the plot. Slowly, Lena, Father Tom, and Alice piece together what is in Doris. Together, they try and fight the spirit. Lena receives help from an unexpected source. It all wraps up in an ending I want to know more about, much like the later half of the plot. The film could have been better if they left out parts that make the beginning slow and instead explore more of the horror elements we learn in the last scenes.  In the end, Ouija: Origin of Evil isn’t the best horror film I’ve seen, but definitely not the worst.

The Witch: Bringing Back the Artistry of Horror


The Witch

February 19, 2016

Robert Eggers’ The Witch transports audiences back to 17th century New England where a family is forced to face their biggest fears as the threat and dangers of witchcraft test their religion and loyalty to one another. Newcomer, Anya Taylor-Joy, emerges as a star in this captivating and horrifying tale. Audiences are quickly reminded of the kinds of horror films we have been missing and the kinds that truly leave us terrified yet desperately wanting more.

The film is suspenseful from beginning to end and will leave you on the edge of your seat. While some may struggle to find answers to the problems faced by the characters, the sense of the unknown is what makes this movie stand out from others. Not all of our questions are answered, but we are left with enough information to make our own frightening conclusions. The entire film takes place in a gloomy and isolated area that is enough to make the hairs on your arm stand up. The setting itself is an indication that nothing good can come for this family.
The Witch is a powerful and truly terrifying masterpiece that will make you ponder about the insanity of the plot for days. Eggers provides us with a tale of darkness and suspense that will captivate anyone and make them recognize the lack of artistry in popular horror films today.
Written by: Madison Bowlds

Mockingjay Part 2: The Final Chapter


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

November 20, 2015

The Hunger Games franchise has captivated audiences throughout the world, grossing more that $2.2 billion at the global box office. Mockingjay–Part 2 brings the franchise to a dramatic end with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) fighting alongside rebel forces for their future. The entire movie was full of darkness, and the moral lessons were at times stretched thin and overdone.

It was a bittersweet ending for me, one that made me feel incredibly old. I read The Hunger Games Trilogy, written by Suzanne Collins, when I was in high school. Even though I read the books, the movie was full of surprises, mostly because I read the books over 5 years ago.

Jennifer Lawrence made audiences fall in love with her all over again because in reality we all just want to be her best friend. Her relatable personality in real life impacts how audiences feel towards the characters she plays. Peeta, Josh Hutcherson, completely scared me. He looked almost identical to Slim Shady except a sick version. The absence of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died in the middle of filming, was a loud silence.

Overall, I enjoyed the excitement of Mockingjay Part 2 much more than Mockingjay Part 1 which was an unnecessary  addition to a franchise that should have remained a trilogy. This final film is a great example of powerful, female leaders that our own world could use a little more of.

If you’re a Hunger Games fan, want to be Jennifer Lawrence’s best friend, or want some action packed excitement, this is a must see. If you’re not into cheesy love triangles or if you’re tired of young adult books turned into movies, I would pass on this movie.

Happy Hunger Games!

The Billiken Critics

Written by: Laura Berry

He Named Me Malala: A True Inspiration


He Named Me Malala

October 9. 2015

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim provides movie goers with an inside look at the life of Malala Yousafzai. Malala Yousafzai was severely wounded by a gunshot from the Taliban when she was returning home on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She was just 15 years old. Malala and her father have singled out for advocating for girls’ education.

Malala, her father Zia, and the rest of her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls around the world. The film gives us a glimpse of her life from her speech in front of the United Nations, her life before the attack, and to family game night with her family inside their new home in the United Kingdom.

The film also showed Malala’s critics, many of whom believe her actions are simply a publicity stunt, but in my opinion, Malala brought a shining light to the film that made audiences believe in hope. At one point, the filmmaker asked her what her life would be like if she was normal. She replied saying that she is a normal girl, but if her family was still in Pakistan living like every other family, she would be the mother of two children by now.

Malala is attending a private school in the U.K., but she frequently travels throughout the world to talk to and inspire young girls. It is clear that her family misses their life in Pakistan, especially her mother who cannot speak English; however, Malala knows that if she returns home she will be killed.

If you’re looking to be inspired or empowered, this film is a must see. If documentaries aren’t your thing, then you might want to pass. If you don’t go see this film, I still think that we can all learn from Malala’s story and the encouraging words she leaves us with.

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.” – Malala

The Billiken Critics

Written by: Laura Berry

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials


Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

September 18, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials is the second installment in the Maze Runner series. We rejoin Thomas (played by Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow Gladers in this thrilling second chapter. The teens face unimaginable challenges while trying to navigate through the treacherous terrain of the Scorch. After escaping the maze and evading the threatening organization, W.C.K.D., the Gladers are forced to overcome their worst fears in the quest to find out their purpose in W.C.K.D.’s mysterious plans.

Cast members Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, and Patricia Clarkson return for this second installment and are joined by an all-star supporting cast including Giancarlo Esposito, Lili Taylor, and Rosa Salazar among others. This being said, there is a lot to love about this movie. It was exciting and suspenseful, guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. I highly recommend it to any thrill-seeker or action lover. It is really hard not to root for these characters. Facing these obstacles is something no one could ever imagine doing.

If you have seen the first Maze Runner film, even if it did not register with you as much as you would have liked, I still highly recommend seeing The Scorch Trials. I did not think it could be more exciting than the first film, but it proved to be that and then some. There is something for everyone to love with this film. It will keep you guessing until the end and will make it that much harder to wait for the third movie!

Until next time!

The Billiken Critics


Written by: Madison Bowlds

Straight Outta Compton: Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, & Ice Cube’s 8 Mile

Straight Outta Compton
August 14, 2015
Straight Outta Compton is the true story of the emergence of the group NWA from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980’s. The members of the NWA, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and MC Ren, changed hip hop and rap culture forever with their lyrics and new beats. The stars of the movie include: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and Paul Giamatti all of which embraced their roles and did justice to the famous artists they played.
I was really excited to go see this movie, but I didn’t have super high expectations because I already have a favorite movie about a famous rapper. I hope that you have all seen 8 Mile, the story of how Eminem emerged on the rap scene. If you haven’t please go watch it and if you don’t like the movie 8 Mile, you are not my friend. Anyway, 8 Mile is a great movie, but it was exciting to hear the story of rap before people like Eminem. Some of the real founding fathers of rap music with honest lyrics.
Some of the more famous songs that can be heard throughout the movie include, Boyz-N-The-Hood, Straight Outta Compton, and The Next Episode (all of which have now been added to my playlist). It was fascinating to watch the group dynamics when it came to writing, singing, and producing this music. The music is full of stories of drugs, sex, and issues that minorities faced during the mid-1980’s, which are issues that are still present in our society today.
If you don’t like rap music, the F-word, or any sort of violence,  I would skip this movie; however, if you enjoy rap battles, have a dream of becoming a rapper, or want an inside look of minority issues in our society, this is a must see. I loved this movie, so if you live in the Shoe Lofts I apologize in advance for the heavy rap music coming from the 3rd floor. I’m even thinking of giving rapping a try. My first album will be called “Straight Outta Southern Illinois.” I can promise you one thing, if you go see Straight Outta Compton, your inner rapper will emerge.
Thanks for reading!
The Billiken Critics
 Written by: Laura Berry