‘Cowboy Bebop’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

3, 2, 1… let’s jam!

One of the most beloved anime has been given the live-action treatment on Netflix. If you haven’t heard of Cowboy Bebop or you haven’t dived into the extensive anime catalogue, then this series will definitely get you interested. Cowboy Bebop is a Japanese science fiction neo-noir anime television series created and animated by Sunrise and André Nemex for Netflix has adapted it. We see a ragtag crew of bounty hunters (in space), chase down the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals; they’ll save the world for the right price. So yes, they are heroes, but they also gain some coin in the process.

The opening credits sequence that was released had everyone sold even before watching the actual series. The one thing that can be said about Cowboy Bebop is that it has a fun style and there is vibrancy to the atmosphere on each planet. When we first meet Spike Spiegel (John Cho) and Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir) they are on a mission to collect a bounty. Within that first sequence, Cho completely embodies Spiegel and the fight choreography that follows will have you locked in for the rest of the series. The directors, Alex Garcia Lopez and Michael Katleman have so much fun with the fight sequences, as they fuse together western genre conventions and anime tropes.

Spike Spiegel has a past that he has been trying to get away from and he has adapted to his new life as a bounty hunter quite nicely. Spiegel and Jet Black are fairly comfortable with each other but it seems like they don’t know the extent of each other’s lives before they met. As the story unfolds, we get flashbacks to Spiegel’s past life and how it suddenly merges with his encounters on different missions. There are plenty of characters that come into play like, Julia (Elena Satine), Vicious (Alex Hassell), and my personal favourite Faye Valentine (Daniella Pineda). They all bring something different to the table and change the dynamic of the story.

Without spoiling anything – even though this is an adaptation of an anime that has been around since the ’90s – this story tends to get lost a bit throughout the series because of the surface level ‘bounty hunting’ in each episode. Even though the story does get a bit jumbled, and the main storyline gets slightly off track, the series is just filled with so much style and excitement, that there really is never a dull moment. It’s a lot to take in, but once you understand these characters and get to the meat of their story, you’ll want to see more of them. Cowboy Bebop has impressed me and if the live-action does anything, for anyone, it’s that it will make you want to watch the anime from the beginning.

‘Dopesick’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

We are currently living in a time where questioning pharmaceutical companies and the government is a must. Even though their intentions may be appear to be good, there could be underlying motives. These questions have always been prevalent, no matter which decade in America we choose to look at. In the ’90s, when dopamine, or oxycontin became the biggest drug on the market, things seemed to change. In the new series Dopesick we take an in-depth look at how the system was actually working against the doctors and their patients.

The focus is on the opioid addiction in America and how it all started. The first three episodes were released on Disney Star in Canada and have stayed in my mind ever since. The build up and the execution of the opioid crisis in America was really eye-opening and kind of paralleled what we are currently going through with the vaccine debate right now. I found it interesting to see the different perspectives from the lawyers, the pharmaceutical companies, and most importantly the people who blindly became hooked on one of the most dangerous drugs known to man.

It does feel a bit disjointed in the first episode but once it finds its footing and really sticks with certain characters, that’s where it shines. This entire cast, which consists of Michael Keaton, Kaitlyn Dever, Will Poulter, Rosario Dawson, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg all truly shine in their roles. They are completely committed to this story and want to tell it in the most honest way possible. In the first three episodes, Dever, Keaton and Stuhlbarg are the most important pieces of this puzzle and offer three different perspectives. They are the standouts so far and their characters add layers to the crisis.

Dopesick will have you glued to the screen because of detailed this story is. There are so many factors to think about for the opioid epidemic and this series puts it on full display. We dive into the backstories of all parties involved and try to understand their thought process when creating, administering, or taking these drugs. It is one of the most honest and grounded storylines about this subject matter that I’ve seen in a while. It is also very informative and will help many understand how important educating yourself on your government and substance abuse can be.

‘Feel Good’ Season 2 Explores Queer Relationships And Self-Expression

By: Amanda Guarragi

At one point in time, we have all struggled with who we are. It is always hard to understand the changes that we go through and we turn to television shows/films to guide us in some way. This generation is very fortunate to have projects that highlight mental illness, addiction, and queer relationships. Feel Good season two shows Mae (Mae Martin) recovering from her drug addiction and struggling to rebuild her life, especially her relationship with George (Charlotte Ritchie). Mae needs to take the necessary steps to heal from their trauma and this season takes an in-depth look in how to move forward in a healthy way.

There have been shows that balance humour with difficult subjects. Having Mae as a comedian (a version of Mae Martin’s own personal life), gives the character the ability to reflect on their own life and emotions in a very candid way. The writing for Mae and George perfectly captures how others could be feeling. The conversations had in this season, can allow audiences to understand the fluidity of sexual identity, and that is something we need more of. It also highlights one’s sexual expression when coming out to the world and fully being themselves. Charlotte is exploring her sexual desires in this relationship with Mae, while Mae is mending her heart and trying to define what love means.

The show finds its balance when delivering difficult emotional moments while adding one-liners that are perfectly placed to lighten the mood. The ghosts of Mae’s past come to the forefront in this season. Mae needs to make amends with her parents and get some closure from her past life. People enter our lives for different reasons and can have expectations from relationships. What others don’t understand is that everyone is constantly growing and evolving. Which eventually leads to a change in perspective, especially in situations that aren’t healthy.

Feel Good season two is refreshing, emotional and very funny at times. As Mae and George struggle with their relationship, you can see some awkwardness regarding certain situations. What audiences can appreciate from Feel Good season two is its honesty in showing how life truly is. Life can be messy, relationships can be difficult and finding your own identity is truly a journey. There is great chemistry between the whole cast and the show highlights all of their strengths throughout. If you are looking for a show to kick off Pride month, then this is definitely the one.

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.

The Longest War Review

By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Longest War is directed by Emmy-winning director, Greg Barker and Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon. The documentary was televised right after the series finale of Homeland on Sunday night and unpacks the CIA’s long and morally complicated history in Afghanistan. This fight had been going on for two decades and the timeline that was shown, highlighting each President discussing the issue put the longevity of this war into perspective. The question that often arises is “Why were they there?” and this documentary definitely explores that jam packed question.

The documentary goes into the depths of the battle in Afghanistan by highlighting key moments, which made an impact for the trajectory of this war. It began with the United States stepping in, to get the Soviets out of the country by supplying them with weapons to fight extremist groups. After the Soviets left, Afghanistan had control of weapons and the country faced a Civil War with the Taliban emerging. Shortly after, Al Qaeda made its presence known and Osama Bin Laden was their leader.

During all this, President Bill Clinton was the Leader of the Free World and did nothing to stop this. It seemed as it was a domino effect because people question would question the aftermath of one decision. What if President Clinton went after him? Would things have been different? Would 9/11 have even happened? Would the U.S. Troops be there without cause or reason after 2 decades? These are the questions that are addressed in The Longest War and I was so invested in knowing the truth.

What I think was incredibly beneficial of the storytelling in this documentary was the detailed interviews on both sides of the fence. It was such a balanced discussion between CIA operatives, U.S Troops, Journalists and the Afghan people that it covered all the bases. At times, the editing allowed for two opposing answers, to counter each other and present an argument, without having those people face each other in the same room. The integration of stock footage was done seamlessly and showed the destruction of Afghanistan, by extremist groups and the United States.

Barker also highlighted the importance of Journalists and their bravery when reporting in warzones. Anyone who old the truth was at risk. The television station and media outlets that started production in Afghanistan after the US stepped in, were reporting on the Taliban and ended up losing thirteen people from their team to violence. The truth is, and always will be, a powerful tool and it’s up to Journalists and the media to cover history in the most honest way because their words will be remembered.

Afghanistan is a very young country and they are the future. They’ve only known what a war torn country looks like and have never been able to know peace with their own people. The battle in Afghanistan will forever be the most confusing, life altering and questionable battle that the United States had to endure. It doesn’t help that the CIA took matters into their own hands and made some very violent decisions when interrogating people in the extremist groups. What started out as a peace mission to redevelop Afghanistan, ended up being one of the most scarring events in U.S. history, which changed the way the United States was viewed by the world forever.