‘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!

‘Without Remorse’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is about a Navy Seal, named John Clark (Michael B. Jordan), who goes on a path to avenge his wife’s murder only to find himself inside of a larger conspiracy. You have Michael B. Jordan leading an interesting cast that doesn’t really work for some strange reason. The film has an interesting story but the execution was lacklustre. It was difficult to follow at times and the pacing of the film is not engaging enough for the viewer to sit through the runtime. There are strong action scenes but they do not make up the way the story plays out.

It is always difficult to adapt novels to screen and unfortunately Without Remorse suffered from trying to incorporate too much. The writing for John Clark just wasn’t strong enough and it pains me to say this because Michael B. Jordan is one of my favourite actors working today. For some strange reason it just didn’t work for me. His military life and domestic life were rushed in the beginning, only for the aftermath of his wife’s death to last longer than it should have. It’s Tom Clancy, it really shouldn’t have been this hard to take this action-packed story and translate it to screen.

It just does not hold the viewer’s attention long enough to make them care about the actual story or the characters. It felt like even the characters were waiting for the action scenes to happen, in order for anything to move forward. The story just didn’t flow and the writing for the characters seemed really bland. The real downfall of the film was that majority of the action scenes – which we all patiently waited for – were all in complete darkness, it was impossible to see what was happening or even who was fighting who.

Without Remorse had potential to be a great action piece for Michael B. Jordan but unfortunately it fell flat. It was hard to sit through because the writing just wasn’t engaging enough. The story was overstuffed, as they tried incorporate as much as they could from the novel. It really suffered the adaptation issues that many films face. I could see the story they were trying to tell but there wasn’t enough explanation or connection to any of these characters for any viewer to care. It is definitely not enough that Jordan was leading this film.

‘Jumbo’ Official Poster And Trailer Release


By: Amanda Guarragi

Darkstar Pictures just released the official poster and trailer for their film ‘Jumbo’, which premiered at Sundance in 2020. Jeanne, a shy young girl, works the graveyard shift as a cleaner at an amusement park and lives at home with her mother. Jeanne enjoys tinkering around with wires, light bulbs and spare parts, while creating miniature versions of theme park rides. During her late-night shift, Jeanne begins spending intimate time with the new Tilt-A-Whirl ride that she decides to call Jumbo.

‘Jumbo’ Trailer

The concept is really interesting and it will explore relationships in different ways. Writer-director Zoé Wittock stumbled upon an article describing the story of Olympic gold winner in archery, Erika Labrie, who got married to the Eiffel Tower in 2004. There is a condition called, “Objectum sexual” that is what she apparently suffered from.

‘Jumbo’ Production Stills

“Jumbo” explores the unknown. Theme park rides are tied to childhood, so Whittock takes that innocence and decides to challenge it. It highlights female identity and sexuality through a coming of age story. ‘Jumbo’ will be opening in virtual cinemas on February 19th and releasing on VOD/DVD March 16th.

Sound of Metal Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sound of Metal is another film that pleasantly surprised me this year. It is such an inspiring film and it explores the lifestyle of the deaf community. It brings such authenticity and uniqueness in telling a story about someone losing their hearing. The reason why this film is being received so well is because of the choices that were made through the sound design of the entire piece.

The film is centered around a heavy metal band, called ‘Blackgammon’, which is just a drummer named Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) on lead vocals. The film opens with the two of them performing at a venue and the music was blaring. The camera is focused on Ruben, as he listens to the cues and drums his heart out. As the camera cuts to a close up, the sound changes, the music changes and we see something change within Ruben.

Riz Ahmed gave a fantastic performance because of how intune he was with his character and the importance of delivering this important story. The performance was more reactionary because his mind was going through a change. Everything surrounding him felt different, the sounds were different and his perception changed. This film heavily relies on cues and the incredible sound design. For the general audience to truly understand the deaf community, the execution of the story was crucial and Darius Marder did a great job in creating a strong atmosphere to explore this character.

Courtesy of Caviar Ward Four
(left) Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke

Having a musician, especially a drummer, gradually lose his hearing as we watch him play his set, was heartbreaking. Ahmed had so many layers to his performance because of Ruben’s troubled past as an addict and holding the persona of a rockstar. Olivia Cooke also gave a great performance as Lou because of how understanding and emotional she was in order to help Ruben. Cooke and Ahmed had great chemistry and they shared key emotional moments in the film that really made their love for each other so believable.

Sound of Metal is one of the most important films to come out this year. Marder told an original and very unique story, that gave the deaf community proper representation. Due to its brilliant sound design, the film allows audiences to be fully immersed in the story because they are experiencing the realization of loss through Ruben. It has wonderful performances, an educational, heartfelt story and great direction from Marder.

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.