“Shazam!” Delivers DC Its First Home Run

 By Michael Omoruan 

             The latest installment in the DC Cinematic Universe is here and it brings out the inner kid in all of us. Though a superhero film on the surface, at its core “Shazam!” is about family and finding one when you least expect it. There are very few movies being made currently about adopted children, let alone a superhero movie. The film has just the right amount of realism in it, even with magic wielding characters.

             Released on April 5, “Shazam!” tells the story of a foster kid named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) who has recently been adopted by the loving Vasquez couple. His first thought of the couple and the other children they have taken in is that they are just another family that he wants to escape. However, after befriending Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer), Batson starts to grow attached to his new home. 

               After fending off some bullies that start beating up Freddy, Billy tries to lose them. When he does, he soon meets an old and withered man named Shazam the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou). The wizard has been looking for so-called “champions” to take on his role for ages and believes he has found one in Batson. After much-expected hesitation and questioning, he finally succumbs to his demands when he is asked to speak his name. When he does, the power of mythological gods who make up his name, such as Achilles and Mercury are imbued in him before he becomes his adult self, played by Zachary Levi.  The film’s plot is reminiscent of 1988’s “Big,” starring Tom Hanks and even makes a quick reference to it during a fight scene.

            Angel as Batson plays the role of a foster kid well, especially when his character hesitates to hang out with or acknowledge the kids he meets at the Vasquez residence. When Batson becomes Shazam, Levi’s attempts to recreate or mimic Angel’s acting choices and lines are believable. He nails the comedic scenes very well, which makes sense given his background in shows like NBC’s “Chuck” and movies like Disney’s “Tangled.” It feels very much like what a kid given powers in the modern day and age would do. The serious scenes are effectively moving, such as when Freddy feels that Billy has let the powers he’s been granted go to his head.  

              Sandberg knocks it out of the park once again. After helming horror films like “Lights Out” (2016) and “Annabelle: Creation” (2017), “Shazam!” marks his first foray into superhero films. An increasing trend has begun that more and more well-known horror directors are being given the reigns to direct big-budget superhero films. Notable examples are James Gun’s “Guardian of the Galaxy” films, James Wan’s “Aquaman” (2018), and Scott Derrickson’s “Doctor Strange” (2016). Sandberg’s background in horror shines through in his lighting choices and use of dark imagery and cinematography when filming Mark Strong’s character, Doctor Sivana. Sivana’s powers are similar to that of Shazam’s, but also include the ability to conjure huge beasts that represent each of the seven deadly sins. 

               Once offered the same abilities as Batson by Shazam the Wizard, Sivana was unable to resist the temptation of stone gargoyle-looking creatures and is cast out. Sivana grows up to become obsessed with returning to the Wizard, interviewing potential champions to find out how to return to him. After returning to him, he embraces his role as a villain and starts exacting revenge on those who mocked him. The film touches on the theme of embracing family through Billy’s journey to find his biological parents. The acting chops of the main cast and the screenplay, written by Henry Gayden, are executed near perfectly. 

 

               Shah Mazhar, a mathematics major at Queens College, said, “I felt like a kid watching it and it was super comic accurate.” Daniel Encarnacion, a computer science major at Lehman, said, “I really enjoyed it. I thought it was well rounded, lighthearted, and funny but also had some deeper moments as well. Honestly it was the best movie DC has done. In my opinion, it was better than Captain Marvel because Zachary Levi was able to be a more endearing character.

Grossing $125 million domestically and over $200 million in foreign box offices, it comes as no surprise that audiences everywhere are falling in love with this film. If you dig superhero films or are just a sucker for heartfelt family films, check this one out at your local theater.

The cast and crew of Shazam at Wondercon: (L to R) Stars Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and director David F. Sandberg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The cast and crew of Shazam at Wondercon: (L to R) Stars Zachary Levi, Mark Strong, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, and director David F. Sandberg. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Reel Abilities Festival Celebrates Diverse Capabilities

by Nelson N. Fernandez 


As a tribute to Disability Awareness Month, the Student Disability Services Department at Lehman College hosted the seventh annual ReelAbilities Film Festival, on April 3 and 4. The festival included four feature-length and seven short films that inspired nearly 200 viewers in attendance to change their perspectives toward people with disabilities. Each screening was followed by brief discussions with the filmmakers.  

 The feature documentary, “America,” focused on an elderly woman with dementia named “America” as her grandsons struggle with the challenge of caring for her. impressed Sebastian, an audience member who also helped with setting up the event at Lehman College, he stated that they have “never seen such a film where we see through the point of view of the caregiver.” 

Shorter films such as “Shakespeare in Tokyo” and “JMAXX and The Universal Language” were also screened. These films touched on other illnesses such as down syndrome and autism. Sebastian thought the shorts were “heart-warming and entertaining.” 

Another audience member, Joe Ottenthal, an elementary school teacher in the Bronx, said he was “happy to have found and attended [the festival] for the first time. The shorts were outstanding” and that “bringing visibility to people and students with disabilities and special needs is an effort that is near to my heart.”

Merrill Parra, Director of Student Disability Services and the developer of the festival at Lehman, stated that “the festival embodies the mission of Lehman College, as a cultural center for the Bronx, and its values of inclusion and diversity.” 

Shakespeare in Tokyo  (2018)

Shakespeare in Tokyo (2018)

Jmaxx and the Universal Language  (2017)

Jmaxx and the Universal Language (2017)

America  (2019)

America (2019)

"Avengers: Endgame" is the Brilliant Send-off Fans Deserve



By Zoe Fanzo

“Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box office records, making an astounding global $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. It is now the second highest grossing film in history, having surpassed James Cameron’s “Titanic.”

“Avengers: Endgame” broke numerous box office records, making an astounding global $1.2 billion in its opening weekend. It is now the second highest grossing film in history, having surpassed James Cameron’s “Titanic.”

 In 2008, Marvel Comics risked everything by launching their film studio’s cinematic universe. After selling off many of their famous character properties, such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, Marvel Studios was left with only a handful of characters to work with. Robert Downey Jr., who some considered to be a liability based on his troubled personal life and past addictions, introduced the world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with his portrayal of Tony Stark in 2008’s “Iron Man.” This was a risk that ultimately paid off for the studio, and now, after 11 years and 22 movies, the acclaimed Infinity Saga has drawn to a close with “Avengers: Endgame.” The film marks the conclusion for many of the franchise’s characters and storylines, closing out the first three phases of the MCU with emotional maturity and sincerity. 

 

“Avengers: Endgame” picks up in the immediate aftermath of 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” which featured a shocking cliffhanger where antagonist Thanos successfully used the six Infinity Stones to wipe out half of the universe’s population with the snap of his fingers. At the start of the film, the team assembles to strike back at Thanos with urgency, but when they arrive to his sanctuary planet, they find him half crippled and without any of the stones. Enraged, Thor decapitates Thanos, the team returns to Earth, and the film then jumps ahead five years into the future. The time jump is bleak, and it sets the dark tone of the film with shocking precision. 

 

A new hope comes to the team when Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, portrayed hilariously by Paul Rudd, shows up at the Avengers Compound. For the last five years, he had been trapped in the quantum realm, a version of the universe on a subatomic scale. Tony Stark, the smartest mind on the team, is initially hesitant to help them harness quantum time travel, but the memory of his former friend and mentee, Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, finally prompts him to develop a stable method. 

 

Using the technology Tony developed, the team devises a plan to visit moments in which their past selves encountered the various stones. The time heist sequence revisits scenes from past films in the MCU, ultimately serving as a functional plot device while also paying homage to the last decade of movies. The sequence is very satisfying for fans who have invested years into memorizing the many plot lines, characters, and intricacies of the MCU. When they return to their present timeline with the six stones, chaos ensues. 

 

After the team regains their bearings, the compound is suddenly attacked by a massive alien army. The Avengers seem vastly outnumbered and out of their depth, until through a deft plot twist a massive army of the previously fallen heroes appears on the battlefield, ready to do whatever it takes. 

 

The ensuing action sequence is perhaps the highlight of the film, as it is the culmination of the entire franchise. The imagery evokes the same beautiful and chaotic energy as a full-page comic illustration, with all of the many MCU heroes together for the first time, charging at Thanos and his army. The sequence features many satisfying moments for fans, with Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer, a heart-wrenching reunion between Iron Man and Spider-Man, and the iconic battle cry which fans have waited years to hear uttered on screen, “avengers assemble.”  

 

The climax of the battle comes as Tony Stark realizes what he has to do to defeat Thanos. In a moment which feels full-circle and gratifying, the once egotistical Tony Stark wields the stones on his metal glove with purely sacrificial intentions and he declares the famous last words of the film which kicked off the franchise, “I am Iron Man.” With that, he dusts Thanos and his army, thus sacrificing his life for the greater good. As he fades into death, he is surrounded by the people he loves, and he is finally able to rest knowing that they are safe.

 

“Avengers: Endgame” is a tragic yet gratifying send-off for the character of Iron Man, and for the first three phases of films. Once self-obsessed and unwilling to work with others, Tony’s growth over the course of the films has felt natural and tangible. Tony Stark fades away with the knowledge that Thanos will never again pose a threat to his reality; his team, his wife and daughter, the world he has fought to protect for so long has been made safer with this ultimate sacrifice. 

 

This is an end which is admittedly difficult to watch for fans who have loved and grown with Tony, yet it is a moment that feels completely necessary and earned. It is difficult to imagine an ending which could offer greater finality to this world of heroes, and fans will surely remember the Infinity Saga as one of the greatest cinematic epics of this generation.

Lehman Freshmen Take Second Semester in Stride

By Alexandra Cardenas

Lehman campus in the spring. Photo courtesy of CUNY.

“College didn’t really end up being what I thought it would be. I guess I expected it to be like the movies,” said freshman Richard Castillo of his first semester at Lehman. 

As he and other first-year students reflected on early lessons learned, they told The Meridian that their second semester seems harder than their first, but they have learned the lessons necessary to keep ascending the learning curve. 

“I liked my last semester better because it was easier to get by, and the classes weren’t as challenging,” said 18-year-old freshman nursing student, Marianny Soto, who transferred from John Jay. Soto expressed pride in her 4.0 GPA but added that she did not feel prepared for a second semester at Lehman. Nonetheless, Soto stated that she is “looking forward to the next three years to see how I will grow as a person and get into my career.”

Castillo is also optimistic about his next three years in college. He concurred with Soto that during the first semester “everything was so simple. This semester feels like so much work has just been thrown on me.” 

In contrast, freshman Khoudia Synian said, “I feel more prepared than ever. In all honesty, I felt like I learned so much from the mistakes I made my first semester.” Unsatisfied with her first semester performance in her pre-med courses, Synian is determined to achieve a 4.0 GPA this semester now that she knows what is expected of her. “Although the work gets harder, I love this semester way more because I’m more organized. Also, I know what is coming my way and I know how to handle it academically,” she explained.

“Everything seemed so chill, but I’m not sure how that vibe changed from chill to a frantic mindset.” 

– Lehman freshman Tiana Bailey, 18

Freshman Tiana Bailey, 18, also suffered some initial turbulence. “My first semester was actually really stressful for me towards the end,” she said. “In the beginning, it was basically smooth sailing, and I always thought, why do people have breakdowns? Because everything seemed so chill, but I’m not sure how that vibe changed from chill to a frantic mindset.” 

A fashion aficionado who hopes to transfer from Lehman to pursue her passion, Bailey is still coming to terms with the fact that she has not yet decided on a major. “I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but everything just blew up in my face. I know that it’s normal to not have everything figured out freshman year, but I didn’t and still haven’t accepted that.” 

Synian seconded her determination. “I have a goal, so I’m definitely looking forward to the next three years in school without a doubt.”

Lehman Women are Innovating Tech

By Lysa Vanible

Computer Science Professor Eva Sofianos between classes. Photo by Lysa Vanible.

Lehman women are embarking on new technology projects and engaging in courses that challenge the status quo in the computer and data science fields.  

“There’s not a lot of women in technology right now, but it is gradually increasing,” said Lehman sophomore Daniella Encarnacion, a 22-year-old computer science major and founding member of the Women in Computer Science club (WICS). “Women have become empowered through networking, hackathons, mentorship and extracurricular activities.” 

Some Lehman experts think that the need to compete in a globalized job market translates to opportunity in student clubs like WICS. The student-led clubs are gaining momentum and creating technological innovations on campus.   

“I had the opportunity to create a Google Developer group that currently boasts 2,534 members,” said Eva Sofianos, a computer science lecturer. “We want to add introduction to computer science courses to pathways that introduce programming in a gentler way, so more people will learn to love computer science as much as I do. As the only full-time female professor in the computer science department, the innovation I project is by being in the classroom. I believe seeing a female in the classroom helps other women see themselves.”  

According to the Office of Institutional Research and Development, only six out of 18 professors in computer science are women, and one in five students in the major is female. However, a wide range of interdisciplinary courses combine traditional majors with technology, and the integrated courses at Lehman are right in step with the expansion in job opportunities created by global markets. That can create doors for women and minorities in a profession that is predominantly male and white. 

“The revolution in big data has spawned a second look by students, as it integrates other majors that include courses that allow students to learn coding,” said Lehman Dean Elin Waring.  

This incorporation of data science “can be seen in majors across the spectrum. Coding is being used to correlate mapping, graphs and plots, qualitative and quantitative data visualization, while also calculating statistical inference.” 

“I believe seeing a female in the classroom helps other women see themselves.”

- Computer Science Lecturer Eva Sofianos

Waring cited chemistry, sociology, economics, biology, psychology and geography as courses that have “brought data to those professions,” along with the nursing program’s use of lab instruments “while gathering and documenting essential data.” 

The tech revolution has gained momentum at all CUNY institutions. Upcoming workshops on campus include Open Data NYC on April 6, sponsored by the Leonard Lief Library and the Bronx-based non-profit The Knowledge House, which will present a forum on Data Privacy in an Open Data World on April 7. The tech and data expansion for women has a long road ahead, and Lehman students are gearing up for the long haul.  

‘Captain Marvel’s’ Thematic Feminism Feels Forced

By Zoe Fanzo

“Captain Marvel” made $455 million globally in its opening weekend. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

“Captain Marvel” made $455 million globally in its opening weekend. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

When the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) launched over a decade ago with 2008’s “Iron Man,” the trajectory of the film industry was forever changed. Eleven years and twenty-one films later, the MCU is a cultural phenomenon and the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time. Many fans consider the franchise to be at its peak, with 2018’s “Black Panther” winning an unprecedented three Academy Awards, and “Avengers: Infinity War” shattering expectations with its standout antagonist, Thanos (Josh Brolin), and devastating cliffhanger. In this charged atmosphere, Marvel fans had been eagerly anticipating “Captain Marvel,” the latest installment of this ever-growing world. But since the film was released on March 8, International Women’s Day, it has become the subject of heated conversation and criticism amongst fans of the franchise. 

“Captain Marvel” tells the origin story of U.S. Air Force pilot turned cosmic Kree warrior, Carol Danvers, played by Academy Award winner Brie Larson, as she uncovers the mysteries of her past and ultimately unleashes the full extent of her Infinity Stone-inherited abilities. Set in 1995, the film seeks to impress audiences as it introduces the most powerful hero of the franchise to date. Instead, the film falls victim to frequent and obvious cinematic traps. 

Presented in a non-linear format, the plot is jumpy and disconnected. The tension felt by Carol as she uncovers the truth about her past is lost on audiences because as she connects the fragments of her origin, the viewers have already been shown these events in flashbacks. 

One of the film’s greatest pitfalls is its tendency to be too “on the nose.” “Captain Marvel” is saturated with the theme of female power, and while that is in no way an unwanted motif, the politics of the film overshadow its ability to tell a fully realized story. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been such a hit with fans because of its robust storytelling, characterization, and world-building. “Captain Marvel,” however, suffers from cliché and lacks necessary subtext. 

In one scene, a biker demeans and cat-calls Carol, who in turn steals his motorcycle. In another, Carol battles with antagonists to the sound of No Doubt’s “Just A Girl,” a painfully obvious choice. She is constantly undermined by male antagonists, but by the end of the film, she discovers that her powers have been stifled by her male mentor and she becomes virtually invincible. Moments like this ultimately feel inauthentic and blatant and her abilities, unfortunately, feel unearned. Carol Danvers feels less like a fleshed-out character, and more like a prop for easily-marketable, watered-down feminism. Fans of the MCU have waited a decade for a female hero to star as the protagonist of her own film, but “Captain Marvel” misses the mark in a huge way. 

“Black Panther,” the 18th installment of the MCU, was similarly revolutionary because it featured the MCU’s first black protagonist to star in his own film in the franchise. However, “Black Panther” avoided the pitfalls that “Captain Marvel” fell victim to. “Black Panther” focused on emotional storytelling and deeply developed characters; it was a political statement in itself without having to sacrifice the plot’s integrity. Each character has their own political agenda, and those agendas clash, ultimately making for a durable conflict and intense cinematic climax. “Captain Marvel” lacks this intensity because its thematic feminism feels more obligatory than genuine. 

“Captain Marvel” is not an unwatchable film. It has many redemptive aspects, like Samuel L. Jackson’s “de-aged” Nick Fury, Brie Larson’s charming demeanor, and a fascinating post-credit scene which hints at what is to come for the MCU. Self-awareness ultimately weakens the plot and leaves fans yearning for what could have been a solid hero’s journey.

Student Playwriting Festival Welcomes Compelling New Voices

By Brittany Aufiero

Giselley Munoz as Mabel and Steven Prescod as Bobby in James Egbuta-Bailey’s “Miracle in the Garden.” Photos by James Egbuta-Bailey.

“Miracle in the Garden” by James Egbuta-Bailey and “Numinous” by Faith D’Erasmo and Luke Iovenitti stunned audiences with their attention to detail, compelling dialogue and powerful acting. Directed by Adjunct Lecturer Stephanie Stowe, these two new student productions were showcased by Lehman’s Department of Music, Multimedia, Theatre & Dance in its fifth annual Student Playwriting Festival, which premiered from Feb. 27 to March 2.

“As a playwright with 20 years of experience producing work, it’s exciting to see young playwrights understand and learn the process of bringing a play to an audience,” said Stowe, who has been involved with the festival for three consecutive years. Stowe credits Associate Professor and theatre director Rick DesRochers and Dean of Arts and Humanities James Mahon for “their incredible support.” She said of her directing, “It was a lot of fun! Always a challenge because they’re very different pieces.”  

The festival opened with “Miracle in the Garden,” a moving one-act play that is centered on an African-American family living in 1978 Harlem, NY. Unable to afford the rising prices of city-living, Rose has decided to move her and her children Bobby, Shelley and Miracle back to Montgomery County, TN. However, the children are less than thrilled about the impending move. While Bobby considers his college options in NY, his sister Shelley is hiding a life-changing secret. As she packs, Rose must come to terms with her children’s growing independence and confront secrets of her own past that threaten to change all of their lives.

In the musical “Numinous,” a class revolution has fractured communities and led many to take refuge in the northern wilderness. The portion of the play featured in the festival is only Act I of a full-length production that will premiere in Lehman’s Multimedia Performing Arts Showcase in May. The story follows Flick, Mae, Nox, Cato, Jove and Ada, a group of travelers who meet in the woods and agree to form a “tribe” to better their chances of survival away from the rest of society. Members of the group begin to form closer ties as they bond through song, but tensions rise when Nox’s leadership comes into question following an unexpected storm.  

Steven Prescod as Bobby and Essence Walker as Shelley in James Egbuta-Bailey’s “Miracle in the Garden.”

Just as it allows new playwrights to get a feel for show business, the festival is also a fantastic opportunity for Lehman actors to gain onstage experience. “Miracle” cast member Essence Walker, a 21-year-old junior theater major and dance minor, said “Rehearsals were always fun and, because it was an original play, we really got the chance to dig into the characters and tell their stories.”

While the two plays are dramatically different in plot and production, both Rose and Nox deal with similar internal conflicts, as they try to balance their own wants with those of the people for whom they are responsible. Lehman’s student actors really fulfill their roles and perform admirably. In particular, Alaynia “Fox” La Porte shines as Rose, and one can’t help but sympathize with her character’s desire to keep her family together, even as she pushes everyone further apart.  

A junior pursuing a Media Performing Arts degree with a major in theatre, Alaynia has also held roles at Castillo Theatre, Dempsey Theater, the Baryshnikov Art Center and Lovinger Theatre.  In preparing for her latest role, she said, “Research was my best friend! As ‘Miracle in the Garden’ is a ‘70s play, I wanted to be honest to the world my character was in.”  

Kat Fornier, a 22-year-old junior art major and psychology minor, said “I really enjoyed the use of space in each of the plays.” In “Miracle,” moving boxes litter the stage and the actors are constantly interacting with them, which is enjoyable to watch. Various platforms both onstage and within the audience during “Numinous” serve as stands for the cast to speak from during various moments throughout the play.

The Student Playwriting Festival was a huge success for everyone involved in translating the plays from page-to-stage. “Opening day, my heart was beating so fast because I was so nervous,” Walker recalled. “The adrenaline was high and we had a full house. It was the best thing ever.”