‘Without Remorse’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse is about a Navy Seal, named John Clark (Michael B. Jordan), who goes on a path to avenge his wife’s murder only to find himself inside of a larger conspiracy. You have Michael B. Jordan leading an interesting cast that doesn’t really work for some strange reason. The film has an interesting story but the execution was lacklustre. It was difficult to follow at times and the pacing of the film is not engaging enough for the viewer to sit through the runtime. There are strong action scenes but they do not make up the way the story plays out.

It is always difficult to adapt novels to screen and unfortunately Without Remorse suffered from trying to incorporate too much. The writing for John Clark just wasn’t strong enough and it pains me to say this because Michael B. Jordan is one of my favourite actors working today. For some strange reason it just didn’t work for me. His military life and domestic life were rushed in the beginning, only for the aftermath of his wife’s death to last longer than it should have. It’s Tom Clancy, it really shouldn’t have been this hard to take this action-packed story and translate it to screen.

It just does not hold the viewer’s attention long enough to make them care about the actual story or the characters. It felt like even the characters were waiting for the action scenes to happen, in order for anything to move forward. The story just didn’t flow and the writing for the characters seemed really bland. The real downfall of the film was that majority of the action scenes – which we all patiently waited for – were all in complete darkness, it was impossible to see what was happening or even who was fighting who.

Without Remorse had potential to be a great action piece for Michael B. Jordan but unfortunately it fell flat. It was hard to sit through because the writing just wasn’t engaging enough. The story was overstuffed, as they tried incorporate as much as they could from the novel. It really suffered the adaptation issues that many films face. I could see the story they were trying to tell but there wasn’t enough explanation or connection to any of these characters for any viewer to care. It is definitely not enough that Jordan was leading this film.

Canadian Film Festival Selection: ‘Sugar Daddy’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

A young talented musician, named Darren, dreams of making music like nobody has before. But, unfortunately she’s broke and desperate for cash. She signs up to a paid-dating website, throwing herself down a dark path that shapes her music with it. It’s true when they say, ‘art imitates life’ and artists tend to try new experiences for inspiration. They may not realize that this is the reason they gravitate towards the unknown. But it’s the creative mind that overtakes the decision-making. Darren is at a crossroads in her life, she is twenty-five, lost her job and is really trying to make a living as a musician. Any twenty-something can relate to this, but the creatives are the ones who feel her pain the most.

Darren has been trying to find ways to develop as a musician. Her sound is very different and she’s seems to be naive in navigating the industry. She has been trying to live on her own, without any help from her mother and she’s struggling to make ends meet. We see her working as a server for a catering event and she is taken by this woman who she used to know. She was once a caterer just like Darren but now she’s on the arm of an older gentlemen at the event. Darren questioned her friend and was curious about the arrangement. She then does her own research and is intrigued by the entire service. Would you go out on a date with an older man to make ends meet?

Let’s discuss this shall we? A woman is in full control of the situation as an ‘escort’ or in plain terms ‘a friend’ of the older gentlemen suitor. There are guidelines that are set prior to the date and as we see in the film, it is more of a companion than a sexual favour. Darren’s friends discuss the female agency that can be stripped away because of the price being put on her head for a night out. But even though that is what it looks like on the outside, Darren has a wonderful experience with her suitor. He understands her on a creative level, something that many people in her life don’t do. She builds this connection with him that almost feels like a father/daughter relationship… until it wasn’t.

Sugar Daddy directed by Wendy Morgan, takes a musicians creative process to new lengths and shows the connectivity between art and artist. As a creative, there needs to be some support from the people around you in order for you to grow in your field. You can find unlikely partners in your life who don’t even live near you, who will understand you on a different level. From the unique camerawork, to the interesting story and character work from Darren, the film will leave you considering the same career path. It is an in-depth psychological analysis of the scars left from childhood that many people carry into adulthood. This generation tends to focus on how to fix the issues, take accountability for their actions and attempt to move forward with a better understanding of who they are.

The film is available to stream today on VOD/Digital across Canada!

‘Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

After following the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement since the beginning, no viewing experience has felt as satisfying as this one. After years of fighting, for the version of a film that meant so much to so many people and campaigning on behalf of our director, we finally have the Justice League as it was fully intended. This film is everything that we all hoped it would be. As a fan, and as a critic, Zack Snyder’s Justice League will be considered a monumental film because of the movement surrounding it and it is an emotional watch for those who are closely associated to it.

When you watch a Zack Snyder film, you automatically know what you are getting yourself into. From the opening sequence of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, you could feel that this was HIS film. We all know that Snyder is very meticulous when it comes to accurately depicting the source material and elevating the story through his own ideas. When Snyder gave us Man of Steel and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Ultimate Edition), they both had a similar tone. The tone is carried out in this film but there is a much more emotional element that is tied to these characters.

Courtesy of The Stone Quarry

At the very beginning of this film, we feel immense loss, as Snyder picked up right after the events of Batman v. Superman. Almost instantly, we are taken back to the emotions we all felt when watching that for the first time. It sets the tone for the whole film.

Will Superman return?

How will the Son of Krypton rise again?

The film is broken into several parts. There is so much backstory that is attached to each of these characters – especially Cyborg (Ray Fisher) – that we get to see. For a four-hour film, the pacing of it did not seem to drag at all, it doesn’t feel like it is being stretched out to fill the runtime.

Snyder begins this journey with Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) as he attempts to assemble these metahumans to form the team. It is time to actually face the fact, that Ben Affleck, is a fantastic Batman. It’s always difficult to balance Bruce Wayne/Batman but Snyder and Affleck are a perfect duo to give us a very memorable portrayal. It also sets up the pacing of the story quite well, as we see Bruce on his own mission to find Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen (Ezra Miller) and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) in order to defend Earth from a possible threat.

Courtesy of The Stone Quarry

Snyder then takes us back to Themyscira, as the Amazons guard the mother box from an incoming threat. What is so incredible about this entire sequence is the power Snyder pulls out from the Amazons. It is incredible to see how these women have been developed. Whether it be their power stance, their fighting words, or their badass armour, all you see is their strength shining through. There are moments with Queen Hippolyta that will make you incredibly emotional because of our attachment to Themyscira, courtesy of Patty Jenkins in Wonder Woman (2017). We see more development of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg. Snyder’s storytelling allows you to understand them on a human level first, and then show what they’re capable of. He really knows how to balance the two in order to make an emotional impact, in such a short time.

Snyder does focus on the emotional connection to Superman through the eyes of Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane) by showing how they have been processing their grief. Because of Lois and Martha, we understand how tragic this loss is for them vs. the world losing him. Again, Snyder brings it to a very human level of processing grief, instead of keeping Superman as a global figure. The humanity that is shown, creates an intimacy with Clark as a well-rounded human being and proves that he is more than just the symbol. This is where his character development comes full circle and he isn’t even on screen.

Courtesy of The Stone Quarry

Snyder then puts more focus on a character that is considered the heart of the team and when you watch this film, you will understand why. We all know what Cyborg is capable of, but seeing it, the way Snyder wanted him to be presented in a live-action format was something else entirely. Snyder dives into the center of Cyborg and how he is structured as a machine. While he shows us this, we see Stone’s trauma and humanity through his emotional backstory. That is why he’s the heart of the league. Stone is trying to live again, he is trying to find his purpose to feel human again. He is the piece of the jigsaw puzzle, connecting the league in order to stop the incoming threat.

Courtesy of The Stone Quarry

The incoming threat in question? Spikey Steppenwolf, Dasaad and Darkseid, were all crafted so well. The special effects in Zack Snyder’s Justice League was fantastic. During the entire history lesson, which is narrated by Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), I was in awe. It was so detailed and what worked so well is that they explained the mother boxes in detail. So for those who don’t know much about them, they will understand what could possibly happen. There are plenty of surprises in the history lesson and when you see Darkseid in action, you are going to want to see more of him in future films.

Zack Snyder’s Justice League is everything and more. How Snyder managed to exceed our expectations in making a massive comic book film with legendary characters is beyond me. Everything you loved about his first two instalments of the unofficial Superman trilogy is combined and expanded upon in this film. Not only does Snyder know Superman extremely well, he brings out the best characterizations from every member. You can tell that he put his heart and soul in this film. For those who have been with the movement since day one, or to the naysayers who are starting to get excited, this movie will leave you wanting more of the world that he has created.

‘Yes Day’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

We have all experienced missed opportunities because we didn’t say ‘Yes’. We sometimes look back on our lives and regret dismissing certain opportunities because they didn’t feel right at the time. Depending on how adventurous you are, majority of people say ‘yes’, when they are eager to try something new. In Yes Day, we see Allison (Jennifer Garner) and Carlos (Edgar Ramirez) fall in love with each other because of their zest for life. At the beginning of their marriage, they went on adventures in the middle of the day, without a care in the world. Then… they had children and entered the world of ‘No‘.

Yes Day shows the shift from being a couple to being parents quite well. Children are a huge responsibility and once you have a child, or three in their case, your time and attention is no longer on the relationship. Allison and Carlos agree to do the ‘Yes Day’ challenge for 24 hours, where they have to say yes to everything. It is a fun concept with really wild moments throughout and the family dynamic worked really well. The Torres family go on their little adventure for the day and end up in situations they never would have imagined.

Courtesy of Matt Kennedy/Netflix Film

It was also great to see how there are different approaches to parenting and we see that when certain decisions are being made. For their children, Katie (Jenna Ortega), Nando (Julian Lerner), Ellie (Everly Carganilla) they all wanted the freedom to do what they want at a very young age. The main conflict of this film is that Katie wanted to go to a music festival, at fourteen with her close friend, without parental supervision. Now, we all know what happens at music festivals and her mom, does not want her to go at all. After a day of saying, ‘yes’ and realizing that her mother, is actually really fun and just wants the best for her kids, Katie ends up doing the mature thing.

Yes Day is a lot of fun, even with some pacing issues, it still has plenty of teachable moments for parents and children. The cast had great chemistry and they all brought something special to the table. The film drops on Netflix, Friday, March 12th and I challenge you to have a ‘Yes Day’ of your own this Friday! Say ‘yes’ to pampering yourself, for taking some time off and more importantly to have one day of fun! It is a light, wholesome film that is definitely needed to loosen everyone up during these crazy times.

‘Jumbo’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sundance Film Festival 2020 selection Jumbo, written and directed by Zoé Wittock, is an interesting exploration of sexuality and coming of age. We meet young Jeanne (Noémie Merlant), who works at an amusement park and is completely taken by these machines. These inanimate objects, fascinate her to the point, that she cannot stop thinking about them, especially one theme park ride, she calls ‘Jumbo’. Wittock does a great job explaining identity and explores queerness in a unique way. We all can say that, “love is love”, until someone questions who we love. The film shows the struggles of coming to terms with one’s sexual identity and the gender norms that are forced upon others.

Jeanne is incredibly shy, naive and reserved. She has had to watch her mother bring home men, who do not treat her well. Jeanne has had a skewed knowledge of relationships because of her mother. When Jeanne goes to work at the amusement park, she experiences a sense of liberation because no one can see her in the dark. She is no longer quiet, with the theme park attraction, she is free to experience this connection how she pleases. It is a great concept and the fantastical elements combined with a really grounded journey of sexual identity, worked extremely well for this piece. It was so interesting to watch, just to see the emotional connection Jeanne felt towards ‘Jumbo’.

The film does suffer from pacing issues and some empty dialogue that doesn’t add much to Jeanne’s development. There are two moments that stood out to me, ones that I will never forget. The first is the scene where she has a very intimate moment with ‘Jumbo’. The oil from the theme park attraction covered her naked body, slowly, and we see that Jeanne is reaching her climax. I thought the set up for this scene worked well because of the contrast of black and white. Society often looks at sexuality in two ways, either gay or straight, but there are others in between, that deserve the same level of attention. Society also looks at gender the exact same way, boy or girl, black or white.

The second moment, which I found a bit jarring was Jeanne having sex with a man who has been pursuing her. The choice to not have the camera on the characters was interesting. It is a sexual moment that Wittock did not want to show, instead she just wanted us to listen. The man is the only one making any noise, while Jeanne is silent. She is being taken from behind and it is not an intimate, emotional connection. Wittock then shows her face, after he finishes, and her eyes are filled with tears. That is not what she thought sex would feel like. How could something so intimate be so emotionless?

Jumbo is a an interesting watch because of Noémie Merlant, she completely took over the role and held the film together. She had such a beautiful understanding of Jeanne and how to portray her. Wittock took a chance on presenting societal issues in a very abstract way and it was impressive! You cannot take this film at surface value because it will lose the meaning of Jeanne’s journey. There is so much depth to this film and Wittock hits certain beats with ease. It is emotional, unique and a fresh perspective on sexual identity.