Artemis Fowl Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Artemis Fowl is the title of a book series written by Eoin Colfer. This film adaptation has been completely altered to make it kid friendly. The book series was initially intended for children. There is nothing good to say about this film because it was difficult to understand the second it started. The special effects were terrible, script was very messy and the editing, was not fluid enough to make a cohesive narrative. The worst part, is that this film had so much potential to be great, it is not right to change the source material to the point of the story being unrecognizable.

The film is an Irish tale, filled with lore and mythical creatures that were never fully explained. Majority of the time it was hard to understand what was happening in the film, or even care, where the story was going because of how overstuffed it was. Artemis (Ferdia Shaw) used to believe in all this lore that his father, Artemis Fowl Sr. (Colin Farrell) instilled in him at a very young age. Once his father is captured by an unknown villain (because they’re probably planning for a sequel), Artemis must decode his father’s journal of these fantasy creatures. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, the script would say otherwise.

The entire film seemed rushed, the pacing was all terrible and scenes were cut short for some strange reason. Everything that was shared between characters, ended abruptly and nothing was added to the story. The fight scenes were poorly executed and it seemed that there was no clear direction for this film whatsoever. It is also extremely frustrating seeing actors like Colin Farrell and Judi Dench waste their talents on a film like this. Yes, it’s a children’s movie, but what happens when children, do not even want to sit through a film like this?

This is why changing source material, to make it more kid friendly, for their brand is very problematic. The story was perfectly fine the way it was. It blurred the lines between good and evil. This has been a theme used for a very long time and it is evident in other Disney films. This film had so much potential and it was wasted because they did not want to dive deeper into the mind of a 12 year old criminal mastermind. If the books were so well received, then why change it now? It is very hard to understand the logic behind the change.

Artemis Fowl is a film that has mediocre production value and a convoluted story. It is a messy, special effects ridden Disney channel movie that should have stuck to the source material. I am very disappointed in the way they handled this film and the cast deserved better than what they had to work with. The worst aspect is walking away from a completed project and knowing it could have been better.

 

Da 5 Bloods Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Da 5 Bloods is one of Spike Lee’s most mature film to date. He has taken every little detail, theme and ideology, that he has used throughout his filmography and expertly incorporated them into one film. Lee is known to use archival footage, still photos and historical moments in his films to express the urgency in the story he chooses to deliver. Da 5 Bloods takes place in present day America and has 4 African American veterans, returning to Vietnam. They are on a mission to find the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide, all those years ago.

The wonderful thing about Spike Lee, is that he makes you fall in love with his characters in the first act of the film. In the second act, he shows you their pain, flaws and grievances. Then in the third act, he exposes his characters, like an open wound, to the world that has so deeply wronged them, time and time again. Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) were veterans who understood, the battle they were fighting in Vietnam, was not theirs to fight because of the systemic racism that was oppressing their rights in America. Whose rights were they fighting for exactly?

It is a film, like every other Spike Lee film, that unloads accurate information about Black history. Lee has never shied away from telling it like it is and has always managed to show every perspective on racial ideologies. Paul, was a Trump supporter, MAGA hat and all. They discussed his decision in voting for the President, or as Spike Lee likes to call him, “Agent Orange” and his political stance quite openly. He has always addressed things head on and it is truly something to be admired in his films. He wants his audience to learn and to grow with him.

Apart from this script being perfectly written, Spike Lee really enjoys using his camera, he uses the lens to tell the story in such a unique way. My favourite thing about this film is the transitions to flashbacks. Normally, switching aspect ratios throughout the film can be taxing but Spike Lee made sure to make it as smooth as possible. The frame would change each time Stormin Norman (Chadwick Boseman) was on the screen and it worked so well! The colour grading and vintage, war time feel to the sequenced flashbacks were really effective as well.

nf

Courtesy of Netflix Film:  (left) Delroy Lindo and Clarke Peters

Many may question the events that unfold in the third act but it holds so much symbolism. These men fought in the Vietnam war, three tours and they made it out alive. They return to the forests of Vietnam, that are still filled with landmines and they have to navigate through them, in order to find the hidden treasure. These veterans suffer from severe PTSD, especially Paul. Delroy Lindo gave an exceptional performance and it is the best of the year. He was incredible. To go back to the place, that gave them nightmares and experience it all over again, was brutal and extremely emotional.

Another thing that may seem foreign to so many people, is that Spike Lee made the artistic choice in keeping his main actors for the flashback scenes. Normally, they would cast younger versions of their counterparts but in this case it worked very well. Spike Lee really wanted his audience to understand that these veterans, were going back to a time that broke them down. So to literally, see them fighting, at their current age, alongside their deceased friend, Stormin Norman felt more personal.

Da 5 Bloods holds so much emotional weight for Black veterans. They all show their pain and suffering in such powerful ways. Each character is very opened with their struggles and I think that is such an important thing for men to share with each other. Spike Lee breaks down toxic masculinity through brotherhood, loyalty and a shared wartime trauma. It is one of the most profound and deeply moving films of the year. This film will be broken down and analyzed for years to come.

 

The King of Staten Island Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The King of Staten Island is Judd Apatow’s most personal film to date. He collaborated with Pete Davidson and Dave Sirus to bring Pete’s deeply emotional life to the screen. It was candid, realistic and raw to Pete’s journey. It was in typical Apatow fashion, to have such a natural flow to this story. They addressed mental illness and childhood trauma with humorous moments. In his mid -20s Scott (Pete Davidson) is at a standstill in his life, he dropped out of high school and his younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is heading out to college. As the events in his life unfold, Scott must come to terms with his father’s death and processes his grief in many ways.

For seventeen years Scott has lived without his father and the only memories he has of him, are the ones his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei) shares with him over and over again. In Davidson’s life, his father was a firefighter for the FDNY. He was seen as a hero by many because of his bravery in saving someone’s life, as a building collapsed on top of him. Most of Davidson’s dark humour stems from his childhood trauma and his stand up is vulgar and borderline offensive. At the end of the day, that is what makes Pete, Pete. His humour may offend people but it is okay for him to make fun of his own trauma because it comes from such a personal place.

If you have been a fan of Judd Apatow’s since the beginning of his career, you know the way he makes his films. They are personal, witty and very well written. He always attempts to make real situations seem funny, even if it stems from a dark place. The reason why his films have so much heart and resonate with so many, is because he isn’t afraid to show his audience the reality of situations. He wants to say that these characters are real, concrete people, with a twisted sense of humour that exist in the real world.

To those who have followed Pete Davidson from his early stages on Saturday Night Live and appreciated his humour (even though sometimes he crossed the line), you will appreciate this film. I think everyone will learn something about Davidson through watching this film. You may dislike him a bit more, or even start to like him, it is all up to interpretation. This film highlights mental illness  and it’s through the eyes of Pete Davidson, who has truly suffered from it. To see the psychology of Scott, through the eyes of Davidson, is something raw and eye opening. It is a story that only Pete Davidson could tell and it is really special.

The film does drag on a little bit but the third act is really important to Scott’s arc. As his sister goes off to college, his mother begins dating again and Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) also works at the fire department. In the midst of all this, Scott is causing his own damage with his friends and when he finds out about his mother dating a fireman, he goes into a downward spiral and attempts to break them up. We find that Scott does not really know how to express his emotions and sometimes he lets it out through impulsive, violent behaviour, or everyone’s favourite mechanism, sarcasm.

After a huge blowout between Ray, Margie and Scott, they all go their separate ways. That’s why the third act is really special. It brings them all together in a very unexpected way. Scott begins to understand the life of a fireman and he experiences it firsthand. It was very cathartic for Davidson and the REAL stories shared of his father, were important, not only for Scott’s character arc in the film, but for Davidson to maybe get some closure. It was an emotional ending and Davidson gave a wonderful performance.

The King of Staten Island is not for everyone. The only way to appreciate this film, is if you are fans of both, Apatow and Davidson. To newcomers, they may not understand the sentimental value this holds for Davidson and why this was so important for him to make. It was also pretty funny, a lot of Davidson’s humour is things he would say under his breath and being able to catch what he says, in this film was great. It’s a long watch but it is definitely worth it to see the heart of Pete Davidson.

 

Softness of Bodies Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Softness of Bodies feels like an authentic European tale, with a self centred, narcissistic, American poet as the protagonist. It takes place in Berlin, where Charlotte (Dasha Nekrasova) an aspiring poet, hopes to win a prestigious grant, all while dealing with her past relationships. The film unfolds quite naturally, as a string of events cause Charlotte to think on her feet and adapt to her current situation, in order to stay on track for her grant.

Charlotte is one of the most intriguing characters I have seen in awhile. She is very aloof, blunt and passive. She has the chronic need to steal anything she desires (which includes boyfriends) and tends to get herself into some sticky situations. The pacing of this film was the one thing that worked extremely well. Everything happened for a reason and it allowed each bad event, to escalate naturally, in order to suit Charlotte’s actions.

The title of the film speaks on multiple levels but it can be interpreted as the exterior of the body, by touch, is something delicate and sensual. All that matters is the feel of the person and not what is on the inside. The exterior is something people crave, people objectively analyze others every single day, without realizing they do. Their bodies are the first thing that anyone notices before they cast judgement on who they are. Their personality, flaws, or history do not matter.

Once we get to know people, that is when that soft exterior fades away and we are met with the reality of the person. In Charlotte’s case, she was a very tough person to get along with because of the way she was. She was into herself and those around her, were either there to tear her down, or to watch her crumble. She had to deal with her ex-boyfriend who cheated on her, while she was sleeping with another man, who was in a relationship. The film was filled with lying, cheating and deceit. When reflecting on the film, it does seem like Charlotte got away with the ultimate robbery.

The camerawork was interesting, the tracking shots that were used for Charlotte, were great. She was always on the run, or riding her bicycle and the editing during those chase scenes were strong. The colour grading and textures, were subtle throughout but were punched up a bit, during house party scenes. There were yellowish tones and pastels that were used and the smoke that filled the apartments gave it a relaxed, hazy feel.

Softness of Bodies, at first, is a character study and then, one event, kickstarts a downward spiral for Charlotte. She is a master manipulator and con artist. It does get darker, as the film goes on and I think that is why it’s so intriguing to watch. Majority of the time, you question if it can get worse and it definitely does. Charlotte walks through life, unfazed by any minor inconvenience, as if it never even happened. She takes control of her own hardships and finds a way to make it out on the other side.

Shirley Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Josephine Decker known for making a splash with Madeline’s Madeline in 2018, takes on the story of famous horror author Shirley Jackson. Shirley is a character study of the famous author, as she attempts to write another novel. She has been locked in her house for two months and has unwanted guests moving in, as her husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) offers a young teacher, Fred Nemser (Logan Lerman) and his pregnant wife, Rose Nemser (Odessa Young) to stay with them, in order to give him a steady position at the school where he teaches.

The story is a typical stockholm syndrome atmosphere but the intrigue in the protagonist and these characters is what was severely lacking. At first Shirley is opposed in having this couple stay with her and then slowly, she preys on young Rose. She begins to create scenes in her head, that are somehow connected to a “missing girl” ad, that has been circling the town. The story of the young girl named Paula, is somehow in this fictional plain, that crosses into the reality of Rose living with Shirley. Shirley goes a bit mad while she writes this story, causing Rose to unravel at the same time.

Does it seem like a a story about a writer and her muse? Sure. However, the present time of Rose growing closer to Shirley does not make sense with how this film ended. Is Paula a real missing person? Is Rose still alive and well at the end of this film? Or was this entire experience of the married couple moving in with them a dream from the beginning? In simple terms, let’s just say that the film leaves plenty to the imagination and how the audience can interpret a writers process.

Elisabeth Moss delivers another stellar performance but the character just did not sit right for her. There was something off about this pairing and I don’t know if the character suited Moss. It just seemed like the film was forcing itself to be edgy and sinister in order to hold onto its audience. There were graphic visuals and unique camerawork to show the madness in the mind of the author and her process but it wasn’t enough to make it interesting.

Shirley had great moments between both women in the film and they had very open discussions about womanhood but those important conversations got lost in the attempted madness of the piece. It was a bit too messy for my liking because of the constant crossover between present time and fictional scenes. It was hard to understand what Decker wanted to present in this film. Maybe I’m someone who gets too involved into the psychosis of the characters and wanting something to come from it. It had its moments and had solid performances from all four of them but sadly it just didn’t sit well with me.