‘Desi Standard Time Travel’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The one thing about growing up is that we don’t realize that our parents are getting older. We tend to shrug it off and not see that they are changing, just as we are. We see our parents as these immortal figures who will always be there for us. We can sometimes get carried away in arguments and even question why they treat us the way they do. But they still see their children as the baby they have to mould and educate to become well-rounded people. The unconditional love from parents knows no bounds and will always be present in their children’s lives. Desi Standard Time Travel is a little reminder not to take your parents for granted, and it is a touching story. Director Kashif Pasta tenderly directs this heartfelt story that he also co-wrote with Nessa Aref.

When Imran (Adolyn H. Dar) becomes a new father, he suddenly loses his dad. He is allowed to travel back in time for an evening. And it helps him end things on a better note. The last time Imran spoke to his father, it became a typical father/son argument about not trusting his judgment as an adult. Since Imran was born in Canada, he has never understood the hardships that his father had to go through. He left his family and his entire life at home to give his son a better life in a country filled with opportunity. Once Imran meets his father back in the ‘90s (before he was born), he soon realizes he is just as clueless. When we’re young, we believe that our parents know absolutely everything, and that’s why they guide us. But once we reach their age, we finally understand that they had no clue how to navigate life and our parents were making their own mistakes. 

There are some great choices made through the cinematography to show the distinction of the period. And how Imran remembers his parents. There is this warm, golden, dreamlike atmosphere when he returns to his childhood home. It’s emotional and touching at that moment because Imran realizes that he is more like his father than he realizes. Aref and Pasta wanted to highlight that one argument or disagreement doesn’t define our relationship with anyone. In this case, the concept of time travel as a voucher when someone passes instead of a will is a beautiful sentiment. It also poses the question, at which moment would you return to share one last special moment with your loved one? The cycle of living continues long after our loved ones pass. Fortunately, they’ve left us with so much knowledge, unconditional love, and the confidence to keep pushing forward in building our own lives. 

Desi Standard Time Travel will make you want to hug your parents right after you watch it. It’s a touching story with a beautiful lesson in not taking any of your relationships for granted. Our parents are the first people whom we build relationships with. And they should be the most important people in our lives. It’s heartfelt and emotional and shows that life can change instantly. We don’t realize how much time we have with people until they’re gone. Our parents have taught us many life lessons. And as the world evolves, we help them in return. Aref and Pasta tell this story so beautifully that it will resonate with many, as it has a universal emotional connection to family dynamics and grief.  It has screened at film festivals in Canada, winning multiple Best Short and Audience awards including Best Short at Toronto Reel Asian. It is currently in the running for a Canadian Screen Award nomination.

‘If These Walls Could Sing’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There’s a connection to music that people feel more than others. Only other musicians can understand the feeling. Or in Mary McCartney’s case, she grew up surrounded by music, lyrics, and a community of artists. If These Walls Could Sing is the untold story of Abbey Road studio and explores its rich history. McCartney interviewed many incredible musicians who had the opportunity to make music in studio one. First, she interviewed her father, Sir Paul McCartney, who walked her through the early stages of “The Beatles” and the progression of the 60s. After the war, music and culture in the UK completely changed. The musical journey for these artists changed with the sociopolitical landscape resulting in their music changing. 

The timeline of events on screen is detailed by what Sir Paul McCartney experienced while “The Beatles” became a phenomenon. Even if the outside world got a bit crazy, they found sanctuary at Abbey Road. Mary McCartney made some excellent choices in using the voices of the artists while showing the empty studios. You don’t realize how many artists walked into Abbey Road with a little tune and walked out with some of the best records ever made. It became a haven for artists because they could freely express their lyrics and tunes without pressure. After watching this documentary, there’s a level of respect for these artists and the community built inside Abbey Road. You could tell that these artists felt at home, which helps with the project’s creativity. 

Mary McCartney stylistically captured the essence of the 60s, and it worked. It didn’t even feel like watching a documentary at times. It felt like a story-time setting, and the audience was gathered in a circle at Abbey Road, just listening. McCarthy made sure to have this sense of comfort from the beginning to have the communal atmosphere of Abbey Road come through the screen. In doing so, artists like Sir Paul McCartney, Sir Elton John and John Williams shared their experiences at Abbey Road, and goosebumps were felt. Understanding their process in making some of the greatest pieces ever adds more of a connection to the place they created them in. This documentary had such a homey feel that it made you want to stay in the studio with them.

If These Walls Could Sing is a warm and heartfelt documentary. Mary McCarthy saw things through a different lens than her father, and that’s why this angle worked so well. She knew that Abbey Road felt like home to many others and presented that through her direction. The walls at Abbey Road are filled with memories, and each artist has a special connection with the studio. The title works well because many lost songs are embedded in those walls. Songs that were left unfinished or songs that were changed into something else. Music is another form of storytelling, so combining her love of documentary filmmaking and her childhood experiences with her father was something special to see. 

‘Koala Man’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In the age of superheroes, everyone seems to want to be recognized for doing some good. Even if it’s a backwards way of being helpful. We have become so used to the formulas being recycled. So when something fresh like Koala Man is released, there’s an appreciation for the change, which makes it unique to the character. The series follows a family father with a not-so-secret identity as the ritual hero with a burning passion for petty crime. The creator Michael Cusack also stars in the show alongside Sarah Snook, Demi Lardner and Hugh Jackman. Apart from this being a family superhero show, it also takes place in Australia, so the humour is entirely different. The episodes are compact and have an obstacle each family member must face. Each episode adds another layer to the family and Koala Man creating a nice balance between the two.

The family unit is quite similar to other adult-animated shows, but they have unique personalities that make them stand out. The actors who voice the characters all add a little piece of themselves. Michael Cusack brings out his full Aussie as the father figure and everyone’s least-favourite hero in his local city. His wife Vicky (Sarah Snook), has an alter-ego as she plays the line between motherhood and her individuality as a woman. His daughter Alison, voiced by Demi Lardner, adds some spunk and a young girl trying to find her way in high school. And lastly, his son Liam, also voiced by Michael Cusack is a bit lost and needs a bit of a push to find himself. They’re all different from each other, but the little anecdotes they share and the obstacles they go through bring them closer together in the finale of this season.

No adult-animated series is complete without a strong voice cast to make you feel close to the characters. That’s why having an actor like Hugh Jackman as Big Greg was a lovely surprise. The animation style for Koala Man is a bit softer than Rick and Morty. It is nice to see them expand their skills into another show. Australian humour is a bit different because of the slang, but once you stick with these characters long enough, you’ll find them hilarious. You get a slice of daily Australian life while being served a brand new hero who will grow on you. Each episode has something wild and unexplainable that happens. But of course, there is a life lesson that comes with it. The series explores individuality and family quite well. These characters all have room to grow, and there’s a natural progression to their changes. 

Koala Man is a very refreshing adult-animated series for Hulu that will put a smile on your face. The episodes are short but deliver action and humour. Each character does something wrong in each episode, but they learn and grow from it. The Aussie humour and love for the community are shown effectively, which makes viewers feel included. All it takes is one episode to hook the audience because it’s a show that knows exactly what it is. It’s engaging, witty, vulgar, and incredibly fun to watch. It takes superhero programming to another level with what Koala Man goes through as a man in his local community. Michael Cusack has created a balanced series about parenthood and being the best version of yourself that you can be. The series premieres on Hulu, on January 9th!

‘M3GAN’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

A new year means new movies, but January doesn’t always have the best track record. When horror movies are released this early in the year, they seem to have it rough. They’re not always great, but they’re still watchable. M3GAN, directed by Gerard Johnstone, is all the campy fun you would want from a slasher film, but it lacks in the kills. Megan is a “toy” that was created to pair with young children and be their long-term best friend. Constructing something so personal and intimate ultimately comes with a price. The “toy” is responsive to the child’s emotions, can get overprotective, and eventually have a mind of its own. Megan becomes a force to be reckoned with in this film because she learns from everyone around her. 

The first half of this film handled grief and trauma quite well. Young Cady (Violet McGraw) loses her parents in a car accident, and she has to learn to live without them. Her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams) becomes her guardian, and she doesn’t know how to change her lifestyle to fit Cady’s. It was hard for Gemma to pull away from her work because she was focused on building a robot that would be the ultimate toy (and best friend) for young girls. While processing Cady’s trauma, Gemma dives head first into constructing this AI robot for her niece to help her grieving process. She didn’t want her to be consumed by losing her parents, and M3GAN would help her move forward. Gemma didn’t expect the deep, emotional connection Cady would have with M3GAN. 

As the film goes on, M3GAN adapts to her surroundings, and she becomes closer to Cady. She understands what she wants and how to help her through anything. The more intimate they become, the more overprotective M3GAN gets. Anything said against Cady would irritate her, and this is where she starts to change. Johnstone’s direction for M3GAN all came down to the subtlety of her glances and how she would pick up on conversations. That is what made the character intriguing. The way Johnstone would lead up to the kills worked well, but it didn’t feel as creepy as it should have. It could be because the humour and anticipation were more interesting than the kill. The combination of young Amie Donald physically playing M3GAN while Jenna Davis voiced the character was impressive. They did make a unique character with a strong story, which should be the main takeaway here. 

M3GAN had a strong start because of how Gemma and M3GAN were helping Cady with her grief. Having the villain gain sympathy from the audience first was a smart move. Almost everyone is afraid of technology and what it’s capable of. That plays in the back of the viewer’s mind while watching this. Even if M3GAN is sweet to Cady and protective, something has to go wrong because she doesn’t have the full spectrum of human emotion. The film works better when it taps into the psychology of AI and how it works for/against humans through Cady. The main issue is that the “good parts” were already shown in the trailer. It does take away from watching those scenes in the context of the film, making it less surprising. There were some fun moments, and it was enjoyable for the most part, but it felt a bit bland toward the end.