The Queen’s Gambit Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Queen’s Gambit is a sexy, well written, tension filled chess match and every episode is structured to perfection. The story is about a young orphan, named Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), learning the masterful game of chess, from the custodian at the orphanage, named Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), she gets adopted at the age of fifteen and goes on to play in tournaments.

The series follows Beth Harmon at different stages of her life. There are moments that Beth remembers vividly, that shape her psychological and emotional state as a young girl. As a little girl, at the age of 8, she is very reserved but cunning and when she found an interest in chess, her intellect came naturally when playing the game. Mr. Shaibel knew that she was special and that is why he continued to teach her the game of chess.

When Beth turned fifteen, she was finally adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Wheatley, who have a nice little home in Kentucky. As she enters into chess tournaments, her new mother finds intrigue in the prize money she could win, if she beats the rest of the men vying for the same title. Beth holds nothing back and uses her intuition to carry her far, eventually leading her to go head to head with one of the greatest Grandmasters to the play the game in Russia.

Courtesy of Netflix
(center) Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon

Scott Frank and Allan Scott created such a thrilling atmosphere in each episode. Not only was the game of chess really interesting and fun to watch but Anya Taylor Joy demanded your attention as she played the game. She has these big, beautiful eyes and she does so much with them. There’s so much depth in her performance and it was effortless. She was poised, ruthless and seductive, while she was playing the game. Taylor-Joy is truly a force to be reckoned with in this industry and The Queen’s Gambit is her best performance yet.

The script is so brilliantly written that Beth’s psychological and emotional trauma were explored in each episode, eventually leading to her downfall. Her traumatic childhood and her new life, coexisted inside of her but somehow the worst aspects of both haunted her in the end. Leaving an orphanage is almost like culture shock, Beth had to adjust to a completely new life and she navigated it by playing chess. She is such an inspiring character, even through her hardships, and definitely one of the most respectable chess players to ever play the game.

Courtesy of Netflix
(left) Marcin Dorocinski as Vasily Borgov and Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon

The Queen’s Gambit is an incredible showcase for Anya Taylor-Joy’s talent as a bright, young actress and the roles she has taken, have definitely shaped her into the force she is today. The writing is what makes the limited series exciting but Taylor-Joy elevates it to another level of entertainment. It is almost impossible for anyone, to not binge these 7 episodes in one sitting because that is how exciting the creators made the game of chess.

The Glorias Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Glorias directed by Julie Taymor is a beautiful film, honouring Gloria Steinem’s life and everything she has done for women. The film shows the multiple versions of Gloria, throughout the years and the conversations she would have with younger versions of herself. It is a rather unique biographical drama because of the choices made by Taymor.

The film begins with the Glorias on a bus, sitting in different seats and staring at the window. The bus was in black and white, but the outside world was in colour. By showing all four Glorias on the bus at the beginning, shifting from actress to actress, so the audience knows ahead of time was a nice touch. The way they would return, to the Glorias on the bus, on this long winding road, paralleled her long life and her incredible journey. The editing could have been a bit cleaner, in the first half, with the young Glorias but it eventually hit its stride, in the middle with Vikander.

Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore, gave great performances as Gloria Steinem, the most important thing they were able to capture, was her voice. You don’t realize how distinct someone’s voice actually is, until you hear an actor change theirs, to sound like them and like every journalist, her voice mattered. It was incredibly important for Vikander and Moore to accurately sound like her.

The film did run a bit long, like any biographical drama, but it incorporated different elements. There were dreamlike sequences that would take the viewer in and out of Gloria’s mind. What I really appreciated was seeing Gloria talk to her younger self, an actual conversation with her young, open-minded and ambitious self. It was interesting to see how she started, what her thought process was, and how it all changed in the blink of an eye.

The Glorias is a very special film about highlighting women’s voices from every race, nationality and sexual orientation. It takes many people to start a movement and even though, Gloria Steinem is the name people remember, she made it known, that she was not alone in fighting for women’s rights.

Kajillionaire Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Kajillionaire written and directed by Miranda July, is a pretty obscure film about trauma, family dysfunction and self discovery, that never reaches its full potential. It is an extremely slow film, that can be confusing at times because of the constant con jobs. It felt like a downward spiral, for all of those characters, especially for Old Dolio, played by Evan Rachel Wood.

It does have something to say about the class system in America and how the economy functions. Low income families need to find other avenues, in order to survive and July shows that, in the quirkiest way possible. It is a bland film that doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be. The family dynamic was interesting to study, but their connection with each other, became very irritating. The choices that were made, did not make any sense either, which was incredibly frustrating to sit through.

Courtesy of Focus Features
(left) Debra Winger, Evan Rachel Wood and Richard Jenkins

Thankfully halfway through the film Melanie, played by Gina Rodriguez breathed some life into Evan Rachel Wood’s dead character, whose backstory was interesting and emotional but it was never fully explored. There was so much to unpack with Old Dolio and I wish the story focused on her, more than the con job. The growing tension between Old Dolio and Melanie, was the saving grace in this piece, it’s the only thing that kept me interested until the end of the film.

It is a film that does not really have a clear journey, it feels disjointed and spaced out because of Old Dolio’s characterization. The quirkiness was too much and it felt like Evan Rachel Wood was overacting at times, in order to achieve maximum quirkiness. I didn’t find it humorous at all and some moments made me cringe because of how awkward it was. I understood that there was past trauma and that they tried to explain it but it wasn’t executed properly.

Kajillionaire had some great camerawork and unique emotional moments but lost itself in the quirkiness of Old Dolio. It’s an obscure film, that will pull at the heartstrings at key moments, but will lose you for the majority of the runtime. It is the opposite of a fast paced con job, with odd characters and a wild card coming in halfway through.

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.