The Tide looks back at five memorable reviews

Throughout the school year, The Tide reviewed albums, movies, series and musicals. The Tide wanted to share five memorable reviews that highlight some of the most watched, listened to and talked about media this school year.
The Mean Girls musical film makes $50 million domestically after two weeks in the box office.
The ‘Mean Girls’ musical film makes $50 million domestically after two weeks in the box office.
Diana Weng
Kanye Wests new album Vultures 1 received 168 million streams in the first week.
‘Vultures 1’ falls flat, offers minimal variation in production

Kanye West, a rapper, musician and producer known as Ye, has had quite a career. After attending Chicago State University for Music and working to produce for artists like Jay-Z and Jermaine Dupri, West gained international success and recognition for his debut album, “The College Dropout.” West released nine more solo and three collaborative albums, becoming known for his innovative wordplay and musical style.

 In the prime of his career, West was at the top of the world with five number-one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 throughout his career. However, West lost popularity and album sales when, in Oct. 2022, he was exposed by past business partners for Antisemitic comments, as reported by CNN. Additionally, West wore a “White Lives Matter” T-shirt in Paris, which earned further backlash from the fashion and music industry. 

 West stood by his shocking slew of hate speech as celebrities and companies condemned him, and Adidas eventually cut ties with West due to the Antisemitic comments and misconduct in the workplace. 

Vultures 1” was the first musical work West has released since his brash antisemitism set his career aflame in 2022. “Vultures 1” is a collaborative album with rapper, producer, and singer-songwriter Ty Dolla $ign, released under their collective name, ¥$. “Vultures 1” was released after three singles, “Vultures,” “Carnival” and “Talking/Once Again.” Unlike West’s previous albums, this album rolls back on religious themes and instead focuses on themes of power, money and, most frequently, West himself. Due to the large amounts of mixed reviews from critics and listeners alike, I listened through “Vultures 1,” hoping to get a glimpse into the mind of the man who can only be described as the sun to his own Icarus.

The album’s first six songs left a horrible impression and had the same glaring problems throughout the tracks. Firstly, the instrumentals in the background of many songs were stagnant and boring, making the songs feel uncomfortably long. Secondly, there was an unpleasant pattern, especially in “Hoodrat” and “Back to Me,” where the same word, phrase or hook was sung or repeated with no variation between repetitions. These songs became incredibly dull after the seventh or eighth recreation of the exact simple phrase. 

Additionally, West’s performances, in particular, gave an impression of inexperience. His sung verses were pitchy and unconfident, and his rap verses sounded clunky and needed a more coherent rhythm. At this point in the listening process, I was irritated and desperate for the album to end as soon as possible.

However, the seventh track, “Do It, ” was a pleasant surprise. The song featured a mixture of interesting beats and engaging rap patterns that needed to be more present in the previous tracks. The song had a structure and a groove that was a treat to hear.

Most tracks were not as remarkably unpleasant as the album’s first half. Still, they had similar issues with verses that sounded inexperienced and uninteresting in instrumental production. There was some R&B influence in “Burn” and folk influence in “Beg Forgiveness,” but these tracks were still forgettable and unoriginal. 

West’s concerning use of themes in his lyrics drew me away the most from the music. Throughout the album, West references Alzheimer’s disease, school shootings, the Russo-Ukrainian War and the Me Too Movement while praising himself. West also goes out of his way to jokingly defend his antisemitic comments in the lyrics, which is strikingly inappropriate and offensive. His final track, “King,” ends the album with a defiant declaration that West is “still the king” despite it all. Unfortunately, West is too bold to claim a title he did not earn with this underwhelming album.

Kanye West’s new album “Vultures 1” received 168 million streams in the first week. (Chloe Choi)
Gordon Cormier (Aang), Kiawentiio Tarbell (Katara) and Ian Ousley (Sokka) star as Team Avatar in Netflixs live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ live action lacks magic of original animation

“Avatar: The Last Airbender” is one of the most beloved cartoon classics of the 2000s, and is still widely loved by millions of fans to this day. The series ranks number seven on IMDB’s chart of top TV shows and continues to garner between 2.5 to three million monthly streams on Netflix.

The “Avatar: The Last Airbender” animated series, released in 2005, managed to build a rich world with expertly crafted character development that showcased what an animated series could be if executed properly. After seeing its success and timeless appeal, it is no surprise that film studios and platforms have attempted to recreate the magic through a remake.

The live-action series was released on Feb. 22, and is another attempt to capture the magic of the original series for a new audience. The original series follows Aang, the Avatar, and his friends Katara, Sokka and Toph as they try to stop the Fire Nation’s attacks on other nations.  Students have shared how the new series is entertaining, but lacks the charm of the original series.

“I wouldn’t say I hate the remake, but I would definitely never choose it over the animation,” senior Rushi Jain said.

There has been massive discussion and controversy surrounding the live action series. Longtime fans feel the changes made to the plot structure and characters undermine the development present within the original series. Fans became even more concerned when, according to Time, the original creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konieztko, left the production in 2020 due to “creative differences.”

One of the most talked-about character changes both in pre-production and after release was the removal of Sokka’s sexism at the beginning of the show. Many fans have argued that this completely undermines the lesson the show was trying to teach young audiences as it pointed out the flaws in Sokka’s worldview.

“Sokka’s sexism is integral not only to his plot but Katara’s and by removing it, they’ve changed what made these characters so fundamentally different from parallels seen in other media,” Jain said. “Katara went from an icon of feminism, breaking the boundaries that her village and society put on her, to someone who is simply complacent; a large part of it is because sokka’s lack of sexism provides a lack of motivation to want to push these boundaries.”

Ian Ousley, the actor who portrays Sokka, spoke out against the backlash surrounding changes to his character in defense of the new series in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Still, students point out how by removing a character flaw at the beginning of the series, the new series is taking away an integral part and detracting from development. 

“They shouldn’t have gotten rid of sokka’s misogyny, it’s such an important lesson for him to learn and such a crucial part of his character development. The message the original show sends with the Kyoshi warriors is so, so, so important especially to young audiences and they really should not have removed that part,” senior Nitya Donthi said.

Casting has also been a major discussion throughout the production of the live-action remake of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” especially considering the massive controversy surrounding M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender” film. The 2010 live-action film was blasted for its initial casting of four white actors in the main roles, with the final version having white actors portraying the three heroes of the film. Fans were outraged by these casting decisions, considering the clear cultural and ethnic identities of these characters.

According to Entertainment Weekly, the Netflix adaptation’s showrunner, Albert Kim, did not watch the 2010 adaptation on purpose, but was aware of the film’s criticisms going into the project.

“I knew what fans didn’t like about it in general, but those kinds of pitfalls weren’t hard to avoid. For instance, an authentic version of the casting, that’s something that we would’ve done regardless,” Kim said in an interview with EW.

There was fear that Netflix’s remake too would suffer from the same issues, however, it appears that the show’s creators have been more conscious in their casting decisions. Fans were relieved to see that the main cast of the show all come from Asian or Indigenous backgrounds.

“I think actors who can embody the essence of their characters is really up there in terms of priority. For ATLA it was vital to cast people from Asian and Indigenous backgrounds because the show draws such heavy inspiration from these cultures, and the original characters reflect those identities. For the most part, the casting directors did well trying to pay homage to the cultures the show is about,” Jain said.

Students agree it is fantastic to see two indigenous women in leading roles, with actresses Kiawentiio Tarbell and Amber Midthunder portraying Katara and Princess Yue, respectively. This is especially true considering that, according to a 2023 article published by The Hollywood Reporter, a study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that there was only one Native American protagonist in the top 1,600 theatrical films from the last 16 years. 

Remakes often do not live up to the hype of their animated counterparts, with fans feeling that the portrayals of their favorite characters and stories fall flat. With changes to characters and plots, remakes are often seen as downgrades from their originals. Unfortunately, this seems to be the case with Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” live-action series.

“I’ve seen the first three episodes, and I have mixed feelings about the remake. Visually, it’s a great translation from the original. The set design and costumes are perfect. I think the story and characters fall a little flat though, it feels pretty rushed and many of the characters just aren’t as interesting as they were in the original series,” Donthi said.

Gordon Cormier (Aang), Kiawentiio Tarbell (Katara) and Ian Ousley (Sokka) star as Team Avatar in Netflix’s live action adaptation of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” (Freya Resler)
The live action series premiere of Percy Jackson and the Olympians garnered 13.3 million viewers within the first week.
The live action series premiere of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” garnered 13.3 million viewers within the first week. (Freya Resler)
‘Percy Jackson’ live action series transports fans to Camp Half-blood

“Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” the well-beloved fantasy series by Rick Riordan, has been adapted as as a live-action series on Disney Plus. In the “Percy Jackson” book series, readers are drawn into the world of half-bloods and immersed in Riordan’s twist on the Greek mythology world. The series follows a young boy named Percy Jackson who discovers that his father is Poseidon, the god of sea and waters, and his journey navigating the world as a demigod. 

The new adaptation, released on Dec. 20, was widely anticipated but also faced reservations due to an earlier film adaptation in 2010. The “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” movie fell flat at the box office due to significant inconsistencies with the storyline of the original books. According to Entertainment Weekly, Riordan has always been against the 2010 film because of inaccuracies in the script. Overall, the movie did not get much attention and received only a 49 percent rating by critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

However, the new streaming series has been much more well-received, and according to Deadline, the first five episodes gained more than 10 million views in the first week they were released. Disney Plus announced on Feb. 7 that the show will receive a second season. Season two will follow the second book, “The Sea of Monsters,” as Percy goes on a quest to save the camp and rescue his friend Grover.

As someone who wasn’t a fan of the original films due to the lack of accuracy about the books, I was eager to see how the new cast would portray the beloved characters and excited to watch the production decisions made by Riordan. However, there was concern about how the series would execute any changes made to the original story and how the series would balance accuracy with entertainment.

The show’s first season follows the first book in the Percy Jackson franchise, as Percy, Annabeth and Grover undertake a quest across the U.S. to find the lighting thief and stop a war between the gods. The show features a talented cast, including Walker Scobell (Percy Jackson), Leah Sava Jefferies (Annabeth Chase) and Aryan Simhadri (Grover Underwood). Other students agree that the casting decisions were excellent and the actors fully embodied their character. 

“The actors fit the characters very well. They seem to be able to portray everything in a better way than the old ones could in some ways,” sophomore Bethel Kirubel said. 

During the two-part episode premiere, I enjoyed seeing the complexity of the dynamics at Camp Half-blood that weren’t as developed in the earlier films. One scene that kept me engaged and brought back nostalgia was the capture-the-flag sequence. The sequence was action-packed and thrilling to watch. Although the majority of the first two episodes were very content-heavy and sparse in combat scenes, the incredible performances from Walker Scobell, Dior Goodjohn (Clarisse La Rue), Charlie Bushnell (Luke Castellan) and Virginia Kull (Sally Jackson) made it a captivating start to the series.

The chemistry between the trio throughout the first season was superb. The dialogue and the back-and-forths between Annabeth, Percy and Grover were taken directly from the book, satisfying long-time fans and welcoming new ones. 

Although I loved the storyline changes made to Medusa, including more insight into her tragic backstory, I found the “Lotus Casino” and “Tunnel of Love” episodes rather disappointing. The series’ fourth episode felt more like a filler amidst the action and did not add to the story’s progression. The changes made to the Lotus Casino scene made for a dull and questionable episode, as they failed to recreate the appealing chaos that the original film and book captured. 

Overall, even with the slight differences compared to the novel, the blend of creative vision from the books and the astounding acting from the cast makes the series worth watching for old and new fans.

‘Bewitched’ casts a spell on listeners
Laufey’s newest project, “Bewitched,” broke records as the biggest jazz debut album on Spotify and earned 5.7 millions streams on release. (Christiana Vucea)

On Sept. 8, Icelandic Singer Laufey released her sophomore album, “Bewitched.” I first discovered Laufey when my friend introduced me to her discography; her debut album, “Everything I Know About Love,” exceeded my expectations. The album combined bossa nova elements with vocal jazz and contained lyrical themes that I am sure every hopeless romantic could relate to.

“Bewitched” is similar to her debut but is much more refined and a clear step up. Laufey continues combining modern, lyrical love themes with older jazz-inspired sounds. She impressively broke the record as the biggest debut for a jazz album in Spotify history on Sept. 9. The timeless, magical beauty of “Bewitched” remains constant even from the first single of this era.

“From The Start” was a cute bossa nova jam, and in Laufey’s words, “The ultimate friends to lovers song for all your delusional daydreams <3.” I instantly fell in love with the song with the heavenly instrumentation and her syrupy voice, making it an adorable and very relatable bop. The song has garnered over 100 million streams on Spotify since its release.

The second single, “Promise,” is my favorite song from the album. Laufey typically focuses on themes of being in love, and “Promise” is a step out of this zone as she sings about someone she wishes she could cut off. “It hurts to be something; it’s worse to be nothing with you” is an honest realization that tears at the audience’s heart. Her voice is beautiful and delicate with the piano, and the lyrics are heart-wrenching.

The Third single and title track, “Bewitched,” falls back into Laufey’s typical lovey-dovey themes, and it sounds like it came straight out of a Disney movie. The song has a magical feel, and as Laufey sings about how her lover has “bewitched” her, her voice casts a spell over the listener. With its romantic chord progressions and dazzling instrumental, “Bewitched” is undoubtedly a highlight of the album.

The album’s final single, “California and Me,” features the Philharmonia Orchestra. This is not the first time Laufey has collaborated with them, and her previous track featuring them, “Let You Break My Heart Again,” is one of my favorite songs with its gorgeous instrumentation and relatable lyrics. “California and Me” is freshman Mouna Dantata’s favorite song on the album.

“I find it most fun to weep in my bedroom at 1 a.m.,” Dantata said.

It is easy to see why this song is Dantata’s favorite. It features such a beautiful instrumental, and its lyrics are heartbreaking as Laufey poetically croons on the song, “The mountains of LA will weep through the night.”
Each single is beautifully produced and features star songwriting, an impressive feat as nearly all songs on “Bewitched” have only one writing credit besides Laufey. After listening to all four singles, I was excited about the album’s release.

When the album began with “Dreamer,” I knew that this was the album of the year. “Dreamer” is painfully relatable, as Laufey swears off of love, but she knows at heart that she is still a hopeless romantic and yearns for a relationship. While themes of falling in love are still ever present in “Bewitched” with the intimate “Must Be Love,” the dreamy “While You Were Sleeping,” the bittersweet “Haunted,” and the grand “Lovesick.” Yet the album still manages to venture into different territories, with the heartbreaking “Second Best,” where she sings, “You were my everything / I was your second best.”

She covers the classic “Misty,” yet she still manages to make it her own. “Misty” is followed immediately by “Serendipity,” another love-filled ballad, gentle and delicate. The album’s penultimate track, “Letter To My 13-Year-Old Self,” is the growing-up ballad for all growing-up ballads, with heartfelt lyrics as Laufey sings the message to her younger self, letting her know that things will get better. One complaint about the album is that the order of the tracks was a bit disorganized, and listening to “From The Start” right after “Promise” was a little awkward. Overall, “Bewitched” is a gorgeous album with its refreshing bossa nova and jazz sounds, Laufey’s beautiful voice and stellar songwriting. It’s definitely the album of the year.

Iñaki Godoy and Emily Rudd star as the Straw Hat Pirates in the live-action adaptation of One Piece.
‘One Piece’ elevates adapation standards

With 18.5 million views in just four days, whilst debuting at number one in 46 different countries, this new Netflix live-action adaptation is an absolute hit. The series has reached “Breaking Bad” levels of engagement—a near-impossible task for most TV productions. The well-received American series is based on a bestselling Japanese comic by the same name, “One Piece.”

The history of live-action anime and manga adaptations has been rocky, and that’s saying the absolute least. From a lukewarm response to the “Fullmetal Alchemist” (2017) live-action to one of the worst productions ever created in “Dragonball Evolution” (2009), this form of media never has had much success in American cinemas.

These letdowns lead starkly different lives when compared to original anime films reaching the same clientele. Big names like “Spirited Away” (2001) and “Your Name” (2016) both possess Rotten Tomatoes ratings above 95 percent. So, when compared to its predecessors, what makes “One Piece” so different?

Well, it might be the series’ outrageous budget. With approximately $138 million spent on the first season, “One Piece” is one of the most expensive TV shows ever created. These numbers come as no surprise, considering how Netflix is backing this lucrative piece of fiction. “One Piece” outclasses the low costs of its adaptation predecessors and its quality was certainly a product of the budget.

One of the primary effects of this budget is the otherworldly computer-generated imagery. In a universe where characters morph their fists into fire and ice or balloon themselves to the size of literal islands, anything less than a perfect example of modern visual effects would be a disservice to the adapted work. Character effects make the protagonist, Luffy (and his stretchy abilities), look powerful instead of comedic, and movie-quality monsters more frightening.

The impact of manga-accurate, clean effects is an increase in total immersion for its audience. Manga adaptations often suffer from low-quality imaging that often cannot truly capture the feel of the original work, whereas “One Piece” can seduce diehard fans whilst hooking new ones because of the world it creates.

Enhancing the incredible world created through technology is the next-level set design. Environments are built using props and remade to be unnervingly identical to the manga’s design, pushing the limits of what a background can achieve when fantastical and accurate to the original interpretation. However, perhaps an even bigger factor in this adaptation’s success was its casting choices.

Rather than hiring Japanese actors who may have not gained as much overseas traction, the production focuses on an English-speaking cast that still echoes the narratives of each character. Big-name stars like Mackenyu were put in lead roles, but the source of all casting decisions came directly from Eiichiro Oda, the creator of the “One Piece” manga. In that sense, the fantastical setting of “One Piece” becomes advantageous by not taking place in Japan (atypical of manga), nor on our Earth. This allows for more creative liberty when picking the cast and results in a faithful remake of the source material, where actors represent each character as the author intended. “One Piece” is a one-to-one replica of the manga from the characters’ personalities to their theoretical national background.

“One Piece,” despite possessing many redeeming elements, is still the product of adapting two-dimensional work and is thus not without its fair share of hiccups. Character lines can feel stale and empty without the cartoony aesthetic of the comics, and tropes such as catchphrases, backstories, and each character’s grand dream can come across as forced. Additionally, the live-action anime medium is not for everyone. However, if the blinding success of “One Piece” indicates anything, it’s that the many risks associated with this medium are outweighed by this production alone. “One Piece” will no doubt serve as the new standard of quality, raising the bar for all live-action TV productions in the coming future.


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Iñaki Godoy and Emily Rudd star as the Straw Hat Pirates in the live-action adaptation of “One Piece.” (Christiana Vucea )
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