HBO Max Original: UNPregnant Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

UNpregnant is one of the best films of the year! It is a buddy comedy, that rekindles the relationship between two former best friends, Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) and Bailey (Barbie Ferreira), as they journey across state lines to get an abortion. It is adapted from the novel, under the same name, written by Jenni Hendriks.

First of all, this film is incredibly important because of how informative it is on the topic of abortion. In previous films or television shows, the topic of abortion has always been this difficult thing to openly talk about. The right measures are usually never taken and it is always shown in a negative light. UNpregnant addresses all these unanswered questions and brings them to the forefront, all while adding a very humorous duo to keep the balance.

This is THE coming of age film that no one saw coming. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira were dynamite together! They complimented each other so well and I really appreciated that they were both unapologetically themselves. Veronica and Bailey acknowledged their flaws and toxic traits but embraced who they were, which was great to see. What I really enjoyed was the exploration into each of their backstories and how they became separated from each other in high school.

The film had great pacing and there was never a dull moment because they continued to reveal small pieces of their friendship puzzle, throughout the film. On their journey to Albuquerque for the abortion, they meet some funny characters who end up helping them along the way. Veronica and Bailey also grow to understand the other a bit more and realize that their friendship holds more value than they remembered.

Courtesy of Berlanti Productions, HBO Films and Picturestart
(left) Barbie Ferreira and Haley Lu Richardson

The most important scene in this film is the entire abortion clinic sequence. It is done in such a tasteful manner because of the wonderful writing and direction from these two women, Jenni Hendriks and Rachel Lee Goldenberg. The right to choose and having the proper information are both incredibly important. I appreciated the fact that they created a safe, dreamlike space, to go through the entire process with Veronica.

UNpregnant is a totally fun, raunchy, and heartwarming coming of age film. This film will most definitely be discussed for its boldness, but timely position, on the topic of abortion. It is addressed in such a lighthearted way that the emotional moments are placed perfectly in the film, to rope you back into the reality of the situation. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira are definitely the duo of the year!

Make sure to catch UNpregnant on HBO Max September 10th!

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!

Miss Juneteenth Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Miss Juneteenth is a film, about the generational effects of mothering and how choices can affect the future. This is Channing Godfrey Peoples directorial debut and she wrote the screenplay as well. The film is about a former beauty queen and single mother, Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) who prepares her rebellious daughter, Kai Marie Jones (Alexis Chikaeze) for the ‘Miss Juneteenth’ pageant. The film shows Black heritage and the different opportunities that are made available for the Black community.

It begins with Turquoise reminiscing about her pageant days and the future she could have had. She sees her bright, young daughter and wants her to follow in her footsteps, in order to succeed. Turquoise wants her daughter to accomplish more than she did, which causes her to push her to her limit and overwork her for a pageant, she does not want to take part of. It does seem that Turquoise sees this as a redemption arc, for herself, if her daughter wins the pageant and gets the scholarship for university.

Turquoise worked hard to become ‘Miss Juneteenth’ and there was pressure, that came with the title but it also shows how circumstances, like an alcoholic mother, or a pregnancy, can lead to difficult decisions, that could change your life. The film pushes Turquoise back into the world of pageantry and she begins to doubt herself, in how she’s raising Kai. Turquoise can be seen as a very strict mother and Kai wants to express her creativity through dancing instead of becoming a clone of her mother, for this pageant.

Miss-Juneteenth-feature-image-1024x578

Courtesy Ley Line Entertainment (left) Nicole Beharie and Alexis Chikaeze

 

Nicole Beharie gives a nuanced, emotional, complex performance, as Turquoise and it is one of the best performances of the year. As she guides her daughter Kai, through the pageant, she picked up double shifts, to pay for her pageant run and she realized, that it meant more to her, than it did to her daughter. Turquoise was working three jobs and trying to make everything work, for her family but it seemed like everyone was against her. It may not have been intentional but Turquoise had to hustle and do everything for herself, when others fell through.

Turquoise had struggled with so many things in her life, including a strained relationship with her alcoholic mother. She was responsible for her own mother, from a very young age and she had to learn how to support herself. Those are choices that need to be made, in order to survive and that is what she did. She is a woman that would go to any lengths, to protect the people that are around her and go above and beyond for them, when times get rough.

Miss Juneteenth is a strong debut from Channing Godfrey Peoples, as she discusses the systemic racism and corruption in the Black community, in regards to equal opportunities for schooling and businesses. It shows the journey of a woman, who needed to make tough choices in order to survive, as she remembers a version of herself, that is now a ghost of her past life. Women sacrifice so many things for others around them, including their children and this was a film, that definitely showed the determination they have.

The King of Staten Island Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The King of Staten Island is Judd Apatow’s most personal film to date. He collaborated with Pete Davidson and Dave Sirus to bring Pete’s deeply emotional life to the screen. It was candid, realistic and raw to Pete’s journey. It was in typical Apatow fashion, to have such a natural flow to this story. They addressed mental illness and childhood trauma with humorous moments. In his mid -20s Scott (Pete Davidson) is at a standstill in his life, he dropped out of high school and his younger sister Claire (Maude Apatow) is heading out to college. As the events in his life unfold, Scott must come to terms with his father’s death and processes his grief in many ways.

For seventeen years Scott has lived without his father and the only memories he has of him, are the ones his mother, Margie (Marisa Tomei) shares with him over and over again. In Davidson’s life, his father was a firefighter for the FDNY. He was seen as a hero by many because of his bravery in saving someone’s life, as a building collapsed on top of him. Most of Davidson’s dark humour stems from his childhood trauma and his stand up is vulgar and borderline offensive. At the end of the day, that is what makes Pete, Pete. His humour may offend people but it is okay for him to make fun of his own trauma because it comes from such a personal place.

If you have been a fan of Judd Apatow’s since the beginning of his career, you know the way he makes his films. They are personal, witty and very well written. He always attempts to make real situations seem funny, even if it stems from a dark place. The reason why his films have so much heart and resonate with so many, is because he isn’t afraid to show his audience the reality of situations. He wants to say that these characters are real, concrete people, with a twisted sense of humour that exist in the real world.

To those who have followed Pete Davidson from his early stages on Saturday Night Live and appreciated his humour (even though sometimes he crossed the line), you will appreciate this film. I think everyone will learn something about Davidson through watching this film. You may dislike him a bit more, or even start to like him, it is all up to interpretation. This film highlights mental illness  and it’s through the eyes of Pete Davidson, who has truly suffered from it. To see the psychology of Scott, through the eyes of Davidson, is something raw and eye opening. It is a story that only Pete Davidson could tell and it is really special.

The film does drag on a little bit but the third act is really important to Scott’s arc. As his sister goes off to college, his mother begins dating again and Ray Bishop (Bill Burr) also works at the fire department. In the midst of all this, Scott is causing his own damage with his friends and when he finds out about his mother dating a fireman, he goes into a downward spiral and attempts to break them up. We find that Scott does not really know how to express his emotions and sometimes he lets it out through impulsive, violent behaviour, or everyone’s favourite mechanism, sarcasm.

After a huge blowout between Ray, Margie and Scott, they all go their separate ways. That’s why the third act is really special. It brings them all together in a very unexpected way. Scott begins to understand the life of a fireman and he experiences it firsthand. It was very cathartic for Davidson and the REAL stories shared of his father, were important, not only for Scott’s character arc in the film, but for Davidson to maybe get some closure. It was an emotional ending and Davidson gave a wonderful performance.

The King of Staten Island is not for everyone. The only way to appreciate this film, is if you are fans of both, Apatow and Davidson. To newcomers, they may not understand the sentimental value this holds for Davidson and why this was so important for him to make. It was also pretty funny, a lot of Davidson’s humour is things he would say under his breath and being able to catch what he says, in this film was great. It’s a long watch but it is definitely worth it to see the heart of Pete Davidson.

 

Capone Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Al “Fonzo” Capone is one of the most notorious mafioso’s in history. There have been plenty of films that have shown him in his prime, where he was capo and killing people without any remorse. We have seen the side of the angry, reckless, killer on multiple occasions. In the case of Capone, Josh Trank focused on the older, deteriorating version of Fonzo, that no one has ever seen. The film is incredibly unique and has a clear vision, in wanting to explore the mind of someone, who has suffered from multiple strokes and has a severe case of dementia.

Capone is a film that shows the brutal decline of someone’s physical and mental health in the most honest way. Trank did not shy away from showing the loss of bodily functions, accidental bowel movements and horrific hallucinations. This was more than just a typical mobster biopic because it included horror elements from inside Fonzo’s mind, as he slowly loses his sense of self. No one has ever shown this side of dementia on screen before, it is always sugar coated and many people won’t understand what Trank was trying to show in this film.

Yes, you might find it confusing but it is only confusing, if you don’t understand how dementia works. Trank used Fonzo being trapped in the house, as symbolism for him being trapped in his own mind. The hallucinations of his past life, combined with his most disturbing murders is haunting, while he walks the hallway in his own home. Fonzo starts out strong at the beginning of this film, as the capo we all know, with his cigar in his mouth, the low scratchy baritone voice and his best suit. We then see his descent into an illness, that everyone takes lightly.

Can you imagine losing your sense of self? Can you imagine forgetting your loved ones who have helped you through everything? Can you imagine verbally abusing everyone around you and not realizing what you’re saying? Can you imagine walking into a room and thinking someone kidnapped you, when you initially went into your room to grab something?

That is dementia and many people suffer from it, some worse than others but it is one of the worst mental illnesses, with no cure.

I know that this film is about one of the most brutal mafioso’s in history but it affected me in a way that no film has. I was incredibly emotional while watching Capone because of how it handled both illnesses. I have watched both of my grandparents suffer from various forms of dementia and strokes. To have a film that shows it in all its messiness is something personal to me. I got extremely emotional because it brought back memories of watching my grandparents struggle. My grandmother forgot who I was, she forgot my name but she knew who I was, she sensed it was me and to see that change in her eyes, is something I’ll never forget. My grandfather had a very rare case of dementia, where he felt like people were constantly trying to attack him and take him away.

Josh Trank was bold enough to show how brutal this disease can be and I really appreciate that he chose to highlight it in this way. There were moments in the film that can be considered exagerated but we were in the mind of Al Capone, we have to remember, that he has seen some terrible things and he has had a hand in doing them himself. The eerie atmosphere when being in Fonzo’s mind worked extremely well and I think the quick editing from hallucination to present time, was utilized in an effective way. We were immersed in his memories and then it cut to him on the floor completely blacked out.

This is also Tom Hardy’s best performance to date. Hardy embodied Capone in his old age, he fell ill at the ripe age of 48 and declined at a rapid pace. Hardy changed his entire physicality from the beginning of the film and nailed the vocal changes to match Capone’s. Does he mumble a lot? Sure, but he suffered two strokes. The performance lies in his eyes because he can no longer hold a conversation. With each new question Hardy reacts with just his eyes. There is one scene that is shared with Linda Cardellini, (who was also excellent in this) where he first compliments her and then completely tears her down, in the same sentence. There’s so much depth to his performance because of how he shows his emotions, with minimal dialogue or movement.

Capone is one of my favourite films of the year because of how original it is. It is a mob biopic with a central focus of two illnesses that have a serious impact on someone’s life. Josh Trank boldly delivered a film that no one knew we needed in the film library. It is such a different take on a mobsters life and it is something special. It is so incredibly unique because it incorporates horror elements with mob drama, while delivering a strong character piece.