‘The Great’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Great is a series, that is based on the play created by Tony McNamara, which focuses on the history of Russian Emperor Peter III and the fearless Catherine the Great. It is a satirical, comedic drama that follows Catherine’s (Elle Fanning) journey as an outsider, as she navigates her way to solidifying her position as a ruler. It is a fictionalized series, that details Catherine’s early twenties and her plot to kill her deranged and sadistic husband. The Great on Hulu is completely unhinged, daring and humorous because of how exaggerated their behaviour is.

It is a series that is so bold with its storytelling because of how honest and vulgar the dialogue is, especially when Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) is speaking. It is a strong piece on the Catherinian  Era that really has not been done before. It is incredibly entertaining, charming and does not shy away from the possibility, that people in that era, would have been just as heinous in their personal lives. It is eye opening because it is believable that the murder, torture and poor treatment of women in the Russian Kingdom, under Emperor Peter III’s rule, would have been that brutal.

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Courtesy of Hulu (left) Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning 

The character development for Peter and Catherine, shift immensely from the beginning of the series and it is almost as if they began to pull traits from each other. At the start, Catherine is this love struck, naive, young woman, who is pulled into the authoritative, violent hands of Emperor Peter III. She was taught that love conquers all and that her kind heart will serve her well in this life. She had this romanticized perception of the palace life, until Peter broke her innocence. Catherine’s loss of innocence was probably the most moving aspect about this series because she had to quickly adapt to the situations unfolding around her.

Peter, on the other hand, did not care about anyone else but himself and his narcissism got the best of him. He has a gigantic ego and pleases himself in anyway he can. He does not care for his Kingdom, or his subjects and did absolutely nothing to help his people. He would drink, eat, torture and have affairs with whomever he wanted. Catherine took notice of his unbearable behaviour and any romantic feeling, that could have developed between the two of them, seemed impossible. The sex scenes between Catherine and Peter, were cold, rigid and neither of them felt anything, they went through the motions because it had to be done, in order to conceive an heir.

The first half of the series shows Catherine’s crushing realization, that Peter was not a normal human being. In fact, he is one of the most peculiar characters I have seen on a series in a while. He is so complex, in an obscure way and just when you think he falls into some kind of normalcy, he surprises you. Catherine builds up her power and forges a plan to take down Peter, through her network of people that have sided with her and against the Emperor. Catherine slowly develops the same raw, animalistic and daring traits as Peter, but utilizes them against him. She was cunning and knew that in order to take Peter down, she had to feed his ego and in doing so, she became more powerful than he could ever be.

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Courtesy of Hulu (center) Elle Fanning as Catherine the Great

The humour was also quite refreshing and honest and I think that’s why I fell in love with this series. It is definitely unconventional and Nicholas Hoult gave one of my favourite performances of the year as Emperor Peter III, his line delivery and presence on screen really carried the series and made it so entertaining. The script was filled with dirty one liners and ballsy dialogue, that you normally would not hear in a comedy today. Hoult and Elle Fanning had such powerful chemistry, that with every scene they shared their feelings became more palpable and the closer that their characters got to each other, created more playfulness that resulted in a great finale.

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Courtesy of Hulu (left) Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult 

Elle Fanning was a dream as Catherine the Great, she embodied her perfectly and had a fantastic performance alongside Hoult. It was just such a beautiful portrayal because of her journey and her development as a ruler and a woman. She was fearless, ferocious and stopped at nothing to get what she wanted. She perfectly manipulated him with her intelligence, wit and faux naivete that proved she would be the better ruler. The finale was well written and executed so well, that the final shot of Catherine, obviously left me wanting more and thankfully there will be a Season 2.

The Great on Hulu is one of the best series that has come out this year; it is fun, sexy, hilarious and unique, which will leave you wanting more after each episode. The energy from Hoult and Fanning is infectious and their chemistry carries the entire show. The endless cycle of manipulation creates a very entertaining atmosphere for the ensemble and everyone wants to take a jab at Emperor Peter III. It is incredibly binge-worthy, that you will be able to hopefully finish it in one sitting. If you loved this Era of history, then this show is definitely for you!

 

 

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy is an animated film, that tells the story of a young girl, named AC (short for Agatha Christine) that wants to become a detective. She runs her own operation, out of her basement and constructs spy equipment on her own. Young AC wants to solve the crimes in her neighbourhood and comes across a possible burglary at her local grocery store. It has been difficult for AC because no one really takes her seriously as a detective, or even supports her throughout this endeavour.

Director Karla von Bengston wanted to show the journey of a 10 year old girl, trying to harness her true identity, while everyone around her was against her. It’s a touching film that shows the struggles of a young girl, trying to find her identity and attempting to fit a gender stereotype that she does not want to conform to. The animation style is a bit different and I enjoyed how the colouring would change, from dream like detective sequence in black and white, to her reality being in colour. It felt like an old timey, spy film and it worked extremely well.

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Agatha Christie has had trouble making friends in the past and moving to a new city has made matters a bit more difficult for her. As she investigates the burglary, she finds her first suspect, named Vincent, she tries to figure out why he’s stealing, which eventually leads to a weird form of friendship. AC tries to navigate this investigation, while learning about friendship, it’s almost an adult story, masked as a children’s narrative. It was an interesting watch and everything slowly unfolded, so audiences could process everything going on in AC’s mind.

It was almost hard to watch at times because of how her family was treating her and her passion for detective work. She wanted to do what she loved but there was always something mean spirited said against her. As he friendship with Vincent began to grow, she would also have setbacks because she was trying to figure out his mystery but in the end, the bond of going through this journey together, trumped the fact that AC cracked the case.

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It also shows that young girls can be whoever they want to be and how parents can guide them on their journey of discovering their identity. Bengston also used a lizard as AC’s conscience throughout the film and has she got deeper into the case, the lizard grew larger. She kept the lizard locked away and it symbolized her self-doubt in the back of her mind. It showed the dark corners of her mind, through the shading and colours used to design the lizard.

Agatha Christine: Next Door Spy is an animated film with so many important issues being addressed for womanhood. It has great animation, a strong character arc for AC and the value of developing a friendship. It was a long, fun journey to go on and it had some of the coolest gadgets for detective work. It will teach young children to fight for themselves and who they want to become.

A Love Letter to DCEU Fans: We Did It!


By: Amanda Guarragi 

To my fellow DC fans, I salute you, because we did it. The #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement is a massive success and in 2021, on HBO Max, we will finally see our beloved Justice League come together as it was intended. Zack Snyder hosted a Man of Steel watch party today on the platform Vero, which he uses quite often. In his commentary, he discussed the choices he made in each scene in a very detailed manner and it showed how dedicated he was to bringing fans the best version of Superman. It was so much fun to watch because he gave his audience important information and pointed out a couple of easter eggs.

Zack Snyder has always created beautiful films that are deeply rooted in the source material. Most importantly, he has fun on set because he loves the material so much. Zack Snyder is a great director because he is also a fan of the content. When he was describing Superman’s first flight and showing his storyboards, you could feel how much love went into those scenes. Today was a very special day because towards the end of the film, Henry Cavill made an appearance and talked about how he felt putting on the suit. It was a great moment, considering we haven’t really seen Henry Cavill, let alone him speaking about the Snyder Cut, but I always knew there was a plan in place.

After 4 long years of being extremely vocal about Warner Brothers releasing the Snyder Cut of Justice League, it was finally confirmed from the man himself. At the end of the livestream, Zack and Deborah Snyder had a couple of fans join their Zoom call with Henry. This also proved that Zack has a very close relationship with his fanbase and loves having discussions with them. He answered all their questions, including the one in regards to the Snyder Cut. At first Henry, Zack and Deborah laughed. Zack awkwardly said, “It’s out of my control. It’s not up to me.” then he started talking about a tiny flash drive, that he left in a bathroom stall somewhere, to try and divert the question.

At that point, I thought we were duped. I thought there would be no announcement because he was diverting the question, but Henry came to the rescue. It fell silent for a moment and then Henry said, “You know what, I think I’d like to see it.” and Zack answered, “Oh, really? Well I can’t just show it but I can do this.” Zack then turns the camera to his big screen, where he was watching Man of Steel on, and this showed up.

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courtesy of HBO Max

Beautiful right? The moment we’ve been waiting for and he announced it in the most Zack Snyder way. Everything started with Man of Steel and Zack’s version of Superman. It all started with Henry Cavill. Superman hasn’t risen yet because Zack Snyder’s Justice League hasn’t been released. It was only fitting that Henry, Zack and Deborah would all join together to make this announcement. The internet pretty much exploded today and all DC fans are beyond happy. My Twitter timeline took me back to a time where we were gearing up for Justice League and it gave me that same feeling today. All the friends I have made in the DC community and the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement has truly been amazing. We went up to bat for our director and now his vision will finally be complete.

It is a very emotional day for so many people. This community has been through so many bad moments but our love for these characters and these films helped us push through. We have constantly been under fire and we have had to defend these films for the past 4 years. It has been a very long journey but it was definitely worth it because today, today we made history. To everyone that used the hashtag, to everyone who defended these films and these actors, this couldn’t have been possible without you guys. We have been a team since SDCC in 2015, ever since we saw the footage for Batman v Superman. We went through all the criticism and the hatred together, but we stuck to our guns and made the impossible happen. Today is for all of you.

To Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa and Ezra Miller, on behalf of the whole fanbase, thank you a million times over for your love and dedication to these characters. The DCEU would not be the same without you guys. You have all made comic book films that deeply resonate with so many people around the world and with characters that have been iconic throughout history. You have all built the foundation for the future of the DCEU and we truly can’t wait to see what comes next.

Whether Zack Snyder’s Justice League, is a six episode television series, or a three hour epic released on HBO Max, we will all be there on the very first day it is released, watching it because it’s going to be a big moment. Hope is what got all of us here and that’s why today is overwhelming, especially by watching Man of Steel. It’s not an “S”, on Kal’s planet, it means hope. The definition of hope, the feeling of it and having it payoff, is what today is.

The Hollywood Shift: What Does The Future Hold For Movie Theatres?


By: Amanda Guarragi

For the past couple of years the film industry has been gradually shifting and we know where it’s heading. Streaming content has finally become a major player in the industry,  whether the films are on; Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Max or Disney Plus, these major streaming platforms have acquired films from major studios, produced their own or found independent films to distribute. Streaming platforms have been silently progressing and they have changed the moviegoing experience entirely.

News broke out earlier this week that the Oscars will consider films that didn’t play in theatres as a part of the new Academy rules. However, there are guidelines as to how this would play out for Oscar season, Marc Malkin for Variety breaks it down, “To be considered, the streamed film must have already had a planned theatrical release. The film must also be made available on the Academy Screening Room member-only streaming site within 60 days of the film’s streaming or VOD release.” This is a welcomed change for independent films that only have a limited theatre release and head straight to streaming.

That wasn’t the only discourse the made headlines though. It was a huge week for the film industry as Trolls World Tour released it’s PVOD earnings, it took in $100 million in premium DVD rentals in its first three weeks of play in North America. The film apparently made more on VOD than the first instalment, which had a five month run in theatres. This raised a lot of eyebrows because of the profit it made in one month on VOD vs a 5 month run in theatres. CEO of NBCUniversal, Jeff Shell made this statement following the success of the film, “The results for ‘Trolls World Tour’ have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD. As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.” The reason why this is such a huge deal for studios is that they can create a bridge between theatrical releases and accessibility through streaming internationally.

However, the excitement of that news, was overpowered by movie theatre chains disagreeing with Universal’s decision to release their films on both formats. It first upset AMC, which is the largest theatre chain in the United States (who is also on the verge of bankruptcy) because they obviously want content to exclusively play at their theatres. They were clearly upset, they countered Shell’s statement and said that they would no longer show any Universal Studios pictures at their theatre. Not only did they decide to boycott Universal, but so did Regal, Odeon and now Cineworld in the United Kingdom. These are all major theatre chains boycotting a studio that has No Time to Die, Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Fast & Furious 9 slated for a 2020/2021 release in theatres.

If you read the statement from Jeff Shell again, he did not say that there would be no theatrical release of the studios films. He just said, due to the success of Trolls World Tour on VOD, it would be a great business decision to do both. It’s a very simple statement that allows the rest of the studios to see how this formula could work moving forward. Warner Brothers is releasing Scoob! straight to VOD and Disney is moving Artemis Fowl to Disney Plus, are they also violating the code that AMC is apparently following? Why isn’t AMC going after them? What was so wrong in what Jeff Shell said?

I have been saying that we need to bridge theatrical and streaming together because it’s the future. The reason why people aren’t going to the theatres regularly is because the prices for tickets and concessions are way too high. Sure, it’s fine if you’re one person going to watch a movie, but the issue is that families are spending over $100 for one outing to the theatre. Majority of moviegoers only watch event/franchise films and those only come out once/twice a month. What Universal plans to do, will change the face of the industry and it has been a long time coming.

So, are movie theatres dying? The answer is no. The moviegoing experience will never die and it’s because people enjoy going out. Movie theatres will always be apart of the Entertainment experience. Whether it’s a date, a girls night, family movie night, alone time to catch that indie no one wants to watch with you or a massive event film that you want to experience in IMAX, movie theatres will never die, the studios just need to change their approach. If theatre chains don’t want to make their prices more affordable, then studios will create the accessibility to their films through VOD or streaming platforms.

This response from AMC and the rest of the theatre chains is just fear. It’s fear that the industry is changing and they feel like the entire experience will vanish. Were people scared to release talkies during the silent film era? Were people scared to switch over to Technicolour from black and white? Were people scared to film with IMAX cameras or in 3D? Were people scared to switch from film to digital? Were people scared to release their film on Netflix? The answer is yes, but look at how much the industry has accomplished. If the pioneers of cinema didn’t push the boundary, we wouldn’t have what we have now.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what movie theatres are going to go through during this period of time. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, there is no date as to when this will be over and movie theatres will be open. It could take as long as a year to come up with a vaccine and the most important thing is to keep everyone safe. Opening theatres prematurely because you want to make money is a very inconsiderate thing to do. If studios can give people new content as a form of escapism from their reality, I think it would help so many people because then they have a little something to look forward to.

Tigertail Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Alan Yang’s directorial debut Tigertail is a story about generational values and decision making. He tells the story about a Taiwanese factory worker, Grover (Hong Chi Li/Tzi Ma), who leaves his homeland to seek opportunity in America. We watch his story unfold, as he reflects on his life and how ended up in his current position. Yang wrote a very moving and introspective script, which captured each generation perfectly and how certain decision cause a ripple effect on the future generations.

The story flowed nicely from scene to scene and the editing was utilized in a way, that made the flashbacks seem more present in his mind rather than using a different colour grading to show the shift in time. As the story unfolds and we get to know more about Grover, we begin to understand how his decisions changed him as a person and how that affected his relationship with his daughter Angela (Christine Ko). Grover came from a small town in Taiwan and wanted to help his mother get out of the factory. As a child, the one thing you want to be able to do, is help your parents because they also struggled to give you as much as they could.

Tigertail delivers on all fronts and examines classicism and social status throughout generations all while telling a heartbreaking love story. Yang showed Grover (Hong Chi) develop a relationship with his childhood friend Yuan (Yo – Hsing Fang/Joan Chen) and openly discussed their financial differences. Yuan and Grover were young, reckless and in love. Their connection and chemistry was natural and you could feel that they were meant to be with each other. Yang then showed Grover’s ambition and love for his mother, by giving him an opportunity to move to America with another woman, Zhenzhen (Kunjue Li/Fiona Fu).

This major life decision stayed with Grover for the rest of his life and altered him as a man. Tzi Ma gave an incredible introspective performance and Grover’s loneliness was felt throughout the film. He became an entirely different person because he had to start from scratch, in a new country and work double to make a living for his wife and family. As time went on, Grover became more stubborn, stern and didn’t have the same carefree nature as before. Yes, people get older and their priorities change but their spirit should be able to remain the same, IF they make the right decisions in their lives.

Grover cared about financial stability and passed that down to his daughter Angela, while she was contemplating marrying her boyfriend Eric. Angela worker hard her entire life and throws herself into her work, much like her father. I valued Angela and Grover’s, father/daughter relationship because of how similar they were, without them realizing it. Those moments shared between them and finally coming to terms with how their lives went and the parallels was so intriguing in this film. The direction from Yang really brought their individuality together and had them share such intimate moments after all these years.

As I watched Tigertail I questioned if love was truly enough, if love CAN conquer everything and anything? How do we know we’ve made the right decision when choosing a partner? Have I chosen this person because I do love them or is it out of convenience? Do I love them or the image of them? Am I in love with THEM or the idea of a relationship? These are the questions that I have always thought about and Tigertail made me understand life and relationships a bit more.

The one thing Yang so expertly shows is the evolution of love through generations, while still keeping the same core value intact. Yes love can conquer anything, if you’re with the right person and there’s a balance, that’s a chance everyone has to take. However, financial stability and personality traits, that don’t seem like an issue early on, can definitely affect the relationship in the future. Love is a gamble and I think this generation doesn’t think of the future and how one decision can affect their entire life. My grandparents, much like Grover, never really had a choice in who they loved, they just knew they had to make a living and evolve trying to make a better life for themselves.

Tigertail is possibly one of Netflix’s best original films because of how much it covers in such a short period of time. Alan Yang takes you on a very realistic journey that will leave you heartbroken but hopeful at the end of the film. It is a multi-generational drama that will pull at your heartstrings and will leave you with a new appreciation, for prior generations, who built the foundation for all of us to walk on. Without their sacrifices, none of us would be where we are today and Yang covers it beautifully.