‘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.

Firefly Lane Series Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The new series Firefly Lane was just released today on Netflix!

The show stars Sarah Chalke and Katherine Heigl as a pair of best friends, who have gone through everything imaginable together. What starts out as a very unlikely pairing, turns into one of the best friendships I’ve seen on a television series. They are complete opposites but they care for each other in every single way. This was so heartwarming and charming that you will fall for the characters on the show by episode three. What this series shows is that the greatest love story can be between friends and that they can be soulmates. There were such beautiful moments shared between the two of them.

Courtesy of Netflix

Tully (Katherine Heigl) and Kate (Sarah Chalke) meet at age fourteen, they couldn’t. Tully is the badass and ballsy girl you can’t ignore, while Kate is the timid, quiet girl you never notice. But when a tragedy brings them together, they are bonded for life. They have been together for thirty years and have grown together. Tully goes on to be a famous television host and reporter and Kate chooses marriage and motherhood. Their friendship, however, is put to the ultimate test in this series and the drama doesn’t stop coming. The series is based on the novel of the same name by New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah, who is also co-executive producer.

What I loved about Firefly Lane is that it showed Tully and Kate’s past extremely well, as it became relevant to what was happening presently in their lives. We see them at three different stages, at the age of fourteen, early twenties and in their mid-30s. We see their journey and how they helped each other in every single way, whether it was for job opportunities, relationship advice or even suffering a loss. The female energy in this show is something I didn’t know I needed until I watched it. We have two very different women and they handle things in their own way. We have two different perceptions of motherhood and how to create a pathway for your career.

Courtesy of Netflix

Tully has easily become one of my favourite characters because of how complex she and how she holds herself together after everything she has gone through. We can’t forget that Katherine Heigl is a great actress when she is given good material to work with. Sarah Chalke was also perfectly cast as Kate because of the kindness she brings to the role. Watching Tully and Kate’s friendship unfold on this show was truly beautiful to watch, their backstories will get you so invested in their lives and each episode leaves you wanting more. Firefly Lane has so much heart and is a very fun watch. The entire cast has a great dynamic and they touch upon important social issues.

Locked Down Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have all come to terms with the fact that some screenwriters out there will write a story based on the nightmare that is Covid-19. Everyone copes with the pandemic in different ways, some rather not see the reality of it on screen and others want to laugh about the stupidity that has gone on during the pandemic. The new HBO Max Original Locked Down gives audiences the realistic slice of hell that we’ve all been living in while trapped in our homes. As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this my province has declared a second state of emergency.

People may be turned off by the pandemic nature of the story but it’s such a minor aspect of the film itself. It really is about two people, who have grown apart and are forced to face their issues during the two weeks in isolation. Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) have had a very strained relationship. Linda is now working as a CEO for Harrod’s and Paxton is a service worker who delivers packages. Linda promises that after the two weeks she will leave Paxton and they have fair arguments during their remaining days as a couple.

(left) Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Courtesy of WarnerMedia

The film sheds light on how mentally straining isolation can be and the different ways people were coping with the stress. 2020 was a mentally draining year and to show what people were going through within the first two weeks was very realistic and somewhat comforting. It’s more of a “yes, I totally understand how they’re feeling” versus “how dare they show us this in a movie when we’re living it”. It was actually nice to watch a film about the psychological effects of this pandemic with actors who have a very comforting screen presence. It also had some humorous moments that anyone can relate to during the pandemic.

It was a story about relationships and how everyone was forced to look at who they were individually before looking at their partner. It’s well-written because it touches upon different dynamics and different experiences across the globe. Locked Down is an enjoyable film that has great performances from Ejiofor and Hathaway, their chemistry was great. Their journey as a couple, in a strained relationship, trying to salvage their former adventurous lifestyle, with a heist was really fun to watch. The ending of the film was actually perfect and pretty funny!

If you want to check out this pandemic based film, you can catch it on HBO Max January 14th!