‘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!

‘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.

‘Thunder Force’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

What do you get when you mix Ben Falcone with the superhero genre? You get a very bland, silly and downright dud of a superhero film starring two Oscar winners, an Emmy winner and an Oscar nominee. It physically hurts to watch this film because of the all-star cast doing the most absurd things. Ben Falcone has a weird sense of humour and so does Melissa McCarthy. Their awkward humour doesn’t really translate with a poor script. If it was an awkward SNL sketch, maybe it would stick the landing but nothing really worked.

Like most comedies being released today, they used the crutch of referencing popular games or television shows that would resonate with a wide demographic. In Thunder Force they appeal to the young kids by using ‘Fortnite’ and then use references to Urkel or Jodie Foster to make a simple joke. You may question me saying, “But Amanda, it’s meant to be fun.” Listen, if I had fun, I would say it. I was excited to watch this because of Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer playing superheroes because you never get to see heavier set, middle-aged women kicking major butt and I was more than happy to see that representation. However, their friendship was lacking. They hadn’t seen each other for years and then magically start working together but none of their previous issues were resolved.

It all just felt very convenient, just so they could keep it light and avoid any serious, emotional moments. People need to realize that slapstick comedy no longer works for the climate, unfortunately. I am also extremely tired of McCarthy doing physical comedy just to get the laughs in, when her comedic timing and line delivery is pure gold, people tend to fall-back on her physicality. Majority of it felt really awkward and the film wasted the talents of Bobby Cannavale, Melissa Leo, Jason Bateman and Pom Klementieff. It just didn’t work as well as I would have hoped. I do commend them for one thing, and that’s the bravery it took to make an original superhero film in this day-and-age with so many comic book films surrounding it.

Thunder Force sadly falls short and doesn’t have enough energy to carry the runtime. By the time these characters get to the final battle in the third act, your care for them is non-existent and you just want the bad jokes to be over already. It is such an awkward movie to sit through, especially when Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy were sharing a scene. I kept questioning why certain scenes were kept in the film and who even thought they were funny in the first place. We rarely get comedies anymore, so when one is released it’s a must-watch for me but this one was really disappointing.

‘Yes Day’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have all experienced missed opportunities because we didn’t say ‘Yes’. We sometimes look back on our lives and regret dismissing certain opportunities because they didn’t feel right at the time. Depending on how adventurous you are, majority of people say ‘yes’, when they are eager to try something new. In Yes Day, we see Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) fall in love with each other because of their zest for life. At the beginning of their marriage, they went on adventures in the middle of the day, without a care in the world. Then… they had children and entered the world of ‘No‘.

Yes Day shows the shift from being a couple to being parents quite well. Children are a huge responsibility and once you have a child, or three in their case, your time and attention is no longer on the relationship. Allison and Carlos agree to do the ‘Yes Day’ challenge for 24 hours, where they have to say yes to everything. It is a fun concept with really wild moments throughout and the family dynamic worked really well. The Torres family go on their little adventure for the day and end up in situations they never would have imagined.

Courtesy of Matt Kennedy/Netflix Film

It was also great to see how there are different approaches to parenting and we see that when certain decisions are being made. For their children, Katie (Jenna Ortega), Nando (Julian Lerner), Ellie (Everly Carganilla) they all wanted the freedom to do what they want at a very young age. The main conflict of this film is that Katie wanted to go to a music festival, at fourteen with her close friend, without parental supervision. Now, we all know what happens at music festivals and her mom, does not want her to go at all. After a day of saying, ‘yes’ and realizing that her mother, is actually really fun and just wants the best for her kids, Katie ends up doing the mature thing.

Yes Day is a lot of fun, even with some pacing issues, it still has plenty of teachable moments for parents and children. The cast had great chemistry and they all brought something special to the table. The film drops on Netflix, Friday, March 12th and I challenge you to have a ‘Yes Day’ of your own this Friday! Say ‘yes’ to pampering yourself, for taking some time off and more importantly to have one day of fun! It is a light, wholesome film that is definitely needed to loosen everyone up during these crazy times.