Cake Day: A Story About Recovery With Filmmakers Phillip Thomas and Cameron Crosby


By: Amanda Guarragi

Cake Day is a short film that authentically highlights the journey of an addict. Cameron (Cameron Crosby) emotionally deteriorates, as he contemplates the consequences of honesty, on a day of celebration during one of his meetings. It is a poignant film that is directed with such care and honesty from everyone involved. It is important to handle this subject matter with the utmost respect, when generally retelling an experience that you may, or may not have been directly affected by. The centerpiece of this film is the meeting itself and that is why it is so special.

Director Phillip Thomas really wanted to present an emotional story that would speak to everyone. He wanted to be able to create a sense of empathy and understanding for those who have been struggling with an addiction. He managed to create a community within the film itself. It was comforting to watch this short film, knowing that the people behind the camera wanted to create this support system for its viewers,

You can’t tell an experience like this without having the authenticity and people around you to teach you what it is or else you’re going to fail. That was the whole point of the process of doing this short film, it was to make sure that I could in fact speak on behalf of people, that I haven’t experienced what they’ve experienced.”

– Phillip Thomas, Director of Cake Day

Thomas did his research and he went to different meetings with Cameron Crosby to help get a better understanding in how to tell this story. They only had three days to shoot this film and the bulk of the film takes place in one of the meeting rooms they actually attended. Thomas made sure to keep the exact same setup to make it feel authentic because normally there is no documentation of any meeting. In order to create a sense of community for his audience he needed to accurately create the atmosphere as well.

When collaborating with filmmakers, especially when discussing difficult subject matter, there is a support system that builds, when working with everyone without even realizing it. There are friendships that form when going through a creative process with others, even more so when the subject hits close to home. When getting into character, Crosby found it a bit challenging to get into the that headspace again, “To go into the headspace of the what if, what if that would happen to me and how I would react to it and like whether to move forward and try to get better.” Crosby gave an emotional, internalized performance because it came from such a personal space.

Courtesy of Superfan Pictures and Image Nation Films

Crosby wanted to be apart of a film that would send a positive message to anyone struggling, he was happy to work with Thomas because of all the care that went into the story,

“I think that’s an important message of the film just bc you take one step back doesn’t discount the 20 steps you made forward. Nothing was really uncomfortable because Phil set up such a great atmosphere, where I just felt safe and protected, which allowed me to get deeper and allowed me to get into that dark headspace.”

– Cameron Crosby, Cake Day

It’s incredibly important to have these honest conversations, where the filmmakers can go even deeper into the psyche of the character, to fully form a story that can be so personal. There is definitely a right way to tell these stories and that is what Cake Day does, it just captures this one day and expands upon the internal conflict of its lead character. Every aspect of the film, from the atmosphere to the fantastic score elevated the performances from the actors. It’s an important film that accurately depicts the struggle of being honest, not only with those around you, but with yourself.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Holy, Jingle Bells!

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two is the film that will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit! My favourite Santa Claus (Kurt Russell) is back and this time the story takes us to the North Pole and his workshop… well Mrs. Claus’s (Goldie Hawn) workshop.

It is a very solid sequel that builds upon Kate’s (Darby Camp) story and her relationship with her mother. It’s a very different Christmas for the Pierce’s as they celebrate the holiday on a beach, in Cancun, thanks to Claire’s (Kimberly Williams – Paisley) new beau Bob (Tyrese Gibson). The intention of the vacation was to bring both family units together to bond, as Bob and Claire take their relationship to the next step.

The wonderful thing about this sequel is that it brings the same Christmas magic as the first one and tells a heartfelt story about adapting to a new life, after grieving. It seems dark when explained in that way but the Christmas spirit created a lighthearted atmosphere in order to tell this story. Kate has the Christmas spirit because of her father and it is a beautiful thing to see. Kate is headstrong and wants to celebrate Christmas the normal way, her dad’s way but Bob just came in and decided to change everything.

Courtesy of 1492 Pictures and Wonder Worldwide
(left) Goldie Hawn, Darby Camp, Jahzir Bruno and Kurt Russell

The idea of moving on, from any situation, is easier said than done but when it comes to grieving a parent, there is no amount of time to even process the pain. Kate has wonderful memories of her father, even the song “O, Christmas Tree” has a special place in her heart and it’s associated to a memory. As Kate processes her possible new life with Bob and a kid brother Jake (Jahzir Bruno), she calls upon jolly old Saint Nick to help her with one final Christmas wish.

The story isn’t only about Kate, there is a parallel with the antagonist of the film named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison), who has an interesting story of his own, involving Santa’s workshop. As the story unfolds Belsnickel and Kate have more in common than they thought, in regards to how to deal with their feelings of neglect. It presented such a great story that young children will definitely understand and allow parents to understand what their child could be going through. It is fun for the whole family with a great lesson to be learned.

The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two improves upon the same heartfelt story and elevates the action sequences from the first instalment. It is a film designed to make you feel warm and cheerful about the upcoming Christmas season, even though things may seem bleak. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn bring their charm to the screen to steal everyone’s hearts, as they both embody the true spirit of Christmas. It is lighthearted, very funny and wholesome.

Make sure to catch The Christmas Chronicles: Part Two on Netflix November 25th for a jolly good time with the whole family!

Sweet Taste of Souls Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sweet Taste of Souls has a really unique concept that flips the moving picture frame trope on its head. When four struggling band members stop at a small roadside cafe for a slice of cherry pie, they find themselves imprisoned in the owner’s framed art collection. The film was intriguing from the very beginning and had refreshing moments for the supernatural subgenre in Horror.

Ms. Ellinore (Honey Loren) was heartbroken and defeated when her husband left her. She harnessed these supernatural powers to create a picture perfect life within her art collection, a life that she could never have. The film dives into the psychology of trauma and abuse, while adding a supernatural element to it. It is one of the most refreshing concepts because of how this complex, emotional story ties in with a trope we’ve never fully explored on screen.

Courtesy of Dark Coast Entertainment

The most impressive aspect of the film was the special effects and how they were used in certain scenes. There was a whole process in taking the souls of the characters and transferring into the frame, which was really interesting. It also felt really claustrophobic at times (which was a horrible feeling for me) which worked extremely well for the suspense of being locked inside of a frame.

Sweet Taste of Souls had great special effects, a really complex psychological story and sound design that elevated the story. It had great use of colour, especially the colour red, to pop against a faded background and make you remember that Ms. Ellinore was around the corner. It’s a very fun, original horror film, with a deep psychological exploration of trauma.

Project Power Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

Project Power is a jam packed, action film, that explores having unique, superhuman abilities by taking a yellow pill. The powers last for a total of 5 minutes and each pill carries a different power. The streets of New Orleans is crawling with these unpredictable yellow pills, young teenage Robin (Dominique Fishback) and Frank (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a local cop must team up with ex-soldier, Art (Jamie Foxx) to dismantle the group who created the pill. The film, co-directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman is a generic action film, with an interesting story written by Mattson Tomlin.

The concept of this film will remind audiences of the mutant powers in the X-Men, but it is able to change up the superhuman abilities a bit more because of how unpredictable the pill can be. Within 5 minutes of taking the yellow pill, it can affect everyone differently, it could cause death, or they could suffer serious ailments after taking it. It is symbolic for holding power in your hand, whether it is good or bad and it could affect your life within those 5 minutes. Tomlin’s script is really well thought out but the execution is what was lacking for this film.

The cast give great performances and they really carried the film until the very end. Dominique Fishback, Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt all had great chemistry with each other and had very strong backstories that came together nicely. The connection between Robin and Art was interesting because she reminded him of his daughter and the flashbacks to show how he lost her flowed nicely in those scenes they shared. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the undercover cop was such great casting, he was so good in his role and it’s always great to see him in an action film.

The story was really detailed and the information about how the yellow power pill came to fruition, unfolded nicely as the film went on. The issue with the film was the pacing, special effects and the execution of certain actions sequences. The editing was messy to the point where it was hard to understand who was fighting on screen. The different superhuman abilities were also confusing because they never explained how or why each pill was different.

Project Power has strong writing and performances but lacks in executing action scenes that work with the concept. The special effects were pretty mediocre but the ideas that were put in place for these superhuman abilities were commendable. It has the typical action film clichés, some questionable moments regarding political commentary and some choices that will surprise you. It is another original concept from Netflix and that is the important thing because we have to support original films.

An American Pickle Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

An American Pickle is based on the short story named ‘Sell Out’ written by Simon Rich, which was published in the ‘New York Times’. It begins as an immigrant story, as pickle factory worker, Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) retells his journey to New York City. It is a heartfelt tale, about generational differences and how traditional values are interpreted in the current social climate. Brandon Trost’s directorial debut is a lot of fun, very stylized and wholesome.

The social commentary and the political correctness mixed with old ideologies, set up for a very humorous and entertaining film. It was also important to show Herschel’s journey, as a Jewish man, who was so connected to his faith and his family. It seemed as the film went on and he met Ben Greenbaum (Seth Rogen), the link to those family values were broken. Herschel and Ben learned a lot from each other, even though they were 100 years apart.

The dual role that is played by Seth Rogen is really well done. There was a lot of though that went into these characters and their backstories. The film was at its strongest when they were together and playing off each other. It is one of Seth Rogen’s best performances because of how distinct he made both characters. He kept the accent for Herschel throughout and his mannerisms were even very traditional. It was a far fetched concept but the connectivity between Herschel and Ben was the heart of this piece.

The social commentary is really effective because they presented a fight with outdated ideologies. Herschel ended up being praised for his freedom of speech, which is something we see a lot of with this generation, even if they are completely absurd. The way Simon Rich presented the current climate with Herschel at the forefront, attempting to attain the American Dream in a different era, was refreshing. It also expressed the different perceptions of family values in two vastly different lifestyles.

An American Pickle is such a sweet film about family, hard work and heritage. It was funny, informative and definitely educational. To see both era’s come together and clearly understand how much has changed in 100 years was important. It seems as if people have lost certain values and this film presents them in a new way. The most wonderful thing about this film was the way it presented the human connection, in all its messiness and its unity. Seth Rogen never misses and he continues to make great content.