‘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.

CBC’s ‘Sort Of’ Shows How To Be An Authentic Millennial By Living Your Truth

By: Amanda Guarragi

When we are children, no one ever explains adulthood. We just see our family members existing and going through the motions as adults. It isn’t until you are in the middle stage of being a young adult, where you fully realize that no one actually has it all figured out. As someone who just turned 26 – I know, it’s not that old – it feels like there is a deadline approaching. It feels like you are riding this wave and you don’t know where it’s taking you. You have some sort of plan but nothing is fully formed. You also feel like you want to try everything before you somehow can’t. As I was watching the first episode of Sort Of, I got pretty emotional. Even if you’re feeling lost, there are shows like this, with characters who are feeling the exact same way. There’s this beautiful honesty that makes this show special.

The series follows Sabi Mehoob (Bilal Baig), a gender-fluid 25-year-old Pakistani Canadian, living in Toronto. Sabi decides to follow the advice of best friend 7even (Amanda Cordner) and move to Berlin for a change of scenery. Leaving Toronto means distancing from an uncommitted partner and a thankless job as a nanny. Although these seem like easy circumstances to part with, things become complicated when Sabi’s employer Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung), mother to Violet (Kaya Kanashiro) and Henry (Aden Bedard), is critically injured in a bike accident. This leaves an unprepared, ill-equipped, and at times insensitive father (Gray Powell) in a challenging position. Sabi needs to make a decision whether they will stay with the family during this difficult time.

When structuring this show, Baig wanted to make sure that there was a balance between emotional and comedic moments, “Isn’t life that blend of drama and comedy and tragedy and hope? It’s all of those things, so because we wanted to centre realness, truth and authenticity, it then meant that the genre, or the tone of the show, was going to be reflected in that.” Sometimes people can find the humour in the darkest of times and that needs to be shown on screen. There are moments in this show that have dry humour, during some disheartening scenes. People can cope with situations differently and that’s why this show will resonate with so many.

More importantly, the character of Sabi has been created to represent everyone who has been struggling with who they are. Whether they are struggling in their love life, family life, or even their work life, Sabi comes with some anecdotes through their own struggle. The strength of this show is the diversity within the lives of the characters and their own experiences. When asked about their own experiences being written into the show, Baig said that the character of Sabi has gone through more,

“I think parts of it for sure, but overall when I look at the eight episodes, a lot of things happen to Sabi that haven’t happened to me. It feels like the texture of my life is represented in the show but then again working with other writers and choosing situations and story beats that felt dramatic and funny mean that the arcs for all the characters were really transformed into their own.”

– Bilal Baig, Co-Creator of ‘Sort Of’

As Baig explained the creative process, it felt like the show was special from the beginning, even before production. There was a writers room full of people who shared their own experiences with each other. That in itself, already makes the team stronger, which then results into something wonderful. You could feel that the stories forming for each character came from someone’s heart. Sure, for dramatic purposes, there are some embellishments, but it comes from such an honest place.

New TV show filmed in Toronto will be the first of its kind
Courtesy of CBC

Sort Of is a very refreshing series about a young adult trying to navigate their life. It has a diverse cast with character stories that will resonate with everyone. It not only pulls on the heartstrings but the writing for these characters will make you connect with them on a different level,

“I think that it is going to be really transformative because I think then that means that people of all genders will be talking about characters like Sabi or their friends or some of their other queer/trans/non-binary characters we’ll meet later on in the season. I think there’s just something really powerful about looking at what it means to evolve and change and how it’s not as scary.”

– Bilal Baig, Co-Creator of ‘Sort Of’

For those who are feeling like they are a little lost right now, definitely tune in on October 5th. You will instantly connect with Sabi and will be laughing at their dry humour throughout the series.

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.

Everything I Learned Came From The Television Short Film Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Everything I Learned Came From The Television is a very unique science fiction short film, that explores the damaging effects of media consumption. There are metaphors that symbolize the media’s influence, whether it be from a friend, or an inaccessible overlord, media will always have this hold on people.

The opening of this film is haunting and powerful, as a song with the title of the film, begins to play. The imagery in this film is quite stunning because of the lighting and shadowing used from the television monitors versus the world outside. We see young Hannah (Brittany Lynn Blanchard) staring at multiple monitors, as she sits on the floor. Her eyes are blank and the static from the television replace her pupils.

It locks you in the moment it begins because of how interesting the visuals are. The story is linear and the concept is intriguing because of how well crafted this film is. However, the concept does get lost in translation, as the dialogue doesn’t quite explain the purpose of Hannah recruiting minions for this ‘cult’. She has been tied to her Protector (Josh Wingate) and wants to be free of this attachment. It was a mental journey for Hannah because she started to understand the underlying issue of her powers.

Everything I Learned Came From The Television has solid visuals, beautiful cinematography and symmetry within the frame. The concept of this short film is really interesting and works well in the current climate. Technology is a beast and it can be perceived differently by other generations. It explores the true state of media consumption through a science fiction tale.