‘Monster’ Movie Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Monster on Netflix is a poignant story about a 17-year-old aspiring filmmaker in Harlem, who is being accused of a robbery that he was not a part of. The film stars Kelvin Harrison Jr, ASAP Rocky, Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson and John David Washington. This film was truly a surprise for me because I didn’t know what I was walking into. The performances from everyone in the cast were emotional, powerful and really effective. It had a unique structure, a well-written script and interesting narrative choices to move the story forward.

On the surface the film seems like it is a generic courtroom drama with a story that we have seen quite often. The difference, in my opinion, is the execution of this story. What I found really interesting was the use of the voiceover from Steven Harmon (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), as we first see him in his jail cell. He expresses his internal thoughts as we his journey unfold. The voiceover works perfectly because it gives a different meaning to what the viewer is seeing on-screen. Since Steven is a filmmaker, the execution of this story mirrors his director’s lens in his mind and externalizes his emotions.

The film explains the negative perception that comes from the systemic racism embedded in the legal system. The film is titled, “monster” because it is one of the words used to describe Steven Harmon when he is on trial. Harmon is haunted by this word because he has never seen himself as one, and now he is questioning, what does it mean to be one? This is the emotional basis of the film and then, there is another layer of perspective, from a filmmaking standpoint that compliments this theme.

Monster is a film that is structured incredibly well because it uses its flashbacks properly. This is a very balanced way to show the events leading to his arrest in the past and then showing the trial in the present day. The performances drive the film and the direction from Anthony Mandler was intriguing. Kelvin Harrison Jr. is one of the most talented young actors working today and this is another project where he truly shines. Make sure to catch Monster on Netflix this weekend!

To All The Boys: Always And Forever Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

To All The Boys: Always and Forever is a pretty fun final installment to the trilogy. After watching our girl, Lara Jean Covey choose Peter Kavinsky over John Ambrose (which was a mistake), we all wanted to see how LJ and PK would end up. Let’s face it, even though some of us (especially me) dislike Valentine’s Day… we still love our romance films. The beauty of rom-coms is that they can take you out of reality for a bit. They can give you a wonderful lead saying the cheesiest, most romantic lines, and we’ll buy it.

What is so wonderful about this trilogy is that it brought life back into the genre. For the past three years, LJ (Lana Condor) and Peter Kavinsky (Noah Centineo) have grown together BUT they have also grown as individuals. This film also takes you back to your senior year and how stressful everything can be. Their relationship is put to the test but they never fail to be absolutely adorable with each other. That’s the magic Lana Condor brings to the screen, so the way Noah Centineo looks at her is totally relatable. Condor holds this film together. She has carried the trilogy from the very beginning because of her spirit.

Like any other teenage romantic comedy, it comes with difficult decisions and life lessons. It is no lie that teenagers are too young to make these life changing decisions but they are all forced to. How are they supposed to know what we want in life? The one thing that I really appreciated from this film is the focus on Lara Jean’s future and what she wanted. Sometimes relationships can cloud your judgement and affect your decisions. Teenagers are constantly faced with difficult decisions and are even more emotional than adults. Everything feels like the end of the world but life is just beginning. When we see Lara Jean take her schooling seriously, instead of thinking about Kavinsky, we see a different side of her that we haven’t seen.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever is Lana Condor’s trilogy and without her none of it works. She has this bright, beautiful, compassionate spirit and she will make you fall in love, with love. As we all know, I am a sucker for the friends to lovers trope and this trilogy started out with a contract. The way this film ends ties everything together and it is a full circle moment. Romantic comedies have been revived through this trilogy and hopefully we can get more of these films. We need more fun, sweet and heartwarming films in our lives.

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!

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 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!