Saturday, March 28, 2020

Movie Review: “Fighting with my Family”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Run time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Based on a true story, Ricky (Nick Frost) and his family make a living running a business called ‘World Association of Wrestling.’ The family has wrestling deep, deep in their veins. Brother and sister Zak (Jack Lowden) and Saraya (Florence Pugh) have been wrestling since they were little and get a call from Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn) from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Zak and Saraya get the opportunity to try out for the WWE.

Out of all the people who tried out, only Saraya (wrestling name Paige) makes it to the next level. Although Paige begs Hutch to also take her brother, his mind is made up. This leaves Zak feeling left out and angry. While he is hurt, he encourages Saraya to go and wrestle for the family.

Paige flies to Florida where she struggles a bit during tryouts, but makes it past the first elimination. Zak and his girlfriend have a baby, but he is still fixated on getting into the WWE and even calls Hutch again and pleads for a second chance. Hutch still isn’t interested.

When Paige gets a chance to wrestle in a Next Generation (NXT) Divas match, she is not well received and chokes on her introduction. In response to this, she changes her physical appearance, but really struggles during training. Hutch asks her how she thinks it will end for her and more than suggests she should just quit.

For a moment, she does and tells Zak she’ll not be returning after the Christmas holiday; it’s just too difficult. She asks Zak to keep this information from their parents, but Zak is so envious, he tells their mother, Julia (Lena Headey) and their dad. Both her mom and dad think she’s making a bad decision, but eventually, they respect her choice.

Zak continues to struggle with jealousy; he and Saraya talk it out. Saraya tells him that just because millions of people aren’t cheering while you do something, doesn’t mean it’s not important – easily the best line in the entire film.

Paige returns to Florida with a new attitude and begins making friends. She’s working even harder than before to prove to Hutch she wants to be there. She has success in the ring and makes it past the second elimination.

Will she make it to the WWE? Watch the film and find out!

This was not the laugh out loud movie I was anticipating. However, it was very good. It had several funny parts and many wrestler cameos. It also concludes with a nice message. So, as we’re all couped up together, whether you’re a wrestling fan or not, I recommend this feel good movie. Two championship belts way up! So the whole crowd can see!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Movie Review: “Spenser Confidential”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

A police officer, Spenser (Mark Wahlberg) who lost his cool and pleaded guilty to assault is about to get out of prison, after spending five years behind bars. In the beginning of the movie he is seen in the prison library quietly reading. He is approached by Squeeb (Austin Post a.k.a. Post Malone) and soon, three other large guys enter the library. They tell Spenser he needs to leave Boston, once released. The five then get into a big fight and Spenser does his best to defend himself.

Now out of prison, he meets Henry (Alan Arkin), a longtime friend who lets him stay at his place where Spenser also meets Hawk (Winston Duke), who is also staying with Henry. He reconnects with his girlfriend Cissy (Iliza Shlesinger) and they have a somewhat complicated relationship.

A police officer, Terrence (Brandon Scales) has been killed and some other bad things happen. Despite no longer being on the force, Spenser wants to get right down to how and why this happened and bring justice to the officier’s wife, Letitia (Hope OlaidĂ© Wilson).

As Spenser tries to prove Terrence’s innocence, he and Hawk become friends. The two trace down a car spotted on a convenience store security cam the night Terrence was killed. They track down the guy and follow him.

Later, Spenser visits Squeeb in prison and Squeeb gives Spenser one tip: look into a place called Wonderland. Spenser talks with former crime reporter, Cosgrove (Marc Maron) after he learns Wonderland is a soon-to-be-built casino that may not be ‘on the level.

Letitia comes home one night to find her place completely trashed. Spenser really wants to know: Why this happened? Who might have done it? And what were they looking for?
Do Spenser and Hawk find the answers to these questions? This weekend might be a good time to watch the movie and find out.

Overall, this wasn’t a bad movie. A Mark Wahlberg movie set in Boston where he seeks justice isn’t the most original plot, though there was a lot of decent fight scenes. I did find it drag in parts and I felt like it was about 20-30 minutes too long. Iliza Shlesinger was one of my favorite parts of this movie; she was very funny. There is a great action scene at the end, that makes the slowness of the movie worth the wait. If you can’t find anything else to watch, this is, at the very least, entertaining.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Movie Review: “Standing Up, Falling Down”

By Matt Pascarella

Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

A down-on-his-luck 30 something and a stuck-in-a-rut 60 something form an unlikely friendship.

We meet Scott (Ben Schwartz) who has just moved back home after four years in L.A. trying to make it as a standup comedian. While at a club he literally bumps into Marty (Billy Crystal) as Marty stumbles into the bathroom. Marty is a dermatologist and notices a rash on Scott’s arm. He tells Scott to come see him and the diagnosis is rash caused by stress. There are several factors in Scott’s life that could contribute to this rash; his family, a former girlfriend who still lives in the area, his career, living with his parents, etc.

Scott runs into Marty again, and the more they get to know each other, the more they slowly become friends. One night, Scott and Marty are talking, and Scott tells Marty he thought he would have things figured out by now. Marty tells him no one has it all figured out and everyone moves at their own speed. Marty has a non-existent relationship with his son and it’s very apparent that Marty is lonely. We later find out more about Marty’s life, but I don’t want to give anything away; however, this is where the movie takes a bit of a darker, more serious turn.

Scott and his dad have somewhat of a hard relationship. His dad thinks Scott should get a “real” job and give up on “this standup comedy nonsense”.

Scott runs into a former girlfriend, Becky (Eloise Mumford). After seeing her, he is convinced she is not happy, and wants a second chance to maybe be with her again...although she’s married.
Scott continues doing comedy at a well-known local club and has a very good set, getting lots of compliments from the audience; even Becky, who texts him, suggesting the get together sometime.
Meanwhile, Marty is having a hard time and goes to reconcile with his son Adam (Nate Corddry). 
Scott gets together with Becky and they begin to talk about the past...and the possible future.

Will the two achieve the outcomes they both want and be able to find some kind of happiness?

Definitely worth the rental; this movie starts out funny and becomes somewhat of an emotional roller coaster. After learning that Marty has led a hard life and that Scott has a myriad of feelings regarding Becky and their past as well as general uncertainty toward the future, what started out as a friendship, takes a bit of a twist.

This movie has several life lessons: everyone struggles, no one has it completely figured out, life throws you curveballs, etc. Towards the end, this comedy is a bit of a tearjerker. It makes you laugh right up to the final seconds though. And has a nice twist that fulfills some advice Marty gave to Scott, “Lightning rarely strikes twice, but if you keep your eyes can strike again.” Two thumbs up.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Movie Review: “The Invisible Man”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Cecilia (Elizabeth Moss) is in a relationship with Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen). He is very controlling, manipulative and abusive. Cecilia wants out of the relationship. Adrian does not want her to leave. “The Invisible Man” takes a literary classic and gives it a thriller-esque, horror spin.
Cecilia is seen in the very beginning, escaping from Adrian’s home (which has cameras and tight security all over). Just as she has gotten in the car with her sister, Emily (Harriet Dyer), Adrian appears and breaks the passenger’s side window.

Two weeks later, Cecilia is staying with a friend, James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter, Sydney (Storm Reid). Cecilia is terrified to leave the house. She fears Adrian will come after her.
Then, Emily stops by and tells Cecilia that Adrian has died. Later, Cecilia receives a letter from Adrian’s estate that states she will be receiving five million dollars to be paid out in installments. Everything is nice and easy for a while.

It’s not long before Cecilia realizes someone, or something is watching and following her. She realizes this might be Adrian. She tells his brother, Tom (Michael Dorman), who disagrees.
“He’s gone,” he says. “I saw his body. Don’t let him win, by bringing him back to life.”
“He’s not dead, I just can’t see him,” Cecilia argues.

She has several more instances that support her argument. She decides to go to Adrian’s home and discovers something that might support her theories. Cecilia and Emily have dinner and what happens next, happened so fast and caught me completely off guard; I’m not going to say anymore. Just don’t blink.

No one continues to believe Cecilia and she begins to break down. Between this point and the end, there are several twists and turns, so, seriously, don’t blink.

Cecilia is moved to a treatment facility. Because of Cecilia’s condition, (and maybe a twist/turn or two) the payments from Adrian’s estate are stopped.

Is Adrian still alive? What will happen to Cecilia?

This is a very good remake. A solid thriller/horror movie. It’s semi fast-paced with several jump scares and a few ‘did that really just happen?’ moments. As the movie progresses, it kept me wanting more, wanting to know what will happen next and to answer the questions the main character(s) brought up. The end left me asking “what’s really going on and what really happened there?” Which, despite the ambiguity, I enjoyed. While you can probably wait for this one to come out on streaming and DVD, watching “The Invisible Man” in the theater will give an added effect and make it that much better. Two knives up.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Netflix Movie Review: “Horse Girl”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Sarah (Alison Brie) is a quiet girl who likes horses and keeps to herself, watching TV and doing crafts. After some strange things begin happening to her, she suspects she might be a clone, a clone of her grandmother. No one really takes her seriously and from there, the weirdness continues.

Sarah works at a craft store and is talking with co-worker Joan (Molly Shannon). They are talking about DNA testing and Joan is telling Sarah she did a DNA home test kit and found it really interesting. Sarah replies she really doesn’t know a lot about her family.

Joan gets Sarah a DNA kit for her birthday and Sarah sends away for the results.

Nikki encourages Sarah to go on a double date for Sarah’s birthday. After a night of drinking and dancing, Sarah experiences some weird stuff. She hits it off with Darren (John Reynolds) and they begin dating.

Sarah’s car is ‘stolen’ one morning and found in the middle of the road. It’s towed to an impound lot where her stepfather, Gary (Paul Reiser) helps her retrieve it. Sarah does not know how it got there. Sarah questions Gary as to when her mother, now deceased, began acting weird.

At one point, Sarah finds herself standing outside next to a payphone holding a receiver in her hand and she has lost track of time. Her co-worker Joan recommends she sees a professional. Sarah does. She also notices she has what appear to be bruises on her leg and body. She asks the doctor if there is a possibility she is a clone. He kind of laughs it off.

On a date with Darren, she wants to prove she is a clone and suggests they dig up her mother to get some of her mother’s DNA. Soon, Sarah is checked into a mental facility. Sarah does not remember the social worker who has worked with her before. More weird stuff happens.

What will happen to Sarah? Is she a clone?

Sarah’s actions made me think more about mental health issues than aliens, but aliens do have a role in this movie. The line of reality is blurred for the viewer, just like it’s blurred for the main character. A strange movie where sometimes you don’t know what’s real and what’s not. There’s a lot of strange stuff that happens. There’s more nudity and sex than I was expecting and I’m still not entirely sure if that actually happened. The plot is somewhat of a slow burn to get to the end where only some pieces connect themselves to others. The ending is only a little satisfying, but I still have questions. Despite its oddness, I enjoyed this movie. I Recommend watching it.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Movie Review: “Downhill”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated R
Run time: 1 hour 26 minutes

A family takes a vacation where the whole purpose was to have fun and spend time together, when a reaction to an avalanche derails the tone of the vacation. From there, events only go from bad to worse.

A remake of the Swedish film “Force Majeure,” a family travels to Austria for a ski vacation. They’re about to sit down to have lunch when they hear a giant boom and see an avalanche coming towards them. As it gets closer, it becomes apparent, this avalanche is not slowing down and covers the area where the family, and other patrons are sitting. Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) ducks down as she pulls her children close to her for protection. Pete (Will Ferrell) grabs his phone and leaves the table.
As it turns out, everyone is fine, but the rest of the trip is ‘Downhill’ from there.

The family is on edge after, everyone is very quiet. Billie is upset with Pete. That night, Billie and Peter have dinner with a pushy hotel guest, Charlotte, (Miranda Otto) and her husband. The tension during this scene is kind of uncomfortable to watch as it’s obvious Billie doesn’t want to be there and is still upset about how Pete reacted, and is still reacting to the avalanche, as he describes the avalanche in a nonchalant way.

Things spiral from there on. The family is supposed to go heli-skiing; down, off-trail skiing reached by helicopter, and they end up not going because they all get in a big argument and miss the helicopter.

Pete invites a coworker of his who happens to be visiting the same area; Zach (Zach Woods) and girlfriend Rosie (Zoe Chao) during their visit. Billie and Pete get in a big fight as Zach and Rosie awkwardly observe. During this fight, Billie accuses Pete of abandoning his family during the avalanche and Pete denies it. The next day, Billie decides to take a day by herself. She inadvertently meets up with Charlotte where they have a discussion about happiness. Billie skis with a ski instructor and ends up kissing him. Meanwhile, Pete and the boys are having a sub-par time at a local ski park.

Billie and Pete spend more days apart. Billie runs into Rosie where they have a discussion about the fight to which she and Zach had ringside seats. Pete and Zach spend the day skiing and then go to a club.

The family meets back for dinner where the atmosphere does not improve. Afterwards, Pete tells Billie she was right about her account of the avalanche, he did run away. Billie says: “No one is asking you to stop an avalanche, I’m just asking you to survive one with us.”

How will this vacation end? Will Pete and Billie reconcile? Or is their relationship in for its own avalanche?

I thought this was a solid movie. I found it touching, sad, funny and at times relatable all in one. Despite the sometimes hard to watch moments, this is overall a fun movie; I’d recommend seeing it in the theater. Two skis, with or without poles, up.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Movie Review: “The Tomorrow Man”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Last week’s movie was definitely on the heavy side, so with Valentine’s Day in progress, coming up or past, depending on when you read this, here is a lighter movie in which no one is running from the law.

Ed (John Lithgow) is I guess what you could call a Dooms Day prepper. He has a special room stocked with supplies and talks out loud and in chat rooms about ‘it all going down’ a lot. Ronnie (Blythe Danner) is more of a free spirit who prefers living in the moment.

“The Tomorrow Man” begins with Ed telling his son the importance of being ready. Ed is constantly in chat rooms talking with other like-minded individuals about conspiracies and what they believe to be strange occurrences; always planning for tomorrow.

When Ed meets Ronnie at the grocery store, he can’t get her out of his head and purposely stages a meeting. At first, she seems a little put off by Ed, but they go on a date and talk about their lives. Ronnie lives a very quiet life; her daughter died very young and she tells Ed she was her whole world. Ronnie now works at a boutique. After their date, Ed freaks out and tells Ronnie he really likes her and that scares him. Despite Ed’s strange behavior, they begin spending time together. 

Ronnie goes over to Ed’s where they watch TV. Ronnie tells Ed she likes being in his home. She falls asleep on his couch while watching TV. Afterwards, Ronnie is late for work. This part is a little funny.

Ed is kind of grump and thinks everything was better ‘back in the day’ (though he never actually says that exact sentence). Ed begins to trust Ronnie more and shows her his secret room, stocked with supplies. He tells her it’s his security blanket, his 401K. They spend more time together and grow closer.

He invites Ronnie to Thanksgiving dinner at his son’s house. Ronnie is excited for this. However, Ed and his son, Brian (Derek Cecil) have a rough relationship and Thanksgiving dinner turns into a big argument with everyone leaving the table except Ronnie and Brian’s wife, Janet (Katie Aselton).
At one point Ed sees Ronnie’s house and there are big piles of stuff everywhere. This scares Ed a little. While at Ronnie’s, Ed has a mini-stroke. He ends up being ok, but does this change the way he views the world? Or will he insist his old way of doing things is much better? Similar to Ebenezer Scrooge, can the people that love him help him realize it’s better to not always focus on tomorrow?

Overall, this was a good movie. It has the important lesson to be present, but not to worry about the ‘what ifs’ that life throws our way. Not an easy lesson to learn. Life is unexpected; sometimes, you’ve got to roll with the punches. This movie is kind of funny and has several heartfelt moments. I would recommend this as a movie to watch in the vicinity of Valentine’s Day. Two cans of non-perishable food up.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Netflix Movie Review “Changeland”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

After Brandon (Seth Green) suspects his wife is cheating on him, he takes his anniversary trip alone, where he meets up with friend, Dan (Breckin Meyer). As the two travel Thailand, they discover life can offer more than they are aware.

The movie begins with an unfeeling Brandon flying to Dubai where he meets up with Dan, whom he hasn’t seen in a while. Brandon tells Dan he suspects his wife, Vanessa, (who you never meet) is cheating on him and Dan asks Brandon if he plans to fight for the relationship.

While in Thailand, Brandon does not enjoy the incredible experiences and scenery that surround him. All he is focused on is his marriage ending. He and Dan tour Thailand and discuss the situation. Brandon is not sure how he would fight for the marriage; and he does not want to get a divorce. Dan tells Brandon he never really liked Vanessa because of the way she treated him and Brandon.

Dan and Brandon continue to have incredible experiences, travel to amazing places and meet interesting people; through most of this, Brandon is very uptight.

On a coral tour, they meet Ian (Macaulay Culkin) who was originally from South Dakota, but he did not want the life that was offered there, so decided to move to Thailand. Brandon asks him “don’t you miss your life?” Ian replies, “How can I miss a life when I’m busy living it.”

Despite encouragement from Ian and others, Brandon is still very scared of taking chances and won’t do things like jump off an embankment into the water or explore a cave that’s under a waterfall. He remains unhappy for most of the trip. He wonders what he is doing there and at one point tells Dan he wants to go home.

Dan tells Brandon they are going to a bar with Ian where they run into a couple tour guides (Clare Grant and Brenda Song) from one of their tours. Some crazy things happen while they are in the bar. Will Brandon’s begin to appreciate Thailand? Will he get back together with his wife?

OK, let me start with the positive. This movie had a very cool message about being present, enjoying yourself and appreciating what you have. It was actually shot in Thailand and the scenery is spectacular. However, this is a slow movie with little conflict that didn’t keep me wondering what was going to happen. Despite its star-studded cast, ‘Changeland’ fell flat. It’s so slow, you kind of forget there’s conflict at all and it’s more about a guy moping around Thailand. It’s billed as a comedy, but it is not that funny. I would not recommend it. Two thumbs down. Sorry, Kevin McCallister.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Movie Review: “Star Wars”: Live action films ranked

By Dan Kilgallon

Since “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker”, has been in theaters for several weeks now, it seems like a good time to evaluate the live action films of the storied franchise to date. Having seen these movies at least several times each, I decided to rank the films in order of worst to first, with my favorite entries ultimately being the most memorable/meaningful to me. Please enjoy my completely biased rankings of this sprawling space opera, complete with a 1-10 rating and best scene for each movie!

11. “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Run Time: 136 min
My Rating: 3/10
Best Scene: Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) face Darth Maul (Ray Park) in a lightsaber duel beneath the palace of Naboo.

10. “Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones” (2002)

Run Time: 142 min
My Rating: 4/10
Best Scene: Mace Windu (Samuel L Jackson) arrives with hundreds of Jedi to face Count Dooku (Christoper Lee) and the droid army at the Petranaki arena on Geonosis.

9. “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker” (2019)
Run Time: 142 min
My Rating: 6.5/10
Best Scene: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and crew are pursued by the First Order and Knights of Ren in a long chase sequence on the desert planet of Pasaana.

8. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018)
Run Time: 135 min
My Rating: 7/10
Best Scene: Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) join forces with Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his team in a train raid on the planet of Vandor.

7. “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” (1983)
Run Time: 131 min
My Rating: 8/10
Best Scene: The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) watches as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) faces his father, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in the throne room of the Death Star.
6. “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
Run Time: 140 min
My Rating: 8.5/10
Best Scene: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) duels his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.

5. “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens” (2015)
Run Time: 138 min
My Rating: 9/10
Best Scene: Finn (John Boyega), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and the Resistance battle Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order on the planet of Takodana.

4. “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” (1977)
Run Time: 121 min
My Rating: 9/10
Best Scene: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) defend their team from Stormtroopers while attempting to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the Detention Center on the Death Star

3. “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
Run Time: 124 min
My Rating: 9.5./10
Best Scene: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and the Rebels face an Imperial army of AT-ATs during the Battle of Hoth.

2. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)
Run Time: 133 min
My Rating: 10/10
Best Scene: Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) visits Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) at Mustafar to discuss the construction plans for the Death Star.

1. “Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi” (2017)
Run Time: 152 min
My Rating: 10/10
Best Scene: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) appears to face Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order at the Battle of Crait.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Movie Review: “Uncut Gems”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 2 hrs, 15 mins

Ethiopia, 2010. A severely injured man is being taken from a mine; he is bleeding badly. Two miners are then seen looking for and finding a large precious opal.

Now, it’s 2012 and Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is getting a colonoscopy. Ratner is a gem dealer in New York City. He owes several people a lot of money and a few guys have come to his office to collect. Each time Ratner makes a little bit of money he’s quick to gamble it to try and make more. Things don’t always go his way though.

(At the time) Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett comes into Ratner’s store and is looking for some watches. Ratner has just received the precious opal from Ethiopia and is so happy, he shows Garnett. Garnett is mesmerized by it and immediately wants it. Ratner tells him it’s set for auction. Ratner does let Garnett hold on to the opal for a few days, taking Garnett’s championship Celtics ring as collateral. Ratner pawns the ring for $21,000 in hopes he can quickly make the money back to retrieve it. The collectors are watching Ratner this entire time. Ratner is also being followed by other individuals he owes.

Ratner has bet on a Celtics game that could give way to a big payout. Because he is always wheeling and dealing, Ratner doesn’t give his family the attention they deserve. Ratner has a girlfriend, Julia (Julia Fox) and he and his wife Dinah, (Idina Menzel) have made plans to divorce after Passover. At his daughters play, he is followed by some thugs and kidnapped after spotting two of the collectors sitting behind him. The thugs take everything Ratner has and leave him naked inside his car trunk. His wife bails him out.

Garnett still has the opal and Ratner goes to several locations looking for it. Ratner catches his girlfriend at a club with singer, The Weekend. Ratner and she have a big fight and tentatively break up. Later in the movie, Ratner tries to make amends with Dinah, and she tells him she never wants to see him again.

Howard finds out the opal was appraised much lower than he initially thought, so he asks a family member of his (Judd Hirsch) to bid against Garnett at the auction in order to drive up the price. Things don’t go Howard’s way and he ends up having a bit of a nervous breakdown.

Will things turn around for Howard Ratner? Will he be able to pay back all the people he owes money to?

I knew going into this, this was not your typical Adam Sandler movie. Sandler gives an incredible performance. I felt this was a fast-paced movie with a great story about a guy consistently down on his luck – through fault of his own. I found myself rooting for Howard even after I watched him make bad decision after bad decision after bad decision. The plot definitely kept me wanting to know ‘what’s going to happen next?’ This is a terrific movie that I’d recommend seeing in the theater. It has an ending you might not see coming. Two precious, ‘uncut gems’ way up.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

By Daniel Kilgallon

Rated: (PG-13)
Runtime: 142 mins

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” follows 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and 2017’s “The Last Jedi” as the concluding chapter of Disney’s sequel trilogy. It also serves as the final installment of the nine-episode “Skywalker saga.” Director J.J. Abrams (“The Force Awakens”) came back to helm this picture, building off of Rian Johnson’s work on “The Last Jedi”. Additionally, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver all return to their starring roles while archive footage of the late Carrie Fisher was used to complete her final scenes. As a loyal fan of the saga, I was really looking forward to seeing how this epic narrative came to a close.

As seen in initial posters, the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has seemingly returned from the dead and now poses a threat to the surviving members of the Resistance. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is completing Jedi training in preparation for her inevitable rematch with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Soon, she joins forces with Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in a desperate effort to save the galaxy once and for all.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is a bold film that brings the stakes of this saga to a whole new level, to say the least. While I found the development of the monumental threat to be a bit rushed this time around, there is no denying that it led to an unbelievably exciting thrill ride of a movie. It was so satisfying to see our trio of new heroes finally team up for a substantial journey and the comradery of the group is fueled by powerful, authentic performances. The force connection established between Rey and Kylo Ren in “The Last Jedi” is once again showcased spectacularly, culminating in a stunning conclusion to that key element of the trilogy.

Putting aside my thoughts on the choppy exposition, I still found this to be amongst the most exciting of the Star Wars films. As expected, the visual effects are absolutely off the charts in a number of standout scenes, including a gritty chase sequence on a new desert planet called Pasaana. Like much of the material released since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, this movie offers something for everybody through a faithful blend of nostalgic elements and a story for a new generation. Ultimately delivering a well-deserved, heartfelt conclusion, “The Rise of Skywalker” stands as a grand finale that shouldn’t be missed.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Movie Review: “The Movies That Made Us”

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: Various

We are all familiar with, or at the very least know of these four popular movies: “Home Alone”, “Ghostbusters”, “Dirty Dancing” and “Die Hard”. Have you ever wondered what went on behind the scenes? Or what it took to do some of the stunts/action?

This four-episode, one season Netflix series gives interesting background information about these well-liked films. It features interviews with cast, producers and those involved with the movies. They talk about working on the films and give tidbits about these well-liked movies. Here are just a few fast facts about some of these classics:

Dirty Dancing (Episode 1)
Baby is based on an actual person.
Initially, Winona Ryder and Sarah Jessica Parker were considered for the role of Baby. Billy Zane was almost cast as Johnny Castle.
Swayze and Grey weren’t exactly crazy about each other – in the beginning.

“Home Alone” (Episode 2)
Daniel Stern originally turned down the opportunity to be a henchman
Large portions of the movie were filmed in an abandoned high school
There were no special effects or CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) for any of the stunts done on “Home Alone”, so all the hits and slips and falls actually happened

“Ghostbusters” (Episode 3)
Dan Ackroyd wrote ‘Ghostbusters’ for himself, John Belushi and Eddie Murphy.
There were two different titles for the movie; they lucked out to get the one everybody knows.
There were 12 slimers created before the designer landed on the one in the movie.

“Die Hard” (Episode 4)
It is based on a book called “Nothing Lasts Forever”.
They were legally obligated to initially offer the lead to Frank Sinatra.
Neighbors and occupants of the buildings and areas around where they were shooting complained of all the noise and explosions that happened during filming.

The big scene where the helicopter and the top of Nakatomi Plaza explode is a little different than you might imagine.

Overall, this is a fun series. It’s interesting to learn the story behind the script. Sometimes, I felt like producers, directors, creators, etc. go on a little too long about lesser interesting parts of a film – like what it took to secure funding. Some of these episodes are more entertaining than others, depending on which movies you like, but I found all the episodes feature facts about the movie that I may not have expected. I would recommend this series as a post-holiday, watch-in-one-weekend series. I’m hoping and looking forward to a second season. Two VHS cassettes way up. Now, where’s that VCR?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Movie Review: “Klaus”

By Matt Pascarella

Netflix Movie
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour and 37 minutes

Every year, around this time, millions of letters are written to one man, asking for something for Christmas. But, how do those letters get to him? Who is responsible for seeing they are delivered?
“Klaus: is an animated tale of postmaster-to-be Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), whose wealthy father wants him to be a postmaster. Jesper has spent nine months at the postmaster academy and did not do very well; his heart is not in it, and he likes living off his father’s wealth.

His father won’t have any of this and sends Jesper to Smeerensburg to be their postmaster. He gives Jesper an ultimatum: spend a year in Smeerensburg, develop a working post office and stamp 6,000 letters or be cut off from the family fortune.

Jesper is less than pleased about this and on arriving in Smeerensburg, ‘home of the world’s finest feuds’, it is a dark, unwelcoming, cold place. The townspeople are nasty and laugh when he tells them he is there to be their postmaster.

At first, there is nothing to mail. Looking for mail, Jesper heads to the Woodsman’s cabin and gets trapped inside. However, while he’s in there he finds shelves and shelves of toys. He also meets a somewhat unfriendly man named Klaus (J.K. Simmons). With the help of Jesper, he and Klaus deliver a toy to a child who sent Jesper a letter. Word gets out that writing letters means you get a toy, so many of the children of Smeerensburg begin writing to Klaus. Jesper’s letter count begins to rise.

Since Smeerensburg is the ‘home of the world’s finest feuds’ the Krum and Ellingboe parents (Joan Cusack and Will Sasso) do not like their children playing with one another. And they do not like Jesper. As more and more letters pour in, it becomes clear that some of the children cannot write and go to a teacher, Alva (Rashida Jones) for help. Alva had pretty much given up on being a teacher and was saving money to leave. She thought there was no point in trying to teach the children anything, but the arrival of Jesper begins to change her mind.

Jesper stresses the importance of being good and helpful in order to get toys, and this changes the behaviors of many of the children.

Meanwhile, Ellingboe and Krum want to stop Klaus and Jesper and return Smeerensburg back to the dark and dismal place it was.

After some time, Klaus has delivered all the presents he had. Jesper suggests Klaus make more. Klaus becomes very angry at this idea and tells Jesper to leave. Here, we learn a little about Klaus’s past.
After some convincing, Klaus agrees to make more toys. Alva has decided to stay as a teacher and tells Jesper that he has really made a difference in Smeerensburg.

Jesper’s father arrives in Smeerensburg and congratulates him on meeting his goal and that he can now return home. This is the doing of the Ellingboe/Krum team. Will Jesper decide to go, or will he stay in Smeerensburg?

This is a perfect movie for the holiday season. With an all-star cast, it comes at the story of Santa from a different angle and is fun(ny) for both kids and adults. This is a great tale of friendship and the ending will leave you feeling happy. Highly recommended. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Movie Review: “Living with Yourself”

By Matt Pascarella

A Netflix TV Series
Rated: None

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet your clone? How would they act? What would they do? Would it be problematic, or nice to have a doppelgänger around? These questions were answered for Miles Elliot (Paul Rudd), who has grown bored and indifferent with his current life and is looking for a way to better himself. He gets a tip from a co-worker who got a special, experimental, treatment that improved his life.

This eight episode Netflix series is a little weird. But the end of each episode does keep you wondering, what will happen next?

The series begins with down-on-his-luck Miles Elliot going through the motions of his life. When he hears about this special treatment that essentially creates a new, better you, he is curious and decides to put up the $50,000 it costs. The promise is he will be made into the best he can be.

However, something goes wrong during the treatment and “real” Miles Elliot wakes up underground, covered in plastic wrap. He arrives home to discover he is already there.

The real and fake versions of Miles compare how they’re different. They are also very careful to keep this from friends and family, especially Miles’s wife, Kate (Aisling Bea). Real and fake Miles return to the spa, where the cloning took place, and demand a refund. Although they are refunded, what will become of the “fake” Miles?

One of my criticisms of this series is I found  it difficult to differentiate between the clone and real versions of Miles. The real Miles decides to leave town. So, as I understand it, the clone Miles is pretending to be the real Miles – he’s the one who goes to work and does things like be the life of the party, at actual parties. There are certain areas where “real” Miles steps in. We soon learn that fake Miles has trouble handling the responsibilities of real Miles’s life.

If you can deal with the fact that this is a series about a man who is living with his clone and dealing with the problems that might arise if an identical version of yourself was out there living your life, you might enjoy this series; I did. There is solid character development, with an interesting backstory – we learn the struggles Miles and Kate are facing and why Miles thought the cloning would improve things. There are a few excellent bombshell moments throughout the series that definitely keep you engaged. I felt the episodes did not drag. Although, there is a lot of back and forth with a timeline throughout the series, which can be a little confusing.

I thought this was a funny, weird, entertaining series and the end leaves you hopeful for a season two. I would recommend it. Two identical thumbs up.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Movie Review: “Frozen 2”

By Sage Bizier who is nine years old and a fourth-grade student at Raymond Elementary School

Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.

“Frozen 2” was really awesome!

It gave a nice view on what it would be like if you had magical powers and you had to deal with changes in your life. The movie starts with everything going great, and then Elsa (voice actor, Idina Menzel) who is now the Queen of Arendelle, hears something beautifully magical calling her. This is when the adventure begins!

Anna and Elsa (voice actor, Kristen Bell) go on a journey to an enchanted forest to find out why Elsa has magical ice powers. Sven the reindeer leads them, accompanied by Olaf the snowman, (Josh Gad) and Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff has this really shining moment, which you’ll have to see the movie to understand. Let’s just say this: Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) has all of his dreams come true.

There are many changes in this movie, almost all of which get resolved. It’s interesting because there’s no real antagonist. Instead of one bad guy, there are different challenges the characters face. In some places, the movie was a bit scary. In other places, it was more beautiful than you can imagine, especially at the end. The message was to deal with change even when it gets hard.

I think that everybody who loved the first Frozen movie and who has ever dreamed about going on magical adventures should see this film!

Sage’s five-year-old brother Ian adds that “Frozen 2” was great, and the moral of the film is to never give your sister magic.