‘Thunder Force’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

What do you get when you mix Ben Falcone with the superhero genre? You get a very bland, silly and downright dud of a superhero film starring two Oscar winners, an Emmy winner and an Oscar nominee. It physically hurts to watch this film because of the all-star cast doing the most absurd things. Ben Falcone has a weird sense of humour and so does Melissa McCarthy. Their awkward humour doesn’t really translate with a poor script. If it was an awkward SNL sketch, maybe it would stick the landing but nothing really worked.

Like most comedies being released today, they used the crutch of referencing popular games or television shows that would resonate with a wide demographic. In Thunder Force they appeal to the young kids by using ‘Fortnite’ and then use references to Urkel or Jodie Foster to make a simple joke. You may question me saying, “But Amanda, it’s meant to be fun.” Listen, if I had fun, I would say it. I was excited to watch this because of Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer playing superheroes because you never get to see heavier set, middle-aged women kicking major butt and I was more than happy to see that representation. However, their friendship was lacking. They hadn’t seen each other for years and then magically start working together but none of their previous issues were resolved.

It all just felt very convenient, just so they could keep it light and avoid any serious, emotional moments. People need to realize that slapstick comedy no longer works for the climate, unfortunately. I am also extremely tired of McCarthy doing physical comedy just to get the laughs in, when her comedic timing and line delivery is pure gold, people tend to fall-back on her physicality. Majority of it felt really awkward and the film wasted the talents of Bobby Cannavale, Melissa Leo, Jason Bateman and Pom Klementieff. It just didn’t work as well as I would have hoped. I do commend them for one thing, and that’s the bravery it took to make an original superhero film in this day-and-age with so many comic book films surrounding it.

Thunder Force sadly falls short and doesn’t have enough energy to carry the runtime. By the time these characters get to the final battle in the third act, your care for them is non-existent and you just want the bad jokes to be over already. It is such an awkward movie to sit through, especially when Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were sharing a scene. I kept questioning why certain scenes were kept in the film and who even thought they were funny in the first place. We rarely get comedies anymore, so when one is released it’s a must-watch for me but this one was really disappointing.

‘My True Fairytale’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Young Angie Goodwin (Emma Kennedy) runs away after a horrific car crash to make her dream of becoming a superhero come true. The film begins with a voiceover of from Angie who tells the audience that she wants to become a superhero because the world is a very dark place. She wants to be that light for people and help those around her. After this car crash, it seems that Angie is taken by this deed to do good and help the people in her town. Kennedy gives a good performance and writer-director D. Mitry presents a sweet story of helping others.

The film is filled with compassion and empathy for those around her, especially her dad who she tracks down. Angie didn’t feel like her life would ever be fulfilled if she didn’t go on this quest. The film is difficult to sit through, as some scenes did drag on and the emotional connection to certain characters was lacking. But Angie’s connection with her father was probably the most wonderful thing about this film. Angie wants to help her father move on and get out of this rut that he is in. She wants to help him make the right decisions. And she ends up staying with him.

The film does feel messy at times because of all the storylines with the secondary characters. It was a bit hard to follow in trying to understand how Angie would be able to help everyone, since her primary focus was her father. The main takeaway from this film is that one person can be affected by a serious situation – like a car accident – and would want to change their life around for the greater good. What this film shows, is that trauma can alter your life in more ways than one. Angie took this in a positive light in wanting to help others. D. Mitry also leaves the film open-ended in regards to the mortality of Angie. How will she be able to help everyone? How can she be in two places at once? It was interesting to watch all of that unfold.

My True Fairytale takes the trauma of a young girl and creates a very positive outcome from it. It has been her dream to become a superhero and in the end she made others believe that they can be one too. Even though there are darker elements, especially when exploring the other characters in the story, it is still uplifting because of Angie. If you are a sucker for a father/daughter relationship like I am, then this is the film for you. It will lift spirits with the positive message and hopefully help others to be more like Angie. So many people are going through different situations and it is always helpful to just be kind to others.

Canadian Film Festival Selection: ‘Sugar Daddy’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

A young talented musician, named Darren, dreams of making music like nobody has before. But, unfortunately she’s broke and desperate for cash. She signs up to a paid-dating website, throwing herself down a dark path that shapes her music with it. It’s true when they say, ‘art imitates life’ and artists tend to try new experiences for inspiration. They may not realize that this is the reason they gravitate towards the unknown. But it’s the creative mind that overtakes the decision-making. Darren is at a crossroads in her life, she is twenty-five, lost her job and is really trying to make a living as a musician. Any twenty-something can relate to this, but the creatives are the ones who feel her pain the most.

Darren has been trying to find ways to develop as a musician. Her sound is very different and she’s seems to be naive in navigating the industry. She has been trying to live on her own, without any help from her mother and she’s struggling to make ends meet. We see her working as a server for a catering event and she is taken by this woman who she used to know. She was once a caterer just like Darren but now she’s on the arm of an older gentlemen at the event. Darren questioned her friend and was curious about the arrangement. She then does her own research and is intrigued by the entire service. Would you go out on a date with an older man to make ends meet?

Let’s discuss this shall we? A woman is in full control of the situation as an ‘escort’ or in plain terms ‘a friend’ of the older gentlemen suitor. There are guidelines that are set prior to the date and as we see in the film, it is more of a companion than a sexual favour. Darren’s friends discuss the female agency that can be stripped away because of the price being put on her head for a night out. But even though that is what it looks like on the outside, Darren has a wonderful experience with her suitor. He understands her on a creative level, something that many people in her life don’t do. She builds this connection with him that almost feels like a father/daughter relationship… until it wasn’t.

Sugar Daddy directed by Wendy Morgan, takes a musicians creative process to new lengths and shows the connectivity between art and artist. As a creative, there needs to be some support from the people around you in order for you to grow in your field. You can find unlikely partners in your life who don’t even live near you, who will understand you on a different level. From the unique camerawork, to the interesting story and character work from Darren, the film will leave you considering the same career path. It is an in-depth psychological analysis of the scars left from childhood that many people carry into adulthood. This generation tends to focus on how to fix the issues, take accountability for their actions and attempt to move forward with a better understanding of who they are.

The film is available to stream today on VOD/Digital across Canada!

Canadian Film Festival Selection ‘Woman In Car’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Woman In Car is written and directed by Vanya Rose. It is an in-depth look at the psychology of past mistakes and how it can affect the future. It takes the female experience of Ann Lewis (Hélène Joy) as she is in the middle of getting married to her new husband. The script is well-written and Rose peels back the many layers of Ann. There are so many things to unpack in this story and Ann’s experience as a woman is really interesting to dive into. It is so intriguing to watch because Joy gives such a nuanced performance and carries the entire film to the very end. Her connections to other characters may be a bit confusing at times but it all pays off in the third act. It is a film that will keep you glued to the screen and will have you questioning what is possibly going to happen.

Ann appears to have it all. But when her stepson returns to Montreal with the beautiful Safiye (Liane Balaban), Ann develops an obsession with the stranger, who she fears could destroy the privileged life she has built. Rose explores two different female characters in a sincere and compassionate way. What starts out as a defensive tact on Ann’s part turns into a very vulnerable olive branch in wanting to tell her story. The film does explore issues of class, family and deception. It is just so fascinating to watch because of Joy’s layered performance. What I found most interesting is the fact that she was an archer and she always had to have a sense of control when shooting the bow and arrow. Oddly enough, that pressure to be perfect ruins Ann’s peace and concentration when craving that form of release, while her secrets build up.

Ann had many secrets that she tried to bottle up but eventually those secrets came back to haunt her. Throughout the film, we see that Ann is losing herself to these skeletons in her closet. She is under so much pressure because of this wedding and her feelings of neglect from her previous marriage seem to creep up on her. We see how everyone can carry their emotional and mental trauma, from one relationship to another, if they feel like they are somehow being treated in the same way. If these issues are not addressed, situations tend to become worse than they already are. Ann is an incredible character because of how she internalizes her pain in order to keep the public persona of being perfect and composed. It is in an obligation in higher social class systems to always appear poised, even if something is bothering you.

The film is multilayered, nuanced and incredibly sophisticated. It is rooted in the culture of Montreal and dives into the social class system by showing how people who aren’t born into it, can become traumatized by their lifestyle. Woman In Car has so much tension and the build up is strong. There are such intimate, emotional moments that will make you really feel for Ann and want to see her come out on top, even though the storyline is a bit risqué. There are so many issues that Rose explores in this film and the most important takeaway is that there is so much compassion between female characters in sharing those vulnerable moments with others.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There comes a time when everyone expects their favourite characters to go head-to-head in a final battle scenario. From ‘Civil War’ to ‘Batman v. Superman’ and now to ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’. The monsterverse has taken some hits in the past. However, the one character that always comes out strong and almost never disappoints is Kong. Yes, the title of the movie is ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ but this really is more of continuation of ‘Kong Skull Island’ than ‘Godzilla King of the Monsters’. Kong is the star of this film and his human connection to young Jia (Kaylee Hottle) was beautiful to see. That is something that the Godzilla films were lacking. I also don’t really think they know how to carry out Godzilla because there is no human connection and that is what makes Kong so loveable in the monsterverse.

Does Godzilla look cool? Yes. Does Godzilla have a wicked creature design, with so much detail, that you can see him breathing and see the scales on his body move? Yes. However, that’s all he does. The atomic breath was cool, the fight scenes with Kong were really intense and fun to watch as well. When it came to hand-to-hand combat, Kong really took some shots and he had you rooting for him the whole time. I wouldn’t consider Godzilla that much of a villain in this story. It’s more along the lines of this fight being inevitable since they both exist. The main issue in these monsterverse films, especially for Godzilla’s side is the human story. It’s a chore to sit through and it truly doesn’t add much to the film.

On the other hand, Kong has always had a very strong emotional connection to the humans in his film. Kong’s character development from ‘Skull Island’ is great to see. And by the end of this film, you will understand why a third and final Kong film is necessary. The beauty of Kong is that even though he is this larger-than-life, fictional creature, he is brought into the human world and he is respected. The character design was incredible for Kong and you felt such a strong connection to him. There are moments in this film that will make you feel for Kong on a human level. It has always been interesting to see how Kong interacts with humans and in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ it was just beautiful.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is a fun monsterverse film that will keep you at the edge of your seat during their fight scenes. It is only fun when Kong is on screen because the writing for the humans on Godzilla’s side wasn’t that strong and could have been better. I totally respect the humour Brian Tyree Henry brought to the table but even he couldn’t save it. In conclusion, Kong stole the spotlight, there needed to be more Godzilla and the human story wasn’t developed enough for Godzilla. Even though the movie did drag at times, I wouldn’t have minded a longer runtime to actually make me care for Godzilla.