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.

The Witches (2020) Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Witches directed by Robert Zemeckis is a fun, family friendly, adventure film that modernizes Roald Dahl’s book. Everyone can look back on their childhood and remember something that absolutely terrified them. Some may have been scared of clowns, vampires or even werewolves (specifically to me, Michael Jackson in the Thriller music video) but the young boy in this film has an encounter with witches.

A Robert Zemeckis film is always incredibly entertaining and inventive. The story is adapted very well and the structure of the narrative made sense for a modern audience. The film begins with a slideshow and voice over by an older character (Chris Rock), retelling his encounter with witches when he was younger. It was really effective to format the film in this way because it was much easier to follow.

The film feels really extravagant because of its elaborate production and costume designs. There are so many vibrant colours used and the palette feels as whimsical as the witches themselves. Anne Hathaway as the Grand High Witch, was perfect casting and her accent was probably the funniest aspect because of the play on words for her dialogue. Octavia Spencer was a ball of light as the young boy’s Grandmother and her energy was infectious.

The Witches is a modernized version of the old tale and it feels nostalgic at the same time. This is a film that will bring the whole family together for the month of Halloween. It is filled with incredibly cute moments and some special effects that will leave you a bit spooked. Zemeckis captures the same magic that makes all Roald Dahl adaptations special.

Make sure to catch The Witches on HBO Max on October 22nd!

Body & Bones Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Body & Bones written and directed by Melanie Oates, tells a tale of a young girl named Tess (Kelly Van der Burg) trying to find some sort of spark in her life again. She has been missing school and has detached herself from her home life completely. She uses music to escape the world and the way she’s feeling. One artist, in particular, named Danny Sharpe (Joel Thomas Hynes) has become her obsession. So what would happen if a young, impressionable, teenage girl met her idol? Melanie Oates explores the brutal truth.

I think many of us have wondered about meeting our idols, or celebrities that we are infatuated with, or even just admire. Oates takes a teenage girl and whisks her into the life of a washed up rockstar. It is a journey that should be seen because teenage girls are often blinded by the persona of someone older. It is always explored as something great and it is often romanticised but this was the total opposite. Oates made sure to show the alcoholism, verbal/emotional abuse and the complete disregard for a woman, once she has been used to her full capacity.

There are some very strong moments, especially from Van der Burg as she explores her sexuality and a very powerful moment in the third act of the film. It truly shows how damaging a relationship can be with someone you think you know. It is the perception of the person, that we tend to put on a pedestal because you are so infatuated with them. People can be blinded by the one they’re aching for and sometimes do questionable things, like moving in with them at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, as Tess did.

Body & Bones does show the extent of a wrong relationship, as Oates carefully builds up tender moments shared between Danny and Tess, only to rip the bandaid off in the end. It has a great soundtrack to accompany the emotional connection Tess has with Danny and some great camerawork. It is a film that takes the ultimate fantasy and shows the brutal reality of it all.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is truly one of the best films to come out this year. It is hard to even find the words to express, how perfectly written this film is and it all comes down to the master class screenwriting from Aaron Sorkin. There’s an urgency in this script, the dialogue was short and to the point (typical Sorkin), everything was explained thoroughly and rather quickly, which kept you glued to the screen.

The film accurately captured everything that was going on, simultaneously in the late 60s. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy was shot and the Vietnam War was at its worst. Then began the anti war protests, which changed history forever, by chanting to the American police force, “The whole world is watching,” and, they still are. History has a way of repeating itself and the more I see archival footage, used in films or documentaries, the more painful everything is to see in the current climate.

There are so many incredible moments in The Trial of the Chicago 7. There are 3 standouts from the entire ensemble, that left me in awe of their performances. Within 5 seconds of seeing Yahya’s portrayal of Bobby Seale, I can confidently tell you, that he should get an Oscar nomination for his performance. Sacha Baron Coen’s portrayal of Abbie Hoffman was also fantastic and you could tell that he really wanted to tell his story. Mark Rylance also gave a very moving performance, as radical defense attorney William Kunstler, it is probably my favourite performance of his.

Courtesy of DreamWorks Pictures and Amblin Partners
(left) Sacha Baron Cohen, Danny Flaherty, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Redmayne and Mark Rylance

What I loved the most about the film was that I could have watched it for another 2 hours and not get tired of it. I was actually so disappointed when it ended because I wanted to see more of this fantastic ensemble of actors, show up for Sorkin. A Sorkin script is never easy to get through, many actors have said that it is harder than it seems. It is fast paced and the soundtrack also brought everything together, it wasn’t overused and it came in at the right moments.

Most people have said that this film is coming out at the right time. However, this sociopolitical climate, the blatant racism, and obtaining some form of justice, for the abhorrent treatment from the American police force, has never disappeared. So is the word “timely” in a review effective anymore, when this hasn’t stopped since the 60s? The film is not a representation of this current era that we are living in. Instead it represents the long fight against systemic racism and how this level of injustice has not been handled properly.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 is possibly Aaron Sorkin’s best directorial effort, and his screenplays continuously leave me stunned. The film has incredible performances from its ensemble, a wicked score and highly emotional courtroom scenes that should be played in an Oscar reel next year. It is truly one of the best Netflix Original Films I have seen and it deserves every ounce of praise that it is getting.

Make sure to watch The Trial of the Chicago 7 tomorrow on Netflix!

The Haunting of Bly Manor Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Here we are, in the month of October, or Spooky Season, as we have named it. Mike Flanagan takes his rightful place as King of the entire season. The Haunting of Bly Manor is beautifully adapted, from the stories of Henry James and it takes us, into the hearts of the characters, at Bly Manor.

Similar to The Haunting of Hill House, the writing is the strongest aspect of the series. Each episode is perfectly written, to allow the viewer, to connect the dots themselves, all while delivering a heartfelt story. You do not realize that you are registering the tiny hints, they have set in each episode, until it flourishes. This series will captivate you, from the moment it begins and you will get lost in Bly Manor until the end.

The series is deeply rooted in the idea of love and what it truly means to love someone. The extent you would go to for the one you love, how to properly love them and how valuable time with the one you love can be. This gothic romance shows the immense loss one can feel and how everyone grieves differently. It explains the many versions of love and the perception a person can project, for what they truly want.

The beauty of the series lies in the small details in each episode, everything is perfectly placed and the series is structured incredibly well. Both The Haunting series’ are brilliant pieces for Netflix, especially with Flanagan at the helm. He is incredibly gifted in telling these stories and showing audiences, what he wants them to see, through the lens. The framing composition, cinematography, lighting and camera movements, all come together to create, a perfectly splendid atmosphere for the characters.

Courtesy of Netflix
(center) Victoria Pedretti as Danielle Clayton

This was the first time, in a very long time, probably since The Haunting of Hill House, that I have been fully immersed in a series. The Haunting of Bly Manor has fantastic performances, from its cast, but Victoria Pedretti and Oliver Jackson – Cohen, continue to blow me away, with how talented they are. The entire cast is perfectly splendid and had wonderful chemistry together. You will remember their names and fall in love with their stories.

The Haunting of Bly Manor is beautifully haunting and rich in gothic romance conventions. The impending doom, that rests upon the roof of Bly Manor, is felt through every nook and cranny. Everything is perfectly crafted and it is one of the best series to come out this year. So settle in and listen closely, to a love story, that has many surprises and an ending so beautiful, that it will stay with you, long after you’ve finished.