Reviews: February 2020

Author: Scholastic Staff

Reviews: February 2020

Jojo Rabbit

"The Second World War was a time of grueling hardship, heroic sacrifice and the prevailing of goodness and the human spirit over hatred. “Jojo Rabbit,” a 2019 comedy-drama directed by Taika Waititi, manages to capture all of this and more from the fanciful, childish perspective of a 10-year-old member of the Hitler Youth. 

The film follows Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (played by Roman Griffin Davis), a spirited but cartoonishly deluded young German boy and Hitler’s biggest fan. After discovering that his single mother (played by Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic, little Jojo is forced to reconsider his worldview, accompanied by his best real friend Yorki and his best imaginary friend, a goofy caricature of Hitler himself. 

If you enjoy the artistic side of filmmaking, “Jojo Rabbit” supplements its captivating storyline with amazing acting performances and clever cinematography. Those who simply prefer the entertainment of the movies will be hooked on the fantastic, off-the-wall humor the film embraces. Simultaneously heart-wrenching, heartwarming and laugh-out-loud hilarious, the outstanding performances of “Jojo Rabbit” strike a delicate balance between fantastic, childish joy and the terrible hardship of war." - Oscar Noem


"Circles" by Mac Miller

"Let me make this very clear from the outset, I grew up a fan of Malcolm James McCormick, the man later known as Mac Miller. I loved his music wholeheartedly, and I was devastated when he died on Sept. 7, 2018, the day after my birthday.

This being said, my admiration for Mac led to high expectations for “Circles,” his posthumous album released on Jan. 17 of this year. Three weeks later, I still can’t stop listening to the album. It’s one of the only albums I’ve ever listened to where I don’t skip any song. Straight down the line, songs 1-12 each carry their own weight and their own artistic statement. 

Evidently, I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment. Miller’s album just debuted as the No. 3 album in the country on the Billboard 200 chart, trailing behind albums from Halsey and Eminem. All six of Miller’s studio albums debuted in the top-four on the charts upon their release. “Circles” sold 164,000 copies in its first week. 

The entire album carries a dreamlike bliss, juxtaposing a hope for the future with the remnants of a battered past. Miller takes his listeners on a journey through his mental state. At times his mind acts as a safe space, and at other times it causes him great distress. “Circles” is a representation of all of the wisdom that Miller acquired through his personal trials and tribulations. In one instance, he’s flying through the clouds, in others he’s struggling to stay above water.

Producer, composer, singer-songwriter and session player Jon Brion took on the tall task of co-producing and finishing the posthumous album according to Miller’s wishes, after previously working with Miller on “Swimming,” the companion piece to “Circles.” What has shown through in this artistic masterpiece is Miller’s desire to hybridize and expand on his own work. This work isn’t straight hip-hop, R&B or pop. It is an exquisitely crafted blend of musical genres and sounds that came together seamlessly. Overall, he sang a whole lot more than he rapped on this album. Each song functions as complete thoughts, and what resulted is an incredibly relatable and heartfelt masterpiece. 

We’ve all had those days where we feel like giving up, where the pain seems too unbearable. We’ve also all had those days that are just so good you wish they would never end. The key is to find the beauty in the struggle, which Miller searched for his whole life." - Grant DelVecchio


Spinning Out

"“Spinning Out,” a new Netflix series, follows a promising young ice skater, Kat Baker, through her triumphs and setbacks as an incredible athlete. Her story intertwines extremely competitive athletics with family struggles, love triangles and mental illness in a way that is both engaging and educational. 

“Spinning Out” is able to convey the struggle athletes face in dealing with pressure, competition and a desire for success. Kat’s story is even more complicated by an abusive bipolar mother, who is herself a former skater, a complex and competitive relationship with her younger sister Serena, also a skater, and her own self-harm and personal issues. 

Just when Kat thinks her skating days are over and she begins to look at entering the coaching world, she decides to become a pair skater alongside Justin, the catalyst in a whirlwind of events. This series shows moments of conquest but never fails to highlight the fight it takes to achieve. There is more to every sport than the sport itself, and “Spinning Out” gives us a glimpse into the chaos occurring at this top-notch Idaho rink." - Jane DiSibio