‘Bruised’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In Halle Berry’s directorial feature debut Bruised she uses a female lens to tell the story of a disgraced MMA fighter, Jackie Justice (Halle Berry). Justice finds redemption in the cage, and the courage to face her demons when the son she had given up, as an infant, unexpectedly re enters her life. Berry and writer, Michelle Rosenfarb assembled a fresh, unique take on women in this industry that really hasn’t been explored on screen before. Even though it did falter at times, it is still an impressive debut for Berry.

The film does go through the motions of a typical sports film, especially those centered on boxing, but the female centric story adds another layer to it. It is the journey that Jackie Justice goes on in this film as a fighter, as a woman, and lastly as a mother. We see that Justice is completely rundown because of her manager, who is a drunkard, and doesn’t treat her properly at all. She has this rage inside her, which she used to express in the ring, follow her after she quit. She has always needed an outlet and unfortunately, alcohol filled that void.

While watching this film, I was trying to understand why the movie felt a bit weak. It wasn’t because of Berry’s direction, it seemed like she was really taking risks and trying to make viewers understand her Justice’s struggle through her visuals. Instead, it was Rosenfarb’s script that didn’t work for what Berry was attempting to do with this. It felt like two clashing ideas that never fully developed into something meaningful. Visually it was interesting and definitely engaging because of the sport, but the script itself felt disjointed by incorporating too much into the story.

Bruised is a strong directorial debut from Berry. She also delivers a very emotional performance as Jackie Justice. Her character goes through so much and it was nice to see that the connection with her son is what grounds her. We see many sides to Justice and that just shows how talented Halle Berry is. Not only did Berry have a clear vision for the film she wanted to make, she also assembled an all female soundtrack with some of the best in the industry today. If it weren’t for this film and her drive, we wouldn’t have a female-led boxing film and that is what makes this a good watch.

‘Things Heard And Seen’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Things Heard And Seen is a really interesting ghost story, centered around a couple, George (James Norton) and Catherine Claire (Amanda Seyfried) who end up moving to a small town because of George’s new job. Catherine stays at home with her daughter Franny, as her husband goes off to work. There are issues that are shown between the couple early on in the film, which makes for a very dramatic watch as the film goes on. We notice that the connection Catherine has to the house and the spirit within it is more than just your typical ghost story.

The first half of this film will definitely get you invested in this couple. We see that Catherine is struggling with an eating disorder and she feels like she is trapped in this life that she is in. Catherine feels like she doesn’t belong for some reason and George just continues to move forward without her, not caring about her at all. We see this in the move to a small town because he got a job offer, or did he? The mystery truly lies with George because of James Norton’s great performance. It is very layered and as the film goes on, we see a different side of him. We find out who he truly is before Catherine does.

What I really enjoyed about the first half of this film, was the exploration of the afterlife and of certain spirits merging with the living. There can be good spirits that latch onto good people and evil spirits that latch onto bad energy. Instead of just focusing on the evil spirits in the house, the focus is on a female spirit who lived her life in fear because of her husband. The spirit latches onto Catherine because she is going through her own nightmare with her husband. George was dishonest from the beginning and the marital issues get pushed to the forefront in the second half of this film.

It had a unique story, interesting framing and great performances but as they wrapped up this ghost story, it felt incredibly rushed. It didn’t feel like a rewarding ending, even though the symbolism at the end with the paintings, made it very clear who the spirits latched onto. It had a strong first half but lost its way in the second. If you enjoy supernatural thrillers, then it is still an enjoyable watch. The drama between husband and wife will keep you engaged until the very end, Seyfried is fantastic in this!

‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an animated film that will heavily resonate with artists everywhere. We have a young aspiring filmmaker Katie Mitchell(Abbi Jacobson) who embarks on a road trip with her parents, Rick (Danny McBride) and Linda (Maya Rudolph), younger brother Aaron (Michael Rianda), and her beloved dog to start her first year at film school. During their family bonding time, things take a turn for the worst, as the world’s electronic devices come to life to stage an uprising. The Mitchells are only ones who can save everyone – and the planet- from the new tech revolution.

What stands out the most in the film is the animation. Sony’s animation is so beautiful and vibrant. They have added their own unique spin to how they create the world for their stories. The almost lifelike animation, combined with the fast-paced action, and fun story, makes this film one of the best of the year, so far. Young Katie has been trying to find out who she is. She expresses herself through her filmmaking but her parents don’t really understand her dream. There are some hard-hitting conversations that happen between Katie and her parents, especially her father.

As a creative, the deeper conversations about choosing the right path in life, are moments we can all relate to. Fortunately for me, my parents have always been supportive but there have been some conversations about my decisions that have hurt me. The road as a creative is a difficult one but it can also be really rewarding. Katie knows all about technology and how to use it, so when the world is overturned by these robots, she works with her father (even though they are at odds) in order to save everyone. The father/daughter relationship is probably my favourite aspect of this film because of how honest and realistic the conversations were.

The Mitchells vs. The Machines is very funny, action-packed and heartfelt. It is the family road trip movie we didn’t know we needed and Sony definitely delivered. Lord and Miller never miss. Their films are always fun for the whole family. They have this great balance of kid-friendly flashiness and a solid story that everyone can resonate with. Also need to give a shout out to the two friendly robots, I recognized their voices instantly and they added such great humour to the action scenes. This voice cast was wonderful and the family unit is probably one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a beautiful piece showcasing how extremely talented its leads are. In Chicago, 1927, there was a recording session with Ma Rainey and her band. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), her ambitious horn player Levee (Chadwick Boseman) and the white executives who wanted to control the sound of “Mother of the Blues”. It is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning play written by the great August Wilson.

Director George C. Wolfe managed to create such a grand scale for Ma Rainey in the opening scene, as the audience is introduced to her in the middle of a performance. We see Viola Davis in her most unrecognizable and transformative role yet. It was so incredible to watch her embody this role and add a little bit of herself to this complex role. As we saw in Fences, Davis highly respects Wilson’s material and more importantly, she understands it.

Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane
(centre) Viola Davis

The direction had this dual sense of atmosphere. Even though it takes place in a recording studio, it did not feel stuffy and static, like other plays that have been adapted for the screen. Wolfe created two separate rooms that had separate energy from each other. What was most impressive was how Wolfe captured his actors. It felt like we were on stage with these actors, the close ups and tight knit camerawork that was used was extremely effective. Wolfe played with the fluidity of stage performing, while still creating a grander space within the frame.

Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane
(left) Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo

Not only did Viola Davis put on an acting clinic, but the late, great Chadwick Boseman was brilliant as Levee. We already know that Davis is one of the best in the industry but Boseman… Boseman was incredible in this. It is the second performance this year that has left me completely speechless. Boseman gave a heartbreaking performance, he was energetic, emotional and completely broken by the traumas of his past. In the room with the rest of the band, Toledo (Glynn Turman), Slow Drag (Michael Potts) and Cutler (Colman Domingo), he was the burst of energy like an electrical current being confined in that small room, that would spike during conversations.

Courtesy of Escape Artists and Mundy Lane
(left) Glynn Turman, Michael Potts, Chadwick Boseman and Colman Domingo

The entire cast was exceptional, there was never a moment where the energy fell, they all remained consistent with the high level intensity throughout. Levee wanted to be a star of his own, he wrote music for executive Mr. Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne) and the one conversation, which was such a pivotal moment in the film, was the band’s discussion about the white executives and being “spooked by the white man.” The entire monologue delivered by Chadwick Boseman will most definitely be his Oscar reel because of how moving it was.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom feels like such an intoxicating film once you settle into the story and the performances. Each member of the cast holds you and demands your attention whenever they are speaking. It feels like you are watching a play but Wolfe’s direction elevates it to capture powerful on screen performances.


Editor’s Note:

I won’t lie to any of you, this was extremely difficult to watch because of how wonderful Boseman was in this. It is hard to sit there and register that this wonderful, talented man is gone and he left us with this brilliant final performance. There are moments where you completely get lost in his character and then moments where you just watch him and get emotional. Hell, I cried while typing this out. Rest in Power King. Your last performance is one for the history books and it will be studied in the future. You signed off with August Wilson’s words and your legacy will live on forever.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is truly one of the best films to come out this year. It is hard to even find the words to express, how perfectly written this film is and it all comes down to the master class screenwriting from Aaron Sorkin. There’s an urgency in this script, the dialogue was short and to the point (typical Sorkin), everything was explained thoroughly and rather quickly, which kept you glued to the screen.

The film accurately captured everything that was going on, simultaneously in the late 60s. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was shot and the Vietnam War was at its worst. Then began the anti war protests, which changed history forever, by chanting to the American police force, “The whole world is watching,” and, they still are. History has a way of repeating itself and the more I see archival footage, used in films or documentaries, the more painful everything is to see in the current climate.

There are so many incredible moments in The Trial of the Chicago 7. There are 3 standouts from the entire ensemble, that left me in awe of their performances. Within 5 seconds of seeing Yahya’s portrayal of Bobby Seale, I can confidently tell you, that he should get an Oscar nomination for his performance. Sacha Baron Coen’s portrayal of Abbie Hoffman was also fantastic and you could tell that he really wanted to tell his story. Mark Rylance also gave a very moving performance, as radical defense attorney William Kunstler, it is probably my favourite performance of his.

Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures and Amblin Partners
(left) Sacha Baron Cohen, Danny Flaherty, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance

What I loved the most about the film was that I could have watched it for another 2 hours and not get tired of it. I was actually so disappointed when it ended because I wanted to see more of this fantastic ensemble of actors, show up for Sorkin. A Sorkin script is never easy to get through, many actors have said that it is harder than it seems. It is fast paced and the soundtrack also brought everything together, it wasn’t overused and it came in at the right moments.

Most people have said that this film is coming out at the right time. However, this sociopolitical climate, the blatant racism, and obtaining some form of justice, for the abhorrent treatment from the American police force, has never disappeared. So is the word “timely” in a review effective anymore, when this hasn’t stopped since the 60s? The film is not a representation of this current era that we are living in. Instead it represents the long fight against systemic racism and how this level of injustice has not been handled properly.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is possibly Aaron Sorkin’s best directorial effort, and his screenplays continuously leave me stunned. The film has incredible performances from its ensemble, a wicked score and highly emotional courtroom scenes that should be played in an Oscar reel next year. It is truly one of the best Netflix Original Films I have seen and it deserves every ounce of praise that it is getting.

Make sure to watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 tomorrow on Netflix!