‘Look Both Ways’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

College students always have the whole world ahead of them and they are tricked into believing that a plan will always work. Life never turns out the way they want it to within five years. But, if you’re like me, you feel that everything happens for a reason. You believe that fate is real and that you are destined to be in the moment you are in. Look Both Ways is the first movie that I have seen that depicts two sides of one situation extremely well. On the eve of her college graduation, Natalie’s (Lili Reinhart) life diverges into parallel realities: one in which she becomes pregnant and remains in her hometown to raise her child and another in which she moves to LA to pursue her dream career.

First and foremost, Lili Reinhart absolutely shines in this movie and she takes on both roles effortlessly. She has such a natural charm on screen and everyone will be able to relate to Natalie as a character. Her dream is to become an animator, and it happens in two very different ways in her five-year plan. What resonated with me is how her relationships played out. When she stays home with Gabe (Danny Ramirez) to raise her daughter Rosie, she’s anxious and overwhelmed because she doesn’t want the obligation to marry him. She has always felt differently about him as a friend and secretly so has he. So their whole relationship has been a what if, but they have been afraid to take the dive because they don’t want to lose the dynamic they have.

On the other hand, when Natalie moves to Los Angeles with her best friend Cara (Aisha Dee), things seem to move in a different way. It’s fate that she finds a job as an assistant to her favourite animator, and she meets Jake (David Corenswet) who is exactly who she envisions herself with. Watching both love stories play out within the span of five years was interesting, and you could see the different dynamics. But once events start to bleed into each other, certain encounters were always meant to happen to her because it was destined. And relationships are different. The cursed statement of “what if?” can haunt anyone, and this movie shows that. If anything, it highlights how to move forward and take those risks to focus on your journey as an individual.

Look Both Ways is such a refreshingly original story from Netflix and it has a stunning performance by Lili Reinhart. It’s beautiful, endearing, and can teach anyone how to live in the moment. It’s a movie that can be interpreted in many ways, but it still shows the main point that your dreams can be achievable. There are two ways to look at everything and even though the journey may be rocky, the endgame is worth the time and effort. This is possibly one of the best Netflix movies of the year and it’s a necessary watch because of the message. There are no five-year plans for any of us anymore, we’ve resorted to day-to-day living because it’s just easier to process. There is so much to learn from this movie and it also proves that Lili Reinhart needs to be in more movies.

’13: The Musical’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Growing up is certainly not an easy thing and at thirteen years old it can feel like nothing is going right. The teenage years a crucial in building your persona, and many teens have no idea what the right path is. Whether they’re influenced by their peers or being overprotected by their parents, it’s hard for them to go on their journeys. In 13: The Musical, a 12-year-old named Evan (Eli Golden) movies from New York City to Indiana and navigates his parents’ divorce, his impending bar mitzvah and his new school’s social circles. Teenagers have difficulty dealing with multiple things at once, so when there are major life changes it can take a toll on them. 

For Eli Golden to carry this musical on his shoulders is a big feat for a young star and he pulled it off beautifully. He has a wonderful voice, he is very charismatic, and his facial reactions made conversations even funnier. It is a generic coming-of-age story that highlights Evan’s Bar Mitzvah as this big party he needs to have to make his mark at his new school. At that age, popularity is a big thing for everyone. Evan wanted to be included at school considering his home life wasn’t as put together as he would have liked. At first, he meets the next-door neighbour Patrice (Gabrielle Uhl) who is kind enough to show him around town and become his first friend. 

Once school starts Evan notices the cool kids and he wants to get them to his big party. In doing so, his friendship with Patrice starts to get rocky because she is considered an outsider. It’s a very fun and engaging story because of the teenage angst, and the fact that Evan has to play matchmaker to get the cool kids to go to his party. The songs are wonderful and the choreography worked for the film adaptation. Every single child actor in this musical is extremely talented and they all made it entertaining to watch. Sometimes we all need some lighthearted fun with a good lesson, and this movie musical is a good watch for the whole family. 

13: The Musical is a sweet coming-of-age film that has a young Jewish boy discover the true meaning of friendship while moving to a new school. It is one of the more engaging Netflix movie musicals because of how charming the cast was. They worked together so well and it felt like they were just so genuine with their characterizations. For a Netflix movie musical with some teen angst, it’s a fun watch sure enough to warm anyone’s heart. It takes you back to your middle school years and makes you appreciate all your teenage experiences because they did make you the person you are today. Like all teenage movies there will be a secondhand embarrassment, so be ready for that.

‘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. 

‘Wedding Season’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Romantic comedies are usually a reflection of the social climate we currently live in. And dating in this generation has been even more difficult than before. The one thing that remains the same is the pressure families put on their children to get married, especially their daughters. They don’t realize that careers can sometimes take over the void of not having a partner by their side. Getting lost in their work after a failed relationship can sometimes be more fulfilling than diving into the dating pool again. Working towards your own goals should be seen as something rewarding, instead of it seeming like it’s taking away precious time from dating and starting a family. Each generation has been through its hardships, and sometimes the relationship aspect is placed on the back burner. In Wedding Season, there’s this exploration of what it truly means to be happy. It’s more of a self-fulfilling journey than a community-based one according to how Indian families operate. 

In true rom-com fashion, Asha (Pallavi Sharda) and Ravi (Suraj Sharma) pretend to date after their parents set them up to avoid the pressures that come with the summer wedding season, only to find them falling for each other. We have seen this story many times before, but they did manage to add something new to the mix. Asha is very career oriented after things ended badly in her last relationship. And Ravi is just floating by trying to just live life for himself. The key to any romantic comedy is banter and chemistry, which is what they both had. Sharda and Sharma were very natural with each other and that is why it felt like the easiest pairing in the world. It was interesting to watch their dynamic change throughout the movie as they both fell for each other. It’s getting to know the person without even trying that strengthens the relationship. Asha was very transparent from the start, but Ravi was not, which causes some issues later on.

We have seen families get in the way of relationships before and what this movie teaches everyone is that children do not live to make their parents happy. These decisions have changed over generations, and now it’s more about being content with someone who brings you peace, no matter the status. It was lovely to see different couples from all races and religions come together over this wedding season. All couples face insecurities and hardships, and this movie shows all of that effectively. Nothing is ever perfect and that is why if you truly love someone, you will always work at that relationship no matter what. There are many lessons in this movie and it was heartwarming seeing everything work out in the end. Sure, it’s a bit generic, but the cultural authenticity of the family unit and the wedding season added another layer to this genre. Parents always want the best for their kids because they had it difficult growing up. They want them to prosper and have a better life, but sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. 

Wedding Season is a sweet romantic comedy written by Shiwani Srivastava and directed by Tom Dey for Netflix. It does have some lovely moments between the two leads and they will most likely steal everyone’s hearts. Many have been through a situation similar to Asha and Ravi, and it’s almost like validating those feelings or situations. Love comes in all forms and relationships can flourish in the strangest ways. It begins as a community effort from both sets of parents, but then ultimately it was Asha’s ability to open herself up to the idea of loving someone again. A similar romantic comedy storyline is there, but the actors within the family unit, and the leads give it something extra. It’s a very nice addition to the romantic comedy section in the Netflix library.

‘Persuasion’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

The newest Jane Austen adaptation Persuasion explores the yearning for lost love. When Frederick Wentworth (Cosmo Jarvis) — the one who got away — crashes back into Anne Elliot’s (Dakota Johnson) life, she must choose between putting the past behind her or listening to her heart when it comes to second chances. All Jane Austen novels have one lead character who has a certain standard for romance and love. This film is another reminder that there is no right way to love someone or find someone in this life because the path keeps changing for everyone. Even though this isn’t the best adaptation, there was still some charm to it. 

First and foremost, Dakota Johnson was miscast in this period piece. For some strange reason, she just doesn’t suit the period. On top of that, the quirky fourth wall breaks and narration by Anne Elliot will take you out of the movie entirely. Understandably, this is Anne’s internal monologue – especially when introducing new characters- but the editing did not work in its favour. Every time there was somewhat of an engaging scene, the fourth wall would abruptly cut the flow. It’s as if the filmmaking was a bit too modern for its good in capturing Austen’s original story. There are some great moments that Johnson had, such tender and emotional ones, but they were undercut by the editing choices. 

The story is about Anne’s lost love returning from sea after eight years, and wondering if he still loves her. They go from exes to friends, to the middle ground that we all like to call a situationship. Johnson and Jarvis had strong chemistry, but it didn’t jump off the screen like other Austen adaptations. It felt a bit dull and uninteresting. When Mr. Elliot (Henry Golding) enters there’s a different spark in Anne’s eyes and the conversation is different. There’s playful banter and a much better connection between Golding and Johnson. However, Anne remains torn between old, comfortable love, and a new, unpredictable one. Anyone can relate to Anne’s misfortune in finding love, but it’s impossible to think that Johnson has ever gone through that. 

Seeing Dakota Johnson in Persuasion is just a bit odd. It’s not to say she doesn’t give a strong performance, but she just doesn’t suit the period. When watching this, it’s more so Johnson acting as herself in a British accent, than taking on the role of Anne Elliot. At times she was quite charming as Anne, but those fourth wall breaks made it impossible to stay in line with the character. There were some humorous moments as well, but the majority of the time it didn’t stick the landing. It’s more the execution of the story than the romantic Austen tale itself. It had the potential to be great and it needed a bit more Henry Golding.