BLACK IS KING Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Black Is King is an intricate, personal and deeply moving visceral album, that revised the old tale of The Lion King. Beyoncé Knowles – Carter represents the roots of Black culture and history through the tale of Simba, a young Lion who is the heir to the throne. The representation of a young Black child, next in line, to be King, in his own bloodline, was incredibly moving. It is about family values, loving your heritage and passing all that down to the next generation.

Beyoncé is, and will always be, the best and most brilliant artist of our generation because she has developed a higher level of Entertainment. She is on another level of genius through the medium of music and as a visual storyteller. Her direction, among the other extremely talented directors that created this beautiful piece, including; Emmanuel Adjei, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch, Jake Nava and Kwasi Fordjour. They all brought different styles and presented beautiful symmetry through dimensional art pieces throughout the film.

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios 

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Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios 

The songs are really empowering and uplifting, it is a wonderful way to tell different stories and it seems as if Beyoncé has mastered that, as we were first introduced to her style in Lemonade. She is a perfectionist and it shows through her art and the fact that she has presented this elevated level of storytelling, at this point in her career, shows that she is not stopping and will continue to excel. She has pushed the boundaries for Black creatives and has given a stunning visceral album about Black culture, that spans across the globe.

Black Is King is a perfect visual album and Beyoncé is the Entertainer of the Decade with everything that she has accomplished. This piece is so meticulous and vibrant because of her detail in the costume design and production for each video. It is pieced together with poems and voice overs from The Lion King  (2019) and it revamps the story to fit it’s true, original form, that it was intended to be through Black heritage.

‘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!

 

 

Revival Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Revival directed by Danny Green, is a mixture of every performance medium: a Broadway musical, Hollywood musical, animation, green screen technology, and sound stage. It is one of the most interesting and inventive films that has been released recently. Not only does it cover the spectrum of all art forms but it presents Catholicism in a different way. The story of Jesus is told in a humanistic way, with a wonderful book of songs to accompany it.

The way that it began as a stage play, with an introduction from Harry Lennix, who plays Pilate in the show and then slowly began to cycle through different performance spaces was really unique. There were moments of the film being on location in the mountains, or they made the choice to use a green screen for certain scenes. The special effects were quite good as well. It did seem overindulgent but it is probably because, there has never been a film that has tackled this many forms at once.

This cast was also really strong as well. There were many surprises but seeing Michelle Williams and Chaka Khan in the same film was awesome. The music was what held this film together and enhanced the story as it went on. The entire company did a great job with this passion play, both on the stage and on location. The costume design was strong as well because the vibrant colours made it visually stunning. The conversations about Jesus being a man first and a prophet second, were really thought provoking and challenged the ideology.

Revival is an innovative feature and I commend the film for being so bold. It crossed so many artistic mediums to present a story that we know, in a different way. The music will carry you through this journey and it will keep you locked in to the very end. It is a very refreshing film and they presented the story of Jesus in a more realistic way.

 

Da 5 Bloods Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Da 5 Bloods is one of Spike Lee’s most mature film to date. He has taken every little detail, theme and ideology, that he has used throughout his filmography and expertly incorporated them into one film. Lee is known to use archival footage, still photos and historical moments in his films to express the urgency in the story he chooses to deliver. Da 5 Bloods takes place in present day America and has 4 African American veterans, returning to Vietnam. They are on a mission to find the remains of their fallen Squad Leader and the gold fortune he helped them hide, all those years ago.

The wonderful thing about Spike Lee, is that he makes you fall in love with his characters in the first act of the film. In the second act, he shows you their pain, flaws and grievances. Then in the third act, he exposes his characters, like an open wound, to the world that has so deeply wronged them, time and time again. Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Eddie (Norm Lewis) and Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) were veterans who understood, the battle they were fighting in Vietnam, was not theirs to fight because of the systemic racism that was oppressing their rights in America. Whose rights were they fighting for exactly?

It is a film, like every other Spike Lee film, that unloads accurate information about Black history. Lee has never shied away from telling it like it is and has always managed to show every perspective on racial ideologies. Paul, was a Trump supporter, MAGA hat and all. They discussed his decision in voting for the President, or as Spike Lee likes to call him, “Agent Orange” and his political stance quite openly. He has always addressed things head on and it is truly something to be admired in his films. He wants his audience to learn and to grow with him.

Apart from this script being perfectly written, Spike Lee really enjoys using his camera, he uses the lens to tell the story in such a unique way. My favourite thing about this film is the transitions to flashbacks. Normally, switching aspect ratios throughout the film can be taxing but Spike Lee made sure to make it as smooth as possible. The frame would change each time Stormin Norman (Chadwick Boseman) was on the screen and it worked so well! The colour grading and vintage, war time feel to the sequenced flashbacks were really effective as well.

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Courtesy of Netflix Film:  (left) Delroy Lindo and Clarke Peters

Many may question the events that unfold in the third act but it holds so much symbolism. These men fought in the Vietnam war, three tours and they made it out alive. They return to the forests of Vietnam, that are still filled with landmines and they have to navigate through them, in order to find the hidden treasure. These veterans suffer from severe PTSD, especially Paul. Delroy Lindo gave an exceptional performance and it is the best of the year. He was incredible. To go back to the place, that gave them nightmares and experience it all over again, was brutal and extremely emotional.

Another thing that may seem foreign to so many people, is that Spike Lee made the artistic choice in keeping his main actors for the flashback scenes. Normally, they would cast younger versions of their counterparts but in this case it worked very well. Spike Lee really wanted his audience to understand that these veterans, were going back to a time that broke them down. So to literally, see them fighting, at their current age, alongside their deceased friend, Stormin Norman felt more personal.

Da 5 Bloods holds so much emotional weight for Black veterans. They all show their pain and suffering in such powerful ways. Each character is very opened with their struggles and I think that is such an important thing for men to share with each other. Spike Lee breaks down toxic masculinity through brotherhood, loyalty and a shared wartime trauma. It is one of the most profound and deeply moving films of the year. This film will be broken down and analyzed for years to come.

 

Return To Hardwick Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Return To Hardwick is a generic World War 2 documentary that highlights the 93rd bomb group. Director Michael Sellers brings together sons, daughters and other family members to share their memories of their loved ones who served in the war. Michael Cudlitz (Band of Brothers, The Walking Dead) narrates this journey as the younger generation attempts to travel to the Southern part of England, to uncover the history of a disappearing World War 2 air base.

It was a very nice three part structure that was beautifully shot. They chose to use still photos, archive footage and reconstructed set pieces to tell the story. It is emotional at times because the children/grandchildren of this soldiers, were talking about their experiences in the war and their own relationships with them. What they did really well was integrating the archive footage, with present day, as the younger generation made their way to the air base.

This film offers viewers an in depth look into the lives of those who fought in World War 2 bombing crews. This documentary felt so wholesome and genuine, in the way it was presented because the heart of the director, was with his own grandfather who fought in the war. Those connections are stronger than people think and it came from such a pure, honest place when delivering this story.

The one thing that also worked quite well, was seeing the veterans retell the horrors they experienced in the war. It was really nice to hear their version of the story, while Sellers chose to recreate certain moments from World War 2 in very unique ways, in order to enhance the stories that were being told. It felt like a whole other life time, when watching this film because we have never experienced war the way that generation did.

Return To Hardwick is an emotional World War 2 documentary, that hits all the right notes and leaves you with a better understanding of the hardships soldiers faced during that period. The film is like a heartfelt love letter to that generation serving in the 93rd bomb group, it pulls at your heartstrings and takes you on the journey with the children and grandchildren of those soldiers who served their country.