‘Day Shift’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

A hardworking dad Bud Jablonski (Jamie Foxx) out to provide for his daughter uses a boring pool-cleaning job as a front for his real gig: hunting and killing vampires. Director J.J. Perry sets the tone early on in Day Shift when he gets right into the action with Jablonski and how he hunts vampires. Audiences can relate to him because he is a father doing the best he can for his daughter, as he sells certain vampire body parts for cash. He can track these vampires and hunt them down with a shotgun to get this money. The action is jam-packed at the very beginning and gives a strong sense of how the movie is going to play out. 

Like any other vampire movie, there are rules set within the universe that help audiences understand how everyone operates. The only issue with that is the exposition in regards to how they over-explain their vampires and what they do. It could have been handled a bit differently and not as dense as it was, considering there was a more playful tone at the beginning of this movie. It does get darker as the movie goes on, which would explain the shift. The characters are separated at first but then they all come together in the end to have a final standoff that further explains the history of the vampires in the town. There is a nice mix of mystery between all the characters, but ultimately it drags and the pacing doesn’t work in its favour.

The one reason to watch this vampire-hunting Netflix film is the action. From the moment it started, the fight choreography and special effects are what grabbed my attention. When Foxx was fighting the first vampire, the camera angles and the swift movements of the character impressed me. It felt like Perry wanted to almost make it a video game type of feel with those action sequences. The sequences got more graphic as the movie went on, which is what made it so much fun to watch. There were moments where the VFX on the vampires worked well and almost disgusted me because of how realistic they looked. Perry sold the believability of the vampire-hunting through the action scenes and that’s all anyone can ask of this movie. 

Day Shift had the potential to be better than it was if he focused more on the story than the action. There needed to be a balance for this movie to be a memorable addition to the Netflix library. Unfortunately, the jokes did not land and it wasn’t as funny as they thought it would be with Dave Franco and Snoop Dogg in the mix. Is it a fun action movie? For the most part, yes. But it doesn’t have the strength in the story for it to be engaging at all. In this case, the action does overpower the storyline, so it feels like a mindless action movie where you’re just waiting for those awesome scenes. Foxx is always great but it didn’t feel like he had much to do with his character at all, which didn’t do much for the story. 

‘Valley of the Dead’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Sometimes zombie flicks can be really fun because of the cast and the location. If the cast has great banter and understands how to make certain aspects believable, the movie will be a fun ride. Unfortunately, Valley of the Dead misses the mark when it comes to believability and suspense throughout the entire movie. It is as generic as they come, even though it’s about a lawyer in the army trying to navigate through a piece of land where dead soldiers have become zombies. It didn’t really add anything to the genre, but instead just went through the motions to make it watchable. It draws from many other zombie films that had better execution.

Valley of the Dead, which is also called Malnazidos is a 2020 Spanish zombie action film directed by Javier Ruiz Caldera and Alberto de Toro and set in the Spanish Civil War. A small group of sworn enemies must work together when they encounter flesh-eating zombies created in a Nazi experiment. There is some great camera work in the opening scene to show how brutal the Nazis were and how the experiment started. But, it soon fizzled towards the middle when they started to venture through the valley. They moved locations and then more and more zombies would show up until the third act which had a whole army. It felt as if it was escalating because it had to, and not because it worked for the story.

Zombie films are more suspenseful than anything because the anticipation is what would cause any form of tension. That’s what was severely lacking in this movie and it is what made me lose interest. Even though it has a short runtime, it felt like it was dragging on because it wasn’t engaging. The makeup for the zombies was fine but looked a bit cheap at times. On top of that, the kills weren’t that inventive and the blood didn’t look believable either. There was some great banter between characters, but ultimately it just wasn’t scary enough or unique to set it apart from other zombie flicks.

Valley of the Dead had some good moments, and some fun camera work at times, but lacked suspense. This movie just went through the motions of every other zombie film, but just in a different setting. The story wasn’t nearly strong enough to keep the audience engaged. At times, the humour was decent but some jokes didn’t really land. There was so much potential for this movie to actually highlight what happened at that time, but it glossed over the historical accuracy and filled it with the zombie storyline instead. There wasn’t a clear balance in the storytelling for audiences to connect with the story at all.

‘Senior Year’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many people out there who would love to go back to high school – with the knowledge they have now – and do things a bit differently. Depending on which clique you were part of in high school, everyone has their own experience. As long as you had a great group of friends around you, high school wasn’t so bad. One thing is for sure, that no matter when you went to high school, the popularity contest was still prevalent. Even watching a movie like Senior Year makes you reminisce about the fun times and also the times when you would cringe because of how awkward certain situations were. Everyone had a different high school experience and everyone can relate to a film like this.

After a cheerleading stunt went wrong, Stephanie (Rebel Wilson) landed in a 20-year coma. Now she’s 37, newly awake and ready to live out her high school dream: becoming prom queen. It does feel a bit generic as far as older people returning to high school to fulfill their dream, but Rebel Wilson is back. Here’s the issue with Senior Year, if you are a fan of Rebel Wilson’s humour then you really will enjoy this, but it feels like this type of humour is outdated. When Wilson first stepped onto the big screen in Pitch Perfect that awkward humour was funny, but there are only so many films that you can place it in. Wilson grasps at straws because the jokes just didn’t land and her character was more irritating than anything.

The one good thing about Senior Year is the social commentary surrounding social media, cliques, and how technology consumes teenagers. There is one thing that Stephanie said in the film that rings true, that the popularity contest that used to be in high school just expanded into the virtual world of social media. Everyone is worried about comparing themselves to other people and social media has made people doubt the nature of their true selves. It’s difficult to be on social media at any age, but now teenagers are growing up with it. It can harm one’s self-esteem and personal image. Sometimes, people can even lose themselves to the pressure of an online persona.

Is Senior Year as deep as it could have been regarding the social commentary on social media and popularity? No, but it does give you that nostalgic 90s feeling while watching the movie. It’s a fun watch just to feel like you’re back in that high school state of mind, but it doesn’t deliver on the laughs. Sam Richardson is also in this and he is just a charming ray of light that saves certain scenes in this movie. If you want to see Rebel Wilson back in action, then this is the movie for you this weekend. It’s light, fun, and does warm the heart. It brings all the awkwardness of high school back again and you may suffer from secondhand embarrassment. There are some decent emotional moments, but ultimately it just doesn’t stick the landing as a whole.

‘The Adam Project’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

As we get older and we learn how to accept our past, the idea of being able to talk to our younger selves is always floating around. What would you say to your younger self? How could talking to the 12-year-old version of you affect your future decisions? Well, The Adam Project taps into that very idea in a sci-fi film that is grounded in human emotion. Director Shawn Levy constructs a heartfelt story about time-travel that revolves around childhood trauma and grief. It does have the charming Ryan Reynolds with his usual sarcasm, but this is a well-rounded sci-fi, action adventure that balances the humour and drama quite well.

We meet Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) who is wounded while he is trying to steal a ship in order to go back in time to stop time travel from being created. Unfortunately, he crash-lands in the year 2022 and bumps into his 12-year-old self, played by newcomer Walker Scobell. As we know, Reynolds has his own dry sense of humour that he carries with him in all of his characters, but what was so impressive was that Scobell matched his delivery. It was like two peas in a pod, and their dynamic carried the entire film. On the surface, it may look like any other sci-fi film, but the time travel storyline and how it affects both Adams is really emotional.

Time travel can always get a bit messy and it can be difficult to understand. If you just follow the rules placed within the movie itself, then it isn’t so bad. The futuristic weapons and armour combined made the action scenes really fun. Of course, there are references to other films like Star Wars, but it was fitting. The VFX work was strong and the soundtrack they used to really pack it on that there wasn’t that much time left worked really well throughout the movie. Any movie that utilizes “Foreplay/Long Time” from Boston gets a high grade for me. This movie was fun when it needed to be and it had really beautiful, emotional moments between family members.

The Adam Project is one of the best Netflix films in their library and the entire team should be proud of this film. It is a family-oriented film that touches upon grief and how every little thing that happens in your childhood can shape you into the person you become. The cast works together so well and having a 13 Going on 30 reunion with Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo is something we definitely needed. It is a wholesome film with so much love and an important message that time really does heal everything. What everyone can learn from this film is that it is important to feel these emotions in order to grow as a person, and I think that is what makes this film so wonderful.

‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Due to the popularity of other slasher films making direct sequels to the original film in the franchise, Texas Chainsaw Massacre decided to take a stab at it. Now, the difference between this slasher film and the others is that they had a distinct final girl. We have Laurie Strode and Sidney Prescott, both of who have been the central focus in their designated franchise. Texas Chainsaw Massacre never really had a memorable final girl, but they had Leatherface. No matter how many sequels they make with Leatherface, nothing compares to the original film and the stunning cinematography. The kills in the original were brutal and the film itself had more tension because of the camerawork alone. This direct sequel doesn’t really add much to the story and it doesn’t even have a strong enough motivation for its characters.

In order to make Leatherface relevant for this generation, the story needed to be centred on influencers. After nearly 50 years of hiding, Leatherface returns to terrorize a group of idealistic young friends who accidentally disrupt his carefully shielded world in a remote Texas town. These young kids have no idea what they are getting themselves into, as they step into the house owned by an elderly lady with some demons of her own. Director David Blue Garcia does some good work in building anticipation but the story just doesn’t pan out as well as it should have. The story is straightforward and feels recycled, but we are all really watching this for the kills, aren’t we? It doesn’t matter if any of these characters survive because they are just placed in this town to get murdered with no prior knowledge of Leatherface.

This is the type of sequel where you’re just waiting for the kills to happen. Texas Chainsaw Massacre has some of the most brutal kills I’ve seen in a while. There’s so much blood and gore, that even the close-ups of anything piercing someone’s skin will make you cringe. The kills will also make you laugh because of how bold they are. You can definitely feel every single blow to the head or axe to the chest. It does get a bit ridiculous in the third act because it could have ended in three different spots, but it kept going. They tried to make a final girl out of Sally Hardesty (Olwen Fouéré) but it just didn’t make any sense because no one is connected to her enough to make this feel like “one last time” heading out to kill Leatherface.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a sequel that tries to recapture the same essence of the original but falls flat. The characters are hollow and there is absolutely no reason to even root for them. Leatherface has always flown under the radar and his backstory was always weak. If we compare his story to Jason, Freddy, or Michael, each of their stories is a bit more developed, which created well-rounded antagonists. In this case, it felt like they were mimicking the importance of other franchise villains with Leatherface in their place. Fans of the franchise will definitely appreciate the kills but at the end of the day, it’s just a recycled story trying to cater to this generation to make it relevant again.