‘Tetris’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Whether you’re an avid gamer or not, video games have been developed for decades. These games are distributed globally, but the story of their production is rarely discussed. Tetris is one of the oldest games that found success through multiple avenues, as we learn in Tetris, directed by Jon S. Baird. This is the story of how one businessman named Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) and the inventor of the game Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) joined forces in the USSR, risking it all to bring Tetris to the world. Even though it sadly does fall under the generic spell of biopics, it’s still interesting to see everything game developers and publishers have to go through to get the game to consumers. 

The first half of Tetris starts in a fun way because they used the 8-bit game animations to help give backstory to the developers. Baird showed all the corporations involved through the animation and where they worked. It was like placing every block at the bottom at the beginning of starting a new level of Tetris. However, the animation’s strength in the film’s first section didn’t last. Before heading to the USSR, Baird wanted to integrate animation to make it visually interesting. Egerton’s performance as Henk Rogers carried the entire film, even when it turned into a dark, political drama halfway through. It also made the tone shift jarring and disappointing, to the point where the second act dragged to the end. 

The best part about Tetris was when Henk Rogers visited Nintendo, and they showed him the first handheld Gameboy Advance. Tetris would be paired with Super Mario, which makes the most sense as a starter pack. Watching the section at Nintendo headquarters made me realize that biopics about game development, especially for a big-name console, would be interesting to explore in a film or series. Only if they make the project visually interesting and do not fall into historical drama territory like this one. The main reason why this film didn’t work was because of the dullness that had fallen on the USSR at the time. Of course, it will be historically accurate, but there are ways to integrate the energy from the beginning to keep the audience engaged.

Tetris, directed by Jon S. Baird, had the potential to be a solid biopic that uniquely explores game development, but its history got in the way. It was almost as if they didn’t want to go too bold and stray away from the truth of that dark time. The focus was on the USSR and Pajitnov, which took away from the actual colourful creation of the game itself. It would have made for a great gaming biopic if it was balanced between the two. This isn’t to say there isn’t a market for this type of film. If anything, it would be nice to see projects surrounding the development of other video game products or even Super Mario and Nintendo because its beloved by so many. If you’re a huge gamer or just a fan of Taron Egerton, then check this out. The film will be streaming on Apple TV Plus on March 31st. 

‘Shazam: Fury of the Gods’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

For ten years now, DC has tried its best to build a foundation for its comic book universe for Warner Brothers. And for a little while, it was working. They were going against the grain, they had unique directors who cared about the source material, and they cast some bold actors to fill the giant shoes. However, when the climate started to shift with Marvel films gaining popularity and the majority of the box office, Warner Brothers felt the need to compete and change the unique formula that set them apart from what so many people had been accustomed to. Different isn’t always good, but in the superhero genre, it is always welcomed. The first Shazam! film may have suffered at the box office, but it won the hearts of many comic book fans because it was a coming-of-age film. Many comic book films work when they mix genres and focus on something other than the typical conventions. 

Shazam! was a wholesome, heart-warming film because it focused on Billy Batson (Asher Angel) and how he grew up without a mother in the foster system. The importance of friendship and choosing your family weighed in the first film, ultimately creating an emotional connection between Billy and his chosen family. Luckily, the villain, Dr. Sivana (Mark Strong), and the seven deadly sins made for a simple yet compelling story in the first film. The focus was more on Asher Angel, not Zachary Levi as his hero counterpart. Director David F. Sandberg delivered on ancient lore, magic, and wonderment through a child’s perspective, setting the first film apart from other DC films. He made it unique to the genre and to the universe that Warner Brothers was slowly creating on their terms without any interference. 

Then comes Shazam: Fury of the Gods after a regime change midway through promotion and after the standalone villain film Black Adam. There were plenty of factors working against this sequel. In this film, Billy thinks everyone will eventually leave him, so he holds onto his family too tightly. Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is off fighting crime at night to make a name for himself, while Mary (Grace Caroline Currey) is trying to study and make friends in college classes. Eugene (Ross Butler), Darla (Meagan Goode) and Pedro (D.J. Cotrona) have no form of character development in this film, which is interesting regarding representation. To bring in the gods of this film, the staff that was used by the wizard (that Billy broke in half in the first film) had been acquired by the Daughters of Atlas; Hespera (Helen Mirren) and Kalypso (Lucy Liu). They plan to get all their powers back from the champion. 

Sadly, Shazam: Fury of the Gods felt empty because the focus was on Levi and not Angel. The jokes that made the first film so charming didn’t land in this film either. There were such strong themes about family and past trauma that could have been explored a bit more, but sadly they barely scratch the surface and service the lore of the Daughters of Atlas more so than the collective family unit. The first act felt rushed, and once they got to the middle of the film, it felt like there was nothing left to fight for. The second hour was filled with CGI creatures (that looked good), but there was so much excess. The Shazamily barely used their powers to fight together, and the action scenes weren’t that fun to watch because nothing felt believable. The first film felt grounded because of the family aspect, and that’s why it worked. You can still be gods and fight gods and make it believable. 

‘Boston Strangler’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many negative ways that the general public perceives journalists because our current media climate no longer separates what makes a journalist. Many think breaking any news makes a good journalist, but it’s more than that. Being a journalist means being truthful to the source and searching for facts in any story. In Boston Strangler, two female journalists take on the story of a lifetime that changes the media landscape in Boston. Lifestyle reporter Loretta McLaughlin (Keira Knightley) was the reporter who first connected the murders and broke the story of the Boston Strangler. She and Jean Cole (Carrie Coon) challenged the sexism of the early 1960s to report on the city’s most notorious serial killer, as per the synopsis on IMDB. 

Writer-director Matt Ruskin took the story of the Boston Strangler and put the focus on the female reporters. The 60s allowed women to work under certain guidelines to show they were progressive. However, McLaughlin and Cole were two women who kept pushing those boundaries by not following the guidelines. Ruskin only showed parts of what the Boston Strangler did, which was effective because the explanations from McLaughlin painted the brutal attacks differently. This story is layered because of the constant fear and worries that women have to live with. Whether in the workplace, out on the streets at night or even in their own home, women have the right to be worried about men. It was important for Ruskin to create that relatability between women when telling this story. 

Knightley and Coon worked very well together in this. They played two women from different backgrounds in journalism and helped each other write this story. McLaughlin fought hard to get this story out there while putting a strain on her family life by being consumed with finding this man. Not only did she put herself at risk, but she also realized that law enforcement in Boston was not doing enough because women were involved. The more McLaughlin wrote about the cops not doing anything to help this case, the more they were under fire, and rightfully so. It felt like everything was working against McLaughlin and Cole, which is always the case when women are outspoken in a male-dominated environment. The story is engaging because Knightley performs well and is probably one of her best in this. 

Boston Strangler is an important piece of history that shows how far women will go to protect other women. By doing so, they uncover the truth about the Boston Strangler, which is even more unsettling because of what was involved. It’s a haunting look at how deranged the Boston Strangler was and how many copycats followed. There are ways to assess the psychology of it all, but it comes down to the blatant misogyny and hatred that men felt towards women in the 60s because they wanted to start working for themselves. Those women who broke the mould of not being housewives were tested every single day. Women like McLaughlin and Cole were part of the new wave paving the way for other female journalists to write stories from their perspective because it matters. 

‘You’ Season 4 Full Season Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

‘You’ Season 4 Part 1 Review

As the fourth season ends, many unexpected things happen that feel over the top for Joe’s (Penn Badgley) arc. They send Professor Jonathan Moore into a spiral in the second half of You season four. Suddenly, the characters we have gotten to know over this past season (apart from Kate) are being picked off individually to serve the rebirth of Joe Goldberg. Lady Phoebe (Tilly Keeper) and Adam Pratt (Lukas Gage) end up tying the knot, Joe takes a chance with Kate and meets her father, Tom Lockwood (Greg Kinnear), while Rhys Montrose (Ed Speelers) is pronounced dead at the hands of Jonathan Moore. It’s hard to tie up all these loose ends that Sera Gamble and Greg Berlanti created in the first place. Many things happened, and the story got lost in this second half. 

This season focused on Joe trying to grow and leave his past behind him, but we learn in the eighth episode of this season that he never actually did that. We see Joe hallucinating, and his relationship with Rhys is only in his mind. Joe had always wanted to live comfortably and still do whatever he wanted. But life doesn’t work that way. He dug himself into a gigantic hole as Jonathan Moore that he couldn’t escape unless he got rid of Moore for good. His mind unravels when Rhys appears and taps into the dark side. Joe remembers that he kept Marianne (Tati Gabrielle) locked away for months because he took on the role of Jonathan Moore. He only remembers the good things and not the monstrous things he did. While kidnapping Marianne, he was listening to Rhys give his speeches about the upper class and wealth, which affected Joe in the first place. 

Joe wanted to do something better with his time while mid-mission with Marianne. It seemed like he blocked out a part of his mind and forgot the dark side of himself for a very long time. This season explores how people don’t have to pretend to be something they’re not or even play up a different side of themselves to please others. It shows that to love someone (Kate), you need to feel whole and comfortable with yourself and hope that your significant other will accept you. In a way, Joe understood how to love and be loved by someone, but in a very dark and sadistic way that almost feels like a departure from who he is. The first half of this season made it seem that Joe was growing. He was learning how not to tap into his murderous side of him. But with one hard pivot, he’s somehow worse than before. On top of that, Kate’s past trauma with her father is now reflected in her relationship with Joe, which is even more twisted than Joe’s past relationships. 

The fourth season of You was interesting at the start because they took Joe Goldberg out of his comfort zone. The stalker became the one being stalked. And that was what made it intriguing. What was done in the second half of this season completely removed that aspect. It was going in a strong direction as Joe grew into a different person, only for him to be brought down further into the darkness in the end. Joe has embraced the side of him that he kept repressed for so long. And the good part of him has become a facade for him to succeed in becoming a hitman for Kate in the future. The reason why this series worked is because of how different the premise was compared to other thrillers. Now it has turned into everything else in that genre. Sometimes series need to end on a high note. And nothing could ever compare to the events that happened in season three. 

‘Scream 6’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Scream franchise is possibly the greatest horror franchise of all time because it is consistent. Even though all the Scream films have the same structure, it has always been about the experience with Ghostface throughout the film rather than the final reveal. That being said, Scream 6 goes back to the roots of what made the Scream franchise so entertaining to watch in the first place. The journey we go on with the “Core 4”; Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barerra), Tara Carpenter (Jenna Ortega), Chad Meeks-Martin (Mason Gooding) and Mindy Meeks-Martin (Jasmin Savoy Brown) is a wild ride from beginning to end. The gang moves from Woodsboro to New York City, where they think they will be safe so Tara can take her shot at a normal life. However, social media has painted Samantha Carpenter so badly that she can’t escape her past. 

Scream 6 captured the same essence as the original film because there was a strong balance between brutal kills and funny dialogue. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett presented the tough, gritty streets of New York City in Ghostface. They needed to show a darker side of Ghostface to parallel Sam Carpenter’s journey in this film. When we see our “Core 4” again, Sam is cycling through therapists to try and work through the thoughts in her head, Tara is in university making some poor choices, and the twins are trying to protect both of them. In a way, they created their own family just like Sidney, Gale, and Dewey did. The “Core 4” are new to this way of life and learned to lean on each other in this instalment. Co-writers James Vanderbilt, Guy Busick and Kevin Williamson focused more on Sam’s journey with Tara than having the pressure of writing something for the legacy characters.

The Scream franchise relies on references and tropes to shape the current instalment they’re working on. In Scream 6, they do just that by referencing previous Scream films in the franchise and the stepping stones to the grand reveal were perfect. It made for some very funny moments and great banter between returning characters like Kirby (Hayden Panettiere) and the new characters in the franchise. The journey may have been suspenseful, well-written and cheeky, but the third act didn’t stick the landing. The reveal felt predictable, and the explanation overstayed its welcome. However, the strength lies in Barrera and Ortega’s performances as they’ve grown as sisters. The ending creates a strong arc for Sam Carpenter, which opens a door of possibilities for the writers to flip the script on the franchise. Even though it didn’t deliver on the reveal, the third act affects Sam and makes it all worth it. 

Scream 6 has inventive kills, hilarious dialogue, and a strong build-up. This is one of the most entertaining Scream films since the original. The opening sets the tone for the rest of the film as it establishes the nature of New York City and the present-day social climate. This franchise has always made fun of those serious about the horror genre and films in general. It’s a step in the right direction after the transitional film that was Scream 5 to introduce a new set of characters. This instalment proves that Sam and Tara can stand on their own without any legacy characters involved. Even though the ending doesn’t stick the landing, the takeaway is that the characters feel more like family. This story is geared more towards Sam and Tara Carpenter and the realization that they will never be able to live a normal life because their past will always come back to haunt them.