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!

HorrorFest International Winner ‘Red Light’: An Interview with Filmmakers Ted Raimi and Alex Kahuam


By: Amanda Guarragi

Since 2001 HorrorFest International has brought the Horror community together to celebrate the genre and emerging filmmakers. The festival showcases features, short films and scripts, to live in-person audiences. This year, the film Red Light won for Best Midnight Movie at the festival. Director Alex Kahuam is absolutely delighted that his film got the midnight spot during the festival and was overwhelmed by the reception. The film stars the legendary Ted Raimi, as Ian, a man who teaches millennials a thing or two about karma.

The film begins with this quote,

“As a child I never imagined that all of the real monsters in the world would be human”

-Mobeen Hakeem

It sets the tone for the rest of the film because everyone has their own perception of monsters. It is a reflection on humanity and the treatment of others. It also highlights the persona of social media influencers, on and off their screen. Kahuam wrote a great screenplay exploring these ideas and he definitely presents them in a unique way,

“It reflects all people. It’s just a reflection on humanity and how we are monsters in a way and that’s what I wanted. So the audience would get a taste of what the whole picture was going to be. Everyone’s a monster in their own way. 

– Director Alex Kahuam, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment
(left) Chloe Ortega, Jade Janet, Esteban de la Isla, Alex Sands and Layne Herrin

Red Light captures the human condition and how everyone fears something different. The most unique aspect about this film is the long takes that Kahuam decided to do. Everything was perfectly orchestrated and the tension was really prominent throughout. These long takes also brought out great performances from his actors, allowing their fear to feel real. Kahuam also used lighting and shadowing to enhance the atmosphere,

“The colour is super loud, violent and visceral and I wanted the audience to feel that at the beginning and at the end.”

– Director Alex Kahuam, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment

The placement for these colours for the opening and closing shots, definitely packed a punch and made it memorable.

Not only was this film visually pleasing and so incredibly fun to watch, Ian (Ted Raimi) as a character was intriguing and he left you wanting to know more. The writing for the character was really strong and watching his story unfold was great. Raimi spoke about his character and praised Kahuam for writing him so well. Raimi said that his character and the story reflected something that everyone is currently dealing with,

“We happen to be in the middle of a generational crisis right now, it usually takes place every 50 years. I think Alex has tapped into that quite well and so it was easy to step into.”

– Ted Raimi, Red Light
Courtesy of Veva Entertainment
(Ted Raimi as Ian)

This is what is interesting about Ian’s character, he genuinely believes that he is paying it forward and restoring order in the universe. Ian kidnaps these teenagers and ties them up in his basement to set them straight, all while answering to a higher power, his own parents. We see three generations in a very different light and how they respond to each other.

The last act in this film has stayed with me because of how powerful the visuals were. The Horror elements were perfect and it is a short film that would work even better as a feature because of how strong the writing is. From the lighting, to the song choices, to the sound design, the film is beautifully crafted and I am looking forward to seeing more from Alex Kahuam.

Saint Frances Review|How Honesty Impacts Audiences: An Interview With Filmmakers Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson


By: Amanda Guarragi

Saint Frances is a film that highlights the full female experience in the most honest way possible. It wants to show its audience that women at any age can experience hardships, shame and a certain vulnerability that comes with certain subjects. It dives into the stigma around conversations about abortion, postpartum depression, menstruation and breastfeeding. We see a woman in her early 30s, named Bridget (Kelly O’Sullivan) navigate her new job as a nanny. When looking after little Frances (Ramona Edith-Williams), Bridget faces hardships of her own and has to juggle her new life.

What is so wonderful about Saint Frances is that it doesn’t shy away from topics that would be considered “taboo”, it is right in your face and it felt like an open conversation among women. All films have this sense of community but this film felt like having a conversation with your best friends. O’Sullivan definitely made an impact with the story she wanted to tell,

I felt like I could add something to the landscape of movies that have an abortion in them and sort of treat it with a light touch, a humorous touch, rather than make it really dramatic or traumatic and sort of normalize it.”

Kelly O’Sullivan, Writer and Star of Saint Frances
Courtesy of Easy Open Productions
(Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams)

The women in the film had an interesting dynamic, which brought comfort when listening to their conversations. Films that have these tough conversations in a lighthearted way for a new generation is important,

“I do think it’s becoming more and more accepted and young women, teenagers are way more open and accepting, than people my age or older than me. So it’s really exciting to see that there is a bigger conversation starting to happen around those issues.”

-Kelly O’Sullivan, Writer and Star of Saint Frances

O’Sullivan was inspired by the female voices around her and wanted to make a film that would help the conversation. This new surge of young female voices, expressing their personal thoughts and feelings, allows teenagers to grow up with films that have a positive outlook instead of feeling shame.

The dynamic between Bridget and Frances was so interesting because of how they would speak to each other. Frances was speaking at an adult level, even though she was just starting elementary school. She was incredibly smart, perceptive and open to having conversations about womanhood at such a young age. Newcomer Ramona Edith-Williams was a firecracker and commanded each scene she was in,

“We just met her and she brought so much of herself to the room and so directing her was sort of a big mix of just creating an environment where she felt like she could be herself.”

-Alex Thompson, Director of Saint Frances

Thompson loved working with Ramona Edith-Williams and wanted to develop an increased sort of awareness and closeness with O’Sullivan.

Courtesy of Easy Open Productions
(Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith-Williams)

Even though Bridget was in her 30s, the honesty shared between the two of them, made her reevaluate everything. The bond between Frances and Bridget reminded me of the bond I share with my seven-year-old goddaughter. I speak to her like an adult and I’m probably the only one who actually listens to her. The scene where Frances runs out of her classroom calling after Bridget, during her first day of Grade One completely broke me. Frances hoping to be friends with Bridget forever is something that was so pure, that it brought me to tears. What this scene taught me was that even if you feel like you’re a complete mess, you’re somehow doing something right and there is always someone who believes in you.

Saint Frances is a beautiful film because of the honesty in front of and behind the camera. The dialogue surrounding the stigma of abortion, postpartum depression and other female issues was refreshing. Kelly O’Sullivan wrote such a wonderful screenplay, filled with tender, lighthearted and comforting moments. It is a wonderful addition to female stories that can start healthy conversations about these topics.

Hillbilly Elegy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Hillbilly Elegy is a film about generational differences, family dysfunction and psychological trauma that all stems from childhood. The film is adapted from the memoir Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. There is a different way of life in Middletown, Ohio and the memoir explored how he was personally affected by his family. Ron Howard pulls career best performances from Amy Adams and Glenn Close but it just falls short as a whole.

The screenplay, which was adapted by Vanessa Taylor, seemed promising at the beginning of the film. There was a voiceover from a young J.D. Vance (Gabriel Basso) explaining how life was for him, living with his family and what category they fit into in the grand scale of America. The film does dive into childhood psychological trauma and how each generation has somehow damaged the next.

It does not matter how it’s delivered, it can be any form of abuse, no matter how miniscule, children are most definitely affected. It felt like an endless cycle of trauma and misguided hatred within the family unit and that is what made certain scenes rather upsetting. The decisions made by generations before, somehow affects the lineage and all it takes is one family member to break the cycle and in this case, it was J.D. Vance.

Courtesy of Netflix Film
(left) Glenn Close and Amy Adams

My dear Amy Adams – an actress who has always gone above and beyond the script- has never had a bad performance, she was transformed as Bev and had incredibly strong, emotional moments. Watching her go toe-to-toe with a heavyweight like Glenn Close, was something I didn’t know I needed. Both have been underappreciated by the Academy for many, many years and if this film is what it takes, then so be it. The film simply does not work without the two of them.

Hillbilly Elegy had some strong moments but the editing made everything feel disjointed and episodic, rather than a fluid structure as a whole. The flashbacks were filled with traumatic emotional moments, that seemed to cut through J.D.’s peace in trying to get a summer internship. It is a film that does its job in blatantly showing real social issues, while allowing its stars to put on an acting clinic to carry the film to the end.

For Glenn Close and Amy Adams, make sure you check out Hillbilly Elegy on Netflix November 24th.

Sweet Taste of Souls Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sweet Taste of Souls has a really unique concept that flips the moving picture frame trope on its head. When four struggling band members stop at a small roadside cafe for a slice of cherry pie, they find themselves imprisoned in the owner’s framed art collection. The film was intriguing from the very beginning and had refreshing moments for the supernatural subgenre in Horror.

Ms. Ellinore (Honey Loren) was heartbroken and defeated when her husband left her. She harnessed these supernatural powers to create a picture perfect life within her art collection, a life that she could never have. The film dives into the psychology of trauma and abuse, while adding a supernatural element to it. It is one of the most refreshing concepts because of how this complex, emotional story ties in with a trope we’ve never fully explored on screen.

Courtesy of Dark Coast Entertainment

The most impressive aspect of the film was the special effects and how they were used in certain scenes. There was a whole process in taking the souls of the characters and transferring into the frame, which was really interesting. It also felt really claustrophobic at times (which was a horrible feeling for me) which worked extremely well for the suspense of being locked inside of a frame.

Sweet Taste of Souls had great special effects, a really complex psychological story and sound design that elevated the story. It had great use of colour, especially the colour red, to pop against a faded background and make you remember that Ms. Ellinore was around the corner. It’s a very fun, original horror film, with a deep psychological exploration of trauma.