I’m Thinking Of Ending Things Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Charlie Kaufman’s long awaited Netflix Original Film is very unconventional and bold, but the screenplay suffers from over explaining the philosophy of life. What starts out as a young woman, questioning her relationship, ends up being a convoluted study on ageism and life itself. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things has a very intriguing first half and then it somehow falls apart, as it spirals into an ending that doesn’t quite suit what came before it.

At first, Kaufman explores the layers of what it means to be in a relationship, or rather, how to get out of one that didn’t feel quite right. The Young Woman, played by Jessie Buckley, has this internal monologue that highlights what is wrong in her relationship by doing a voiceover, while her boyfriend Jake, played by Jesse Plemons, is talking to her. They both gave solid, individual performances but the script is what caused this to be so confusing and sometimes uncomfortable.

It just felt really messy and oversaturated with philosophical symbolism, by the end it seemed like Kaufman got lost in what he was trying to convey as well. The tonal shifts throughout the film were very abrupt, which put a damper on trying to make any thematic connections whatsoever. Every time I thought I understood what Kaufman was trying to say, he took it to an entirely different place leaving me confused with what was happening in The Young Woman’s mind.

As they both travel to the outskirts of farm country to have a formal family dinner, to meet Jake’s parents, The Young Woman becomes more cynical and she is now scared of her future.

“Humans can’t live in the present, so they invented hope.”

The Young Woman (Jessie Buckley) ‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things”

In a way, the home of Jake’s parents became the layers of The Young Woman’s mind, as she assessed the lives of his father (David Thewlis) and mother (Toni Collette). There are so many ways to study the psychology of these characters because The Young Woman feels stuck and envisions her future with her in laws.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is a mixture of an existential crisis, relationship issues and family dysfunction, that loses all meaning in the 3rd act. It becomes unbearable to listen to The Young Woman ramble on about life without actually making any points. It’s almost as if Kaufman is trying to recreate his previous work to continue his ongoing theme of heartbreaking relationships that address mental illnesses. This one just falls through entirely because he tried to do too much with it.

Project Power Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Project Power is a jam packed, action film, that explores having unique, superhuman abilities by taking a yellow pill. The powers last for a total of 5 minutes and each pill carries a different power. The streets of New Orleans is crawling with these unpredictable yellow pills, young teenage Robin (Dominique Fishback) and Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a local cop must team up with ex-soldier, Art (Jamie Foxx) to dismantle the group who created the pill. The film, co-directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman is a generic action film, with an interesting story written by Mattson Tomlin.

The concept of this film will remind audiences of the mutant powers in the X-Men, but it is able to change up the superhuman abilities a bit more because of how unpredictable the pill can be. Within 5 minutes of taking the yellow pill, it can affect everyone differently, it could cause death, or they could suffer serious ailments after taking it. It is symbolic for holding power in your hand, whether it is good or bad and it could affect your life within those 5 minutes. Tomlin’s script is really well thought out but the execution is what was lacking for this film.

The cast give great performances and they really carried the film until the very end. Dominique Fishback, Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all had great chemistry with each other and had very strong backstories that came together nicely. The connection between Robin and Art was interesting because she reminded him of his daughter and the flashbacks to show how he lost her flowed nicely in those scenes they shared. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the undercover cop was such great casting, he was so good in his role and it’s always great to see him in an action film.

The story was really detailed and the information about how the yellow power pill came to fruition, unfolded nicely as the film went on. The issue with the film was the pacing, special effects and the execution of certain actions sequences. The editing was messy to the point where it was hard to understand who was fighting on screen. The different superhuman abilities were also confusing because they never explained how or why each pill was different.

Project Power has strong writing and performances but lacks in executing action scenes that work with the concept. The special effects were pretty mediocre but the ideas that were put in place for these superhuman abilities were commendable. It has the typical action film clichés, some questionable moments regarding political commentary and some choices that will surprise you. It is another original concept from Netflix and that is the important thing because we have to support original films.

An American Pickle Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

An American Pickle is based on the short story named ‘Sell Out’ written by Simon Rich, which was published in the ‘New York Times’. It begins as an immigrant story, as pickle factory worker, Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) retells his journey to New York City. It is a heartfelt tale, about generational differences and how traditional values are interpreted in the current social climate. Brandon Trost’s directorial debut is a lot of fun, very stylized and wholesome.

The social commentary and the political correctness mixed with old ideologies, set up for a very humorous and entertaining film. It was also important to show Herschel’s journey, as a Jewish man, who was so connected to his faith and his family. It seemed as the film went on and he met Ben Greenbaum (Seth Rogen), the link to those family values were broken. Herschel and Ben learned a lot from each other, even though they were 100 years apart.

The dual role that is played by Seth Rogen is really well done. There was a lot of though that went into these characters and their backstories. The film was at its strongest when they were together and playing off each other. It is one of Seth Rogen’s best performances because of how distinct he made both characters. He kept the accent for Herschel throughout and his mannerisms were even very traditional. It was a far fetched concept but the connectivity between Herschel and Ben was the heart of this piece.

The social commentary is really effective because they presented a fight with outdated ideologies. Herschel ended up being praised for his freedom of speech, which is something we see a lot of with this generation, even if they are completely absurd. The way Simon Rich presented the current climate with Herschel at the forefront, attempting to attain the American Dream in a different era, was refreshing. It also expressed the different perceptions of family values in two vastly different lifestyles.

An American Pickle is such a sweet film about family, hard work and heritage. It was funny, informative and definitely educational. To see both era’s come together and clearly understand how much has changed in 100 years was important. It seems as if people have lost certain values and this film presents them in a new way. The most wonderful thing about this film was the way it presented the human connection, in all its messiness and its unity. Seth Rogen never misses and he continues to make great content.

 

 

Cannes Award-Winning Feature: ‘Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The ‘Cannes’ award-winning feature Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture is a satirical animated film, that dives deep into the stories of young Hollywood starlets and their treatment throughout the years. It is written, directed and produced by Nicole Brending, who also voices 14 characters in the film. It takes multiple tabloid stories from the lives of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears and bluntly addresses the toxic, intrusiveness of the media, when it comes to young teenage girls, being forced into an industry standard.

It is extremely fitting, to have dolls symbolize the conformity of being a starlet in Hollywood and having to essentially become a clone, in order to become accepted by everyone. The first half of this film, explores the sexploitation of young women in the music industry and how they have been mentally abused, by the authoritative presence surrounding them. At the young age of 12, Junie Spoons was cast in the show Candy Castles, which very much resembles the Mickey Mouse Club and it was more of the journey Britney Spears went on at a very early age.

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Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing

When taking serious subject matters and presenting them through a different medium, in this case, animation, it is much easier to express honesty in the toxicity of the subject. Brending was so honest in her storytelling and how the media, would always spin the lives of young starlets in a negative manner. The one thing I found worked really well was the depiction of men, through boyband member Zachary Wilderness, whose name oddly resembles Justin Timberlake’s. Bendring presented the journey of Zachary Wilderness, as this perfect fairytale and that’s how young men, are taken care of by the media in the industry.

The juxtaposition of the two, was really eye opening, especially because young starlets like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, have been very outspoken about the treatment of women in the industry, specifically child stars. It is very well written and uses major tabloid stories, that viewers still remember to this day. It was hard to watch because of how in depth the film went into Britney Spears and her downward spiral, especially considering how much we know now. It was necessary to make a film like this, in all of it’s nastiness, while addressing the faux journalism that takes place when taking control of these narratives.

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Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing 

The film does lose its way in the third act with a surprise storyline. There was a storyline that was placed at the end involving a transgender character and I think that’s where it lost its way a bit. It was difficult to understand why this storyline came up towards the end and I tried to find the symbolism behind it. It seemed that it was symbolic, in wanting to achieve perfection and the media’s idea of perfection, is the look of a young Hollywood star. This ideal is so incredibly damaging, that it leads to many eating disorders and plastic surgeries gone wrong. It still doesn’t make the case, as to why the sexual identity comes into play at the end but it’s definitely up for interpretation.

Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture is a film that allows viewers to understand and interpret how poorly treated these young girls are. They are exploited sexually, forced to grow up in a toxic environment and treated as a possession, until they are old enough to understand how authority figures abused their power over them. Nicole Brending does excellent work in delivering this subject matter with such brutal honesty, that the film should be studied for years to come.

‘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.

the great

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!