‘Welcome To Chippendales’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

During the 70s, women began to feel a bit more sexually liberated with the surge of the adult film industry. It was no longer a time for only men to express their sexual impulses, but women too. Of course, at that time, strip clubs were reserved for men to watch women take their clothes off for money. After breaking ground, sex workers are finally taken seriously in an industry that has been shamed for years. It’s a profession like any other, so when Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) created the male version, ‘The Chippendales’ became a phenomenon. What should have been a safe space for queer men and women to feel liberated from societal marginalization became a prison of greed, notoriety and status for Banerjee. Sometimes power can consume someone and they spiral down a bad path to keep their dream afloat. Ambition is always a good thing to have, but not when there is no morality or making tough decisions. Welcome to Chippendale’s is a sprawling true-crime saga, that tells the outrageous story of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, an Indian immigrant founder who became the unlikely founder of the world’s greatest male-stripping empire – and let nothing stand in his way in the process.

Banerjee worked at a gas station for seven years and saved enough money to start a business of his own. He wanted to open a Backgammon Club in Los Angeles. At the beginning of this journey, Banerjee was a simple man who just wanted a nice place for people to feel like they were living a posh lifestyle. Little did he know, that his obsession with fame and money would ultimately consume him and make him a terrible boss. He trusted a stranger who called himself a club promoter to turn his dud of a club into a “happening” place on a Friday night. After heading to a gay club with two strangers and seeing male dancers with straight women cheering them on, Banerjee put two and two together and came up with a male strip club for women. The series is created by Robert Siegel, who completely captured the essence of the late 70s. Everything came together nicely, from the costuming to the music to the make-up and hairstyling, to make it feel authentic to the era. Each episode added something more to the club itself, until it became too much to control.

The cast works together extremely well, but the standouts were Nanjiani and Murray Bartlett, who plays Nick De Noia, an Emmy-winning choreographer. As the club received more attention, Banerjee needed to polish off his show for it to grow even bigger. One night, De Noia walked in and left him his card; perhaps it was fate that brought them together, but as the series goes on, it seems like their meeting did more harm than good. This series pits ego against ego and a businessman against a choreographer with status. There is plenty of flashy dancing and fun moments in the club, but the intense business negotiations and backstabbing are what made this compelling. No one ever fully understands what it means to build a business, and Robert Siegel made sure to show every inch of the mayhem. Nanjiani gives one of the best performances of his career as he descends into the madness of becoming the best in the world. He loses himself in this role, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen him do. 

Welcome to Chippendales is an entertaining, vibrant, and dark look at the entertainment industry. It shows how cutthroat people can be and how important a creative idea can be when it comes to the bottom line of business decisions. Nanjiani and Bartlett have incredible chemistry and work together well to make this story even more convincing. Watching De Noia and Banjeree’s relationship grow over the episodes was interesting because they have different perspectives on the business and which aspects to focus on for the Chippendales to grow. The first half of this series sets up Banerjee’s life and his constant need for the next best thing, while De Noia focuses on what’s in front of them with the dancers in the show. We see two different focuses that ultimately alter the Chippendales and their impact. The series will begin streaming on Hulu on November 22nd, and it is worth a watch if you want to know more about the creation of the Chippendales.

‘Prey’ Movie

By: Amanda Guarragi

The Predator franchise has been going strong for years, and not all of the films in the franchise have been winners. Many were apprehensive about Prey being a prequel, but it worked. Director Dan Trachtenberg went back to the roots of the meaning of predator and reworked it to fit the natural way of life on Indigenous lands. In the Comanche Nation in 1719, a fierce and highly skilled warrior named Naru (Amber Midthunder) learns the prey she is stalking is a highly evolved alien with a technologically advanced arsenal. Fans of the original franchise have seen what the alien is capable of, but this prequel showcases its skills differently. Even though they went back to basics, Trachtenberg added another layer to the franchise by using basic animal instincts and survival in the wild. 

The reason why Prey works as a prequel is because of how simple the story was. It wasn’t overstuffed with political jargon that is linked to the government. It felt like an open world with survival mode on high for these characters. Also, it bodes well that the highly skilled warrior is a woman and Midthunder did a great job carrying the film alongside her brother and the rest of the tribe. It just felt like the most natural form of storytelling for a predator film. Naru is highly skilled in tracking and they utilized that when going out into the wild trying to find their friends. The tension that was built throughout, just by them walking through the forest was really strong. The score and sound design also helped amplify those moments of nervousness from Naru. It was so well-paced because of the instincts and pathway to tracking the alien. 

The action scenes were impressive because of how the VFX artists played into the character design for the alien. The invisibility and thermal vision were both effectively used throughout. The invisibility is what impressed me the most because of the way the kills were executed. It almost shielded the viewer from witnessing the brutality against the animals. It added so much tension to the scenes with Naru’s dog because he could have been next. From the action set pieces to the quiet, more intimate moments in the forest, Trachtenberg immersed the viewer into Naru’s world for the entire runtime of the film. This prequel does the Predator franchise justice and if anything, made it more intriguing to a new generation of fans. 

Prey is one of the biggest surprises of the summer and, unfortunately, it won’t be getting a theatrical release. If you’re a fan of the Predator franchise then you will love what Trachtenberg did with this prequel. It gives roots to a franchise that had so much success over the years, only to validate its place in sci-fi action history as one of the strongest out there. Midthunder was the standout all the way through and carried the film on her shoulders. Without her compelling performance, especially her tracking the alien and adapting to its movements, it could have been a different movie. She draws you in with her eyes and then locks you in with her subtle movements. As someone who has never been a fan of the franchise, this prequel has made me want to go back and watch them all. 

Prey will be released on Hulu and Disney Star on Friday, August 5th.

‘The Dropout’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

When we study history and look at the idealists that bring forth something new, they genuinely believe in their idea at first. And many of them lose themselves in greed instead of their original idea. What was so interesting about Elizabeth Holmes’ story is the fact that she just kept pushing to prove everyone wrong and that is what cost her, her credibility as a scientist. This series shows the tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. Elizabeth Holmes (Amanda Seyfried) developed a healthcare technology that put millions of patients at risk and she managed to lose everything in the blink of an eye.

The one thing that impressed me the most about this series was the pacing of each episode. There are only seven episodes and it feels like each hour is packed with so much information and drama. The series begins with the deposition as they asked Holmes important questions about her time at Stanford, prior to dropping out. Then there’s a flashback showing how eager of a student she was and how meeting one person, Sunny Balwani (Naveen Andrews) changed her perspective on how to move in this business. The editing for the deposition and the flashbacks became inconsistent, as they got lost in the actual story, but that’s just a minor issue.

While watching the series, I also gained a new appreciation for Amanda Seyfried as an actor because she completely lost herself in this role. As each episode went on, Seyfried fully formed into Holmes and it was interesting to watch. There are moments when Seyfried is speaking to herself in the mirror and dropping her voice to seem more authoritative, which would be empowered on a surface level, but it was just questionable because of what Holmes was doing. If you don’t know her story, then this will be an eye-opening experience to see how poorly the healthcare system works in America. Greed in pharmaceuticals will be the death of so many and it’s so clear to see why people dropout of college with a simple idea.

The Dropout is a slow burn series with steady pacing that will keep you glued to the screen. Seyfried is incredible in this role and she will constantly surprise you with how deep she goes to embody Holmes. The supporting cast is strong and towards the second half of the series, there are many moving parts that take spiralling out of control to a new level. What starts out as a simple, helpful idea, turns into a million-dollar idea, with no concrete project that works. You can pour money into anything and have it fabricated it; thus presenting that money doesn’t truly exist and it’s just based on how well you manage it.

‘Dopesick’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

We are currently living in a time where questioning pharmaceutical companies and the government is a must. Even though their intentions may be appear to be good, there could be underlying motives. These questions have always been prevalent, no matter which decade in America we choose to look at. In the ’90s, when dopamine, or oxycontin became the biggest drug on the market, things seemed to change. In the new series Dopesick we take an in-depth look at how the system was actually working against the doctors and their patients.

The focus is on the opioid addiction in America and how it all started. The first three episodes were released on Disney Star in Canada and have stayed in my mind ever since. The build up and the execution of the opioid crisis in America was really eye-opening and kind of paralleled what we are currently going through with the vaccine debate right now. I found it interesting to see the different perspectives from the lawyers, the pharmaceutical companies, and most importantly the people who blindly became hooked on one of the most dangerous drugs known to man.

It does feel a bit disjointed in the first episode but once it finds its footing and really sticks with certain characters, that’s where it shines. This entire cast, which consists of Michael Keaton, Kaitlyn Dever, Will Poulter, Rosario Dawson, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg all truly shine in their roles. They are completely committed to this story and want to tell it in the most honest way possible. In the first three episodes, Dever, Keaton and Stuhlbarg are the most important pieces of this puzzle and offer three different perspectives. They are the standouts so far and their characters add layers to the crisis.

Dopesick will have you glued to the screen because of detailed this story is. There are so many factors to think about for the opioid epidemic and this series puts it on full display. We dive into the backstories of all parties involved and try to understand their thought process when creating, administering, or taking these drugs. It is one of the most honest and grounded storylines about this subject matter that I’ve seen in a while. It is also very informative and will help many understand how important educating yourself on your government and substance abuse can be.

Happiest Season Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

‘Tis the season to get your onesies out, drink some hot chocolate, and settle around your nearest screen to watch some Christmas movies. Thankfully Clea DuVall made a Christmas romcom that has been long overdue for the LGBTQ community.

Happiest Season is the film that all lesbians have been waiting for. It’s lighthearted, funny and a well rounded romantic comedy. For once there is no sadness, no yearning and no heartbreaking ending. The title of the film says it all and it is such a beautiful movie. Not only does it speak to, and on behalf of, the LGBTQ community but it touches upon family issues that are universal.

The reason why this film is refreshing is because lesbian characters are at the forefront. Two women are in a romantic relationship and they are following all the conventions of a typical romantic comedy. It was just great to see a romantic story about two women in this setting. It is definitely a feel good movie and the speeches in the final act of the film will leave you sobbing until the end. The cast is perfect, everyone fit like a puzzle piece in telling this great story.

Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis were adorable together and their chemistry was great. It felt completely natural and that is the difference. Kristen Stewart was in her element, she was fun, playful and gave a very emotional performance as Abby. Davis gave a complex performance because of the duality of her character Harper. She lived one life with Abby and was another person when she returned home to her parents. What really resonated with me was the idea of perfection and how some families expect so much from their daughters.

I do have to mention the brilliant comedic timing from Dan Levy because it was just effortless. There would be such tense moments and then Levy would just swoop in and make you bust a gut laughing. He was the perfect choice to play Abby’s best friend. Stewart and Levy also bounced off each other, even through serious moments.

Normally, I don’t compare films in my reviews but out of all the lesbian romance dramas we’ve seen, this one definitely felt the most realistic than the others, mind you the other ones were really sad, so maybe that’s the difference? Thanks to Clea DuVall and Mary Holland, they wrote such a great screenplay and brought forth many important conversations.

Happiest Season is a great Christmas rom-com that will hold a special place in your heart and will definitely be added to your annual Holiday watch list. It is a film that explores individuality and acceptance through a lens that the LGBTQ community deserves. Please make sure to watch Happiest Season on Hulu November 25th and it will be available on iTunes November 26th!


Pictures Courtesy of E1 Entertainment