Outside The Wire Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Outside the Wire is the first action film from Netflix this year and it has such a great concept. The film has a nice balance exploring robotics and how the mechanics can fit in with humanity. The story is about a drone pilot being sent into a warzone, where he finds himself paired up with a top-secret agent, who turns out to be an android. In typical sci-fi war film fashion, they must stop a nuclear attack. The big draw is the android being able to regenerate its skin to appear human. The concept may sound far-fetched but realistically we do have the resources to create androids and other robotics for the sustainability of the human species.

The moment the film begins you are transported into the warzone, the opening credits resemble a first person shooter game like Call of Duty, which set the tone for the film. The first 20 minutes are filled with action and it shows the state of the world in the near future with grey areas regarding soldiers and robots combined. We are introduced to Lieutenant Thomas Harp (Damson Idris) who causes some serious damage as a drone pilot and is sent to a different sector. There he meets the Captain, named Leo (Anthony Mackie) who is an android military officer. Together they must stop a Russian extremist group from a nuclear attack.

Anthony Mackie as Captain Leo
Courtesy of Netflix Film

What I enjoyed the most was watching Anthony Mackie own the screen. I can’t help but wonder when or if we are going to see him lead a Captain America film of his own one day but he proved in Outside the Wire that he truly deserves it. There are moments, specific lines like “I could do this all day” that really hit me when watching this film. Mackie is a star and people need to start recognizing that. He has proven himself time and time again. He deserves more leading roles that highlight how talented he is.

In all honesty if it weren’t for Anthony Mackie’s on screen presence and his great chemistry with Damson Idris this film wouldn’t have been as fun or interesting. It is a very generic action film that has a messy script, even though the story is pretty straight-forward. The action sequences were choreographed fairly well but nothing really stood out until the final standoff. The film has its moments but it is ultimately a chore to sit through. The middle does drag a bit and the military jargon is thrown around making it hard to understand what’s happening.

If you enjoy your sci-fi war zone action flick then this is definitely one you will enjoy! Check out Outside the Wire on Netflix January 15th.

Mank Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have been waiting for David Fincher to grace us all with a new film. A Fincher film is always bold with its characters, meticulous in its camerawork and is always elevated by its score. Mank definitely had all of those aspects going for it but unfortunately something was missing. It did not feel like a Fincher film. If you look at his filmography and watch Mank, it just feels so out of place. When I say that Mank is the equivalent to Citizen Kane (as it should) it is not necessarily a good thing. Citizen Kane has the expectation of being the greatest film of all time and it is one of the most divisive film because of the argument surrounding the status of the film.

Fincher is extremely talented because he does his research. Mank is a film that pays homage to the Classic Hollywood studio system while modernizing it for today’s audience. However, the arguments Fincher raises in Mank are quite contradictory in how he views the cinema experience today. Fincher is a cinema purist, he has said so himself, yet he made a film for a streaming service. In Mank it is expressed that the studios needed to follow the money, that is the way of the future and it still is. Everything that is said in Mank is reflective of how this year went. Whether it be the cinema experience, the studio’s adapting to a different model or politics, Fincher seemed to wrap it all together in a nice little bow.

Mank exists as a parallel to Citizen Kane, it is literally its counterpart. If you enjoyed Citizen Kane then you will most definitely enjoy Mank. If you’re like me and understand that the technological aspects and narrative structure of Citizen Kane is something to be admired but the film does not really grasp you in anyway emotionally, then you will feel the same way about Mank. Fincher’s camerawork was beautiful, the cinematography was stunning and the lighting in true Welles’ fashion was captured perfectly. There were so many lovely aspects in Mank but the screenplay was just so dull, (I find this ironic because the story is about a screenwriter) there were moments where Gary Oldman woke himself up to speak a bit louder, so you could understand where the story was going but it just fell flat.

Courtesy of Netflix

When it was first announced that Fincher was going to shed some light on Citizen Kane I knew the kind of movie it would be. Fincher was trying to prove a point with this film, he wanted to make a film that presented the best of cinema, the golden age because he dislikes the current state of it. The film is a technical feat and will be up for Oscars but this is the most surprising entry in his filmography. For some reason it’s like he played it safe but he also boldly created a film that the general audience won’t even gravitate towards. This film was made with the intention to educate people on who Mank was but there is a hidden agenda in the way he presents this story.

David Fincher finally made the Oscar bait film that we have all been waiting for. It has the Classic Hollywood glam, detailed dialogue discussing the state of the studio system and political undertones that parallel the current state of America. It is a film that will leave you feeling cheated and confused because it has two sides of Fincher, instead of the one we all know and love. There are many wonderful aspects in Mank, there just should have been something more and I just can’t put my finger on it.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Holy, Jingle Bells!

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two is the film that will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit! My favourite Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) is back and this time the story takes us to the North Pole and his workshop… well Mrs. Claus’s (Goldie Hawn) workshop.

It is a very solid sequel that builds upon Kate’s (Darby Camp) story and her relationship with her mother. It’s a very different Christmas for the Pierce’s as they celebrate the holiday on a beach, in Cancun, thanks to Claire’s (Kimberly Williams – Paisley) new beau Bob (Tyrese Gibson). The intention of the vacation was to bring both family units together to bond, as Bob and Claire take their relationship to the next step.

The wonderful thing about this sequel is that it brings the same Christmas magic as the first one and tells a heartfelt story about adapting to a new life, after grieving. It seems dark when explained in that way but the Christmas spirit created a lighthearted atmosphere in order to tell this story. Kate has the Christmas spirit because of her father and it is a beautiful thing to see. Kate is headstrong and wants to celebrate Christmas the normal way, her dad’s way but Bob just came in and decided to change everything.

Courtesy of 1492 Pictures and Wonder Worldwide
(left) Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno and Kurt Russell

The idea of moving on, from any situation, is easier said than done but when it comes to grieving a parent, there is no amount of time to even process the pain. Kate has wonderful memories of her father, even the song “O, Christmas Tree” has a special place in her heart and it’s associated to a memory. As Kate processes her possible new life with Bob and a kid brother Jake (Jahzir Bruno), she calls upon jolly old Saint Nick to help her with one final Christmas wish.

The story isn’t only about Kate, there is a parallel with the antagonist of the film named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), who has an interesting story of his own, involving Santa’s workshop. As the story unfolds Belsnickel and Kate have more in common than they thought, in regards to how to deal with their feelings of neglect. It presented such a great story that young children will definitely understand and allow parents to understand what their child could be going through. It is fun for the whole family with a great lesson to be learned.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two improves upon the same heartfelt story and elevates the action sequences from the first instalment. It is a film designed to make you feel warm and cheerful about the upcoming Christmas season, even though things may seem bleak. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn bring their charm to the screen to steal everyone’s hearts, as they both embody the true spirit of Christmas. It is lighthearted, very funny and wholesome.

Make sure to catch The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two on Netflix November 25th for a jolly good time with the whole family!

Hillbilly Elegy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Hillbilly Elegy is a film about generational differences, family dysfunction and psychological trauma that all stems from childhood. The film is adapted from the memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. There is a different way of life in Middletown, Ohio and the memoir explored how he was personally affected by his family. Ron Howard pulls career best performances from Amy Adams and Glenn Close but it just falls short as a whole.

The screenplay, which was adapted by Vanessa Taylor, seemed promising at the beginning of the film. There was a voiceover from a young J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) explaining how life was for him, living with his family and what category they fit into in the grand scale of America. The film does dive into childhood psychological trauma and how each generation has somehow damaged the next.

It does not matter how it’s delivered, it can be any form of abuse, no matter how miniscule, children are most definitely affected. It felt like an endless cycle of trauma and misguided hatred within the family unit and that is what made certain scenes rather upsetting. The decisions made by generations before, somehow affects the lineage and all it takes is one family member to break the cycle and in this case, it was J.D. Vance.

Courtesy of Netflix Film
(left) Glenn Close and Amy Adams

My dear Amy Adams – an actress who has always gone above and beyond the script- has never had a bad performance, she was transformed as Bev and had incredibly strong, emotional moments. Watching her go toe-to-toe with a heavyweight like Glenn Close, was something I didn’t know I needed. Both have been underappreciated by the Academy for many, many years and if this film is what it takes, then so be it. The film simply does not work without the two of them.

Hillbilly Elegy had some strong moments but the editing made everything feel disjointed and episodic, rather than a fluid structure as a whole. The flashbacks were filled with traumatic emotional moments, that seemed to cut through J.D.’s peace in trying to get a summer internship. It is a film that does its job in blatantly showing real social issues, while allowing its stars to put on an acting clinic to carry the film to the end.

For Glenn Close and Amy Adams, make sure you check out Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix November 24th.

Over the Moon Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Over the Moon co-directed by Glen Keane and John Kahrs is one of the best animated films of the year. It has such stunning animation and an incredibly emotional story that will move you to tears. The screenplay co-written by Audrey Wells and Jennifer Yee McDevitt was so beautiful and explores grieving from a young girl’s perspective. When losing someone so dear to your heart, there is always some little detail, or memory that we hold onto to make us feel better and this film does that so well.

In this animated musical adventure, young Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) remembers the story her mother used to tell her, when she was a child about the moon goddess. It is a love story about an archer who passed on and his spirit remains with the moon goddess, so she waits for him to return to her, hoping that their love can be rekindled. The lore parallels the relationship between Fei Fei’s parents and she so desperately wants to believe that this story is real because it is what her mother told her.

The animation is incredibly well done and the world that was created was so imaginative. It has such a wonderful soundtrack and the songs will definitely stay with you after you’ve finished the film. It is so much fun from beginning to end (I may be biased because of the white bunny named Bungee with purple eyes and magic powers stealing my heart) and it will pull on your heartstrings.

Over the Moon was an unexpected surprise for Netflix and it is such a wonderful animated film added to their library. It also holds so much cultural significance that is so lovely to see on screen. It literally takes you out of reality for a little while and that’s what is so exciting about the film. Its animation, soundtrack and heartfelt story will make you remember this film and the universal support that it gives those who are grieving during this time.