Cowboys Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Cowboys is a modern-day western with a deeply touching family story, that will give you some form of hope, in regards to parenting. Steve Zahn plays Troy, a troubled father who only has good intentions for his son. Troy has recently separated from his wife Sarah (Jillian Bell) over many issues. The film is structured incredibly well as the use of flashbacks is integrated to add more depth to the story, as Troy takes his son Jo (Sasha Knight) out for a camping trip. We see that Sarah is having a very hard time accepting that her trans son wants to live his authentic self.

It was really interesting to see how each parent approached the idea of their child transitioning into their authentic self. We see that Troy respects his son’s wishes and treats him as he would like to be treated. Whereas Sarah struggles with the idea of transitioning, or of feeling outside of your body. Sarah forces Jo to wear dresses and to act like a little girl, essentially forcing these gender norms upon her. It got to the point in the film that Troy couldn’t bear to see his son treated so horribly in his own house, so he plans to take him away from Sarah.

What we see on the surface is that Troy is trying to be the best father that he can be to his son. We see the father/son bond early on in the film and that is what stole my heart. If children are fortunate enough to have a parent who treats them with respect and allows them to be their true self, then it’s a beautiful thing to see. This film also gives audiences another lens to look through. Sometimes adults don’t realize what their children are going through because of their own busy schedules. They don’t notice that their child might be reaching it out without actually doing so. Parents need to be more aware of what their children are showing them, without using their words because sometimes it can be difficult to articulate.

Cowboys is a an important watch because of how candid the conversations are about a young boy knowing who he wanted to be. He was young enough to know how he was feeling and everyone should respect that. It’s a beautiful film that explores family relationships, trans lives and overall acceptance. The performances from Steve Zahn and Sasha Knight were fantastic and their dynamic will warm your heart. It is always lovely to see a father/son relationship on screen that is so wholesome and loving. The film was a pleasant surprise and is definitely a must-watch.

Barb And Star Go To Vista Del Mar Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar has Kristen Wiig ‘SNL’ humour written all over it and it’s exactly what the world needs. Remember when we used to get comedies that were just fun for the hell of it? Well this is exactly one of those comedies. It has a far-fetched concept but for some reason it totally works. Lifelong friends Barb (Annie Mumolo) and Star (Kristen Wiig) embark on the adventure of a lifetime when they decide to leave their small Midwestern town for the first time ever! There are two stories that come together in this film that I do not want to spoil because it is completely out of leftfield. Let’s just say Kristen Wiig plays a dual role that is really fun and interesting.

Barb and Star have a really sweet friendship. They have been living together for a while now and are inseparable. They wanted to explore the world and have some fun because they got bored with living the same cycle over and over again. What is so wonderful about Barb and Star is that they are so optimistic and upbeat! If you are a fan of Kristen Wiig’s SNL sketches, the humour is kind of dry and awkward but it will have you laughing at how off-the-wall some scenes are. Their chemistry was great and they created a memorable duo.

The big takeaway from this comedy is that Jamie Dornan was hilarious in this! Wiig had him doing all sorts of wild things and it totally worked. Dornan rolled with the punches and gave a great performance. He had some musical numbers that I was rather impressed with and he had great chemistry with everyone. It was really great to see him so free and lovestruck in this comedy. You’ll see a totally different side of him and I’m really happy Wiig got this performance out of him. The movie is just such a fun ride that has so many twists and turns to carry it to the end.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar is a comedy that will take you back to the days where these films were made just to have fun. The whole cast is great and it just gets sillier as the movie goes on. The heart of this film is the friendship between Barb and Star. We all need those lifelong friends to always be there for you no matter what. Their relationship is what makes this film so special and there is so much to learn from Barb and Star.

Malcolm & Marie Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie is a very interesting watch. This is the first movie, in a very long time, where I still don’t know how to feel about it. Am I supposed to enjoy the film based on the performances alone? Am I supposed to dislike it because the screenplay is absolutely bonkers? Levinson masks his own insecurities as a filmmaker, by combining his personal grievances towards critics and writing from the perspective of a Black filmmaker… which didn’t make sense. Sure, John David Washington and Zendaya give fantastic performances but the film is just an endless cycle of arguments.

First and foremost, why is Sam Levinson writing from the perspective of a Black filmmaker? The dialogue that he gives Malcolm (John David Washington) is oddly specific. It was as if he scrolled through reviews of other films and tried to find the most ridiculous ones to put in the script. I wish Levinson just kept it general instead of criticizing reviews from a perspective that he doesn’t know much about. As you watch Malcolm rant for the entire movie, over one review, you see it through a white lens. Levinson literally made a film criticizing white critics, for using the same language, when reviewing Black-led films and accuses them of “trying” to be progressive. Yet he made a film from the perspective of a Black filmmaker, addressing these issues, when he could have been generalizing the rant instead. So if you think about it, it’s contradictory to what he was trying to do.

Courtesy of Netflix

If we remove the endless rants about critics knowing absolutely nothing about the art of cinema, Malcolm and Marie (Zendaya) have a very toxic relationship. They are constantly badgering each other, provoking the other and jabbing each other with the most hurtful things. It’s as if Levinson thought about the worst possible things he could ever say to a person and just threw it in every single argument. The film was exhausting to sit through. Every single time they would calm down, Malcolm or Marie, would bring something else up and start all over again. By the third argument, you’re just blown away by the fact that they’re still going. It just drags on and leaves you with a headache.

It’s entirely possible that I liked Malcolm & Marie but I can also acknowledge all the flaws. The performances carry it all the way and in all honesty the film wouldn’t have worked without Zendaya or John David Washington. They elevated Levinson’s words (as absurd as they were) to make you want to listen to what they had to say. However, the way Levinson addresses white critics reviewing a Black filmmakers work just doesn’t feel authentic. It felt like he had all this pent up rage and he wanted to express it but he also didn’t want to make it about himself. The script is incredibly narcissistic and just left me asking, “but why? what’s the point of this” and now I’m realizing, maybe there was no point. He just wanted to rant and he expressed it in the only way he knew how, through the art of cinema.

Pieces Of A Woman Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Pieces of a Woman is a heartbreaking film about the loss of a new life. It also puts into perspective how fragile we are as humans. Director Kornél Mundruczó shows the raw emotion and physical journey of a woman in labor. There are natural ways to give birth and Martha (Vanessa Kirby) wanted a home birth. There are horror stories that you often hear about, in regards to home births, but you never quite see the the aftermath. Mundruczó showed everything. It was uncomfortable, and rather painful to watch but the emotional connection established with Martha is incredibly strong.

The film is more of a character study centered on Martha. We see her quirkiness, energy and light in the beginning of the film. As she struggles to push the newborn out of her (for the first 20 minutes of the film) Kirby gives a very raw performance, one that you would see in acting classes. Mundruczó creates so much tension during the birth, that you feel something bad is about to happen, especially when the midwife begins to panic. There is a small moment of happiness, of complete elation when the birthing process is complete and then, it feels like someone rips your heart out and crushes it with their bare hands.

Vanessa Kirby
Courtesy of Bron Studios and Netflix

It has such a strong story and the performances from everyone, especially Ellen Burstyn were extremely strong. The structure and the pacing are the only issues with this film. It started off very strong and then there’s a lull in the middle. Kirby’s performance is internal and you can see the stages of grief as the film goes on. There are other issues that come up in regards to their child that move the story forward but it was extremely slow. Kirby’s performance carries the entire film until the very end, as she has minor confrontations with her mother Ellen Burstyn. The scenes are executed almost like a stage play, meaning the dialogue was heavy and the scenes were static.

The important thing that can be noted from watching Pieces of a Woman is that technology has allowed everything to be safer during the birthing process. There is a conversation between Martha and her mother, that was really eye-opening because they discuss how some mothers from older generations gave birth without the help of doctors in hospitals. They all had a midwife and had home births because there was no other option. The film explores the stages of grief, depression and anxiety from a mother’s perspective after the loss of her child. It is a very heavy film but it is a story that needs to be told in order to help further understand what can go wrong during the birthing process.

Wolfwalkers Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Wolfwalkers is another pleasant surprise this year!

The story is about a young apprentice hunter, named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) and her father Bill (Sean Bean), who journey to Ireland to wipe out the last wolf pack. The pair of them are seen as outcasts and they try to keep to themselves as best they can. Robyn is rather adventurous and does not follow her father’s rules. One day Robyn ventures into the forest with her little bow and arrow, and she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe.

The story is such a magical tale but it’s the animation that makes it soar into the hearts of audiences. It is so beautifully detailed and is designed to create an atmosphere that changes with the emotions of the characters. There are such rich colours that change from scene to scene, depending on the dialogue being exchanged and what it evokes. The magic presented by the wolfwalkers is stunning and is a prominent yellow that glows to heal any person, or animal.

Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

What was so lovely about the film was the relationship between Robyn and Mebh Óg MacTíre (Eva Whittaker), they were so playful with one another. It was great to see two very different characters adapt to each other and help each other in the end. Wolfwalkers is about friendship and how much power it holds through the symbolism of magic. Mebh saved Robyn and then Robyn did the same in the end. The power of friendship is a strong theme in any film but animation just elevates the theme to another level.

The film is beautiful to watch and there are plenty of moments that will leave you appreciating the depths of the animation. The way the animation is structured almost gives it a three-dimensional look, while it is designed as a two-dimensional ground. The images are stacked upon one another to create this depth and it was so interesting to see the difference from scene to scene. There was also fluidity with the animation of the wolves, which had a pack mentality, even through the movements. Wolfwalkers is the most magical animated film of the year. It has beautiful imagery, impressive animation and a well-written story about acceptance.