‘Willow’ Series Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In 1988, Ron Howard and George Lucas teamed up to make one of the most underrated fantasy films. Willow was about a young farmer chosen to undertake a perilous journey to protect a special baby from an evil queen. Val Kilmer was at the top of his game in the 80s, so to have him as a romantic leading man in a fantasy film was perfect casting. Joanne Whalley and Warwick Davis made it worth watching because of their characters. Now, decades later, Howard’s small, beloved film has been turned into a Disney Plus series. Since world-building was done a bit differently in previous eras, television shows can build the foundation of the world in a more detailed manner. Fantasy shows have been all the rage in 2022 because many viewers want to be transported to another world. It’s almost as if we’ve been deprived of different escapes. 

This new series created by Jonathan Kasdan captures the same magic as the original film, but of course, in a modern way. The most important takeaway from the new series is the inclusivity of its cast of characters. Kit Tanthalos (Ruby Cruz) is the princess and daughter of Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) and wants to learn how to fight and be involved with the townspeople. She wants to make her own choices, especially in marriage. Her brother, Airk (Dempsey Bryk), is the golden boy, heir to the throne, and is in love with a kitchen maid named Dove (Ellie Bamber). The siblings have gone in two very different directions, and in this series, they explore their individuality and whom they are destined to be. Kit has the strongest journey in this series. She learns how to fight and to love with her swashbuckling trainer, Jade Claymore (Erin Kellyman), by her side. The relationship between Jade and Kit makes for an interesting dynamic as they go on this journey with Willow. 

In this series, twenty years after vanquishing the wicked queen Bavmorda, the sorcerer Willow Ufgood (Warwick Davis) leads a group of misfits on a dangerous rescue mission into the unknown. Kasdan refocused the story and the lore with the new characters without leaning on the nostalgia of the original film. It was lovely to see Davis back in that element by also giving him a bit more to do with his character. The cast worked together well, and some stylistic choices worked for the modernity of the piece. There are some humorous moments and some song choices to bring these characters into a new generation. It felt refreshing to see a fantastical world highlight a queer romance and characters struggling with their individuality in a kingdom that has expectations for them. This series places women at the forefront and has a unique twist that makes for a compelling story in this first season. Audiences will connect with these characters. And understand what they’re struggling with, which is the importance of representation on screen. 

If you have been a long-time supporter of Ron Howard’s Willow, you will appreciate the world-building in this new series. And if you’re a newcomer, who hasn’t watched the original film, then get ready to dive into a brand new world with characters you will love. Kasdan brings together a cast that works together through their individuality and their knowledge of the realm. Each episode brings new lore and magic that pulls you into their world. Cruz, Bamber, and Kellyman are the standouts of the series, and the always-lovely Tony Revolori adds another layer of charm. The pacing is strong as well, nothing feels rushed, and the characters evolve naturally over the length of the episodes. It is a fantasy show that Disney Plus needed on their platform, and each episode will be streaming weekly on Wednesdays. 

‘Cheaper By The Dozen’ (2022) Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There is truly nothing more important than family and family is whoever you want it to be. The new Cheaper by the Dozen shows a completely different family dynamic that involves two sets of divorced parents living cohesively and trying to make it all work. Of course, we were all apprehensive about this remake because of how much we loved the 2003 film, but Kenya Barris and Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry revamped the story and made it more relatable. They created this blended family, who are all experiencing change in their own way, under one roof with Zoey (Gabrielle Union) and Paul Baker (Zach Braff) leading the way.

The dynamic between Zoey and Paul Baker is what held this movie together. Their strength as parents and as individuals really helped when their children needed them. The reason why this was such an enjoyable family movie is because of how well Barris and Henry had a great balance between tough life lessons and humour. Paul Baker is one of the goofiest onscreen dads and Zach Braff’s comedic timing was on point. His line delivery had me howling in certain moments because of how unexpected those lines were. Zoey on the other hand was this cool mom who kept it fun, but also kept everyone in line. Gabrielle Union brought such a different maternal energy into the fold and put so much of herself into Zoey.

Braff and Union surprisingly had solid chemistry and worked really well together. They felt very natural together as if they have been raising these kids the whole time. Like all big families, there are always issues and important discussions to be had. There are moments in this film that highlight different experiences for each member of the Baker family, including microaggressions, racial profiling, and white privilege. These moments were scattered throughout and explained extremely well for everyone to understand. It’s important to share these conversations with all ages because they are able to absorb this information in order to be more inclusive in their everyday life.

Cheaper by the Dozen is an updated version of the 2003 film with a well-needed upgrade on the Baker family for a new generation. It’s funny, chaotic, and has wonderful life lessons that will resonate with more than one age group. It’s the family comedy we didn’t know we needed at this very moment and it’s coming to Disney Plus this Friday! Whether you’re a parent, teenager, or a child watching this movie, it’s educational for the whole family and the dad jokes never stop. Blending two families together and trying understand each of their needs is really what this movie is all about. Sometimes we all get lost in what we want that we fail to see what is right in front of us.

‘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!

I Care A Lot Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

As we all know, films can be a representation of society. Which means, that there can be genuinely good people as protagonists, or morally flawed, complex and bad people as protagonists. Some films want to showcase these disturbed protagonists with ideologies that counter the government or any system put in place. I Care a Lot introduced us to Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike), a court assigned legal guardian, to the elderly, in their time of need. What Grayson does, is take hold of her clients assets and drains them of their savings. Could there be people out there who do this? Well, we sure as hell found out in this film.

This film shows the perseverance and ambition in achieving the American Dream. Grayson had been poor her whole life and in her eyes, the only way to gain more of a financial status is by cheating the system. Rosamund Pike was perfectly cast as Grayson, no one else could have played this role. Pike has mastered the role of a morally conflicted woman, with a flawed perception of society, who eventually executes the ideas in her head, in a very disturbing way. Sure, Pike only has Amy Dunne as a character that can be referred to, but Marla Grayson is in that tier performance wise. If Pike is so good delivering these roles to us, then why don’t we have her in more films that center on a layered protagonist such as this one?

The film had such a great cast. Pike, obviously steals the spotlight but Eiza Gonzalez, Peter Dinklage, Chris Messina and Dianne Wiest all went toe-to-toe with her. Pike was great on her own, with her vape pen, and famous smirk that showed, she was thinking about the next five steps. Even though Gonzalez had a small role, her chemistry with Pike was a stand out. When Pike shared scenes with Wiest, Dinklage and Messina, they all presented different levels of power and she matched all of them. It is an exciting watch because the cast elevated the script in every way. The plot twists were placed in the right spots and it didn’t lose its footing, until the third act.

I Care a Lot has a really twisted perception of the meaning of a court appointed legal guardian. Even though Marla Grayson does some very questionable things, we can still understand where she is coming from. Again, it is not sympathizing with the flawed protagonist, it is more so enjoying the performances of these bad people and hoping they get paid their due. It is a humorous thriller, with many exciting scenes, strong pieces of dialogue and multiple endings that will leave you stunned. The film is purely a showcase for how talented this cast is and a reminder that Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with.

Malcolm & Marie Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sam Levinson’s Malcolm & Marie is a very interesting watch. This is the first movie, in a very long time, where I still don’t know how to feel about it. Am I supposed to enjoy the film based on the performances alone? Am I supposed to dislike it because the screenplay is absolutely bonkers? Levinson masks his own insecurities as a filmmaker, by combining his personal grievances towards critics and writing from the perspective of a Black filmmaker… which didn’t make sense. Sure, John David Washington and Zendaya give fantastic performances but the film is just an endless cycle of arguments.

First and foremost, why is Sam Levinson writing from the perspective of a Black filmmaker? The dialogue that he gives Malcolm (John David Washington) is oddly specific. It was as if he scrolled through reviews of other films and tried to find the most ridiculous ones to put in the script. I wish Levinson just kept it general instead of criticizing reviews from a perspective that he doesn’t know much about. As you watch Malcolm rant for the entire movie, over one review, you see it through a white lens. Levinson literally made a film criticizing white critics, for using the same language, when reviewing Black-led films and accuses them of “trying” to be progressive. Yet he made a film from the perspective of a Black filmmaker, addressing these issues, when he could have been generalizing the rant instead. So if you think about it, it’s contradictory to what he was trying to do.

Courtesy of Netflix

If we remove the endless rants about critics knowing absolutely nothing about the art of cinema, Malcolm and Marie (Zendaya) have a very toxic relationship. They are constantly badgering each other, provoking the other and jabbing each other with the most hurtful things. It’s as if Levinson thought about the worst possible things he could ever say to a person and just threw it in every single argument. The film was exhausting to sit through. Every single time they would calm down, Malcolm or Marie, would bring something else up and start all over again. By the third argument, you’re just blown away by the fact that they’re still going. It just drags on and leaves you with a headache.

It’s entirely possible that I liked Malcolm & Marie but I can also acknowledge all the flaws. The performances carry it all the way and in all honesty the film wouldn’t have worked without Zendaya or John David Washington. They elevated Levinson’s words (as absurd as they were) to make you want to listen to what they had to say. However, the way Levinson addresses white critics reviewing a Black filmmakers work just doesn’t feel authentic. It felt like he had all this pent up rage and he wanted to express it but he also didn’t want to make it about himself. The script is incredibly narcissistic and just left me asking, “but why? what’s the point of this” and now I’m realizing, maybe there was no point. He just wanted to rant and he expressed it in the only way he knew how, through the art of cinema.