Category Archives: MSJ at the Movies

MSJ at the Movies: Christmas movie tier list

After finally reaching the conclusion of Thanksgiving, the Christmas season is finally upon us, and the transition to holiday movies has entered many households. Some people simply resort to their all-time favorites yearly and watch them on repeat. Meanwhile, others widen their viewership to include newer and more eccentric films. 

Regardless of your desire, we picked eleven of the most popular holiday movies and separated them into three tiers. The first tier represents all-time greats; the second denotes average films; the third signifies some of the worst Christmas movies created. With that out of the way, let’s discuss the four best Christmas movies of all time.

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To start us off, Elf is one of my personal favorite Christmas movies of all time. Elf, Starring Will Ferrell, is about a kid raised by Santa and other elves. He grows up thinking he’s an elf until he discovers the hard truth that he isn’t and has a real family. He leaves the wonderland of the North Pole and deals with the city of New York in search of his dad. This movie is top-tier because it brings out good family-friendly comedy and brings joy and belief back into Santa and Christmas.

Next on the list is Christmas Vacation. This movie is about a family staying in one house for the holidays. Clark Griswold wants to have a perfect family Christmas, so he pesters his wife and children as he tries to make sure everything is in line. This movie includes a lot of hilarious comedy and is required to watch every year. 

Home Alone is also another classic one that you have to watch every year. This movie is about an 8-year-old boy who is left home alone while his family goes on vacation without him. Suspicions rise about a young boy being home alone, so two burglars try to rob his house. Little do they know that this 8-year-old has some fight in him. This movie brings comedy and overall holiday spirit. These are just a few of the fantastic Christmas to watch yearly, but some aren’t good enough to be watched every year.

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The movies in this tier list are good but not spectacular. The movie Polar Express could go either way, but I think it falls in the middle tier. This movie is about a bunch of kids who get on a train that is supposedly taking them to the North Pole to see the first gift being handed out. When they get there, Santa chooses one kid from the crowd to receive the first gift of Christmas. The movie has a very scattered plot, and it is hard to keep up at times. 

The next movie I would like to discuss is Charlie Brown’s Christmas. Everybody likes Charlie Brown, and the movies are classics. However, they are more for a younger audience. Charlie Brown has a lot of different movies for different holidays, like the Halloween one. In my opinion, that is an excellent movie, but the Christmas movie just doesn’t reach expectations and is just a good movie to watch every once in a while. 

Now for the next movie, nothing is wrong with the film itself, and it is an excellent depiction of the story. Rudolph is a great movie and is definitely a classic to watch. However, everyone knows of the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer story. Therefore, since everyone knows the story, there is no motive to watch it yearly. 

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Finally, these three movies do not make the cut of worthy Christmas movies and should not be the first viewing choice. Though the first Home Alone movie makes the first tier, the rest of the movies are not nearly as entertaining. The rest of them do not meet the uniqueness of the first film and are pretty much about the same topic. With the repetitive nature of all these movies, they get boring after a while and should not receive the same clout as the first. 

Next, the Disney remake of The Grinch similarly does not make the cut as the original film. It takes an animated approach instead of the realistic ideals of the original movie. Also, Disney puts a childish twist on it, making the movie boring to older viewers. Even though they take the same plot, the original movie easily deserves a higher ranking in this list.

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The final movie on this list, Santa Claus, also comes in a series, but the disappointment of the first version explains them all. The plot is about a man who finds Santa in his front yard and travels back to the North Pole to replace him. His son tags along, and they go on an adventure through Santa’s workshop. This movie appeals more to children and does not provide much competition to the Christmas comedies. 

The uniqueness of Christmas movies fits all tastes and provides an excellent viewership experience during the holiday season. No matter the quality and subject, these movies get us in the holiday spirit and supply all types of people with unmatched enjoyment.

Alex Kwas is a sophomore member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

Tyler Martin is a junior member of the Multimedia Journalism class.

The Super Mario Brothers Movie: Will It Be Good?

Recently, Nintendo released the first trailer of The Super Mario Bros. Movie, and it has taken the internet by storm. Millions of people are discussing it and sharing their thoughts on social media, and it’s not hard to see why.

Back in September 2021, Nintendo announced that an animated Super Mario Bros. movie was in the works, and in that announcement, they showed the cast. Chris Pratt as Mario, Jack Black as Bowser, Keegan-Michael Key as Kamek, and many more celebrities were brought to voice these famous characters.

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This announcement exploded on the internet. Everywhere, you would see people discussing it and making memes, creating an immense amount of hype. Everyone wanted to see Chris Pratt as Mario and were excited to see if it would be good or not.

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Finally, after a year of waiting, we got the movie’s first preview. It was broadcasted live worldwide on October 6, 2022, to an audience of over 600,000 people.

After viewing the preview, I must say it doesn’t look bad. Many people, including me, thought the movie would be a generic Illumination cash grab. However, it seems a lot more promising than that. It’s clear that everyone involved is putting as much effort as possible into this project, and I am genuinely excited to see it.

The trailer shows a promising performance from Jack Black as Bowser, and Chris Pratt as Mario isn’t as bad as everyone expected. Pratt’s performance as Mario is still hilarious, though.

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The trailer is extremely promising, and I am looking forward to watching it when it releases on April 7, 2023. It’s cut out to be one of the few good video game movies, along with the Sonic the Hedgehog adaptation. If you are a fan of animated movies, make sure to keep this one on your radar.

Logan Gorospe is a sophomore member of The Quill.

Don’t look around: the scary reality of “Don’t Look Up”

From absurd presidents to toxic social media, the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up” brings light to the absurdity of modern United States society. Other than giving audiences a satirical story about the end of the world, the film gives many viewers, specifically Americans, a scary wake-up to the ridiculous nation that is the U.S. The only question remains, “How accurate was the film?”

Film Poster (photo from Wikimedia Commons, Copyright Netflix)

The story follows astronomers Dr. Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, struggling to alert the world of its soon-to-be death. The two face modern culture, social media, and a troubling government in the journey to prepare for the end of the planet. What becomes clear to the audience is that the film mocks several familiar issues and topics we are dealing with today. The entire plot highlights the controversial concerns of climate change and COVID-19. In the world we live in, people either believe and are concerned about the issues, or think that everything is fine and there’s nothing to worry about.

The fictional presidential administration in the film takes many shots at, the one and only, President Trump. As Dr. Mindy and Ms. Dibiasky take the precautionary steps to alert mankind; they run into President Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, who resembles the MAGA Man. She is a former reality star who falls into politics, similar to Trump and his time on “The Apprentice.” The astronomers come to find that President Orlean and her chief of staff son Jason Orlean, along with the entire administration, are not concerned about the comet. Mindy and Dibiasky are told to “sit tight and assess” rather than prepare for doom. Not only does this mock President Trump’s attitude towards topics like climate change and COVID-19, but this bit also makes fun of President Trump’s children. Jason Orlean’s character is based on Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, her husband, Jared Kushner, and not-so-subtle hints of Donnie Jr.

As the film progresses, the Orlean Administration hosts many rallies spreading the slogan, “Don’t Look Up,” a direct jab at Trump rallies. The motto in the film is created to end the worry of the deathly comet, while the astronomers spread the words, “Just Look Up.” President Orlean proudly wears “Don’t Look Up” hats, mirroring the “Make America Great Again” merchandise. Jonah Hill’s character remarks to a rally crowd calling them Republicans to confirm all of these satirical coincidences.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of “Meta” (photo from

Politicians were not the only target of McKay’s writing as social media, pop culture, and the news was also hit with ridiculous, but accurate, satirical comedy. Mark Rylance plays Peter Isherwell, CEO of an advanced technology company who oddly resembles Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. Isherwell is a very odd man, to say the least, with strange mannerisms and his way of speaking, which is most likely inspired by Mark Zuckerberg. For years, social media has claimed that Zuckerberg is not a real human being for his looks, his way of speaking, and his overall personality. Rylance does a good job breaking out the awkwardness to mock the Facebook, or “Meta,” CEO. Also, Rylance’s character focuses on how his new tech and cellphone tracks aspects of its consumers. This is a direct joke to Zuckerberg and the idea that Facebook tracks data. The glimpse of Steve Jobs comes into play when Isherwell showcases the new phone that has unique features to make society lazier.

Both news and social media work together to highlight how morning shows focus on drama and lighthearted topics, rather than actual issues. The news show in the film, “The Daily Rip,” is hosted by Brie Evantee and Jack Bremmer, played by Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry. The two news anchors portray the power of the news that exists in our world, as it is said that the show is top-rated. One of the main themes in this bit is the whole idea of these morning shows focusing on the positives, rather than reality. For example, when Dr. Mindy and Ms. Dibiasky join the show for a segment about the comet, the two anchors continue to make light of the situation instead of informing the nation of its inevitable end. This scene took place after Ariana Grande’s introduction as “Riley Bena,” legitimately based on herself. On the show, she talked about her recent dramatic breakup from a rapper. Obviously, this is a play on Grande’s actual drama involving her ex-fiancé Pete Davidson, in which their breakup was spread around social media and news sites as if it were news-worthy.

McKay’s star-studded film has divided its audience completely. The comedy disaster premiered on Christmas Eve only to bring in mixed reactions. Either critics tore the movie apart line by line or praised it for its cast and humor. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 54% while hitting a 7.3/10 on IMDb. It currently sits in the Netflix Originals category on the streaming service, awaiting further criticism, praise, or fear from the film’s accuracy.

Ethan Webber is a senior member of The Quill and the Multimedia Journalism class

20 years later, the Lord of the Rings movies still resonate with fans

Did you know The Beatles wanted to adapt The Lord of the Rings long before Peter Jackson’s classic trilogy arrived in theaters?

The theatrical poster for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (© New Line Cinemas)

I have to admit, I love The Lord of the Rings movies. I love the atmosphere and everything that makes them so magical, whether it’s the developed soundtrack or realistic characters. I think they are the greatest movies of our time, and it’s wholly safe to say that many others agree. Since the first movie was released on December 19, 2001, the entire trilogy has been kindly welcomed into the hearts of many people. It snagged 3 billion dollars in the box office and scored 17 Oscars. Both casual fans and critics loved the movies. The movies haven’t been forgotten either; they’ve kickstarted a huge movie franchise that one can’t expect to go away. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is huge – and worth watching. But what is it about them that makes them so appreciated?

J.R.R. Tolkien, the book’s author, was a reasonably normal guy who loved to tell his stories. One of these stories, The Hobbit, was developed especially for his kids. It followed a simple man with no desire for adventure who was thrust into an epic journey across the magic-filled Middle-earth. Tolkien blended his boys’ simple life with that of epic European mythology, and The Hobbit was the product. Tolkien published the story in 1937, and its great popularity warranted a sequel. And so, The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954. Tolkien understood that he didn’t have the constraints of a children’s story anymore, and he used that to his advantage. The new tale had greater stakes and a darker undertone. As one would expect, it’s been hailed as a fantastic novel in addition to The Hobbit.

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What is The Lord of the Rings about? The Lord of the Rings follows Frodo and his three hobbit friends who are tasked with carrying The One Ring, the most powerful and evil thing in the world, to its doom. A war begins throughout the world as Frodo inches closer to the evil place in which it was created. It can be dumbed down to a complex coming-of-age story. Frodo left his blissful home in the shire and went on a globe-trotting quest throughout Middle-earth; along the way, he made new friends, as well as new enemies. Although being fantasy, the story is very grounded in real emotions. The movies can be credited for the brilliant acting that parallels the developed characters. One of my favorite performances in the films was by Sean Astin as Sam (Frodo’s best friend and the heart of the story).

During the late 1990s, the New-Zealander Peter Jackson was given the director’s chair by New Line Cinema for The Lord of the Rings movies. Jackson had never scratched the surface of popularity, but it is important to remember that this was in a time before the MCU and an overall explosion in the fantasy genre. Studios did not understand that a far-out fiction movie could make them rich, so they didn’t plan to recruit an A-list director; for this reason, Jackson was recruited. Jackson used his home of New Zealand as a set for the whole trilogy. It has all the mountains, rivers, rocks, hills, etc. that Middle-earth contains. Much of the spectacle within the trilogy can be contributed to the filming locations. On October 11, 1999, The Lord of the Rings began shooting.

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In order to match the grandeur of the books, the production had to pioneer digital effects. For example, they captured the creepiness of Gollum by creating an entirely new technology (which would then go on to win an Academy Award) for the character. It is known as Subsurface, and it spreads light out perfectly onto a computer-generated animation to make it look real. The technology is still utilized today in many films. Another example may be found in the action scenes. A brand new computer program known as Massive was used to render large groups of characters battling. During an era in which great developments were being made in technology, people recount how amazing the CGI in The Lord of the Rings looked compared to other movies of the era.

At the same time, New Line was filming, Howard Shore was busy writing a soundtrack for the films. Shore had read the books far before the production, so he understood where he wanted to go for the score. He attached certain instruments, sounds, and melodies to certain characters, items, and places. For example, when we first learn of The One Ring, a dark and sinister melody of strings plays. When Frodo begins to fall victim to the effects of the ring, the theme plays more often. Another example is the Fellowship’s theme. Throughout the story, the fellowship between the characters morphs constantly. The soundtrack does the same: the instrumentations and strength behind the music change yet still keep the same melody. This adds a second layer of emotion that cannot be found within the books.

And so, we come to the end of our journey. The Lord of the Rings trilogy should be appreciated for many reasons. The acting and writing capture the immense development in the books, and give the film more accessibility than would be found within the complex book.

Jude Danner is a freshman member of The Quill

Should you be excited for Spider-Man: No Way Home?

The movie will follow Peter Parker, the teenager with spider powers, as he navigates through his superhero life turned upside-down.

In less than a month, Spider-Man: No Way Home will arrive exclusively in theaters. The movie will cap off a (hopefully) fantastic trilogy. We’ve seen Tom Holland’s incarnation of Peter Parker do some fantastic things, like working with Iron Man, getting turned into dust, and defeating Mysterio (what an awful name). Unfortunately for Spidey, Mysterio leaked his identity and framed him for his death shortly before dying. As we can tell from the recent trailers, the new movie will take place directly after. It will be the eighth live-action Spidey movie, but the first in which his secret is revealed. What can we expect from this ambitious wall-crawling flick?

To kickstart the movie, Peter will attempt to save the secret. He asks Stephen Strange, a fellow avenger, to make everyone forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man. As a result, many different people from other universes enter theirs (In classic Spidey fashion, Peter tampered with the spell by speaking to and distracting Stephen). Some of these visitors are classic villains, including Green Goblin, Electro, Lizard, Doctor Octopus, and Sandman. What’s exciting about it is that actors of the same characters in older Spider-Man movies will return to reprise their role. Jamie Foxx, who originally played Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, has returned.

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Villains aren’t the only people fans expect to return. Fans theorize that Andrew Garfield will come back to play Spider-Man. He starred as Peter Parker during The Amazing Spider-Man movie series. However, audiences were disappointed by the two movies, and Andrew couldn’t finish the series. There’s no evidence that Garfield will star, but people continue to bombard the actor with questions on whether he would return. In an interview with GQ, Andrew claimed he was done with the questions. I don’t blame him, as fans are getting excited for nothing. Despite the rejection, I’m looking forward to the fans’ reactions of his appearance (or absence).

I can tell this movie is going to be filled to the brim with action, as there’s so much to look at in the trailers. For example, we see Doctor Strange on top of a passenger train in the middle of the Grand Canyon. What does this mean? We don’t know, but it’s amazing to look at. The official trailer also hypes up an epic battle near the end in New York. We think this is where our web-head will defeat all the villains. Something else that’s eye-catching is Doctor Octopus’s and Electro’s costumes. They seemed to update from their designs in previous Spider-Man movies. Electro even has Tony Stark’s arc reactor on his shoulder. What could that mean for his character?

Spider-Man: No Way Home has an aura of hype and mystery around it. Only a couple trailers have been released, and they share a lot of shots. However, we can tell that Spidey is going to have to go against many classic Marvel villains. It looks to be the most exciting superhero event of the year for new fans and loyal fans alike. Longtime fans can look forward to seeing the villains they saw while watching Spider-Man movies as kids. New fans will definitely be treated to some amazing action sequences and impressive visuals. That’s certainly the situation for me.

Jude Danner is a freshman member of The Quill

The true cinema experience: the importance of movie theaters

Imagine a world without movie theaters, without popcorn, without candy, and without the previews that precede the film. What world does that absence of the theater experience create? The answer is a dull, boring movie-watching experience from a couch. Unfortunately, this hypothetical world is becoming a reality with the continuous rise of streaming services. With the new form of cinema viewing, the audience is not just losing the candy and the materials of a theater, but the overall experience of watching a film on the big screen.

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For years services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu have hosted original work and licensed films. Now other companies, HBO Max and Disney+, have entered the streaming game but with a twist. Along with the original movies and series they develop, they are tampering with films premiering in cinemas. Before these companies, a film would premiere in theaters and then, after some time, be added to streaming services. Some movies are being added directly to the streaming service the same day it premieres in theaters, giving the option to miss the experience.

“I don’t care what anybody says, it’s not the same experience.”

Todd Phillips

Now, what is the movie experience I am speaking of? During an episode of the YouTube series, “The Off Camera Show” hosted by Sam Jones, Todd Phillips, the director of “Joker,” “The Hangover,” and many more, explained how the communal experience is crucial to movie watching. Phillips gives an example referencing his 2009 film: “When you see ‘The Hangover’ with 400 people at the Universal Citywalk (Hollywood theater), and you watch ‘The Hangover’ on HBO, even if it’s your first time watching it, I don’t care what anybody says, it’s not the same experience.” He explains how emotion from the audience, whether it’s laughter or cries, cannot be copied at home. “You can replicate screen size, you can replicate resolution…but you can’t replicate the crowd experience”, Phillips stated and believes that is the difference that separates the film industry from other forms of media.

WARNING: Adult Language included.

The Denis Villeneuve film “Dune” premiered in theaters on October 22. HBO Max has partnered with Legendary Studios to host the film on its streaming service for 31 days, starting on the theatrical release. So subscribers to HBO Max will have access to the movie immediately on Friday. Many people ask, “Why is this such a bad thing?” and point out that they have the film from the comfort of their own home. This is true, but the experience of watching a movie in cinemas is far different from watching one from a living room.

“Dune” Copyright, Legendary Studios

John Nash, class of 2020, was able to see “Dune” ahead of its release. After the viewing, he shared his thoughts on Instagram, stating that it was not only “theater worthy” but “one of the best movie-watching experiences in a while.” 

From my own experience, I have felt the difference between at-home and theater film experiences. On October 1, “The Many Saints of Newark,” the prequel film to HBO’s hit series “The Sopranos,” premiered both HBO Max and in theaters. I decided to get back into the cinema and watched the film opening night on the big screen. I was surrounded by fans of the series as the film progressed with several callbacks and jokes from the show. We, the audience, laughed at the references while subconsciously enjoying the sense of community. Then the film hit a monstrous plot twist that caused a reaction from the crowd. I distinctly remember hearing the gasps and reactions to one pivotal moment. Then as the film closed and the iconic theme song from the show played, we all walked out of the dim theater shaken from the story. A few days later, I rewatched the film at home through HBO Max. After my second viewing, I still loved the movie, but the experience was different. I missed the audience feeling that formed from the giant silver screen.

Movie theaters are a core part of cinema and the art of filmmaking. Streaming services seem to be the future of cinema, but theaters are still, in my opinion, worth the trip outside the comfort of your home. As more movies release at the end of 2021 and into 2022, it may be easier to just stay at home and watch films, but you get what you pay for in these circumstances. Hopefully, production companies see this importance and limit the availability of films premiering on streaming services.

Ethan Webber is a senior member of the Quill and the Multimedia Journalism Class.