All posts by John Hall

My name is John Hall I am a Freshman and major in Biology General Biology. I am a Contributing Writer and Photographer for The Lions' Pride Newspaper.

Homegrown “American Assassin”

“American Assassin” is a novel adapted thriller action flick, from the best-selling book of the same name by Vince Flynn (deceased) in 2010.  The film was written by Edward Zwick, Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch and Marshall Herskovitz.  The flick has a heavy cast starring Dylan O‘ Brien ( “The Maze Runner,”) Michael Keaton (“Spider-Man: Homecoming,”) Sanaa Lathaan (“Love & Basketball,”) and Taylor Kitsch (“John Carter.”)

The screenplay is a modern-day intelligence based movie that focuses on the larger themes of home-grown persons that are affected by terrorist attacks and the aftermath of those grievances.  The opening scene begins in Ibiza, Spain backdrop where Mitch Rapp (O’Brien) and his girlfriend share a very intimate moment on the beach.

The scene quickly changes dramatically as terrorists invade the beach and persons find themselves under a barrage of gunfire.  What develops from this attack is an innate hatred for the terrorist cell that perpetrated the attack.  The following months find Rapp learning Arabic and mixed martial arts, placing himself closer to the terrorist cell while being monitored by the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A).

Witnessing the tenacity and where with all that Rapp uses to infiltrate the organization, C.I.A Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Lathaan) recruits him to work for the organization.  The team he becomes a part of is spare headed by Stan Hurley (Keaton).  Hurley’s job involves preparing Rapp mentally for the world that he is about to step into, despite his inexperience and emotional instability.

The characters are fluid and ever-changing, as the movie progresses and shows the multifaceted ranges that the characters are capable of projecting.  The main relationship between Keaton and O’Brien create a vibrancy that is unmatched with any other performance, outshining all others on screen.

This vibrancy is attributed to the tension that perpetuates itself on screen as their relationship is continually evolving and made the subject of the movie itself. Their relationship creates a bit of a hole in the movie where other character relationships are diminished, as viewers can’t see their value to the movie or care about them as integral parts of the movie.

The plot is not something that is original at its core but is presented in a completely different way. The plot is something that audiences can connect to in a post-9/11 world, where the threat of nuclear war and terrorism are themes regularly played out in the media. The type of familiarity is where the movie veers from others in the genre. It has the fast pacing of an action movie but devotes time to developing care for the main characters, and what motivates them.

Vesting an interest in the themes that are presented comes smoothly and with little effort on the part of the audience. It is gut-wrenching as it deals with love, grief, hatred towards the establishment and honor.

Audiences that enjoy Michael Keaton’s performances will thoroughly enjoy his range of acting here. It projects an extension of the character “The Vulture” he played in Spiderman Homecoming, as he is reserved and controlled most of the time but when pushed, explodes on screen with a volatility comparable to chemical reactions.

The plot as mentioned before presents a standard intelligence action formula, but it surprises viewers with twists and turns within the final act that were completely unexpected. It juxtaposes real-life scenarios where common sense and diplomacy must be undertaken to prevent disasters from occurring. As scenes ensue, a realization of how close the situations presented in American Assassin imitate real life.

This realization reveals that overall, the writers took the subject matter serious enough to develop the plot through its methodical use of imagery and emotional distress. Despite the serious tone, there is a lighter element underscored in the relationship that evolves between Keaton and O’Brien.

Ultimately this is the movie’s downfall as the remaining cast although, brilliant and talented, are underutilized and unable to create an extensive network for the characters to take part in. What is left in the wake of the underutilization is a personal myopic view of what is taking place, which proved to be the main point of contention for critics.

As of Oct. 1, with just over a month in theatres, the move had only grossed 44.1 million dollars compared to its budget of 33 million which is a proverbial drop in the bucket to the working hours and additional resources placed in this movie. Keenly enough it is projected in how other film critics have perceived the screenplay; IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes have scored the movie 6.6 and 33% respectively.

To be fair “American Assassin” provides a plot that has been hashed out several times over; however, what it presents to viewers in our superhero dominated theatres are the heroes amongst us, and those are persons that are willing to defend those whom cannot defend themselves. More often movies like this go unappreciated because of what’s similar with other films of the genre while negating what is fresh about them.

The final word: “American Assassin” provides a story viewers have heard but rarely ever see in such detail. The chemistry between the leads, beautiful landscapes back dropping most scenes, and an explosive ending gives a thrill ride that most viewers will enjoy.

Deflowering the Flower

tulip flower

“Tulip Fever” stars Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl,) Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spiderman 2,) Jack O’Connell (Money Monster,) Zack Galifianakis (The Hangover Trilogy,) Judi Dench (James Bond Films,) Christoph Waltz (Spectre,) Holiday Grainger (2015 Cinderella remake,) Matthew Morrison (Glee,) and Cara Delevingne (Suicide Squad).

The film is an adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach, directed by Justin Chadwick (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom) and was written by Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love).

“Tulip Fever” takes place in the seventeenth century, circa 1635 at the height of the thriving Tulip trade. Before the regulation by the Dutch government, Tulip Bulbs were traded in the open market, and an obscene amount of money paid for the rarest of them all. The general aesthetic of the movie is particularly overwhelming.

The set, although small and refined, was built with immaculate details. Cinematography complimented this well, with a dampening of general objects and an oversaturation of elements that warranted more attention. Throughout the movie, a blue cloak was more vibrant than the sky, or a white tulip appeared even brighter in contrast to the clouds in the sky. With that said, the general aesthetic of the period was captured in detail and artistically relayed.

The characters while on the screen will hold your attention as their dynamics are intriguing and lure you with their commitment to character. Dench’s character is introduced early on but becomes an epicenter of sorts for the film’s direction. Vikander and Waltz noticeably as the husband and wife show chemistry throughout. Sophia (Vikander) struggles with being young, married and deeply troubled while Waltz struggles with his own demons of finding self-worth and creating a legacy.

“Tulip Fever” is held together by an incredible ensemble of supporting cast who often are not utilized well for their prominence and acting range. One of whom is David Harewood (Martian Manhunter- Supergirl TV Series 2015- present,) his character, Prater trades Tulips and Bulbs on the open market, and the underutilization of his range is apparent, as he sometimes delivers bland lines. The plot, which fails to connect the characters faster, uniting them under one centralized them attributes to that.

Character arcs are either not fully revealed or fall flat quite often, due in part to the fact that there was a lot that needed to be done with the script. There was so much ground to cover between establishing lines of dialogue between multiple characters and building tension that more was desired of each character.

The plot is strong as the themes of sacrifice, love, betrayal, and revenge are not forced on viewers but develop naturally. The transitions from scene to scene lag at times but succeed in

bringing tension to the screen. When Sophia and DeHaan’s characters move closer together, the tension builds to an untenable head. Glances across the room, hands brushing against each other, and the perpetual stare of DeHaan’s eyes foster a pure energy on screen that allows viewers to become even more invested in finding resolve. As the movie continues, it falls flat on delivering that resolve by adding additional subplots cutting into runtime and destroying the built-up tension.

As moviegoers are often suckers for happy endings, we look to have most, if not all questions answered with some degree at the end. As the plot ends, viewers are left with more questions and a general sense of betrayal, as the main character arc of the husband (Cornelus Sandvoort) is inaccurate from the previews suggest.

While there is nothing wrong with not spilling every detail of a movie in the preview, many movies can be watched in their theatrical four-minute trailers. “Tulip Fever” takes an entirely different direction which destroys the plot and its motivation.

“Tulip Fever,” as mentioned before is a stunning and cinematographic masterpiece. The landscape is shot beautifully, and much respect is paid to the era as the set is immaculate. Costume designs were flawless and lent great credibility to the era. The main cast, as well as the supporting cast, were about twelve strong, however, they were underutilized for their capabilities.

Something of distinct beauty occurs as Vikander and DiHaan take center stage; however, it is bogged down by a script that is possibly too condensed from the source material. The plot given in the preview is contradicted in a very subtle way near the final act, which is slightly disrespectful It pulls a rug from under viewers and causes the question to arise, “Why not try an easier way?”

The historical references coupled with the imagery that the director plays with, as he adjusts images in the background and foreground made historians drool. However, there was a general sense of betrayal as viewers were entreated to continue believing in a plot that was not supported in the script.

In researching the film, it was originally shot in 2014 with a 2015 release date slated. However, due to many issues notwithstanding reshoots, cuts and stalls to bait Academy Awards, the project has fallen flat. When juxtaposed against a 24-million-dollar budget and an underperforming 1.2-million-dollar weekend release, it is easy to understand how the public feels about the movie. “Tulip Fever” is good time waster during a hurricane but lacks anything of substance that warrants watching in theaters. Overall, 2 and a half paws out of 5.

Starting the Semester Off with a Bang

As the torrential rain dampened the green of the SCC bowl on Aug. 25, it did very little to dampen the spirits
of the students of Saint Leo as they teemed into the boardrooms for the Back to School Bash.
Scores of students encamped the doors prior to 8 p.m. after receiving notifications that the event was
moved to the Boardrooms in lieu of the poor weather.
The event brought together students of every class level in an effort to give relief after an eventful first week
on campus. Maliek Watkins an international sophomore student touted the event as being, “a light, spectacular
Watkins continued, that this was not his first time in such a relaxed setting at school, but certainly thought it
was a good idea to shake off the jitters from the first week of school.
The room was illuminated with strobe lights throughout and the polyphonic sounds played by the DJ kept the
crowd duly entertained. One of the songs that got all students to the dance floor was the “cupid shuffle.” The
instructional based song by artist Cupid prompted dancers to move from left to right, kicking and turning at
different intervals of the song. Each prompt gave students the ability to shake off the woes of the first week.
Biomedical and Health Specialization sophomore Laurian Simpson stated that, though it was a good idea
and a really good opportunity to connect with other students, she would have liked to hear music that is more
diverse as she is an international student. Simpson attended with other international students who enjoyed the
event but wanted a bit more varied musical selection as the night progressed.
Needless to say, the night continued on without a hitch. Students were able to also grab beautiful florescent
shirts, courtesy of the Campus Activity Board (CAB). The members of CAB couldn’t resist the opportunity to join
in the fun as many of them took to the dance floor showing of their skills.
Mikael Coleman, a senior and VP of Operations for the Student Government Union, touted the success of
the event, further applauding the efforts of CAB.
“The students had a dance battle, and some even line danced so, I definitely feel like the students had fun,”
Coleman stated.
Coleman also referenced Fraternity members present at the party who began to stroll, which solicited
cheers and additional participation from attendees as they watched the groups put on an impromptu show.

And the Oscar Goes To…

Lights. Camera. Biology? As exams kicked into high gear on Apr. 20, one class took a dynamic approach to finals week. Sections CA01 and CA02 of Biochemistry, under the tutelage of Dr. Sergiy Borysov, participated in the first Bio-Oscars awards ceremony/final project of the 2017 semester.

The students had one month to tackle randomly assigned topics and explain the subject matters in a lively way. The performances culminated in an epic display of cinematography that would rival the presentations of Theatre Majors at Saint Leo University.

Borysov opened the event with a rousing round of applause (Computer generated) which was supplemented by the students who did not expect a display of such magnitude. Borysov was immaculately dressed from head to toe adorned in formal black and white attire, including bow ties. The whiteboards were designed with the phrases, “Best Movie,” “Best Actor/Actress,” and “Best Soundtrack.” Several gold-plated trophies lined the instructors table, which would be awarded to the participants based on their achievements. Borysov opened the period, by handing out slips of paper with several categories that the students would judge the films on. The audience was admonished not to vote for themselves but the best films in terms of soundtrack, best actor/actress and best overall film while he judged each movie for its scientific content and accuracy.

Junior and Biology Student Chidozie Igbonagwan, praised Dr. Borysov for his dynamic style of teaching.

“This event is a great undertaking as it employed the students creativity and ability to explain crucial topics in Biochemistry,” said Igbonagwan.

As most persons know, the sciences are very content heavy and require hours in and out of class time to achieve success. The students were able to take the key points of each topic and relate them within a ten-minute window successfully. There was dancing, running and even a few familiar melodious tones being sung. Amber Pimentel did one such performance. Pimentel sang songs to the tune of Disney’s Frozen while walking around the lab introducing equipment for her experiments. This brought smiles to the room as most of her peers didn’t know she sung so well.

The lighting of the room, coupled with the hilarious and energetic presentations, disarmed the nervousness associated with finals week. This was reinforced by the remarks of Cody Walker, who accepted the award for Best Film in Section CA02 with co-star Chogizie Igbonagwan.

“I am very nervous entering finals week but walking into this room and seeing Dr. Borysov, including what my classmates and I have produced in a non-traditional sense of testing gives me great relief!” Walker said.

Borysov reiterated that this was the type of event that he was looking forward to producing. An event that was non-traditional and also would ease the tensions of a chaotic semester filled with information.

The cinematic style and approach to finals week challenged the way students approached the rest of finals week in addition to giving them a much needed break. As iterated by Borysov, it continues to demonstrate core values of Saint Leo University by affording each individual to learn from their community, bring responsible stewards of the information we attain and the achievement of excellence.

Serving with Pride by John Hall

What do Tommy Hilfiger, Bottle Creek, Brighton, and Walmart all have in common? They all make regular donations to the Solutions Thrift Store in Dade City! Members of Sigma Lambda Fraternity, along with Sistuh’s Incorporated Sorority, conducted Community Service in the early morning hours on April 8. The team, led by senior political science major Phillip Moss (member of the fraternity), assisted in the overall cleanup and edifying of the property.

With elation on their faces, the managers and volunteers at the facility welcomed the team for the hours they were slated for. The properties manager, Roxanne Wright, openly embraced the group as she said that a lot of work that usually takes the volunteer staff eight hours to complete during the workweek can be done in an hour with the team that came out.

The group cleared down overgrown plants, painted workspaces, and immaculately trimmed hedges during their service.  Senior economics and accounting major Ross Gisondi took pride in his work, pausing and expressing his appreciation for the ability to give back and support Saint Leo’s core value of Community. Gisondi said the two years he has spent in the fraternity has allowed him to grow in many different ways through proper social networking.

Supporting his brothers’ comments was Moss who stated, “It’s a wonderful feeling as a fraternity to come out and serve those that need help within and around the Saint Leo Community.” He reported that this was one of the many community services that the fraternity has conducted over the past year. As they have recently celebrated fifty years, Moss added that they were on the precipice of doing so much more!

As the morning progressed the doors could not open fast enough as persons filled the doorway of the store. From the intake area to the shoppers around the store, a lot of activity was seen around the property. The smooth process was made much easier by the presence and work of the team of students on the grounds.

Wright included that she sees the store as less of a thrift store and more of a boutique, and rightly so! Throughout the store were popular name brands that most people think can only be found at high end or local stores. Wright stated that the misconception exists that most of the stores donations are derived from old, unwanted items, which is far from the truth. Many donations from corporate citizens add to the growing dynamics of the stores expansion.

Giving testament to this was Mr. John Wesley Parish, a Vietnam war veteran and 6-year volunteer. Parish stated that his act of service allows him to keep his mind off of the events of the war. He relates the magnificent job at organizing the store to i’s manager Mrs. Wright, who has expanded to a dedicated men’s section.

As the fraternal organizations continued the wonderful job of bringing order to the property, they were able to dialogue with the staff (who chose to be considered as family) that never stopped smiling through their service. One of them was Connie Ashmore, a 12-year volunteer who works full-time at a court. Connie makes several trips to the store during the week and volunteers during the early weekend hours sorting all donated clothing.

As the team of students left Solutions, the indelible mark of their hard work was left behind as, both the staff and students exchanged more than words and time but service.

Not Enough Ingredients in CHIPS


“CHIPS” is the latest in movie adaptations from popular T.V. shows. The 1997 original series “CHIPS” starred Robert Pine and Larry Wilcox as the characters Getraer and Jon. The movie follows the same scheme as it adapts the characters from the original series fully to the big screen. “CHIPS” is not only written and directed by Dax Shepard, but it also stars Shephard from “Employee of the Month” playing Jon and Michael Pena from “Ant-Man” as Poncho, respectively. Being his directorial debut, Shephard calls the movie his passion project.

The main characters, according to the script, are put together in a working environment much to their behest. Both characters have some background information, but are vaguely explored when compared to the magnitude of the actors that are playing them. The characters, when juxtaposed to other crime-partner movies, such as “Bad Boys” and “Rush Hour,” are not fleshed out very well.

The cost of this is marked by a disinterest in the movie’s motivations as the story progresses. The audience is unable to connect emotionally to the characters and cannot foster a personal relationship to differentiate these characters from characters of any other B rated movie like “R.I.P.D.” The actors themselves do a superb job at their roles and solicit a few laughs; however, they cannot make viewers care enough about who they are because of such a bland script.

A prime example of this lack of differentiation in “CHIPS,” is the persistent disagreement between the main characters throughout the movie. Normally, in movies of this type, conflict bolsters the themes of collaboration beyond personal experiences. However, in “CHIPS,” the more the characters fight, the more the audience fights to maintain attention and an understanding of the world in the movie. This becomes counterproductive to the plot as the antagonist(s) are identified.

The dysfunction between the characters is so large that it does not rally any emotional response when the pair team up. This leads to another issue that the plot has, it’s a cookie cutter version of everything viewers have seen before. The general expectation with remakes is the hope of seeing a fresher approach given technological and motion picture advances but also seeing a plot that is fresh and innovative.

“CHIPS” attempts to revitalize nostalgia for viewers that experienced the original series while tapping into a new generation with hopes of developing a cult following. The movie lacks the ability to do any of these as it diverges completely from the light drama classification of its predecessor.

Several over-the-top explosions, crass and drawn out sexuality jokes, and a poorly written script cause the movie to suffer immensely with garnering continued interest. It is evident that the writer and director’s exposure to other remakes and sequels of similar movies like “21 Jump Street” prompted him to dig deep for content.

“CHIPS” has a lagging script with slow pacing and poor on screen chemistry between a phenomenal cast. Ultimately, if viewers have some free time, a couple of bucks to spare and nothing better to do go out, they should go see the movie. If not, wait for the release on streaming websites, such as Netflix and Hulu.

A Matter of Words

What do a lucky foot, an ex-convict on community service, and an over achieving “daddy’s girl” have in common? The “25 Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” of course! Student’s from a wide array of studies on the University Campus participated in the on-stage performance at black box theater Mar. 31 through Apr. 2.

Rachel Sheinkin wrote the initial script, with music and lyrics by William Finn. The initial Broadway adaptation was directed by James Lapine and produced by David Stone and James L. Nederlander (names synonymous with Broadway performances) along with a host of others. The combined efforts of the team awarded the production two Tony Awards.

The stellar rendition of this dramatization would have garnered the same awards had it been seen by more than BlackBox Theater could hold on those nights. The group solicited continuous thunderous applause, as scene after scene was rendered flawlessly. Without spoiling too much of the play for those who are anxious to see it, here is a brief break down the performance.

The stage is set in the fictitious Putnam County and tells the story of a stand-off of between six finalists in the County’s Spelling Bee, all with their unique quirks. The stage play engages each student along with its side characters by giving brief back-story while fleshing out the underlying theme each one represents.

Unexpectedly themes like redemption, self-worth and satisfaction, young love, and perseverance played pivotal roles in the production hitting several chords with attendees.

The initial opening scene, which consisted of Junior Theater major Emily Kochanski, drew the crowd in with the vitality she brought to her role of Rona Lisa Peretti. The beautiful and charismatic teacher was adequately supported by the snarky yet oddly engaging Lois Martinez as Vice Principal Douglas Panch. The duo volleyed word after word to the contestant while injecting witty humor with a guiding hand that tempered the contestants.

The performance continuously engaged the audience by breaking the third wall and speaking directly to them. One segment of the production requires audience participation, which kept patrons on the edge of their seat! Cassidy Reidenbach, one of the local attendees, said she was extremely excited to participate in the event.

“I would definitely be willing to participate again if I was asked to and I certainly would watch it again,” Reidenbach said.

Alicia Corts, director of the dramatization in her notes wrote, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a show about six children who get that chance to show off their special skills in spelling. Sure they’re a little rough around the edges, but they see the goal and work to achieve it. They may not quite have their sense of style down, their lives figured out, or even be able to tie their own shoelaces, but there are glimpses of the adults they will become.”

Adequately expressing this further, Corts continued, “We (teachers) have the chance to show young men and women the heights that they’re capable of. Excellence is one of our core values here at Saint Leo, and the spellers in Putnam certainly are striving for that perfection. But when they fail, they learn important lessons about another core value: Personal Development.”

These over-arcing themes represent many students in their daily lives, their interdependence on people and situations working in their favor and their daily struggle to be better than the day before and an innate desire to excel while helping those we love.