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!

The Devil All the Time Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Devil All the Time is a film that is adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Donald Ray Pollock. It has a wonderful cast of actors and it highlights their strengths, in this slow burn psychological thriller. The religious, Christian ideals are tested and what is considered “right”, is in the eye of the beholder.

There are moments in this film that are assembled and revealed so well, that the way everything unfolds, will make you question everyone’s morals. Director Antonio Campos, made some great choices and there are moments that will completely catch you off guard because of how graphic certain scenes are. Some characters have a more timid presence, so the more gruesome scenes were shocking.

On paper this cast is incredible but the way they are all placed and spread out in the film, left me underwhelmed. The first half of this film, we are introduced to Willard Russell (Bill Skarsgård) and Carl Henderson (Jason Clarke) in a restaurant. They are both very reserved but have something waiting to snap, in the veil behind their eyes. The men in this town, all had the same look, their eyes crazed, while having a timid demeanour.

Even though the central story is about the demons of lineage and family trauma, for Arvin Russell (Tom Holland), the women in this film were severely underused. How can you cast Haley Bennett, Mia Wasikowska, Riley Keough and Eliza Scanlen but underuse them? The women in this story, were used to further the plot of the men in the town and it was frustrating, given how much talent they have.

Photo: Cr. Glen Wilson/Netflix
(Left) Bill Skarsgård as Willard Russell, Michael Banks Repeta as Young Arvin Russell

It is a very slow film about Christians in the ’50s and how everyone’s morals can be tested, by what the correct way to live is. Everyone moves in secret, everyone has their demons, that is why the title of this film makes complete sense, the devil will tempt you at every turn, it is up to you and your compass, to decipher what is right or wrong, in the face of God.

The saviours of the second half of this film are Tom Holland, Eliza Scanlen and the King of accents himself… Robert Pattinson. After 40 minutes, the film picks up and we are taken into the lives of Arvin Russell (Tom Holland) and Lenora Lafferty (Eliza Scanlen) as a new Reverend comes into town, named Preston Teagardin (Robert Pattinson) and changes everyone’s lives.

The Devil All the Time seems like a very long journey, with all these characters, who all have something to hide, but turn to God, to guide them in what they consider, the “right” direction. Morals are tested, lives are at stake and the executioner, can be sitting right beside them in church. It has great performances and an ending, that will mirror your feelings by the end.

Make sure to check out The Devil All the Time on Netflix September 16th!

Enola Holmes Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The game, is most definitely, afoot!

Enola Holmes was surprisingly delightful, witty and incredibly charming, thanks to the wonderful Millie Bobby Brown. The film had its own style, while still trying to incorporate, previous iterations of Sherlockian themes. While it is set in the Victorian Era, it still tethers the voices of women all over the globe, spanning generations of fighting the patriarchy.

On Enola’s fourteenth birthday, her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) disappears and leaves clues for her young daughter. Her sons, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Clafin) return home to find their sister all grown up. Sherlock assessed Enola, the second he saw her and noticed similar character traits that they share. Brown, Cavill and Clafin all gave great performances, it truly felt like they were born to play these roles and I would love to see them in a sequel.

Courtesy of Netflix (left) Millie Bobby Brown as Enola and Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes

The most entertaining aspect of Enola Holmes, was that there were two different mysteries trying to be solved, at the same time and it wasn’t lacking at all. Enola crossed paths with young Lord Tewksbury (Louis Patridge) who is on a mission of his own. The pair go on their own little adventure, trying to escape the hands of a hired hitman. They instantly grow fond of each other because they both feel unwanted in their own home. So being alone, together, is something that they both seem to be fine with.

What was really beautiful and heartwarming about the film was the journey Enola went on. She felt lost without her mother and Mycroft was forcing her into a ‘proper’ lifestyle, she never felt like she could be apart of. On this journey, Enola uses the “ideal” standard of dressing in gowns and makeup to her advantage, as she navigates her way through the case without anyone knowing she’s present. She’s incredibly versatile, as she dresses in clothes for men and women throughout the film.

Courtesy of Netflix (center) Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes

Enola not only finds out who she is meant to be, but she becomes educated on what is happening in London and how being a woman is more than a role that is constructed by the patriarchy. Enola slowly realizes how important of a role she plays in the evolution of women’s rights in her own country. Enola also changes the mind of Sherlock, as he folds into loving his younger sister and caring for her more than he ever did.

Enola Holmes was playful and energetic, just like Millie Bobby Brown, who also broke the fourth wall multiple times. The fourth wall break, was what really brought this piece together because you felt an instant connection with her. This is one of my favourite Netflix original films and hopefully it gets a well deserved sequel!

Make sure to catch Enola Holmes on Netflix September 23rd!