‘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.

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!

The Devil All the Time Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Devil All the Time is a film that is adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Donald Ray Pollock. It has a wonderful cast of actors and it highlights their strengths, in this slow burn psychological thriller. The religious, Christian ideals are tested and what is considered “right”, is in the eye of the beholder.

There are moments in this film that are assembled and revealed so well, that the way everything unfolds, will make you question everyone’s morals. Director Antonio Campos, made some great choices and there are moments that will completely catch you off guard because of how graphic certain scenes are. Some characters have a more timid presence, so the more gruesome scenes were shocking.

On paper this cast is incredible but the way they are all placed and spread out in the film, left me underwhelmed. The first half of this film, we are introduced to Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) and Carl Henderson (Jason Clarke) in a restaurant. They are both very reserved but have something waiting to snap, in the veil behind their eyes. The men in this town, all had the same look, their eyes crazed, while having a timid demeanour.

Even though the central story is about the demons of lineage and family trauma, for Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), the women in this film were severely underused. How can you cast Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Riley Keough and Eliza Scanlen but underuse them? The women in this story, were used to further the plot of the men in the town and it was frustrating, given how much talent they have.

Photo: Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix
(Left) Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as Young Arvin Russell

It is a very slow film about Christians in the ’50s and how everyone’s morals can be tested, by what the correct way to live is. Everyone moves in secret, everyone has their demons, that is why the title of this film makes complete sense, the devil will tempt you at every turn, it is up to you and your compass, to decipher what is right or wrong, in the face of God.

The saviours of the second half of this film are Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen and the King of accents himself… Robert Pattinson. After 40 minutes, the film picks up and we are taken into the lives of Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) and Lenora Lafferty (Eliza Scanlen) as a new Reverend comes into town, named Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) and changes everyone’s lives.

The Devil All the Time seems like a very long journey, with all these characters, who all have something to hide, but turn to God, to guide them in what they consider, the “right” direction. Morals are tested, lives are at stake and the executioner, can be sitting right beside them in church. It has great performances and an ending, that will mirror your feelings by the end.

Make sure to check out The Devil All the Time on Netflix September 16th!

Greyhound Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Greyhound is based on the 1955 novel ‘The Good Shepherd’, it was adapted by Tom Hanks, who also stars in the lead role, as Commander Ernest Krause. The film follows a US Navy Commander on his first war-time assignment, he was in command of a multi-national escort group defending a merchant ship convoy under attack by submarines in early-1942 during the ‘Battle of the Atlantic’. It is yet another generic war film, that is filled with a bombastic sound design and score, that went above and beyond, to elevate the story in some way.

There are some redeeming qualities in this film because of the uniqueness with the camerawork from director Aaron Schneider. At times the direction almost didn’t match the dullness of the story and the weak performances from everyone. The technical aspects like the sound design, score, sound mixing, cinematography and practical effects were all solid and made the film look quite pleasing. For a film that takes place at sea, the visuals were important and the horror of being at sea, during a war was definitely effective. The editing was fairly mediocre and the constant fades to black, with the time stamps, made it feel disjointed and almost episodic. Apart from the final battle at sea, there was no length of time where I felt anything for these characters.

It was a very lacklustre war film and it is because the writing just wasn’t there. It is almost hard to believe that Tom Hanks wrote the screenplay because of how one note the story was. I admit that he tried to construct a different structure for it and it did look promising but something just wasn’t connecting. It feels like the entire budget went directly to the practical effects because it looked like a very expensive film. It felt larger than it should have and that may have been the issue, I can’t even put my finger on it.

Greyhound is a war film that attempts to show the darkness of the waters during World War 2, in a unique way but the story is not strong enough to make the journey interesting to the viewer. The technical aspects of this film overpower everything else but the somber atmosphere at sea made it quite boring and the characters were emotionless throughout the film. It had so much potential to be a great film but the content just wasn’t there.

Little Fires Everywhere Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Little Fires Everywhere is a Hulu Original series, that is adapted from Celeste Ng’s novel. The series explores the residence living in Shaker Heights, specifically the picture-perfect Richardson family but when a mother and daughter, move into their rental home nearby, things take a dramatic turn. It has a very strong narrative structure, it is well written and shows the complexities of each character extremely well. The show tackles racial discrimination, microaggressions, the meaning of motherhood and a woman’s right to choose.

We first meet Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) who is standing on the sidewalk, staring at her mansion, burning to the ground. We can understand that something has gone horribly wrong and someone else has set her home ablaze. The opening title sequence is stunning as well, showing plenty of important objects and pieces that symbolize how materialistic the residence in Shaker Heights can be. The opening sequence, to any show, is the tipping point because it gives so much away and no one even realizes it, that’s why it is one of my favourite aspects in a series.

Elena had a perfect home, a perfect family, a picture-perfect life but she was unhappy with herself. She has always been confused about what she wanted. Did she want to have a career or did she want to have four children? Naturally people would say, that she could have both and live that picture-perfect life but it is unrealistic. No one’s life is perfect because people are not perfect. Elena wanted to have a family and have a career, but the more children she had, the more she resented the fact, that her journalism career was dwindling. This was such a perfect role for Reese Witherspoon because she plays the privileged, broken woman so well.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine 

The idea of perfection is what causes the most harm in anyone’s life. The pressure to be perfect and to always make the right choices is exhausting. Everyone doubts themselves and if they made the right choices in their lives. At the end of the day, we never really know until ten years later, when you realize how much time has passed and you reflect on your life. This is the case with Mia (Kerry Washington) and Pearl Warren (Lexi Underwood) who have been relocating, their entire lives because Mia is an artist, with a very dark past.

Mia first meets Elena when she takes a look at her rental home, which is down the street from the Richardson house. When Elena speaks to Mia, she is very passive and delivers lines with a discriminatory undertone. Elena reeks of white privilege and Mia is very transparent, when having discussions with her. The racial issues, are not only discussed throughout the series, but they are planted in the very passive dialogue, from white characters and it shows the microaggressions quite effectively. It is all about the way things were said to Mia and to Pearl, it is almost hard to stomach at times because of how oblivious Elena is to her own vocabulary.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine (left Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon) 

Elena makes the attempt to welcome Mia and Pearl into her home, they became friends and had discussions about motherhood. The flashbacks to their former selves, played by Tiffany Boone and AnnaSophia Robb, were placed properly as well, so the audience can come to their own conclusion of how “motherly” these characters were. What does it take to be a mother? Are all women fit to be mothers? How does one even define motherhood? Is it really a choice to even be a mother or is it more of an obligation to the gender role? These constructs have women in a box, in a cage, if you will and once they get locked into a role or a life, they did not plan on having, it leads to difficult decisions.

What was most interesting about this show, was the character dynamics, between Mia and Izzy Richardson (Megan Stott) versus Pearl and Elena. Pearl wanted to live a normal life, she wanted to attend school and go to homecoming dances, maybe even experience her first love and stay for a while. Izzy hated her small town life, she did not want to feel boxed in and her art was her freedom. Both Izzy and Pearl, essentially, wanted to switch lives and switch mothers. Izzy and Pearl, saw who they wanted to be when they were older. Izzy saw herself, as a free, artistic spirit like Mia and Pearl saw herself, in a huge home, with a picture-perfect husband and a family like Elena.

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Courtesy of Simpson Street & Hello Sunshine (top) Kerry Washington and Lexi Underwood (bottom) Reese Witherspoon and Megan Stott

The final three episodes of the series, is when all the demons and secrets, creep out and wreak havoc on everyone close to the Richardson family. Their perfect family is torn apart by lies and poor decisions made by Trip Richardson (Jordan Elsass), Lexie Richardson (Jade Pettyjohn) and Elena. The central story, eventually shifts, to a legal battle between Elena’s friend, Linda McCullough (Rosemarie DeWitt) and Mia’s coworker, Bebe Chow (Lu Huang), who fight for custody of young Mirabella/May Ling. It leaves everyone questioning, who is the right fit, to mother this child. Is it the birth mother or the adopted mother? As that heartbreaking storyline unfolds, we find out who Elena and Mia really are through flashbacks.

Little Fires Everywhere is one of the best series I have seen this year and it will keep you in it, until the very end. This cast is extremely strong, Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon are incredible in this! The show is very important because it is very subtle in its delivery, that you won’t even realize how many issues are boiling under the surface. It slowly creates this atmosphere of doom like a slow, burning fire, that will ignite at any second. The final episode shows the privilege literally burning to the ground and I think it is a wonderful metaphor.