Friday, October 18, 2019

Movie Review: “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”

By Matt Pascarella

Not Rated
Run time: 2 hours and 2 mins.

Ok, “Breaking Bad” fans - this is the moment we’ve been waiting for. What happened to Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) after the end of the series?  “EL Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” answers this question. If you haven’t seen “Breaking Bad” yet, I highly recommend it.

The story of a chemistry teacher, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), gone bad is one of the greatest shows ever created. This movie does give you a series recap, mainly focusing on Walter and Jesse’s relationship and what Jesse was put through by working with Walter. However, watching the series will give you a better understanding of many of the things that happen throughout the film.

The movie opens with a flashback to Jesse and business associate Mike (Jonathan Banks) talking about starting over and where they would go if they had the chance. Jesse says starting over would enable him to put things right, and Mike corrects him by saying that putting things right is the one thing he can never do.

Fast forward to right where “Breaking Bad” ended for Jesse. He goes to former business partners Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete’s (Charles Baker) house, looking for protection. The news is covering the exact thing Jesse is running from; even interviewing Jesse’s parents. Jesse is a suspect and there are police everywhere. He is very paranoid and suffers flashbacks of his mistreatment during the series.

There is a lot of back and forth between Jesse’s past while working with Walter, and the present. You get a different perspective and interactions with characters from the series.

The police have put a tracker on Jesse’s EL Camino and Badger and Skinny Pete give him a new ride and some cash to get out of town. The EL Camino is left at Badger and Skinny Pete’s house. Jesse rips a page from the phonebook and Skinny Pete gives him an untraceable cellphone.

What follows is a satisfying epilogue (though I do not think this story is over) to Jesse Pinkman’s life, post Walter White.

This movie delivered in the way “Breaking Bad” used to. Writer and creator, Vince Gilligan, has once again hit a homerun. His storytelling ability is fantastic and everything in the “Breaking Bad” universe is gripping and leaves your eyes glued to find out what happens next.

The character development in the series carries over to the film. You definitely see the toll working with Walter has taken on Jesse. There isn’t as much action in ‘EL Camino’ as I thought there would be, but there are definitely moments that catch you off guard and there is a surprise or two you’ll have to see for yourself. The movie has some nice callbacks to significant moments or locations in the series – like the Vacuum cleaner store – and I found the ending mildly satisfying, though it did leave me wanting more. To be fair, if it’s “Breaking Bad”-related, it always leaves you wanting more.


Friday, October 11, 2019

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Movie Review: “In the Tall Grass”


By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-MA
Run Time: 1 hour and 41 minutes

Based on the novel by Stephen King and son, Joe Hill, “In the Tall Grass” tells the story of a vast field in what appears to be the middle of nowhere that is impossible to get out of...and can be deadly.
Blades of grass sway back and forth and back and forth. The camera slowly zooms in on the tall grass. Brother Cal (Avery Whitted) and sister Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) – who is pregnant – are driving to San Diego. They pull over next to a giant field because Becky is carsick.

Suddenly, they hear screaming and cries for help. A child claims he has been stuck in the field for days. “Something is not right about this,” Becky stated.

The two enter the field and quickly get separated, unable to find each other. After calling out for each other for a while, they decide to bail on the kid and just get out of the field.

Out of nowhere, Becky meets Ross Humbolt (Patrick Wilson) and Cal meets Tobin (Will Buie Jr.). Ross is Tobin’s dad. Tobin says he entered the tall grass

Cut to a man (Harrison Gilbertson) looking for Becky. He comes across their car, and from the looks of it, it’s been there for days. The man goes into the grass and meets Tobin. Tobin knows the man’s name, Travis, and that he is looking for Becky. Travis discovers what happened to Becky.

Here’s where I found the movie a little hard to follow. We either enter a space-time continuum of some sort or it’s a flashback. We see more of Becky and Cal’s story after they entered the tall grass; the whole time they are searching for people they met or people they think are in the tall grass. Tobin gets on Travis’ shoulders and helps them locate a house they use as a vantage point until it just disappears. They meet up with Ross again and try to find a way out; will they?

This was another movie I had semi-high hopes for because it was based on a novel by Stephen King. This movie was not particularly scary or much of a thriller, but it had a few parts where you could see something was or might by building and more than one part where something happened that I didn’t see coming at all.

Multiple parts were visually appealing, and this movie had several different point of view shots that were kind of cool. Some portions of the film were very slow, but it did have a creepiness to it that left you thinking ‘what will happen now?’ There was a mild predictability and I was confused by what was real and what was not. Overall, this was an OK movie, but the end left me wanting more. Worth watching to judge for yourself.

Friday, October 4, 2019

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Movie Review: “Haunt”


By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 32 min
Rated R

It’s October! And that means scary movies. ‘Haunt’ is from the writers of ‘A Quiet Place’ (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it) and produced by horror movie producer/writer/actor Eli Roth, so immediately I was onboard. It tells the story of six friends who go through an extreme haunted house, only to find out it’s much more than they were expecting.

The movie opens in Carbondale, Illinois where three girls are getting ready to go out on Halloween. They go to a club where they meet a guy who tells them about a haunted house. They meet up with two other friends and head to the haunted house. They are greeted by a silent clown and in order to enter they must deposit their phones in a lock box as well as sign a waiver. In the distance, they hear a woman screaming. They enter the house anyway and the clown closes the door behind them.

As they walk through, it starts out a little cheesy, but soon becomes creepier. They see a few unsettling images. It gets creepier when they come across three doors designed as coffins and they must decide which door to go through. They begin to suspect they are being followed...are they? Things go south quickly when a member of the group becomes seriously hurt. A member of the haunted house offers to help them. This only makes things worse. One member of the group manages to find his way out of the haunted house. He quickly notices the box with their cell phones is missing. Now things go from worse to horrible. The group does eventually find their phones, but has trouble accessing them. Can the group make it out of this haunted house gone very bad?

I went into this movie with high expectations, maybe too high. Eli Roth is a decent horror movie producer/writer and has done movies like the ‘Hostel’ trilogy and ‘Cabin Fever.’ What really drew me in was that it was written by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck who wrote ‘A Quiet Place.’

‘Haunt’ does have a strong start where you wonder about the weird clown who says nothing and what this haunted house could have in it that a waiver would be necessary (I kind of knew, but was still curious how it was going to happen). About halfway through the second act, they kind of lost me. This movie is very, very gruesome and bloody. It has a few jump scares but is not really that scary overall. It drags in the middle and never really regains its momentum.

I got bored once I realized what was about to happen and lost interest in the outcome. This was definitely not worth renting and I wouldn’t recommend it. You should watch anything else instead. Two severed thumbs down.

Friday, September 27, 2019

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Movie Review: “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”


By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 22 minutes
Rated: TV-MA

“Between Two Ferns” started as an Internet talk show on the Funny or Die website, which is run by Will Ferrell. Zach Galifianakis interviews celebrities and asks them invasive, sometimes inappropriate, questions. The interviews often spiral downhill at some point, with the guest taking a crack or two at Galifianakis. Of course, it’s meant to be funny and the interviewees are in on the joke. “Between Two Ferns the Movie” tells the story of Galifianakis and his crew travelling around the country to get ten episodes of the show in order to secure a late-night talk show deal.

The opening features Galifianakis interviewing Matthew McConaughey and it is not going well. There is a small leak in one of the pipes that suddenly bursts and soon floods the room and the studio. Don’t worry, Matthew McConaughey was saved.

We rewind to the previous 48 hours where Galifianakis is shooting a documentary about the show and explains he has been taping his shows for over a decade. He has dreamed of being a network TV personality. You meet his crew: his assistant, Carol (Lauren Lapkus), the camera operator, Cam (Ryan Gaul), and Boom Boom (Jiavani Linayao) who operates the boom microphone.

The studio has been destroyed due to the burst pipes and Galifianakis is called into the office by Will Ferrell who tells him how much he cares about how many clicks his website, funnyordie.com, gets. Galifianakis needs to shoot ten more episodes and Ferrell will give him a late-night contract. Galifianakis and his crew take “Between Two Ferns” on the road.

This movie stays very true to the short interviews that began on the Internet. Galifianakis interviews an abundance of celebrities who are less than thrilled, with a few exceptions, to be on his show. The interviews are funny, stupid funny, and I mean that in the best way possible. There is a lot of dry humor and wit. It can get a little weird in parts. The interviews are insulting, uncomfortable and sometimes raunchy.

Stay for the credits!!! The bloopers might be one of the funniest parts of the entire movie.

Galifianakis plays the part of a disdainful host very well and his supporting cast made this a very fun movie. I only wish there were more interviews. If you are a fan of “Between Two Ferns” or have never heard of it and like dry, deadpan, slightly uncomfortable, humor this movie is for you. I give it two ferns up!

Friday, September 6, 2019

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Movie Review: “Missing Link”


By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes

Adventurer and seeker of mythical beasts, Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), is determined to discover the great and elusive sasquatch. He must go out searching alone in order to do so. When he finds Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis), they go on an adventure of enormous proportions.

The movie begins with Sir Lionel Frost and his assistant, Mr. Lemuel Lint (David Walliams) in a rowboat in search of what we later find is the Loch Ness Monster. Sir Lionel Frost tries to take a picture but fails. His assistant is put in serious danger. After some arguing, his assistant states he has had enough and quits.

Back in Frost’s office he opens a letter from someone tipping him off to the whereabouts of Sasquatch and encourages him to go looking for the creature. Frost goes down to the local explorer’s club and tells them about the letter. The leader, Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) laughs at Frost, claiming he will not discover the hidden creature. Frost Challenges Lord Piggot-Dunceby and says if he brings back proof of the creature, Lord Piggot-Dunceby will admit he was wrong and grant Frost membership into the club. However, Lord Piggot-Dunceby hires someone to have Frost killed.

A short time after Frost begins his search, he meets mild-mannered sasquatch Mr. Link, or Susan as he later names himself, who explains he wrote the letter. Mr. Link is tired of the Pacific Northwest and wants to be taken to meet his cousins, the yetis, who live in the Himalayas. Frost agrees to take him in exchange for proof of his existence.

On their journey, they are attacked several times by the man hired to kill Frost, Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant). Mr. Link is helpful in fending off this wannabe hitman.

In order to get to the Himalayas, Frost needs a map from the widow, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), of a former mythical beast seeker. He and Mr. Link go to get it, but the widow is not a fan of Frost and will not let him have the map. Frost and Mr. Link break into Fortnight’s home to get the map and after succeeding, are attacked again by Willard Stenk. Upon seeing this, Fortnight agrees to help them get to the Himalayas.

Later, the group gets a guide to help them find Mr. Link’s Shangri-La. When they are close, they are captured and thrown into a very, very deep pit.

Will the group escape? What will happen to Sir Lionel Frost? Will Mr. Link ever meet his relatives?
My interest in bigfoots and sasquatches drew me to this movie and I was not disappointed. With its star-studded cast, this film delivers on multiple levels: action: humor, heart and it portrays sasquatches in a way you might not have seen before. It’s entertaining for both kids and adults. The stop motion/CGI is great, too. This movie is well worth the rental whether with family or with friends.


Friday, August 23, 2019

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Book Review of Courtney Maum's "Costalegre"

By Jennifer Dupree, Windham Public Library

There are three things I love most in a book, and Courtney Maum’s “Costalegre” hits them all. To start, it’s an epistolary novel, written in diary format. I find the letter writing format challenging as a writer, but delightfully intimate as a reader. It’s difficult to be both in a character’s head (in this case a teenage girl) and to move the story forward. Maum is talented enough to do just that.

“Costalegre” is full of wonder and loneliness, told from the point of view of rich socialite Leonora’s daughter, Lara, who wants nothing more than to be seen. It is in many ways a coming-of-age novel, but it is so much more than that.

It’s also historical fiction, which is my favorite kind of fiction. “Costalegre” is based on the life of Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, Pegeen. The year is 1937, and the fictional Leonora Callaway loads up a boat full of artists and artwork and flees to Mexico in order to avoid Hitler. They are safe, but they are trapped, too, both by their feelings of survivor guilt and by their actual location. They can’t leave Leonora’s compound unless they want to risk death in the jungle, which some of them do.

My third favorite thing in a novel is anything set in the jungle. “Costalegre” put me in mind of Anne Patchett’s “State of Wonder” and Lily King’s “Euphoria”. The setting is both lush and dangerous, opulent and terrible. I love when books create a physical world that I can nearly touch and hear and smell—not just “see.”  

Maum, whose previous novels include “I Am Having So Much Fun Here without You” and “Touch”, are worth reading if you haven’t already.

Friday, August 16, 2019

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Movie Review: “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”


By Matt Pascarella

PG-13
1 hour 51 minutes

The town of Little Mill Valley is celebrating Halloween. Horror enthusiast, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is being pestered by her friends, Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) to come out with them. She agrees and the three set out to prank the school bullies. Although their prank is fairly tame, it causes the bullies to crash their car. Stella, Auggie and Chuck are running to save themselves and meet Ramon (Michael Garza), who lets them hide in his car.

The four then break into Sarah Bellows house, a house haunted as it is said Bellows did some unspeakable acts many, many years ago. Stella comes across Sarah Bellows’ book of scary stories and it is rumored that if you say, “Sarah Bellows, tell me a story,” she will. Stella says just that and finds out the rumor is true. What follows are four stories from Sarah’s book that wreak havoc on the town.

Story one is about Harold the scarecrow and how one of the bullies, Tommy (Austin Abrams) dislikes this particular scarecrow. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s say Harold isn’t fond of Tommy, either.
Stella decides to return the book to Sarah Bellows’ house, but the book finds its way back to Stella’s home; leading into story two.

Auggie is looking for dinner while his parents are away. He finds a stew in the fridge and begins to eat it; he discovers an unpleasant surprise and is soon being chased. Later, Stella claims, “you don’t read the book, the book reads you.”

The group researches Sarah Bellows and learns more about her tragic past.

Story three; The Red Spot: Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn) has a pimple on the night of a school play. When she goes to the bathroom to take care of it, it has grown – she also gets a surprise.

The group goes to a psychiatric hospital to locate Bellows’ medical records which lead into story four; The Dream: Chuck has a recurring dream where he is trapped down a corridor with white walls. A monster-ish creature appears at every corner until the two eventually meet.

Can Stella save herself and her friends from Sarah Bellows before it’s too late?

This movie is based on the trilogy book series released from 1981-1991, which were popular when I was in elementary school. I don’t recall the stories themselves being particularly unsettling but the artwork of Stephen Gammell, left an uneasiness in your memory that stuck with you.

While this movie does take stories from all three books, it did not leave me with the same unsettling feeling of Gammell’s illustrations. However, this movie has several scenes that make you jump, a few twists and turns and creepy, ominous moments that add nicely to the storyline. I did enjoy “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and would recommend it if you want to get a jump start on your scary movie watching before Halloween.


Friday, August 9, 2019

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Movie Review: “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”


By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hours and 16 minutes

After I watched “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”, I did my research, and asked around to see what other people thought of the movie and what they would have liked to see more of.  Don’t get me wrong, although this film, directed by David Leitch, was an overall astounding movie, there was something that had fans leave the “Fast and Furious” series disappointed by the end of the movie.

When I asked, “What is the first thing in your head when I say the words ‘Fast and Furious’?”, some of the most common responses were cars, family, action, thriller, speed, humor, and rivalries.

Something that I always looked forward to in these movies was the cars. There has some been some disappointment that there was very limited car/action in the movie. There was a little bit of trying to show favorite scenes from past “Fast and the Furious” movies but even that wasn't what the viewers and past fans were expecting.

However, the major subject that came up when talking with others about this film, was family. If you are a fan of the movies, you know how important family is to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). They did an amazing job incorporating family scenes into the movie - from Decker “Shaw” (Jason Statham) with his mother Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren) in jail while he does his best to do anything he can for her. And that doesn’t include all that he does for his sister, Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), who is the “villain” to the world. He is tries his best to get her out of all sorts of  trouble.

And, it doesn't stop there, there is also Luke “Hobbs” with his family. His daughter, Samantha Hobbs (Eden Estrella), who we have seen repeatedly since “Furious 7”, along with his Hawaiian family he had left years before, creates a connection between viewer and the movie itself.

As far as the rest of the movie goes, there is the action we all expect. In fact, there were times I was on the edge of my seat.

As far as humor goes, this film was one of the most hilarious movies with the “Fast and Furious” theme. And when it comes to rivalries, the oldest one in the books is Hobbs and Shaw who first faced off in 2015 in “Furious 7”.

Overall if you haven't seen “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”, I would highly recommend it, as it is a family oriented movie filled with a bit of comedy.