‘Halloween Kills’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The slasher subgenre of horror can be fun and horrific at the same time. That is the beauty in finding the balance of suspenseful kills, brutal violence, and sarcastic comments from characters within the world. The importance of building suspense and creating an atmosphere for the viewer is what makes slasher films fun to watch. When it’s a new, original piece, the story can be straightforward and have decent kills. But after four decades, the story is important, the lore becomes integral to push a well-known villain into the next instalment. That is where Halloween Kills suffers the most.

David Gordon Green picks up right where we left off in 2018. Halloween Kills is a direct continuation of that Halloween night, which is hard to believe because of the time frame within the first film. Exactly how long can this night be? As we get back into the groove of that night, Green abruptly cuts back to that same night in 1978. The way the flashbacks were integrated did not work for this film at all because it is just repeated information. We already know everything about Michael Myers, so why do we need to rehash it? What is the point of course correcting a franchise that has had three remakes and a one-off film?

Halloween Kills 2021 Michael Myers Figure | Figures.com
Courtesy of Universal

This was one of the weakest openings in the ‘Halloween’ franchise. From the opening title sequence something already felt off. After the fantastic generational family story for the Strode’s that was presented in Halloween (2018), this sequel seemed to switch gears into a different tone entirely. They strayed so far from the family connectivity and turned it into a social commentary about mob mentality. Which wasn’t executed in the way it should have been, in order for this middle instalment to hold any weight in the Myers-Strode extravaganza.

On this particular Halloween night, Michael Myers escapes the flames of the Strode dungeon, thanks to heroic firefighters, who had no idea that they were walking into the Strode house. Myers is now unhinged and ready to kill anyone standing in his way. Cut to, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), who is injured and taken to the hospital, where she sleeps for the first half of the movie because of her surgery. In the meantime, we have the children of the 1978 babysitters club, drinking at a dive bar. Good old Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall) tells everyone about his encounter with the Boogeyman. As if, after eleven films, no one knows what Michael Myers is capable of.

Everything We Know About Halloween Kills << Rotten Tomatoes – Movie and TV  News
Courtesy of Universal

The townspeople find out that Michael is on the loose and they take matters into their own hands. Two of the Strode women, Karen (Judy Greer) and Allyson (Andi Matichak) joined other survivors to form a vigilante mob to hunt down Michael. The focus shifted from the Strode women to this giant mob, who apparently, had no idea what Michael looked like. What was also incredibly frustrating, apart from the poor execution of the victims attempting to kill him, no one listened to Laurie. How do you keep referencing her, as the one person who knows Michael best, and just disregard everything that she says?

Halloween Kills is one of the most disappointing movies of the year. It does show a completely different side of Halloween night. Unfortunately, the secondary characters were brought in, just to be killed off, and it felt like lazy writing with a messy execution. This movie was incredibly frustrating to sit through because the kills were awesome, but the story was painfully boring and lacking any form of suspense. When the audience is laughing and rooting for the killer, instead of being at the edge of their seat, something definitely went wrong.

VIFF ’21: ‘Things We Feel But Do Not Say’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many moments in your life where you make the conscious decision not to say anything at all. At the time, it feels like it’s the right thing to do, to keep quiet and let it go. Many situations can affect people differently, even if they are minor. Majority of us overthink every little thing and replay conversations or moments in our heads. We always question if we should have said something in that moment, but we also think, would it have changed anything at all in that situation?

We meet Genevieve (Gita Miller), who is young and healthy, at her local swim club. Right after her class, she makes a discovery that renders her literally speechless. She texts “It’s happening” to her husband (Aaron Ashmore), virtually the only words she will speak throughout Lauren Grant’s short film Things We Feel But Do Not Say. Grant captures Genevieve’s pain through the numbness on Miller’s face. Her performance carried so much weight through this short because of the emotions creeping through in quiet, isolated moments.

When her husband and doctors speak consoling words, it’s like background noise. It shows more of the individual suffering of Genevieve. It felt as if the husband was very distant and emotionless. It also felt like the blame of the miscarriage was one-sided because of how strained the relationship felt. Miller really showed the entire spectrum of grief in a short period of time. There are powerful, intimate moments that Grant frames extremely well, in order to feel for Genevieve’s situation.

Things We Feel But Do Not Say is an emotional, in-depth look at a woman who has experienced so much pain while trying to conceive. What Grant shows is the mental strength it takes for someone to hide the pain, even from the ones closest to you. Genevieve was going through the motions in her everyday life, but she wasn’t present in the moment. She was hiding a part of herself to protect herself from the outside world. It’s a poignant short film and a great debut from Lauren Grant.

The short film is currently making its world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

‘No Time To Die’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

After a very long wait for Daniel Craig’s final Bond outing, it is finally here. As someone who is a casual Bond fan, No Time To Die felt like a culmination of all his storylines from previous films. That means they rehashed storylines to make this finale feel big. At the end of this movie, the question that I asked myself was this: Why did we need a send off to this particular actor in this role, when there have been many Bond’s before him with no concrete ending to their story?

No Time To Die' Release Date Pushed to October 8, 2021 | IndieWire

After a decade of having Daniel Craig as James Bond, there’s definitely an appreciation for how he reinvented the character. He was more rugged and rough around the edges than the others. He got his hands dirty, while still remaining suave and charming. Craig was a great Bond, but the character has really been exhausted. The only way Bond can appeal to general audiences is if there is an engaging story accompanied by the Bond tropes, and that is what was lacking in No Time To Die. The script was the main issue because of how convoluted it was. There were too many players in this game and it wasn’t as fleshed out as it should have been.

We have James Bond (Daniel Craig) enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica after leaving active service. However, his peace is short-lived as his old CIA friend, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), shows up and asks for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond on the trail of a mysterious villain who’s armed with a dangerous new technology. This synopsis seems simple and straightforward, right? Well, the addition of many side characters and a new 007 (Lashana Lynch), brings this story into messy territory.

No Time to Die' Box Office Posts Record Preview Night For Bond Film With  $6.3M – Deadline

For many people, it might seem like the writers were focused on making women the central focus to a Bond film. Bond retired and they needed a new 007, isn’t that how jobs work? They made this final instalment feel like one last ride for Craig, and his Bond acted like an old veteran coming back to the game. His chemistry with Lashana Lynch was great and they fed off of each other quite well. It would have been better to get a team up of just them for two hours. The one thing that disappointed me the most was the writing for Ana de Armas’ character. She was in it for five minutes, in a revealing dress, looking all doe-eyed and naive. Yes, she had a great action scene, but was it worth it to waste her in such a minor role in a very long movie?

The other reason the script did not sit right with me was the humour. We know that Phoebe Waller-Bridge worked on this script and her sense of humour definitely came through. But, it did not work for a Bond film. Bond has never had dumb, awkward jokes or weirdly placed punchlines. Bond has always been dry, sarcastic, and he has a quick wit. That is what was missing in this movie. After five decades, you can’t change the character now to be a fun, upbeat, action film. It’s not him. They attempted to tie everything together in a nice little bow, while still revamping the franchise, in the biggest way possible.

No Time To Die's Release Date Delayed Yet Again - Small Screen

No Time To Die suffered because of the pacing of this film. It moved extremely slow and was overstuffed with side characters that carried no substance. At times this film just felt hollow because they do not know what to do with the character anymore. The ending was also quite underwhelming because it just did not make sense for a Bond film. The action scenes were mediocre and it took awhile to get to them. There needs to be a perfect balance of dialogue and action. The takeaway is that Craig is one of the best Bonds in the franchise, even though his run of films weren’t the greatest.

‘Muppets Haunted Mansion’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Muppets Haunted Mansion is a comedy, Halloween special based on the Disney properties The Muppets and The Haunted Mansion. Perfect combination, right? In this haunting outing for the muppets, we see Gonzo take on one of his biggest challenges yet. He must spend one night at The Haunted Mansion with Pepe the King Prawn. Having the familiarity of both films and characters really made for a fun watch. There are plenty of fun surprises throughout. This was also one of Ed Asner’s final works before his death, and it was dedicated to his memory.

The Haunted Mansion still holds up as one of the best Disney live-actions to date. So to dive back into that mansion with different characters, opened up a whole different way to explore. Like any muppets project, there is plenty of singing and some great performances. We meet Darren Criss as the caretaker of the graveyard in front of the mansion. He takes care of the spirits living in the shadows and makes sure no one disturbs them. Criss kicks off the journey into the mansion with a song and then sets the tone for the rest of the special.

As Gonzo and Pepe explore the mansion, they find some peculiar characters and attempt to survive the night. There are some evil spirits in the house that try to sway Pepe and Gonzo from their task. Gonzo’s main goal is to be as great as Magic Maguffin, his one true hero. Throughout the special, Gonzo gets discouraged because he wants to be great and be known as the ultimate daredevil. Gonzo learns that what makes him great is helping his friends out of sticky situations and being fearless in his own right.

Muppets Haunted Mansion is a wonderful spooky special for the whole family. It presents a great combination of old and new, in order to bring these two projects together. It has a great story for Gonzo and of course, a life lesson about loving who you are. The songs are fun and the cast is committed to making this a memorable special for the family. The muppets can always be modernized and placed in different situations, but the nostalgia will always hit in the right way.

Make sure to stream Muppets Haunted Mansion on Disney Plus for this spooky season!

‘The Last Duel’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

As we all know, there is a side to every story. But, not all sides hold the truth. Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel presents a medieval true story about a woman who will not be silenced by the men in power. She will not be silenced by the misogynistic view of the world within the council, court, or even the kingdom. The story written by Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon presents three characters all living their own truth. Noble Knight, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) is fighting for honour in his family’s name, Squire Jacques LeGris (Adam Driver) is defending his honour against serious accusations, and Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer) is fighting for her own honour and self-worth.

When going into this film, you think about the generic medieval tales that came before it. What could possibly make this different? Well, Ridley Scott managed to structure this narrative, in a way that would change the viewer’s perception of these characters more than once. There are three chapters that explore different versions of the truth. The writing for The Last Duel combined with the subtle, emotional, and sometimes paralyzing execution of this story made for a tension-filled watch. Scott’s direction for each section highlighted the characters and their actual persona.

The script was elevated by its perfect cast. The performances from Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and the flawless Jodie Comer, brought this all together. There needs to be an appreciation for what Scott did here. The narrative structure will make you think about how people perceive you versus how you perceive yourself. How men perceive women acting civil or nice, and taking that as an invitation to do whatever they please. How women automatically know how to diffuse situations, by acting a certain way, to counter the energy that is radiating off of the men surrounding them. Being able to have three sides of the story, fully fleshed out, is what made this film so good.

The Last Duel is a refreshing take on the genre. Ridley Scott knows how to create perfect fight scenes that will have you wincing in pain. One thing is for sure, Jodie Comer steals the spotlight in every single scene she’s in. At times, it does get tough to watch. There are moments that will have you frozen in your seat, as you watch the events unfold and Comer just stabs you in the heart, emotionally with her performance. It may run a bit long but this structure worked perfectly for the story they were telling. By showing different angles, the story comes together in a more well-rounded way, thus allowing her truth in the end to be powerful.