Hillbilly Elegy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Hillbilly Elegy is a film about generational differences, family dysfunction and psychological trauma that all stems from childhood. The film is adapted from the memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. There is a different way of life in Middletown, Ohio and the memoir explored how he was personally affected by his family. Ron Howard pulls career best performances from Amy Adams and Glenn Close but it just falls short as a whole.

The screenplay, which was adapted by Vanessa Taylor, seemed promising at the beginning of the film. There was a voiceover from a young J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) explaining how life was for him, living with his family and what category they fit into in the grand scale of America. The film does dive into childhood psychological trauma and how each generation has somehow damaged the next.

It does not matter how it’s delivered, it can be any form of abuse, no matter how miniscule, children are most definitely affected. It felt like an endless cycle of trauma and misguided hatred within the family unit and that is what made certain scenes rather upsetting. The decisions made by generations before, somehow affects the lineage and all it takes is one family member to break the cycle and in this case, it was J.D. Vance.

Courtesy of Netflix Film
(left) Glenn Close and Amy Adams

My dear Amy Adams – an actress who has always gone above and beyond the script- has never had a bad performance, she was transformed as Bev and had incredibly strong, emotional moments. Watching her go toe-to-toe with a heavyweight like Glenn Close, was something I didn’t know I needed. Both have been underappreciated by the Academy for many, many years and if this film is what it takes, then so be it. The film simply does not work without the two of them.

Hillbilly Elegy had some strong moments but the editing made everything feel disjointed and episodic, rather than a fluid structure as a whole. The flashbacks were filled with traumatic emotional moments, that seemed to cut through J.D.’s peace in trying to get a summer internship. It is a film that does its job in blatantly showing real social issues, while allowing its stars to put on an acting clinic to carry the film to the end.

For Glenn Close and Amy Adams, make sure you check out Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix November 24th.

Ammonite Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Ammonite is a romantic love story, loosely inspired by the life of British paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet). Mary owns her own shop, where she sells fossils to rich tourists. Mary first meets her potential love interest, when a tourist and his wife, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan) stumble upon a piece of ammonite in her shop. Francis Lee was able to capture the subtleties and beauty of a budding romance but something was missing.

The film is slow and patient. Patient in uncovering the details in the fossils. Patient in processing Mary’s interest in women. Patient in soft touches and stolen glances. All of that was done properly in order to build tension, to anticipate the moment Mary and Charlotte melt into each other, but the film as a whole is dull. Even though Winslet and Ronan gave nuanced performances, it seemed to be their weakest entry in their filmographies.

photograph by Agatha A. Nitecka/RÅN studio
(left) Saiorse Ronan and Kate Winslet

The only time you would feel their love for each other was when they were sexually engaged. Yes, there was plenty of yearning and smiles exchanged with each other, but the chemistry was lacking in that department. It is also very evident, that a man is behind the camera, when filming those intimate, sex scenes and it felt awkward to watch. There was no passion, no love, no lust, all of that was lost in the act of it.

Ammonite is another entry in the sad lesbian romance category, that we seem to have generated over the years. The film had great potential to be something more than it was because of the starpower but it didn’t quite get there. Francis Lee wrote a very simple story that brought these two women together, to experience something beautiful and then it just exits your mind, the second you finish the film.

Sweet Taste of Souls Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sweet Taste of Souls has a really unique concept that flips the moving picture frame trope on its head. When four struggling band members stop at a small roadside cafe for a slice of cherry pie, they find themselves imprisoned in the owner’s framed art collection. The film was intriguing from the very beginning and had refreshing moments for the supernatural subgenre in Horror.

Ms. Ellinore (Honey Loren) was heartbroken and defeated when her husband left her. She harnessed these supernatural powers to create a picture perfect life within her art collection, a life that she could never have. The film dives into the psychology of trauma and abuse, while adding a supernatural element to it. It is one of the most refreshing concepts because of how this complex, emotional story ties in with a trope we’ve never fully explored on screen.

Courtesy of Dark Coast Entertainment

The most impressive aspect of the film was the special effects and how they were used in certain scenes. There was a whole process in taking the souls of the characters and transferring into the frame, which was really interesting. It also felt really claustrophobic at times (which was a horrible feeling for me) which worked extremely well for the suspense of being locked inside of a frame.

Sweet Taste of Souls had great special effects, a really complex psychological story and sound design that elevated the story. It had great use of colour, especially the colour red, to pop against a faded background and make you remember that Ms. Ellinore was around the corner. It’s a very fun, original horror film, with a deep psychological exploration of trauma.

Camp Twilight Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Camp Twilight is a fun mixture of classic slasher films that had its very own twist ending. It’s definitely campy, over-exaggerated, borderline cringey but it works. After realizing their about to fail senior year, 6 high school students agree to a weekend camping trip for extra credit. Lead by Ms. Bloom (Felissa Rose) and Mr. Warner (Barry Jay Minoff), they quickly find out the horrid past of the campsite.

The film felt like a cross between Scream and Friday the 13th, it even had character names like Sidney and the last name of a character named Loomis. It felt like a nice homage to slasher films, especially these classics. It’s filled with similar tropes and a ton of overacting at times, but for some reason it worked. A slasher film that has you yelling at the screen over the stupid decisions campers make, is definitely fun to sit through.

Courtesy of DarkCoast Entertainment

Its writers Brandon Amolette and Felissa Rose really went back to the roots of slasher films. It had a very simple structure with generic characters, that we really wouldn’t mind losing, once the killer went on the murder spree. They also incorporated cops, who don’t really know what they’re doing, which made for really funny moments. Like every slasher film, the kills have to be great and there were plenty of suspenseful moments.

Camp Twilight is as campy as it gets. It is a lot of fun, definitely surprising at times and it has a wicked ending. The score that accompanies the campers, on their disturbing weekend, really tied everything together. It is a lot to take in because there is so much happening but it’s such a fun ride for the genre. As long as you’re yelling at these campers, telling them not to do the inevitable, it is definitely entertaining.

Over the Moon Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Over the Moon co-directed by Glen Keane and John Kahrs is one of the best animated films of the year. It has such stunning animation and an incredibly emotional story that will move you to tears. The screenplay co-written by Audrey Wells and Jennifer Yee McDevitt was so beautiful and explores grieving from a young girl’s perspective. When losing someone so dear to your heart, there is always some little detail, or memory that we hold onto to make us feel better and this film does that so well.

In this animated musical adventure, young Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) remembers the story her mother used to tell her, when she was a child about the moon goddess. It is a love story about an archer who passed on and his spirit remains with the moon goddess, so she waits for him to return to her, hoping that their love can be rekindled. The lore parallels the relationship between Fei Fei’s parents and she so desperately wants to believe that this story is real because it is what her mother told her.

The animation is incredibly well done and the world that was created was so imaginative. It has such a wonderful soundtrack and the songs will definitely stay with you after you’ve finished the film. It is so much fun from beginning to end (I may be biased because of the white bunny named Bungee with purple eyes and magic powers stealing my heart) and it will pull on your heartstrings.

Over the Moon was an unexpected surprise for Netflix and it is such a wonderful animated film added to their library. It also holds so much cultural significance that is so lovely to see on screen. It literally takes you out of reality for a little while and that’s what is so exciting about the film. Its animation, soundtrack and heartfelt story will make you remember this film and the universal support that it gives those who are grieving during this time.