Documentary review: 13th

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

-The 13th Amendment

The amendment above, is what this documentary centers its historical timeline on. The documentary 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay, explores the history of U.S. racial inequality. 13th is filled with many shocking statistics, audio recordings of U.S. leaders, and videos of hate crimes against black people. The documemntary also focuses on the fact that the U.S. prison population is disproportionately filled with black people. 13th analyzes the way society views black people and the history behind the racist caricature of black people as thugs.

Usually I’m not a fan of documentaries, but this one is one that is worth the watch. While watching it, I couldn’t help but get engrossed in the way information was presented, and to be in shock at the statistics presented.

13th has a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, an 8.2/10 on IMDb, and recieved overall glowing reviews.

Tahji Brown – Watermelon

Senior student, Tahji Brown, recently made an album called: Watermelon – which is made up of all original songs he created and produced himself. He is an artist, and he likes to sing and make music, specifically rap/hip-hop songs. He also features other students on some of his songs as a way of having them express their creativity by singing.

FullSizeRenderTahji has a variety of songs on Watermelon that almost everyone can listen and dance to, because they’re fun. My two favorite songs from the album are “Bad Apologies” and “Fortune Cookie” (feat. Nehali Van Der Leeuw). Some of his songs have very peculiar names that I didn’t understand at first, but when I asked Tahji what is the inspiration behind each song he said: “Every song on this album has a different story and they all relate to me.” The songs of the album Watermelon is Tahji’s fun way of showing how much he loves watermelon.

I’m not a fan of hip-hop/rap music but Tahji Brown makes his music in a way that people of all ages could enjoy. Last year he made an album called: The New Cool – and he sold photo 1over 86 copies to students at Highland. He is still currently selling copies of Watermelon and everyone says they love to hear the music he creates. I always want to support any local artist in my community, especially in Highland Park.

Tahji Brown is a creative singer that produces fun music in hopes of making people feel happy and excited. If you’d like to hear a few of his songs, check out his YouTube channel:

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

With the American release of Guardians of the Galaxy 2, on May 6th, now seems to be a good time to talk about future movies from Marvel, and about the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole.

Currently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in Phase Three. Phase One consisted of introductory movies for the main Avengers characters (Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Iron Man 2) plus The Avengers. It was Phase One that started the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and first drew attention to it, with the release of Iron Man in 2008 and culminating in The Avengers in 2012.

Phase Two consisted largely of sequels to the Phase One movies, such as Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. These movies expanded on characters introduced in Phase One and tended to be rather darker and grittier than the “comic book” feel of their predecessors. Along with the sequels came two other movies, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, that introduced new characters and plotlines. Phase Two spanned from 2013 to 2015.

That brings us to Phase Three, which started last year, in 2016, with Captain America: Civil War, which functioned as a sequel to Age of Ultron. The other two Phase Three movies released thus far have been Doctor Strange and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. 

There are seven movies planned for the future at the moment, which will continue the trend of some movies being sequels and others introducing new characters. Two of them (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther) will serve to formally introduce characters who first appeared in Civil War, while four of them (Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Avengers 4) will be sequels. The last planned movie, Captain Marvel, will introduce an entirely new character.

“Th1rteen R3asons Why” Series Review


Jay Asher’s book: Thirteen Reasons Why, is about a girl named Hannah Baker who committed suicide and had made a set of 13 tapes containing reasons as to why she killed herself. The main character: Clay Jensen, receives these tapes and listens to each one because he is one of the reasons, along with many other people who made an impact on Hanna’s life.

This book was turned into a Netflix series just last month, and I was anxious to watch it because I had read the book in my health class and wanted to see how they would portray the book. Each episode was like listening to one of the tapes, only with action and drama to be seen.

The characters were spot on, the stories were made well, and the whole series really kept me engaged on what would happen next

The difference between the book and the series is we follow more of Clay’s life and what he goes through while listening to these tapes in the series; where as in the book we listen mostly to Hannah and the tapes while following Clay’s actions from time to time. They also changed an important point in the book, and that is Hannah’s death, but just like with movies, they need to change a few things in order to really draw the crowd and make it seem interesting.

An important topic to learn from either the book or the series is the seriousness of suicide, or depression, or anxiety, etc. According to Medical News Today – Suicide is one of the top 10 leading causes of death, and most of those deaths are teens and young adults. Thirteen Reasons Why shows you all about the warning signs of suicide and how it could be prevented.

If you would like to know more about these signs and/or depression, visit your school guidance counselor for more information.


Julia Brennan: A review

If you haven’t heard the new Julia Brennan track on KDWB you might’ve never heard of this new artist from Minneapolis. This upcoming artist was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1999. Music has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember, considering she took piano lessons since she was only four years old.

She recollects in her biography about memories of her mom being a wedding singer, and her grandma being Ms. Minnesota. Her talent? Singing and playing the piano, much like her granddaughter. From these two women she gathered her inspiration to become an artist herself.

Some other inspirations for the young singer are Adele and Sam Smith.

Image courtesy of MOXIE

Julia released her three song EP “Inner Demons” in the summer of 2016. She had the three songs just sitting around on YouTube until one day she decided to send them to KDWB to see if the popular Twin Cities radio station would play them. The people at the radio station ending up liking her song a lot. They called her back and interviewed her about her new EP. After that her young career took flight as she soon was able to snag a record deal with the prestigious Columbia Records.

Her song, “Inner Demons,” currently is at #7 on iTunes’ Singer/Songwriter chart and is an instant hit in the Twin Cities.

Julia’s voice influenced people with her lovely piano music. Her music reflects on people going through hard times: especially on her song “Inner Demons.” On this track, she talks about how “demons fight their battles with fire” and why it’s difficult to rise against the things that hold us back; most of those things being inflicted by ourselves.

Brennan said in her biography that “Inner Demons” is about a time when her friend was going through a hard time. She didn’t know how to help her friend but she wants to give a voice to those people in the silence.

All of her three songs use piano and vocals to express her emotions. Julia Brennan is a great listen for anyone battling their own “inner demons” or for anyone who wants to hear some soulful music with incredible vocals.

For more information about Julia, please visit: www.juliabrennanmusic.comALL THINGS JULIA  (music-video-bio-art) for articles-broadcastsINNER DEMONS video-audioINTRODUCING JULIA BRENNAN ⊹  THE MAKING of INNER DEMONS

Movie review: Arrival

Arrival, a science fiction and mystery movie starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, was one of the nominees for Best Picture this year at the Academy Awards. This is special, because science fiction movies are rarely nominated for that highest of awards. In order to do so, the move in question must be very high-quality.

So, of course, I went to see it, and I can now confirm that it is, indeed, really excellent. It’s also the kind of movie that is hard to talk about without ruining it, but I’ll try my best to avoid spoiling it. I will tell you that once you see it once, you’ll want to see it again in light of the ending. It’s also got beautiful cinematography; the sort of movie that you’d want to see on as big a screen as possible. I saw it in the movie theater and loved it.

The movie is set in the present day, immediately after twelve giant, featureless oblong “spaceships” touch down all over the planet at seemingly random locations. It focuses on a linguist who is brought in to figure out how to communicate with the aliens inside, squid-like creatures called “heptapods” for their seven legs. The whole movie is driven by a need to ask a simple question – “Why are they here?” – before intergalactic war breaks out.

Of course, the movie isn’t perfect. It’s very slow-moving, so even though its running time isn’t even two hours, it can feel much longer. It can also be quite confusing at times, because some scenes are shown out of order, and the timeline of the movie doesn’t really make sense until the end. The soundtrack is very loud and sad, and can sound like an endless funeral dirge at times.

The ending, however, is fabulous in a very bittersweet way, and the story is overall quite interesting and thought-provoking. I recommend it highly.

Highland Park’s Spring Showcase 2017

Last Thursday, on March 16th, Highland Park had its annual Spring Showcase. There were many performances including: dance, band, choir, etc. There were also many displays shown within the Spring Showcase. Many families and friends came and looked around, at the displays, before the showcase began.

There were also some school clubs selling things to eat and drink. A.C.C. sold egg rolls, with sauce, in three flavors – chicken, pork, and veggie, and there was also a table selling sodas, cookies, and candies.

The displays that were shown were also created by Highland Park clubs, along with some from the Floral Design class.

A.C.C. had a display with paintings and Chinese lanterns. Anime Club had anime character pins for sale, and many other cut out pictures for their displays. The Black Student Union had a display with “Soup Bowls” and a poster talking about “Super Soups.” The Union Latina had a display explaining their culture, etc, and displayed a hat. Ms. Wedger also had flowers on display from her class, “Floral Design.”

The performances were also really good! The orchestra played very well, and the dances performed were also very good. There were many different dances performed within the showcase including: IB dances, the A.C.C.’s  Hmong Dance and Thai Dance, Union Latina’s dance, and more.

I was lucky enough to be a part of the Hmong Dance this year. It was really fun and enjoyable, and I feel like we did a really good job and had a lot of fun.

The Thai Dance, was also very good, and they did a good job. The clothes were actually sewn by a senior’s (Pajaie) mom, and were really pretty. Pajaie’s mom, and a few other Hmong girl’s moms, came and helped the Thai dancers dress up. This ended up being really helpful because some of the dancers were in other performances.

Everything went by quick though, and there were many families and friends that came and watched. It was a good show, with good food and drinks, and many displays to see.

The Showcase was a huge success! Everyone that came to watch seemed to enjoy it.

Also, to all the performers that performed: You did such a good job!

They also seemed to have had a really fun time.

La La Land review

If you have a love for musicals or anything romantic then La La Land is the perfect movie for you. This movie starts out with the two main characters, Mia and Sebastian, who meet on a rather rude note, which gives their relationship a bad start. Even though these two seem to barely have anything in common, they both are struggling creative types that are trying to find their way in life, there’s a spark that they both feel, pushing aside the two bad encounters that they had, which only leads to them to start a love filled relationship that makes everyone’s heart swell.

This film will make you feel all sorts of emotions from sad to happy to disappointed all in a matter of seconds. This Oscar nominee is a brilliant film that has made millions fall in love with it.

La La Land is still showing in theaters, so catch a showtime as soon as you can; you won’t regret it.  

Highland (post) holiday movie picks

Everyone knows that Christmas movies are a clear indication that the holidays are truly here. Out of curiosity, we wanted to know what movies Highland favors. We distributed a survey asking students to pick their favorite film out of these five choices: The Polar Express, The Grinch, Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, and Elf. Christmas movies are a great way to spend the holidays and this was the perfect kick off to winter break!

When we surveyed our classes, the results came back, and without a doubt the family classic Home Alone was the favorite Christmas movie. Most people wrote that they liked it because it was funny and entertaining. They said things like:

“It shows that mischief can be mixed with love. True loyalty lies in the heart.”

“It is a funny movie and is great for the family.”

“Because it’s funny and entertaining”

As for the other movies, there were a fair amount of votes for Elf and The Grinch. But it is easy to understand why most of them picked Home Alone. We love all of these great Christmas movies and any one of them could have been the top choice for our Highland community.

Based on our survey’s outcome, Home Alone was deemed the winner as the best Christmas movie of the five given. The movie has always been labelled by many as a Christmas essential, and we here at Highland would have to agree. If you’re looking for a light-hearted family film to get over the holidays, or anytime, Home Alone is a perfect choice.

Top 10 holiday music albums

The holiday season is for spending time with family and friends. What better thing to do then listen to some great holiday music while you do just that. Holiday music has been around for many years dating back to the 13th century. Today many talented artist create new holiday music or give their voice to old classics. Through the years there have been lots of holiday albums, but we are going to count down our picks for our “Top 10 Best Holiday Music Albums Ever.”  

  1.  Noel: Josh Groban

His one and only holiday album, Josh Groban brings the spirit to you this season. Released in October of 2007 Noel is one of the best selling holiday albums and best selling albums ever. Selling over 3 million copies in 2007 it is easy to see why people love it so much. The melodious vocals of Groban complement the piano that is usually present and the choir in the background perfectly. Highlighted by the “The First Noel (with Faith Hill)” this album makes you feel in the mood to relax with family and friends on a cold day.

  1.  Christmas Portrait: The Carpenters

This album was The Carpenters only Christmas album, and was released on October 13, 1978. Since the album’s release, there has been about 1,950,000 copies sold, and the album has reached a peak position of number 93 on the Billboard 200 in 2015.

  1. The Beach Boys’: Christmas Album

Released in 1964 at the peak popularity of The Beach Boys, this album will make you say “Merry Christmas, Baby!” With almost all original songs, this album brought a lot to the table. Highlighted by the hit single “Little Saint Nick” the Beach Boys tight knitted harmony and swinging beats translate perfectly into great Christmas music.

  1. Michael Buble: Christmas

The album Christmas is Michael Buble’s second Christmas album. It was released October 21, 2011. This album has reached number 1 on the Billboard 200, and was his third album to reach this position.

  1. Mariah Carey: Merry Christmas

Mariah Carey is very well known for her Christmas music, and this album has been one of her biggest claims to fame. The album features the song “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which is  one of the most popular Christmas songs to this day. The album was Mariah Carey’s fourth Christmas album recorded, and was released November 1, 1994.

  1.  Charlie Brown Christmas

Accompanying the classic Christmas movie a Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi’s melodies make wonderful holiday music. These songs have gained a good reputation, and many people love listening to this music during the holiday season.

  1. A Christmas Gift For You: Phil Spector

A Christmas Gift For You is an album where Phil Spector collaborated with some of the best musicians of the time to create one good holiday album. Phil Spector, most famously known for his role in creating the Wall of Sound, recorded a rockin’ Christmas album in 1963. Highlighted by The Ronettes rendition of “Sleigh Ride” this album will get you rockin’ and rollin’ this holiday season.

  1. White Christmas: Bing Crosby

Bing Crosby’s White Christmas album is a wonderful trip back in time when vocals were all you needed. This smash hit of an album headlined by the songs “White Christmas” and “Mele Kalikimaka” is a measuring tool for all other Holiday music albums.

  1. The Christmas Song: Nat King Cole

The Christmas Song is one of the all time classic albums for Christmas. Headlined by the Christmas anthem “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)” this album has reached critical acclaim in the music world.

  1. Christmas Album: Elvis

Elvis is most well known for his rock and roll music, but he did release a very popular Christmas album in 1957. This was his first of two Christmas albums, his second was released in 1971. Since its release, the album has sold around 15 million albums worldwide. It shows some of the best music from Elvis even as a Christmas album. Some say it was his last “real” album.