Cowboys Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Cowboys is a modern-day western with a deeply touching family story, that will give you some form of hope, in regards to parenting. Steve Zahn plays Troy, a troubled father who only has good intentions for his son. Troy has recently separated from his wife Sarah (Jillian Bell) over many issues. The film is structured incredibly well as the use of flashbacks is integrated to add more depth to the story, as Troy takes his son Jo (Sasha Knight) out for a camping trip. We see that Sarah is having a very hard time accepting that her trans son wants to live his authentic self.

It was really interesting to see how each parent approached the idea of their child transitioning into their authentic self. We see that Troy respects his son’s wishes and treats him as he would like to be treated. Whereas Sarah struggles with the idea of transitioning, or of feeling outside of your body. Sarah forces Jo to wear dresses and to act like a little girl, essentially forcing these gender norms upon her. It got to the point in the film that Troy couldn’t bear to see his son treated so horribly in his own house, so he plans to take him away from Sarah.

What we see on the surface is that Troy is trying to be the best father that he can be to his son. We see the father/son bond early on in the film and that is what stole my heart. If children are fortunate enough to have a parent who treats them with respect and allows them to be their true self, then it’s a beautiful thing to see. This film also gives audiences another lens to look through. Sometimes adults don’t realize what their children are going through because of their own busy schedules. They don’t notice that their child might be reaching it out without actually doing so. Parents need to be more aware of what their children are showing them, without using their words because sometimes it can be difficult to articulate.

Cowboys is a an important watch because of how candid the conversations are about a young boy knowing who he wanted to be. He was young enough to know how he was feeling and everyone should respect that. It’s a beautiful film that explores family relationships, trans lives and overall acceptance. The performances from Steve Zahn and Sasha Knight were fantastic and their dynamic will warm your heart. It is always lovely to see a father/son relationship on screen that is so wholesome and loving. The film was a pleasant surprise and is definitely a must-watch.

Slamdance Official Selection ‘Bleeding Audio’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Slamdance Film Festival Bleeding Audio is an intimate portrait detailing ‘The Matches’ story. It goes into detail about their break up, when they were so close to breaking out in the industry. They had such a promising career, a really tough break up, and one of the most inspiring reunions I have seen for a band. It was told through the eyes of the bandmates Shawn, Jon, Matt, and Justin. It shows how competitive and dark the music industry can be and their story is unique for their own brand. The way bands moved into the digital age of the music industry is something that should be discussed because it’s so interesting to see how musicians adapted to this change.

Vector – Blobs of black ink on white

What was so great to see in Bleeding Audio was the relationship between the bandmates because they all brought something different to the table. Everyone was given the spotlight in this documentary and it was nice to see that they shared that. It is always interesting to see how ideas come to fruition or how they felt behind the scenes in certain situations. There are very intimate interviews, not only with the bandmates but with other artists who knew who they were. Artists like, Mark Hoppus (Blink 182), Tom Higgenson (Plain White T’s) and Justin Pierre & Tony Thaxton (Motion City Soundtrack). It was interesting to hear them talk about ‘The Matches’ considering that were not well-known.

Bleeding Audio adds so much flavour to the generic music documentary style because ‘The Matches’ were just so much fun to watch. They had this vibrant energy that filled the room and that’s all you want from a band. They were all interesting individuals with great backstories, who came together to perform music that they loved. It is always a wonderful thing to see people come together through the power of music and that is exactly what this documentary gives us. This gave us the chance to explore the music industry through a different lens.

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has Kristen Wiig ‘SNL’ humour written all over it and it’s exactly what the world needs. Remember when we used to get comedies that were just fun for the hell of it? Well this is exactly one of those comedies. It has a far-fetched concept but for some reason it totally works. Lifelong friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time ever! There are two stories that come together in this film that I do not want to spoil because it is completely out of leftfield. Let’s just say Kristen Wiig plays a dual role that is really fun and interesting.

Barb and Star have a really sweet friendship. They have been living together for a while now and are inseparable. They wanted to explore the world and have some fun because they got bored with living the same cycle over and over again. What is so wonderful about Barb and Star is that they are so optimistic and upbeat! If you are a fan of Kristen Wiig’s SNL sketches, the humour is kind of dry and awkward but it will have you laughing at how off-the-wall some scenes are. Their chemistry was great and they created a memorable duo.

The big takeaway from this comedy is that Jamie Dornan was hilarious in this! Wiig had him doing all sorts of wild things and it totally worked. Dornan rolled with the punches and gave a great performance. He had some musical numbers that I was rather impressed with and he had great chemistry with everyone. It was really great to see him so free and lovestruck in this comedy. You’ll see a totally different side of him and I’m really happy Wiig got this performance out of him. The movie is just such a fun ride that has so many twists and turns to carry it to the end.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a comedy that will take you back to the days where these films were made just to have fun. The whole cast is great and it just gets sillier as the movie goes on. The heart of this film is the friendship between Barb and Star. We all need those lifelong friends to always be there for you no matter what. Their relationship is what makes this film so special and there is so much to learn from Barb and Star.

To All The Boys: Always And Forever Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

To All The Boys: Always and Forever is a pretty fun final installment to the trilogy. After watching our girl, Lara Jean Covey choose Peter Kavinsky over John Ambrose (which was a mistake), we all wanted to see how LJ and PK would end up. Let’s face it, even though some of us (especially me) dislike Valentine’s Day… we still love our romance films. The beauty of rom-coms is that they can take you out of reality for a bit. They can give you a wonderful lead saying the cheesiest, most romantic lines, and we’ll buy it.

What is so wonderful about this trilogy is that it brought life back into the genre. For the past three years, LJ (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) have grown together BUT they have also grown as individuals. This film also takes you back to your senior year and how stressful everything can be. Their relationship is put to the test but they never fail to be absolutely adorable with each other. That’s the magic Lana Condor brings to the screen, so the way Noah Centineo looks at her is totally relatable. Condor holds this film together. She has carried the trilogy from the very beginning because of her spirit.

Like any other teenage romantic comedy, it comes with difficult decisions and life lessons. It is no lie that teenagers are too young to make these life changing decisions but they are all forced to. How are they supposed to know what we want in life? The one thing that I really appreciated from this film is the focus on Lara Jean’s future and what she wanted. Sometimes relationships can cloud your judgement and affect your decisions. Teenagers are constantly faced with difficult decisions and are even more emotional than adults. Everything feels like the end of the world but life is just beginning. When we see Lara Jean take her schooling seriously, instead of thinking about Kavinsky, we see a different side of her that we haven’t seen.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever is Lana Condor’s trilogy and without her none of it works. She has this bright, beautiful, compassionate spirit and she will make you fall in love, with love. As we all know, I am a sucker for the friends to lovers trope and this trilogy started out with a contract. The way this film ends ties everything together and it is a full circle moment. Romantic comedies have been revived through this trilogy and hopefully we can get more of these films. We need more fun, sweet and heartwarming films in our lives.

Sundance Film Festival: ‘Judas And The Black Messiah’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Judas and the Black Messiah is the best film of the year. I know it’s only February but this is an incredible film. From the moment it began, Shaka King presents the decade of the sixties as one of the most brutal decades in American history. King makes you feel the weight of the deaths of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights movement, while understanding the importance of the Black Panther Party in the late 60s. It was a decade filled with hatred, death, violence and grief. Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) is, and always will be, a very important figure because he was the leader of a revolution.

This film is beyond impressive because of Shaka King’s directorial efforts. It is just so sleek and unique to his style of filmmaking. From the cinematography, to the production design, to the costumes, to the jazz undertones in the score that fade as the film gets deeper into the story, everything was perfectly constructed and it worked. The structure of this film played out like The Departed (normally I don’t compare films but it’s the first thing I thought of) because of the role that William O’Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) plays in this story. There’s a rat in the Black Panther Party and they need to find out who. What King does extremely well is framing his subjects, the viewer is constantly shown new information with the characters, instead of learning through the dialogue.

The film is beautifully shot and King makes some different choices for his action scenes. When there were scenes involving standoffs with the police and the Black Panther Party, the camera was always focused on the person being shot and not the person firing. It was interesting because it symbolized that it could be anyone, at anytime, and that these situations are about more than just one specific person. It symbolizes an entire community or an entire system fighting against each other. Shaka King and Will Berson’s screenplay was intricate and perfectly executed to accurately tell this story. His actors elevated their words, to create such a timeless film that will be remembered by many.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

These performances were outstanding. First and foremost, we must give credit to the Fred Hampton who delivered such powerful speeches to unify people during this period. When Daniel Kaluuya opens his mouth, to speak his first few pieces of dialogue, the spotlight was his. Kaluuya brought Fred Hampton to the screen with such power, vulnerability and respect. Even though Kaluuya’s name has been everywhere, there needs to be recognition given to LaKeith Stanfield, who was an excellent choice to play O’Neal. Stanfield carried the film and gave a very complex performance, since he had to play both sides and had all of this information to process.

There is a third, and very important performance in the film by Dominique Fishback, who plays Deborah Johnson. Fishback’s role was a bit more laid back compared to Kaluuya and Stanfield but she had a more emotional role to play alongside them. She represented all Black women, who struggled with their agency through the revolution. The women who wanted to fight for justice, while still looking out for their men around them. In every scene Fishback was in, she presented another side of the story. She showed power through vulnerability and her emotional connection with Kaluuya shined through.

Judas and the Black Messiah will most definitely blow you away without expertly structured this film is. Shaka King delivered on all fronts and his ensemble of actors did extraordinary work with this story. Kaluuya, Fishback and Standfield deserve all the praise for their characterizations and performances because they were absolutely perfect. It is one of the best films of the year and it should be recognized as that. From beginning to end, the film flowed effortlessly from scene to scene and didn’t miss a single beat. It is such a strong directorial feature debut from Shaka King and it will leave you wanting more from him.