On The Rocks Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks is her most personal piece in her filmography and that is why it felt so different from the rest of her films. Coppola focused the story on a young mother reconnecting with her playboy father, after assuming, that her own husband, is going down the same path. The film is heartwarming, funny and explores the institution of marriage.

If we look at this film as a standalone piece and not apart of Coppola’s filmography, we notice some similarities to other New Yorker based romantic dramas. Her writing and direction felt more grounded and realistic, which created a solid connection to these characters. She poses plenty of questions about marriage and how in some instances, we never fully know the person we have chosen to spend our entire lives with.

Love is not about who we fall in love with, but rather, what we fall in love with. When people ask “Why do you love them?” you’re explaining their attributes, their personality, and essentially what attracts you to them. It has never been who but how the person makes you feel. It doesn’t matter who the person it is, but what their love does to you, what their affection means to you.

Courtesy of American Zoetrope
(left) Bill Murray as Felix and Rashida Jones as Laura

Coppola explores the hardships of marriage and relationships in general, from two very different perspectives. One from Laura (Rashida Jones), who is married with two kids and the other, her father Felix (Bill Murray), who is a single man travelling the world. Laura blamed herself for her relationship being on the rocks, while Felix blamed his ex-wife for changing how she loved him. To be with someone for decades and decades is something that people don’t fully understand when they get married. People change within a year, so why is it upsetting when people continue to change and some can’t adapt?

Courtesy of American Zoetrope
(left) Rashida Jones as Laura and Bill Murray as Felix

It was a very interesting dynamic in choosing a father and daughter to have these open conversations with. Especially considering that Felix had left her mother and they still had such a strong relationship. It is always great to see a father/daughter dynamic on screen and their chemistry was just so easy to watch. Bill Murray was an absolute delight and in all honesty, it is probably his best performance to date. He was just so suave, really fun and wise, it felt like perfect casting.

On the Rocks is the lighthearted film that was needed during this season. It was charming and sweet, with a fantastic jazz score to accompany it. Coppola also takes you on a journey through New York City, but in a very different way, you see the city in a whole new light and it is wonderful. The film will definitely grow on you as you watch it and you will learn what Coppola is trying to tell her audience about relationships.

The Queen’s Gambit Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Queen’s Gambit is a sexy, well written, tension filled chess match and every episode is structured to perfection. The story is about a young orphan, named Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), learning the masterful game of chess, from the custodian at the orphanage, named Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), she gets adopted at the age of fifteen and goes on to play in tournaments.

The series follows Beth Harmon at different stages of her life. There are moments that Beth remembers vividly, that shape her psychological and emotional state as a young girl. As a little girl, at the age of 8, she is very reserved but cunning and when she found an interest in chess, her intellect came naturally when playing the game. Mr. Shaibel knew that she was special and that is why he continued to teach her the game of chess.

When Beth turned fifteen, she was finally adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley, who have a nice little home in Kentucky. As she enters into chess tournaments, her new mother finds intrigue in the prize money she could win, if she beats the rest of the men vying for the same title. Beth holds nothing back and uses her intuition to carry her far, eventually leading her to go head to head with one of the greatest Grandmasters to the play the game in Russia.

Courtesy of Netflix
(center) Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon

Scott Frank and Allan Scott created such a thrilling atmosphere in each episode. Not only was the game of chess really interesting and fun to watch but Anya Taylor Joy demanded your attention as she played the game. She has these big, beautiful eyes and she does so much with them. There’s so much depth in her performance and it was effortless. She was poised, ruthless and seductive, while she was playing the game. Taylor-Joy is truly a force to be reckoned with in this industry and The Queen’s Gambit is her best performance yet.

The script is so brilliantly written that Beth’s psychological and emotional trauma were explored in each episode, eventually leading to her downfall. Her traumatic childhood and her new life, coexisted inside of her but somehow the worst aspects of both haunted her in the end. Leaving an orphanage is almost like culture shock, Beth had to adjust to a completely new life and she navigated it by playing chess. She is such an inspiring character, even through her hardships, and definitely one of the most respectable chess players to ever play the game.

Courtesy of Netflix
(left) Marcin Dorocinski as Vasily Borgov and Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon

The Queen’s Gambit is an incredible showcase for Anya Taylor-Joy’s talent as a bright, young actress and the roles she has taken, have definitely shaped her into the force she is today. The writing is what makes the limited series exciting but Taylor-Joy elevates it to another level of entertainment. It is almost impossible for anyone, to not binge these 7 episodes in one sitting because that is how exciting the creators made the game of chess.

The Witches (2020) Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Witches directed by Robert Zemeckis is a fun, family friendly, adventure film that modernizes Roald Dahl’s book. Everyone can look back on their childhood and remember something that absolutely terrified them. Some may have been scared of clowns, vampires or even werewolves (specifically to me, Michael Jackson in the Thriller music video) but the young boy in this film has an encounter with witches.

A Robert Zemeckis film is always incredibly entertaining and inventive. The story is adapted very well and the structure of the narrative made sense for a modern audience. The film begins with a slideshow and voice over by an older character (Chris Rock), retelling his encounter with witches when he was younger. It was really effective to format the film in this way because it was much easier to follow.

The film feels really extravagant because of its elaborate production and costume designs. There are so many vibrant colours used and the palette feels as whimsical as the witches themselves. Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, was perfect casting and her accent was probably the funniest aspect because of the play on words for her dialogue. Octavia Spencer was a ball of light as the young boy’s Grandmother and her energy was infectious.

The Witches is a modernized version of the old tale and it feels nostalgic at the same time. This is a film that will bring the whole family together for the month of Halloween. It is filled with incredibly cute moments and some special effects that will leave you a bit spooked. Zemeckis captures the same magic that makes all Roald Dahl adaptations special.

Make sure to catch The Witches on HBO Max on October 22nd!

After So Many Days: A 365 Day Journey With Musicians Jim Hanft & Samantha Yonack


By: Amanda Guarragi

After So Many Days is a documentary that will take you on tour, with a newly married singer/songwriter duo, Jim Hanft and Samantha Yonack. They decided to embark on a tour, to play one show a day, every day, for a year. It is a concept that not many people have even come close to attempting, but they wanted to see how everything would play out. Jim and Samantha’s love of music, their creativity and determination sent them on a journey that changed them forever.

The film has been an official selection at more than 30 film festivals worldwide and has just been released today, along with a companion album “Songs from After So Many Days”. It is incredibly candid, as they film each other and their experiences, travelling to different cities and performing for everyone. Samantha felt really grateful for this experience and how interacting with their audience has been affected by the pandemic, “At a time where we can’t tour and we can’t physically be there in front of people, we’re hoping that this film can do that in place of us doing that. So it’s kind of touring for us at the moment which is nice.” The film festival circuit has been incredibly rewarding for both Jim and Samantha, they truly appreciated sharing their music and their journey with the world.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

Jim and Samantha travelled to 14 different countries. There were so many beautiful moments and it was lovely to see the reception to their music on a global scale. One moment that popped into Jim’s head, was when they performed at a memory care facility. “We went in there and we learned a couple of songs, some old timey songs, to kind of bring some of that musical spirit in there.” It has been said that people who suffer from Alzheimer’s are able to piece some memories together through music because a memory can be tied to a song, which at some point in their lives evoked an emotion. “Seeing some people who were kind of suffering, hearing the music, light up and start to dance, that was really moving.” Something as simple as playing a song, triggers a memory, and that is what makes music so incredible.

Photo Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

The beauty of this documentary is that it is a 2-in-1 tour for the audience. Not only do you have a front row seat to their show but the behind the scenes of their day-to-day process. An entire year of travelling, performing and meeting new people, is definitely exciting but it can also be exhausting. It is such a well rounded piece. You really get to know Jim and Samantha so well. Their personalities fill the screen and their passion for their craft is truly inspiring.

After So Many Days is a wonderful documentary because it takes the viewer into a space where creativity and art is a necessity. This film speaks to creative minds and the hearts of determined individuals who want to pursue their dream. Jim and Samantha’s journey will uplift anyone who has been struggling with their process. The power of music demands to be felt in this documentary and it’s a great feeling.

The Jack of All Trades: An Interview with Filmmaker Jack Settipane


By: Amanda Guarragi

Jack Settipane is an actor and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. He has been acting since the age of 4 and has been producing many short films, as well as writing his own. Jack made his first short film at the age of 11 and is constantly looking for new people to work with. He has a large following on Instagram and is very influential on social media platforms.

Settipane is currently on the festival circuit with his short film Tick, which has won a couple of awards this season. Jack shot the film completely by himself and he had control over every take, “It was really unique to not have anyone else on set. There was no pressure, no rush, which allowed me to have complete creative control.” Settipane read a script based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”, reworked it, modernized it and changed the ending for the concept of Tick.

Settipane also got involved working on the film Last Call starring John Malkovich and directed by Steven Bernstein. The film had struggled to find its footing and it did not get finished until 6 years after it was shot. “I shared some out of the box approaches with Steven, which led to him asking me to take the helm as producer. I worked day and night for a year to find solutions the many financial and legal predicaments the film was in and to also find a distributor” Last Call should be released in 2021.

Social media seems to play such a huge part in everyone’s lives and Settipane utilizes his wide reach on each platform to find unique influencers that are also filmmakers. He has worked with many influencers internationally in order to create some wonderful short films. It’s rare to find people who blew up in social media but are really down to Earth people and are phenomenal human beings. Gilbert Sosa, Tavo Betancourt, and Nashua Aguilar stand out as those rare individuals.” Settipane believes that networking through human interaction is much easier than networking over social media.

When asked about his upcoming projects, Settipane is currently working with a 16 year old, named Felix Lavelle from Australia. “He made a short film that we ended up picking up and we are aiming to take it through the festival circuit.” Settipane also has a couple of pilots in the works and is ramping up his acting resume. His first love was acting and he would love to get back into it.