Friday, July 23, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ updated version only okay

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Rated PG

In 1996, the Tune Squad went head-to-head against the MonStars with the help of Michael Jordan, to give his friends their talents back. Now, twenty-five years later, the Tune Squad is back with the help of LeBron James. They hit the court against the Goon Squad to save James’ son from being trapped in the Warner Brothers Serververse and to save the Tunes from being deleted.

This version contains many elements of its predecessor, but while funny in some spots, doesn’t pack the same punch as the original. This movie is available in theaters and streaming on HBO Max starring LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Sonequa Martin-Green, Sue Bird, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson and Nneka Ogwumike.

We begin in 1998 in Akron, Ohio where a young James plays in a school basketball game. Afterwards, his coach tells him you cannot be great without putting in the work. Fast forward to James passing on that same lesson on to his kids. One of his sons, Dom (Joe) isn’t that interested in basketball. He’s more interested in videogames and even designed one of his own.

After a meeting with some Warner Brothers executives, James and Dom get trapped in the Warner Brothers Serververse by Al G. Rhythm (Cheadle). Rhythm sends James to the Tune World after making a deal with James that if he wins a basketball game, he and his son can leave the Serververse. If he loses, his son has to stay. Rhythm takes Dom and gives James 24 hours to assemble a team who are the Looney Tunes squad.

No disrespect to King James, but for large parts of the movie I was waiting for Michael Jordan to step in. There’s even a scene referencing that happening. A lot of the jokes, like anvils, fake tunnels, and dynamite, are very similar to what you would see in a Looney Tunes cartoon, or even in the first “Space Jam.”

I did like the game that took place in the Warner Brothers serververse, which was a multiverse featuring characters from a variety of Warner Brothers movies and television shows crowded around to watch the game. I spotted Gremlins, King Kong, Flintstones and “Game of Thrones” characters, just to name a few. I wish more of them could have interacted with the Tune Squad.

I had little to no expectations going into this and thought Lebron James was a good choice for a sequel. I did not think this was as good as the first. I think overall this was an okay movie with funny lines and lots of callbacks to the first one. To its credit, it does have a nice lesson of the importance of family and doing what you like, instead of trying to please others. There were some very cool special effects as well as one of my favorite things, cameos. I liked Don Cheadle as the bad guy; he did a great job. I would recommend you watch Jordan’s “Space Jam” in addition to this one. One basketball up.  <

Friday, July 16, 2021

Movie Review: ‘All Joking Aside’ better than expected

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 23 minutes

When I decided to review this movie, I thought it was going to focus more on comedy than it turned out to. About a third of the way through I realized this wasn’t just about jokes and becoming a stand-up comedian. It is about comedy, but there are layers. It’s also about pursuing your dreams, friendship along with a few deeper subjects like sexism. It’s very good; I wouldn’t say it’s laugh-out-loud-funny, but it is funny in places.

The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video and stars Raylene Harewood, Brian Markinson, Tanya Jade, Dave ‘Squatch’ Ward, Amanda Friesen, Katrina Reynolds, and Antony Joseph.

Charlene (Harewood), or Charlie as she likes to go by, is an aspiring stand-up comedian. Her very first time going on stage she is heckled by Bob (Markinson) who used to be a comedian but hasn’t performed in a while. Charlie doesn’t want to give up and goes to Bob for help. Bob isn’t the nicest of guys in the beginning and refuses to help her.

Charlie will not take ‘no’ for an answer. She continues to ask him until he finally agrees to help – for $250 a week. I thought the advice Bob gives Charlie was actually helpful. He encourages her to write and write, find the funny in the mundane and signs her up for several open mics as well as a comedy contest. There are a few problems that come up for both Bob and Charlie along the way.

As a fan of comedy, I found the advice given to Charlie to be similar to what I’ve heard other comedians give when you’re just starting out. If you want to be a comedian, you have to just do it. At one point, Charlie is talking with Bob about how she struggled on stage when another comedian talked about everything she had planned to talk about.

Bob tells her that writing is rewriting, and it may take 100 gigs to get the bit right, but that’s okay. Aside from the stand-up comedian parts of this movie, it also deals with more serious issues like health concerns and family problems. Bob is a real jerk at first who makes it pretty clear he only cares about himself, but after he and Charlie work together, that changes.

The two, though different, found common ground over a shared love of comedy. I felt like it was acted very well. There’s good character development.

This movie shows that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish your goals. It’s also okay to ask for help – even from an unlikely source of information; you never know what may develop. There’s a bit of sexism toward Charlie. A couple male comics tease her and accuse her of riding their coattails. Despite all this, Charlie moves forward and continues to pursue her dream.

I liked this movie. It’s heartfelt. Comedy is obviously a focal point, but there’s so the relationship between Bob and Charlie as well as some of the issues surrounding both of them like family problems, death, and their health.

Although comedy is a large part of the movie, I did not find this to be a really funny movie. It has funny lines and funny moments, but it would not categorize it as a ‘comedy.’ I would categorize it as a ‘feel-good’ movie, worth a watch.

Two microphones up. <

Friday, July 9, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ an action-packed rollercoaster

By Matt Pascarella

Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

One is King of the Monsters; the other is King of the Apes. What would happen if the two met? Could the world handle it? I wanted to see this movie for one reason and one reason alone: the fight scenes. In previous Kong movies, the King battled dinosaurs which was quite a special effects sight for the eyes.

In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the special effects are detailed and incredible. There are several scenes where the two fight each other and I was not disappointed by their battle. The movie is available through streaming services and stars Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobbie Brown, Rebecca Hall, Eliza Gonzalez, Kaylee Hottle, Julian Dennison, Brian Tyree Henry, and Demian Bichir.

These two behemoths each have movie franchises that have been around for a while. Godzilla and Kong have even met before in the early 1960s. When I saw the two were meeting again in a modern-day movie, I was interested. It was kind of like seeing two heavyweight boxers go head-to-head in the ring, except this time the boxers are monsters, and they are each hundreds of feet tall. At one point Kong punches Godzilla and the monster hurdles through the water. Kong then leaps from a barge into the water. As the barge explodes, the beast and monster resume their battle. This is a fun movie.

Kong is somewhere on Skull Island where he is being contained. A deaf little girl, Jia (Hottle) is the only one with whom Kong will communicate. After Godzilla attacks technology company Apex Cybernetics, CEO Walter Simmons (Bichir) asks Dr. Nathan Lind (Skarsgard) to help figure out why Godzilla attacked. Kong is brought from Skull Island on a barge with Dr. Andrews (Hall), who has been looking after Kong. Lind tells Andrews they need to use Kong as an ally against Godzilla. It could save the world.

Is Apex Cybernetics hiding something? Can Godzilla be stopped? What happens to Kong?

I loved the action when these two went head-to-head. While I felt like this movie is probably meant to stand on its own, it might help if you’ve seen others – but is probably not 100 percent necessary. I don’t think I was rooting for one or the other; it was just fun to see their interactions.

I found this to be a relatively fast-paced movie. It did have a few slow spots but was well worth the rental. It had great detail in the special effects. The detail in Kong’s fur and nails almost makes you almost believe this is an actual giant ape. Godzilla has great detail in his face; when he screams or roars you see it shake. When Godzilla and Kong fight, individual pieces of glass fall from the shattered buildings they hit. These are great action sequences with a lot of explosions. It also has a soundtrack with some decent songs to accompany all the action.

An ape thumb and a monster claw up.

Available to rent on Google and Apple. <

Friday, July 2, 2021

Movie Review: ‘The Last Blockbuster’ might take you back, but that’s about it

By Matt Pascarella

Running time 86 minutes

I remember walking on the blue carpet through a sea of video tapes, trying to find the perfect one for my Friday or Saturday night. What’s a video tape? Good question. You hardly see them anymore unless you come across a stack in the basement or find a row or pile of unwanted movies at Goodwill.

There was a day when video tapes and Blockbuster were a real treat. You’d walk around for a while looking for a movie; you’d pick up some snacks and popcorn, order pizza or takeout and you had all the ingredients for a perfect night.

In 2018, there were only four operating Blockbusters in the country. Three of them were in Alaska and one in Oregon. In 2019, the three in Alaska closed. This is an interesting documentary, that did give me some nostalgia, but I don’t think I feel the same way about the movie renting process as Kevin Smith does.

You can do everything I just mentioned without getting off the couch. Now it is almost impossible to find an open Blockbuster anywhere. Unless you live in or around Bend, Oregon where Sandi Harding, the Blockbuster Mom, has been running the last remaining Blockbuster.

“The Last Blockbuster” is a trip down memory lane. Various individuals, some involved with the company, some who just enjoyed it and one individual who really dislikes it, talk about what Blockbuster meant to them growing up. The documentary explains how Blockbuster got started, gives an overview of the store at its prime, how it began to fall apart, what finally killed it and how Harding’s store remains open. Personalities reminisce about renting movies and go on about how much they like the video store experience.

In 1985, the first Blockbuster was opened in Dallas, Texas. It offered a bigger selection and longer hours. Over time, the mom-and-pop video stores became Blockbusters. It only grew from there. Until it didn’t.

When Harding started in 2004, there were roughly 9,000 Blockbuster stores and at the height of popularity, there was one opening every 17 hours.

In 2017, Blockbusters had dwindled down to only 12 stores. As of 2020, Bend, Oregon is the only one. Harding has been recognized and interviewed about her store from every press outlet you can think of.

“The Last Blockbuster” is available on Netflix and I’m aware of the irony in that. While I liked this documentary, I don’t miss Blockbuster. At one point, someone is describing how all Blockbusters have a certain smell – not that I remember.

It did bring back some memories, but that’s it. I like being able to order a movie from my couch. I like that there are no more late fees. I felt like the reactions to these anonymous VHS tapes were pretty drawn out and exaggerated. The information about the Bend’s Blockbuster is kind of cool, but I certainly don’t need to go there. I’m only giving this one VHS tape up.

Available on Netflix.<

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Our Friend’ a story of courage and friendship

By Matt Pascarella

Nicole Teague had a husband, two children and a friend, Dane. In December of 2012, their lives would be changed forever when 34-year-old Nicole was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that quickly spread around her abdomen. This is not a story of gloom and doom, but of friendship and happiness, before Nicole began to get really sick.

The film stars Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck, Jason Segal, Isabella Kai, Violet McGraw, Denee Benton and Marielle Scott.

“Our Friend” is a true story based on an article written by Nicole’s husband, Matthew (played by Affleck). To help Matthew and Nicole (Johnson), their friend, Dane (Segal) moves in. What was supposed to maybe be a few weeks, turned into longer and by the end, it was more than helping. It was friendship that became family.

Matthew says to Dane toward the end, “thank you isn’t enough.”

What best sums up this movie is a line from the article written by Matthew: “One man’s collapse. And another man’s refusal to let it happen.”

There is a lot of struggles in this movie, but there is also a lot of triumph. I had no expectations going in, other than it would probably be a sad movie. It is sad in parts, but the theme of family and friendship ring louder than sadness in “Our Friend.” While the subject of cancer is integral to the story, it’s more a feel-good movie than you might think. I liked it.

Nicole is diagnosed. As her conditions worsens, Dane offers help. The movie juts back and forth to various points in time either before or after her diagnosis. You see how each family member reacts as Nicole begins to struggle more and more. At one point, Nicole announces she wants to compile a bucket list to accomplish a few key activities before she dies. Dane and Matthew work very hard to make as many of the items on that list come as true as possible. While Dane is there to make this experience easier on everyone, there is still struggle.

Parts of the movie are funny, like when Dane insists the oldest child, Molly (Kai), call him Grandma Dane and other parts are tougher to watch, like when Matthew tells his girls about Nicole or when Molly gets upset at her father who forgot to pick her up at school; she lashes out at him after realizing her mother will soon be gone.

The horrors of cancer and losing a loved one unexpectedly is something no one should ever have to experience. I put myself in Matthew’s shoes and can’t imagine what it must have felt like to lose the person you love, watching them weaken little by little each day.

Although it is a sad movie in parts, I’d recommend it. Have the Kleenex handy.

This movie is brilliantly cast, and Johnson, Affleck and Segal give Oscar-worthy performances. It illustrates the meaning of friendship and family. Two thumbs up.

Available to rent on various streaming services. <

Friday, June 18, 2021

Hulu’s ‘Croods: A New Age’ a great family movie

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes

It has been many moons since the mission began. “The Croods: A New Age” is a bit of a continuation of the first one. On their search for a place to call home, the world’s first family, the Croods, discover a more advanced family, the Bettermans.

They struggle with getting along with people who think differently than they do in an environment that’s not like what they’re used to. This movie is a fun family film that has a lesson or two in it. Starring: Nicholas Cage, Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage, Kelly Marie Tran and Kailey Crawford.

After a long journey, Guy (Reynolds) discovers the Bettermans (Dinklage and Mann) who are more like him, than the Croods, who he has been traveling with, are. He contemplates staying with the Bettermans, despite his teenage romance with Eep (Stone). Grug (Cage) struggles with how different everything is and is not okay with staying in this new world. Along the way, they all discover they may not be as different as they appear at first glance.

When the Bettermans try to trick the Croods into thinking Guy should stay with their family instead, tensions mount and problems erupt. Will they clash and go their separate ways or find common ground?

I found this movie relatable. I don’t understand the lives of cave people, so let me rephrase that – I found the themes in this movie relatable. It was a feel-good movie. We all can be a little hesitant of change at first, and the differences we each have can make us more similar than we think.

This is a funny movie. At one point, when the Croods stay in the Betterman’s home, there is a window, which son Thunk (Duke) likes to watch. Grug yells at him saying in his day, they fought birds instead of watched them. They also feel they need to limit Thunk’s screen time, which is just a window, of varying sizes. Dawn (Tran) and Eep form a fast friendship. Eep shows Dawn a little rule-breaking may not be such a bad thing.

Overall, this movie is definitely worth watching. I liked the humor and the lessons shown through the interactions of these families. It’s a nice mix of adventure, comedy and romance. Like many animated movies, I thought this worked on a multi-level for both kids and adults. It does have a few scarier points that might be too much for younger children. While this is a sequel, I don’t think it’s necessary to see the first one to understand the second one. This awesomely voice-acted movie is a good one. Two peanut toes up!

Available on Hulu. <

Friday, June 11, 2021

‘The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It’ only sub-par

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 52 min

On July 18, 1981, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to document the exorcism of eight year old David Glatzel. Like the previous two “Conjuring” movies, the Warrens must investigate a paranormal disturbance within a family.

This installment is a little different from the other two in that there are murders surrounding the paranormal investigation. The exorcism of Glatzel was only the beginning and this film stars Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble and Shannon Kook.

I am a big fan of the first “Conjuring” movie and rate it up there as one of the best I’ve ever seen. The second one was decent, but not as good as the first. This third chapter in the series, began strong and was okay, but soon got a little convoluted and slowed down its pace. While it did pick up a little at the very end with some information I found interesting, the movie as a whole was kind of a bust.

Eight-year-old David Glatzel (Hilliard) is possessed by a demon and Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) are performing an exorcism to get the demon out of him. It doesn’t go so well and the demon finds his way out of Glatzel and into Arne (O’Connor), the boyfriend of David’s sister, Debbie (Hook). From there things spiral out of control and every clue Ed and Lorraine find could lead them to a way to stop this demon or it could cost them everything and be their demise.

While I did not hate this third installment, the first two movies in this series are much better, so my expectations were high going into “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.”

This movie did not meet those expectations. In parts it resembled – or mimicked – 1973’s “The Exorcist,” but overall, the third movie of “The Conjuring” series isn’t very scary and drags a little toward the end.

The addition of a murder investigation to the plot I felt only complicated matters and I had trouble following how a particular murder that happened in another state related to the investigation and could help Arne.  

To its credit, there are several good jump scares. Without giving too much away, the beginning starts with shaking tables, flying objects, demonic voices and crazy contortions. This movie also featured several moments where you could feel a quiet tension building; you’re given the impression something might happen, but you’re not sure. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. The morgue and waterbed scenes are good examples of this.

This movie is based on a true story, which in doing a little digging, is a very interesting case. If you are a fan of any of the previous “Conjuring” movies, I’d recommend you see this third installment, but only if you liked the previous two; otherwise, I’d pass. One possessed artifact up and one flickering set of lights down. 

Available in theaters and on HBO Max. <

Friday, June 4, 2021

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ a must see

By Matt Pascarella

Running Time: 97 minutes

Make a noise and they might find you. If they find you, you’re in trouble. When we first met the Abbot family back in 2018, it was day 472 of a post-apocalyptic world in which fast-moving creatures are drawn to loud noises.

In this much-anticipated sequel, we are taken back to the start of this madness. We see the beginnings of a world in which sound is a luxury not to be taken lightly. After day one, the movie moves right back to where “A Quiet Place” left off. Some events have transpired, and the Abbot family must now make their way in this bizarre, not so new world. Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou.

Shelved for over a year because of the pandemic, I was very eager to see this. I’ll admit I wanted it to be available for home viewing; it’s not. I’m so glad I saw it in the theater though. It was worth the wait! It will get your heart racing and have you on the edge of your seat. It’s action-packed horror/adventure/thriller that I cannot recommend enough.

After the events of “A Quiet Place” the Abbot family must continue to survive. On day one, the family is attending a youth baseball game, before everything turns to chaos. This sequel quickly fast forwards to immediately following the end of the first movie. The members of the Abbot family are searching for something. They struggle a little and must hide themselves. Someone from their past (Murphy) is watching them. When one of the children, Regan (Simmonds) hears what she thinks might be a transmission signal she wants to go looking for it, but there are many obstacles in the way. And they may not be alone.

This movie had me nervous at times as I watched these characters navigate in an environment where sound might mean death. At one point, a member of the family gets a backpack caught on a loose piece of fence; when the backpack gets freed, the fence rattles. I waited. I might have been holding my breath. In another scene, Regan is cornered by a creature, and she has few options to escape while investigating an abandoned train car. I was nervous for her. I almost wanted to shout out to them. The opening music is creepy and very unsettling. It’s an almost groaning that kind of makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is an excellent continuation of its predecessor. After the Earth is inhabited by sound-seeking creatures, what happens to humanity? Can it still go on? In interviews, Krasinski said that this movie, which he wrote and directed with his wife, Blunt, was a love letter to his children. That seems weird at first, but the movie is about a family taking care of and protecting each other.

For this sequel to have its full effect, I think it’s important to see the original first. This is an edge-of-your-seat intense movie. I recommend seeing it in the theater. It will make this movie’s tense moments and jump scares that much better. As sequels go, it’s common that the second is never as good as the first; that doesn’t apply here. If you are a fan of sci-fi-ish horror or just good horror, you cannot go wrong with “A Quiet Place Part II.” Two portable radios up.

Now in theaters. <

Friday, May 28, 2021

‘Eat Wheaties’ will make you groan, then smile

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

As I looked through my choices of movies to review for this week, “Eat Wheaties” came up early in my search process. I passed over it but went back to it several times as I was interested to see what this movie was about. It centers around Sid Straw (Tony Hale) who can be kind of annoying. When he is invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion, he becomes overzealous in contacting alumna celebrity Elizabeth Banks. Also starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, David Walton, Alan Tudyk, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Chalke and Paul Walter Hauser.

This movie has cringe-worthy moments like when Sid gives a speech at his brother’s birthday full of inside jokes that barely include the people around him. At times, Sid doesn’t know when enough is enough. However, by the end you realize that Sid is a guy who just has trouble finding his footing in life, but he is trying. The end put a smile on my face.

Sid gets invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion and is asked to be a volunteer co-chair. He claims he went to college with celebrity Elizabeth Banks and sends her dozens of messages over Facebook and becomes obsessed with telling her about his life. After being acused of online harassment, Sid’s life spirals out of control. He loses his job, his apartment and has to move back in with his parents.

I’m sure some of us have met someone like Sid; someone who tries too hard to impress everyone or just doesn’t know when to stop. He means well but can be too much. In the beginning I kept asking “can’t this guy see the reactions of the people around him?” Pump the brakes! Or just stop!

However, as the movie went on, I began to feel bad for him. Here’s a guy who simply can’t see that he’s going too far. At one point, he has a conversation with an African American co-worker Sam (Morris) in which Sid talks about his college improv group and how he used to say things that sounded racist but weren’t. Sam cuts this conversation short.

I did feel bad for Sid at points because some people kind of ignore him; even his sister-in-law, Janet (Cuthbert) is fairly short with him. There is a turning point in the movie where he and his brother (Walton) have a talk. From there, you begin to understand Sid a little better.

This is a funny movie. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes more of a cringing funny. It has a message that no matter your stage in life, there’s always room for improvement and even if you are an annoying person who some find unbearable, there are people out there who like you.

Despite Sid’s behavior early on in the movie, he does work toward improvement. He recognizes some things need to change and he works toward making that happen. I found the end uplifting and happy. For anyone who likes a good movie that will make you smile, this is it. Two Wheaties boxes up.

Available to rent. <

Friday, May 21, 2021

HBO MAX’s ‘Superintelligence’ enjoyable enough

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes

Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) is an ordinary person with a relatively unexciting life. When an artificial intelligence takes over her devices and asks for her help, it wants to decide whether to save or destroy humanity. This puts Carol in a position she never wanted to be in, but both her and the superintelligence learn a thing or two in this moderately fun movie.

Carol is an average person. In the beginning, she goes on an unsuccessful, awkward job interview. Things don’t go her way. So, when a superintelligence (voiced by James Corden) enters the electronics in her apartment, her life gets a bit more compelling.

At first, she thinks she’s going out of her mind. She doesn’t believe the superintelligence is what it says it is. It explains it wants to observe her in order to figure out humanity. It is trying to decide if it wants to save, enslave or destroy the human race.

The superintelligence upgrades a few aspects of Carol’s life, like her bank account and her car.

Carol is still, understandably, freaked out by this and goes to her friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), who works at Microsoft, to let him know what’s going on. No one there believes Carol at first, but they quickly realize she is telling the truth.

The National Security Administration has become aware of the superintelligence and is working to stop it.

When the superintelligence asks Carol what’s the one thing she would most like to do, if she knew the world might end, she answers reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale).

The superintelligence wants to help Carol accomplish this. It arranges for her to run into George at the supermarket. She finds out he’s leaving for Ireland in three days.

Things with Carol and George are off to a good start, and only get better. Meanwhile, Microsoft along with Dennis and the NSA are trying to trap the superintelligence by shutting down electronic signals all around the world. The NSA convinces Carol the superintelligence will destroy the world. Things later get complicated between her and George.

The superintelligence announces to Carol that it will not destroy the world – but it’s not quite that simple. What does the superintelligence want? Can Carol help?

I’m lukewarm when it comes to this movie. While it is better than McCarthy’s “Thunder Force,” I can’t say I was really all that impressed by “Superintelligence.” The storyline does move along quickly and is an okay comedy that has its funny parts, along with mild action. It’s kind of a rom-com, but not really. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but also not the best. Despite all this, it could be fun for your next movie night. Only one coffee maker up. <

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Vast of Night’ engrossing, but slow

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

It is the late 1950s in Cayuga, New Mexico. A switchboard operator, Faye (Sierra McCormick) and a radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz) hear a strange frequency over the airwaves. When a caller provides them with a possible answer to where and why this frequency is occurring, this mystery deepens. This movie is a little slow to start, and doesn’t gain a whole lot of speed, but I found I was captivated by the characters and what this frequency could be.

In the beginning of the movie, a “Twilight Zone” type show called “Paradox Theater” is shown on a TV screen that leads into the beginning of the movie where Everett is trying to help with the recording of a high school basketball game. He runs into Faye who has a new tape recorder and they go around testing it out. Everett pushes Faye to work on her interview skills.

Faye tells Everett she was reading a magazine that had an article about all the predicted advances that will come about in the future like electric cars, vacuum tube transportation and a phone with a TV screen that can fit in your pocket! A TV screen in your pocket!

When Faye returns to the switchboard, she gets a call from a woman who says there is a strange object. Then Faye hears static and a humming sound from her phone. Faye and Everett try to track the sound down by playing it on the radio and asking if anyone has heard this before.

They do get a caller, Billy (Bruce Davis) who has some information. Could this guy be talking about what I think he’s talking about? Billy begins revealing a lot of information and then the line goes dead.

Billy tells Faye and Everett there is a recording of that sound on a tape in the library. Suddenly, the lights in the town go out. Things get a little strange. Is there something in the sky?

Later, a woman, Mabel (Gail Cronauer) calls in and says she can expand on Bruce’s story. What does Mabel have to say? More weird stuff happens to Faye and Everett. Everett makes a discovery.

What’s his discovery? Does it relate to the weird frequency? What is going on?

I’ll admit, while I enjoyed this movie, it was slightly on the predictable side although it did leave me with questions. Like I said, it does start a little slow, but is pretty interesting once it gets going. Even if you think you have figured out what is going on, I’d still recommend watching this. You may – or may not – be right about how it ends. I give this two-radio microphones up.  <

Friday, May 7, 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ turns out to be quirky fun

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG

Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Every family has its challenges. For the Mitchells, their greatest challenge was the robot apocalypse. I wasn’t expecting the robot apocalypse to happen so soon, but this offbeat, action family film was a good time.

Most families have a lot of strengths, but Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) explains her family only has weaknesses. They are brave, hungry and have no idea what they are doing as you see their station wagon swerving around a parking lot.

Let’s back up to a few days earlier. Katie says she always felt different and never fit in. She’s really into art and making movies. She says her brother, Aaron (Michael Rianda) gets her. Her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph) is encouraging and her dad, Rick (Danny McBride) is an unusual man who doesn’t really share her interests. Katie and her dad fight a lot – it’s reflected in their many attempts at a family portrait.

When Katie gets into film school, she can’t wait to go. Her dad is hesitant about her going. The night before she leaves, the two get in an argument and Katie’s computer breaks. In order to make up for this, Rick decides he and the family are going to drive Katie to school. Katie is not thrilled about this decision because it means she’ll miss orientation.

Meanwhile, there is a technology company, PAL, whose CEO, Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), is announcing a life-size robot assistant. He assures everyone that they will not turn evil. However, the name of this movie is “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” so, while I don’t want to give anything away, I think you can piece together what happens.

On the road trip to school, the bonding between Katie and her dad is not going well. They stop at a dinosaur road stop where chaos ensues. “What would a functional family do?” Linda asks.

Humanity is breaking down, but the Mitchells haven’t. They come up with a plan and start executing it. There is still some tension between Katie and her dad. Despite the Mitchell’s efforts to protect themselves, they get discovered. They are at the mall and need to escape.

The Mitchells need to take a chance. PAL is onto the Mitchells. While at the mall, they are met by a giant, popular (at the time), vintage toy. When they try to defeat it, things don’t go as planned. The Mitchells come up with a different plan; this one is high stakes and one wrong move could be serious trouble.

Katie goes to save humanity. Can she do it? Will she get to film school? Does her film school still exist?

This was a sweet, fun movie about family and killer robots that I would recommend. While it is animated, I think both kids and adults will enjoy it. It’s action packed with a star-studded cast. Even talk show host Conan O’Brien lends his voice to a character.

All the struggles that families might have I found relatable. It’s very funny with many jokes and Easter eggs, or hidden jokes, to look out for. 2-three Robertson head non-slip screwdrivers up. <

Friday, April 30, 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Vanished’ will keep you guessing until the very end

By Matt Pascarella

What started as an innocent camping trip quickly turns into anything but relaxing in this fast-paced thriller where anyone in the town could be a suspect. Are they? I felt like this movie ran the gamut of emotions and kept me wondering and on the edge-of-my-seat until the final minutes.

Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche) are headed for a campground in their RV with their daughter Taylor (Kk Heim, Sadie Heim). When they get there, Paul and Taylor are going to go fishing.

As soon as they arrive at the campground, Paul meets Miranda (Aleksei Archer) who is there with her husband, Eric (Kristopher Wente) in their RV.

Shortly after Paul and Wendy arrive at the campground, Taylor goes missing; she was in the RV and now she isn’t. The police are called immediately in an investigation that takes a number of days. Paul and Wendy are informed that there is a prisoner on the loose. They are told to stay in their RV as the police have search parties all over looking for Taylor.

Wendy convinces Paul they need to go out and look for Taylor, despite the advice of Sheriff Baker (Jason Patric). Paul and Wendy go looking and things get more than a little off the rails.

After filing an official missing person report, they have a weird interaction with the campground’s groundskeeper, Justin (Alex Haydon). The investigation is taking a toll on all involved. Do some people know more than they are letting on?

On day three of the investigation, Paul and Wendy go out on the water with Miranda and Eric, in hopes to extract some information from them. When they get stuck on the water, accusations are made and it gets heated.

After a body turns up, Miranda disappears.

Tom (John D. Hickman) runs the convenience store on the campground and he and Justin have a conversation that made me suspicious of Tom. We learn more about Justin and the whole situation unravels further. Wendy continues to struggle.

Wendy comes across something very disturbing which could involve Taylor. It really seems like a member of the town could be involved in Taylor’s disappearance, but is that true? Where is Taylor?

This is an intense thriller with twists, turns and tense, dark moments. I found it to be a good mystery as there were many possible suspects in the town who seemed to be hiding information that may have led to Taylor’s disappearance. I was trying to figure out who the entire movie. In the end, I couldn’t figure it out. I was very surprised by the ending and it was one I found satisfying. This is a fast-paced movie that kept me engaged until the final minutes. It is worth your time, two thumbs up.

Available on Netflix. <




Friday, April 23, 2021

Hulu’s ‘Then Came You’ a romantic comedy that gets weird

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 97 minutes

Howard (Craig Ferguson) is the owner of Awd Inn in Scotland. Annabelle (Kathy Lee Gifford) is looking for ‘new everything’ as she describes it and is going to take a trip to many different countries, starting with Scotland. What follows is an ok movie that caught me a little off guard.

Annabelle is still hurting from the loss of her husband Fred, who died about a year ago. She has a box of chocolates with his ashes in them. When Howard (Ferguson) picks Annabelle (Gifford) up at that train station, they don’t get off to the best start. That quickly changes the more they get to know each other.

Later on, the two talk about their past loves and being stuck in a rut and settling for ‘enough.’ Both Annabelle and Howard have had tough pasts. The bond between the two continues to grow.

Annabelle is in the garden, talking to one of the only other staff members at Awd Inn, Gavin (Ford Kiernan), and he tells her there is a woman who is looking to financially take advantage of Howard. That woman is Clare (Elizabeth Hurley). Howard has a son (Calum Chisholm) who does not approve of Clare.

As it turns out, Howard and Annabelle may not have been completely honest with each other. A small fight between the two brings out the truth.

Howard and Clare have a talk. Annabelle seeks out an unexpected guest, Arlene (Phyllida Law), where Annabelle and Howard learn some new information. At this point in the movie, things took an unusual turn. That’s all I can say.

After visiting and discussing this with Arlene, Annabelle plans to continue her trip and asks Howard to drive her to the train station but not before some other weird stuff happens.  It also gets a little mushy and emotional here.

Does Howard drive her to the train station? What did the two find out from Arlene?

I was expecting something moderately funny and sappy when I sat down to watch this. I think Craig Ferguson is funny and used to watch him on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He has the same type of dry wit in this movie, but not the same type of humor from his late night days. I would say this movie more than exceeded my expectations as a comedy; it is very funny in spots. The romantic part of the movie is relatively predictable and pretty tame, until that meeting with Arlene. I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen and was more than surprised when a very sharp right-hand turn was taken. I still have questions. The end is kind of sweet if you can overlook that one detail. I’m on the fence about this one. One bowl of haggis down.

Available on Hulu. <

Friday, April 16, 2021

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Thunder Force’ promises strength, mildly delivers

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 106 minutes

In March of 1983 a massive pulse of interstellar cosmic rays struck the Earth. This triggered genetic mutations in a few individuals and gave them the ability to unleash unimaginable superpowers, making these few a new breed of human known as Miscreants. Thunder Force tells the story of two friends who join forces to try and stop these Miscreants that are destroying everything. While this movie delivers on action, it falls a little flat in pace as well as delivering comedically.

It’s 1988 and a young Emily Stanton (later played by Octavia Spencer) is getting picked on in school. Emily is super focused on finding a way to stop the Miscreants because they killed her parents.

A young Lydia Berman (later played by Melissa McCarthy) sticks up for Emily and even gives a bully a taste of his own medicine.

Lydia and Emily become friends and remain so through high school. Then they drift apart. Fast forward many years after high school to Chicago and Miscreants are still causing problems for the city. Lydia wants to see Emily again as their high school reunion is coming up. Lydia is nervous about contacting her to see if she is going. Although Emily writes back, she does not show at the reunion.

In hopes of seeing Emily and bringing her to the reunion, Lydia stops by Emily’s office and learns that Emily has made progress in figuring out how to stop the Miscreants.

However, Lydia breaches Emily’s research and has to stay at the lab. Lydia has stolen one of the superpowers Emily had worked years on.

Emily begins to receive the second superpower she has developed. Each of them now have one superpower. Soon, Thunder Force is born. They will stop Miscreants, like The Crab (Jason Bateman), a human-crab hybrid who robs a convenience store which Thunder Force stops.

The King (Bobby Cannavale) is running for mayor and is using Miscreants to help him get what he wants. One in particular, Laser (Pom Klementieff) has been wreaking havoc all over the city.

As Thunder Force gains notoriety, The King gets angrier and angrier. Lydia also finds herself attracted to The Crab.

The King has a plan to get back at those who don’t like him. Thunder Force must find a way to stop him. After a careless act by Lydia, she and Emily get in an argument and a newswoman wonders ‘are we better off without Thunder Force?’

Can Lydia and Emily stop The King and Laser before it’s too late? How will they do it? Will they remain friends?

I had higher hopes for this strong-casted movie and it did not deliver. I was expecting more comedy and it’s not that funny a movie. It is action-packed with nice special effects. It also has a decent soundtrack. It might be worth a watch, but I only give it one strip of raw chicken up. <