‘River’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When someone experiences a great loss, it can deeply affect them. It can change their mental state and alter their emotional capacity to actually feel things. There are stages of grief that everyone experiences differently, and if the people around you are not able to handle these outbursts of emotions, then it is even more difficult to move forward. River is a psychological sci-fi thriller, that follows River Allen (Mary Cameron Rogers), a 20-something woman who has spiralled out of control after her mother’s death. She ends up disappearing for over a week, with no recollection of how she returned home. She is disoriented, lethargic, volatile, and nightmarish images haunt her mind.

The film starts off with some beautiful camerawork that establishes the vastness of the forest near River. The story is centered on River’s grief, and how she slowly begins to lose herself with each passing moment, that her mother isn’t with her. Her mother made her feel safe, and she was comforted by the fact, that someone actually accepted her for who she was. There are some great mother-daughter moments during flashbacks, that show the bond that they shared. The story unfolds slowly, and you get pieces of information as the film goes on. We see River go through the different stages and there is an emotional connection to her character.

It is more of an emotional journey for River. Once she begins having these nightmares, and the supernatural element kicks in, the film starts to lose its footing. They needed to make the supernatural aspect from the forest a bit stronger, in order for her descent into grieving, and her loss of identity to make an impact as a whole. It just needed to be introduced and explained a bit more earlier on in the film, so that the viewer could easily make the connections. The concept of panic attacks, or anxiety being tied to lights flickering, or furniture moving, would have worked extremely well if the execution was bit cleaner.

River had some close friends that helped her through her grieving but something felt off. Her friend Amanda (Alexandra Rose) was somehow linked to this supernatural journey that River had to go on. Or rather, forced upon her. The concept was there, it just could have been stronger to show the sci-fi side in this film. The link between grief and expressing your emotions through natural elements around you, should have made for a more interesting film. There were strong moments, and the cast had great chemistry, but it wasn’t enough to properly hit those emotional chords, that this subject matter should have done.

‘Without Remorse’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is about a Navy Seal, named John Clark (Michael B. Jordan), who goes on a path to avenge his wife’s murder only to find himself inside of a larger conspiracy. You have Michael B. Jordan leading an interesting cast that doesn’t really work for some strange reason. The film has an interesting story but the execution was lacklustre. It was difficult to follow at times and the pacing of the film is not engaging enough for the viewer to sit through the runtime. There are strong action scenes but they do not make up the way the story plays out.

It is always difficult to adapt novels to screen and unfortunately Without Remorse suffered from trying to incorporate too much. The writing for John Clark just wasn’t strong enough and it pains me to say this because Michael B. Jordan is one of my favourite actors working today. For some strange reason it just didn’t work for me. His military life and domestic life were rushed in the beginning, only for the aftermath of his wife’s death to last longer than it should have. It’s Tom Clancy, it really shouldn’t have been this hard to take this action-packed story and translate it to screen.

It just does not hold the viewer’s attention long enough to make them care about the actual story or the characters. It felt like even the characters were waiting for the action scenes to happen, in order for anything to move forward. The story just didn’t flow and the writing for the characters seemed really bland. The real downfall of the film was that majority of the action scenes – which we all patiently waited for – were all in complete darkness, it was impossible to see what was happening or even who was fighting who.

Without Remorse had potential to be a great action piece for Michael B. Jordan but unfortunately it fell flat. It was hard to sit through because the writing just wasn’t engaging enough. The story was overstuffed, as they tried incorporate as much as they could from the novel. It really suffered the adaptation issues that many films face. I could see the story they were trying to tell but there wasn’t enough explanation or connection to any of these characters for any viewer to care. It is definitely not enough that Jordan was leading this film.

I Care A Lot Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

As we all know, films can be a representation of society. Which means, that there can be genuinely good people as protagonists, or morally flawed, complex and bad people as protagonists. Some films want to showcase these disturbed protagonists with ideologies that counter the government or any system put in place. I Care a Lot introduced us to Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), a court assigned legal guardian, to the elderly, in their time of need. What Grayson does, is take hold of her clients assets and drains them of their savings. Could there be people out there who do this? Well, we sure as hell found out in this film.

This film shows the perseverance and ambition in achieving the American Dream. Grayson had been poor her whole life and in her eyes, the only way to gain more of a financial status is by cheating the system. Rosamund Pike was perfectly cast as Grayson, no one else could have played this role. Pike has mastered the role of a morally conflicted woman, with a flawed perception of society, who eventually executes the ideas in her head, in a very disturbing way. Sure, Pike only has Amy Dunne as a character that can be referred to, but Marla Grayson is in that tier performance wise. If Pike is so good delivering these roles to us, then why don’t we have her in more films that center on a layered protagonist such as this one?

The film had such a great cast. Pike, obviously steals the spotlight but Eiza Gonzalez, Peter Dinklage, Chris Messina and Dianne Wiest all went toe-to-toe with her. Pike was great on her own, with her vape pen, and famous smirk that showed, she was thinking about the next five steps. Even though Gonzalez had a small role, her chemistry with Pike was a stand out. When Pike shared scenes with Wiest, Dinklage and Messina, they all presented different levels of power and she matched all of them. It is an exciting watch because the cast elevated the script in every way. The plot twists were placed in the right spots and it didn’t lose its footing, until the third act.

I Care a Lot has a really twisted perception of the meaning of a court appointed legal guardian. Even though Marla Grayson does some very questionable things, we can still understand where she is coming from. Again, it is not sympathizing with the flawed protagonist, it is more so enjoying the performances of these bad people and hoping they get paid their due. It is a humorous thriller, with many exciting scenes, strong pieces of dialogue and multiple endings that will leave you stunned. The film is purely a showcase for how talented this cast is and a reminder that Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with.

Sound of Metal Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sound of Metal is another film that pleasantly surprised me this year. It is such an inspiring film and it explores the lifestyle of the deaf community. It brings such authenticity and uniqueness in telling a story about someone losing their hearing. The reason why this film is being received so well is because of the choices that were made through the sound design of the entire piece.

The film is centered around a heavy metal band, called ‘Blackgammon’, which is just a drummer named Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) on lead vocals. The film opens with the two of them performing at a venue and the music was blaring. The camera is focused on Ruben, as he listens to the cues and drums his heart out. As the camera cuts to a close up, the sound changes, the music changes and we see something change within Ruben.

Riz Ahmed gave a fantastic performance because of how intune he was with his character and the importance of delivering this important story. The performance was more reactionary because his mind was going through a change. Everything surrounding him felt different, the sounds were different and his perception changed. This film heavily relies on cues and the incredible sound design. For the general audience to truly understand the deaf community, the execution of the story was crucial and Darius Marder did a great job in creating a strong atmosphere to explore this character.

Courtesy of Caviar Ward Four
(left) Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke

Having a musician, especially a drummer, gradually lose his hearing as we watch him play his set, was heartbreaking. Ahmed had so many layers to his performance because of Ruben’s troubled past as an addict and holding the persona of a rockstar. Olivia Cooke also gave a great performance as Lou because of how understanding and emotional she was in order to help Ruben. Cooke and Ahmed had great chemistry and they shared key emotional moments in the film that really made their love for each other so believable.

Sound of Metal is one of the most important films to come out this year. Marder told an original and very unique story, that gave the deaf community proper representation. Due to its brilliant sound design, the film allows audiences to be fully immersed in the story because they are experiencing the realization of loss through Ruben. It has wonderful performances, an educational, heartfelt story and great direction from Marder.

‘The Great’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Great is a series, that is based on the play created by Tony McNamara, which focuses on the history of Russian Emperor Peter III and the fearless Catherine the Great. It is a satirical, comedic drama that follows Catherine’s (Elle Fanning) journey as an outsider, as she navigates her way to solidifying her position as a ruler. It is a fictionalized series, that details Catherine’s early twenties and her plot to kill her deranged and sadistic husband. The Great on Hulu is completely unhinged, daring and humorous because of how exaggerated their behaviour is.

It is a series that is so bold with its storytelling because of how honest and vulgar the dialogue is, especially when Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) is speaking. It is a strong piece on the Catherinian  Era that really has not been done before. It is incredibly entertaining, charming and does not shy away from the possibility, that people in that era, would have been just as heinous in their personal lives. It is eye opening because it is believable that the murder, torture and poor treatment of women in the Russian Kingdom, under Emperor Peter III’s rule, would have been that brutal.

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Courtesy of Hulu (left) Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning 

The character development for Peter and Catherine, shift immensely from the beginning of the series and it is almost as if they began to pull traits from each other. At the start, Catherine is this love struck, naive, young woman, who is pulled into the authoritative, violent hands of Emperor Peter III. She was taught that love conquers all and that her kind heart will serve her well in this life. She had this romanticized perception of the palace life, until Peter broke her innocence. Catherine’s loss of innocence was probably the most moving aspect about this series because she had to quickly adapt to the situations unfolding around her.

Peter, on the other hand, did not care about anyone else but himself and his narcissism got the best of him. He has a gigantic ego and pleases himself in anyway he can. He does not care for his Kingdom, or his subjects and did absolutely nothing to help his people. He would drink, eat, torture and have affairs with whomever he wanted. Catherine took notice of his unbearable behaviour and any romantic feeling, that could have developed between the two of them, seemed impossible. The sex scenes between Catherine and Peter, were cold, rigid and neither of them felt anything, they went through the motions because it had to be done, in order to conceive an heir.

The first half of the series shows Catherine’s crushing realization, that Peter was not a normal human being. In fact, he is one of the most peculiar characters I have seen on a series in a while. He is so complex, in an obscure way and just when you think he falls into some kind of normalcy, he surprises you. Catherine builds up her power and forges a plan to take down Peter, through her network of people that have sided with her and against the Emperor. Catherine slowly develops the same raw, animalistic and daring traits as Peter, but utilizes them against him. She was cunning and knew that in order to take Peter down, she had to feed his ego and in doing so, she became more powerful than he could ever be.

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Courtesy of Hulu (center) Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great

The humour was also quite refreshing and honest and I think that’s why I fell in love with this series. It is definitely unconventional and Nicholas Hoult gave one of my favourite performances of the year as Emperor Peter III, his line delivery and presence on screen really carried the series and made it so entertaining. The script was filled with dirty one liners and ballsy dialogue, that you normally would not hear in a comedy today. Hoult and Elle Fanning had such powerful chemistry, that with every scene they shared their feelings became more palpable and the closer that their characters got to each other, created more playfulness that resulted in a great finale.

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Courtesy of Hulu (left) Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult 

Elle Fanning was a dream as Catherine the Great, she embodied her perfectly and had a fantastic performance alongside Hoult. It was just such a beautiful portrayal because of her journey and her development as a ruler and a woman. She was fearless, ferocious and stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. She perfectly manipulated him with her intelligence, wit and faux naivete that proved she would be the better ruler. The finale was well written and executed so well, that the final shot of Catherine, obviously left me wanting more and thankfully there will be a Season 2.

The Great on Hulu is one of the best series that has come out this year; it is fun, sexy, hilarious and unique, which will leave you wanting more after each episode. The energy from Hoult and Fanning is infectious and their chemistry carries the entire show. The endless cycle of manipulation creates a very entertaining atmosphere for the ensemble and everyone wants to take a jab at Emperor Peter III. It is incredibly binge-worthy, that you will be able to hopefully finish it in one sitting. If you loved this Era of history, then this show is definitely for you!