‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

There comes a time when everyone expects their favourite characters to go head-to-head in a final battle scenario. From ‘Civil War’ to ‘Batman v. Superman’ and now to ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’. The monsterverse has taken some hits in the past. However, the one character that always comes out strong and almost never disappoints is Kong. Yes, the title of the movie is ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ but this really is more of continuation of ‘Kong Skull Island’ than ‘Godzilla King of the Monsters’. Kong is the star of this film and his human connection to young Jia (Kaylee Hottle) was beautiful to see. That is something that the Godzilla films were lacking. I also don’t really think they know how to carry out Godzilla because there is no human connection and that is what makes Kong so loveable in the monsterverse.

Does Godzilla look cool? Yes. Does Godzilla have a wicked creature design, with so much detail, that you can see him breathing and see the scales on his body move? Yes. However, that’s all he does. The atomic breath was cool, the fight scenes with Kong were really intense and fun to watch as well. When it came to hand-to-hand combat, Kong really took some shots and he had you rooting for him the whole time. I wouldn’t consider Godzilla that much of a villain in this story. It’s more along the lines of this fight being inevitable since they both exist. The main issue in these monsterverse films, especially for Godzilla’s side is the human story. It’s a chore to sit through and it truly doesn’t add much to the film.

On the other hand, Kong has always had a very strong emotional connection to the humans in his film. Kong’s character development from ‘Skull Island’ is great to see. And by the end of this film, you will understand why a third and final Kong film is necessary. The beauty of Kong is that even though he is this larger-than-life, fictional creature, he is brought into the human world and he is respected. The character design was incredible for Kong and you felt such a strong connection to him. There are moments in this film that will make you feel for Kong on a human level. It has always been interesting to see how Kong interacts with humans and in ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ it was just beautiful.

‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ is a fun monsterverse film that will keep you at the edge of your seat during their fight scenes. It is only fun when Kong is on screen because the writing for the humans on Godzilla’s side wasn’t that strong and could have been better. I totally respect the humour Brian Tyree Henry brought to the table but even he couldn’t save it. In conclusion, Kong stole the spotlight, there needed to be more Godzilla and the human story wasn’t developed enough for Godzilla. Even though the movie did drag at times, I wouldn’t have minded a longer runtime to actually make me care for Godzilla.

Wolfwalkers Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Wolfwalkers is another pleasant surprise this year!

The story is about a young apprentice hunter, named Robyn (Honor Kneafsey) and her father Bill (Sean Bean), who journey to Ireland to wipe out the last wolf pack. The pair of them are seen as outcasts and they try to keep to themselves as best they can. Robyn is rather adventurous and does not follow her father’s rules. One day Robyn ventures into the forest with her little bow and arrow, and she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe.

The story is such a magical tale but it’s the animation that makes it soar into the hearts of audiences. It is so beautifully detailed and is designed to create an atmosphere that changes with the emotions of the characters. There are such rich colours that change from scene to scene, depending on the dialogue being exchanged and what it evokes. The magic presented by the wolfwalkers is stunning and is a prominent yellow that glows to heal any person, or animal.

Courtesy of Cartoon Saloon

What was so lovely about the film was the relationship between Robyn and Mebh Óg MacTíre (Eva Whittaker), they were so playful with one another. It was great to see two very different characters adapt to each other and help each other in the end. Wolfwalkers is about friendship and how much power it holds through the symbolism of magic. Mebh saved Robyn and then Robyn did the same in the end. The power of friendship is a strong theme in any film but animation just elevates the theme to another level.

The film is beautiful to watch and there are plenty of moments that will leave you appreciating the depths of the animation. The way the animation is structured almost gives it a three-dimensional look, while it is designed as a two-dimensional ground. The images are stacked upon one another to create this depth and it was so interesting to see the difference from scene to scene. There was also fluidity with the animation of the wolves, which had a pack mentality, even through the movements. Wolfwalkers is the most magical animated film of the year. It has beautiful imagery, impressive animation and a well-written story about acceptance.

Nomadland Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Chloé Zhao’s Nomandland takes the audience on a journey through the American landscape, after Fern (Frances McDormand) loses everything in the Great Recession. She embarks on a journey of re-discovery as a van-dweller and finds solace in the community. Zhao’s direction and storytelling is mesmerizing and captures the subtleties of living.

What was so interesting about this film was the conversation surrounding the American economy and how retired workers choose to live, after they’ve been a slave to capitalism their entire lives. We, as people, lose sight of what is the most important because we are working in order to survive. Zhao choosing to focus on vandwellers was really eye-opening and hit such emotional chords. There’s such a human connection to this film and its characters, that the viewer will understand the decisions made by Fern and the rest of the community.

Frances McDormand as Fern
Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

The film is beautifully shot and the cinematography is the clear standout, the picturesque landscapes fill the screen, as we join Fern on her journey. It is a stunning film and it is understandable why so many people connected to it but it just was not for me. Frances McDormand carries this film and gives another wonderful performance but again, nothing really stood out for me. Zhao delivered on the technical aspects and her ability to ground her characters in a very humanistic story.

Nomadland is definitely the darling of the festival circuit and has every right to be. It has a strong story, beautiful imagery and a sense of peacefulness for its characters. Zhao is a beautiful filmmaker and has a great future ahead, she is a wonderful storyteller and raises strong questions about life after loss. The film is peaceful, yet draining because of the intimate, emotional conversations shared with its characters.

White Lie Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

White Lie co-written and directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas, dive into a character study of undergrad student Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl) who has been faking her cancer diagnosis, in order to pool money for her own benefit. It is a dark film that spirals into the depths of the lies and the consequences that come from it. The most interesting takeaway is that young Katie doesn’t stop herself and sikes herself out, as she continues to tangle this web of deceit.

First and foremost, the lie itself is pretty unsettling to watch unfold, as it snowballs into something so uncontrollable and bigger than Katie. Secondly, Rohl’s complex and nuanced performance makes this character study so intricate. It allows the viewer to feel uncomfortable with her decision, without fully knowing if she is telling the truth because she is so convincing. It is also the persona that she puts on in front of different people such as, her significant other, her father, the doctors and her peers. She used everyone around her for her own advantage as she was telling this lie.

Courtesy of Rock Salt Releasing

At first you are definitely turned off by the idea that someone could lie about having cancer in order to fund her own goals. Then you really think about what she did and you question, if she is the only one to think of something likes this. Especially considering the world with live in and the desperation that comes with surviving in this economy. Halfway through the film, you have accepted that she is going through this lie, full force and you are interested in seeing how far she is willing to go. This film is a rollercoaster of emotions because of the many complications Katie faces.

White Lie is an interesting character piece and will have you question if there are people out there who would actually do this. Rohl gave a great performance and she brought forth an entire emotional spectrum when handling the lies. The story structure, camerawork and score all bring this film together to create a character that is so chaotic, which makes this film incredibly thought-provoking until the very end.

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.