Friday, May 20, 2022

Movie Review: ‘The Bad Guys’ features family-friendly action

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG

Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes

What if bad guys try to turn good? Or at least attempted to? Meet Wolf, Snake, Shark, Tarantula and Piranha; they’ve been successfully pulling heists all over the city for a while and have a room full of stolen goods and cash to prove it. These are the cards they’ve been dealt, so they may as well play them. As Wolf tells the camera in the beginning,

“We may be bad, but we’re so good at it.”

“The Bad Guys” is actioned-packed right from the start and keeps a pretty good pace throughout the movie. It stars Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Awkwafina, Craig Robinson, Anthony Ramos, Richard Ayoade, Zazie Beetz, Lilly Singh and Alex Borstein.

After the gang of Wolf (Rockwell), Snake (Maron), Tarantula (Awkwafina), Piranha (Ramos) and Shark (Robinson) have pulled off another heist, they are celebrating in their home adorned with the many valuables they’ve stolen over the years. They appear on the news and get excited because their handywork has drawn attention.

However, their excitement drops as Governor Foxington (Beetz) says the group is unoriginal and on the decline.

Wolf wants to show her who’s on the decline by stealing the Golden Dolphin Award to be given to Professor Marmalade (Ayoade) for being an upstanding citizen.

When they try to steal the Golden Dolphin, it doesn’t go the way they want.

Police Chief Luggins (Borstein) declares it the end of the bad guys – until Professor Marmalade steps in and says they deserve a second chance.

He says he will turn them into the good guys.

Wolf goes along with this only in theory. He tells the others they should only pretend to want to turn good.

After the group goes on a heist for good to save animals from being tested on, Wolf is thanked by Governor Foxington and tells him a Wolf and Fox aren’t so different.

Is it possible Wolf really wants to turn good? What would it be if the world loved them instead of hated them?

The group plans another heist to steal a valuable meteor at Professor Marmalade’s gala, but this one also gets a little sidelined. And it looks like they’ve been framed.

After meeting the Queen of Cons, the Crimson Paw, the group turns on each other and some go their separate ways. However, that’s not the end of the story.

The way Wolf, Snake, Shark, Tarantula and Piranha worked together with each member helping to commit their part of the crime reminded me of the TV show “Leverage.”

“The Bad Guys” is fun for kids and adults. It’s action-packed, has a great soundtrack with nice messages about friendship and going from bad to good. I thought it was funny for those of any age, though not a lot of adult humor that might go over younger viewers heads. The action is solid without being overly violent and not gory or bloody.

Two diamonds up.

Make sure to stick around through the credits.

Now playing in theaters and available to rent. < 

 

Friday, May 6, 2022

Movie Review: ‘The Batman’ very long, but adequate

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 2 hours, 56 minutes

Gotham is crime-stricken and only getting worse. When current Gotham mayor Don Mitchell Jr. is murdered in his home, what – or who – will it take to get this city back on track?

There is already a vigilante trying to clean up the city. This retelling of the famous caped crusader is not a continuation of other Batman movies. It stands alone and starts more in the middle of Bruce Wayne’s story.

Spoiler alert: Wayne becomes an orphan after his parents are murdered. However, in this version, the antagonist is out to paint Wayne’s father, Thomas, as more of a bad guy and less of a victim.

Batman mentions in the beginning of the movie he must choose his targets carefully; it’s a big city and he can’t be everywhere all the time.

With such a long runtime, “The Batman” dragged a bit in the middle but had solid action. This movie stars Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Jeffrey Wright, Colin Farrell, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Andy Serkis, Jayme Lawson and Peter Sarsgaard.

“I am the shadows, I am vengeance,” Batman says in the very beginning.

Another spoiler: Batman is Bruce Wayne (Pattinson). Wayne is talking with Alfred (Serkis) who wants him to attend a financial meeting. Wayne tells him he cares more about the city than maintaining his fortune or legacy.

After the mayor is murdered, Batman goes to a club where he meets the Penguin (Farrell) in order to find out who killed the mayor. Here he meets Selina Kyle (Kravitz). Later on, we learn how she is linked to mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tuturro).

Another murder occurs and clues are left behind directed at Batman.

The District Attorney makes an appearance at the governor’s memorial, courtesy of the Riddler (Dano).

Gotham residents are understandably unsettled, and police are not a fan of Batman’s vigilante work, but Commissioner Gordon (Wright) tells him he’s the only one he trusts.

Batman and Selina agree to work together to catch the Riddler. The Riddler continues to find ways to make Gotham worse, like flood it.

Batman says things will get worse before they get better. Gotham loves a comeback story.

In this version Batman is very brooding, which I found annoying. Large parts of the movie are very dark, both in subtext and physically, making it hard to see what was happening.

However, the last 30 minutes are visually excellent. I think it helps to know a bit of Batman’s backstory and the villains that terrorize Gotham, but it is not required to enjoy this movie.

It’s by no means my favorite Batman as “The Dark Knight” is hard to beat, also Michael Keaton’s version is quite good. I would recommend seeing this in the theater to get the full effect, but you could also pass on this one, as I believe there are better versions out there. I give this one bat lasso up.

Now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. <

Friday, April 22, 2022

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Windfall’ thriller turns out to not have a lot going for it

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes

A guy is in the process of robbing a tech billionaire and just as he is about to leave, the tech billionaire and his wife come home. The guy panics and holds the couple hostage, convincing the tech billionaire to get him $500,000.

It takes a day or so for the money to arrive. In that time, the tech billionaire tries to figure out why this nobody – the tech billionaire’s words – is doing this. Did he work for one of his companies and get laid off? Why does he need this money?

This movie is billed as a thriller, crime-drama, but I found very little thrilling about it. This original Netflix movie stars Jessie Plemons, Jason Segal, Lily Collins and Omar Leyva.

The character’s identities are so unimportant that the characters don’t have names. I think the real issue here is why does this guy, cast as “Nobody” (Segal) need this money and what are his extenuating circumstances?

CEO (Plemons) does not hold back in showing that he cares more for himself and maybe “Wife” (Collins), than others.

A lot of this movie is the three waiting for the money. And in this time CEO makes it abundantly clear he does not care about Segal’s character, referring to him as Nobody.

Once CEO and Wife catch Nobody, the couple is locked in the sauna of their vacation home in the middle of the desert.

As Nobody is trying to leave, he notices a camera hidden in a tree and returns angry to the home to get the footage. When this does not go his way, tensions only escalate.

The couple has escaped from the sauna, and it is at this point that CEO and Nobody negotiate the $500 thousand deal. While Nobody waits for the money, CEO tries to figure out why Nobody is doing what he is doing through a series of questions which only aggravate Nobody.

In the minimal interactions between Wife and Nobody, it becomes clear that she is not as happy as one might initially think.

At one point “Gardener” (Leyva) stops by and after CEO makes a plea for help, Gardener is also held hostage.

After an event with the Gardener happens, Nobody tells CEO that he did want to take his money to see what it felt like to be him. He also tells him that nothing feels fair. CEO has everything, and Nobody has nothing. This is as close as you come to finding out why Segal’s character is robbing the CEO.

I believe this statement relates to a class struggle and a rich versus poor characteristic. While the movie did move itself along in a somewhat quick fashion, when you get to the end, the payout is underwhelming.

I did not see the final moments coming, but when I did I thought they were mediocre at best. To be fair, I not sure how I wanted it to end, but the way it did end left me disappointed.

Sorry Marshall Eriksen, but I recommend audiences sit this one out.

Available on Netflix. <

Friday, April 8, 2022

Movie Review: ‘The Lost City’ a solid action-comedy

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 52 minutes

Loretta is having trouble finishing her new book which she needs to have ready soon for her book tour – a book tour she will never forget. Loretta is saddened from the loss of her husband and has isolated herself because of it.

What ends up happening to her will take her in directions she was never expecting – both physically or otherwise – in this action-packed, entertaining movie starring Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Oscar Nunez, Patti Harrison, Brad Pitt and Bowen Yang.

As Loretta (Bullock) starts her book tour for her newest book “The Lost City of D,”  she is annoyed and slightly frustrated. More of the crowd wants to see her cover model, Alan (Tatum), whom she described as a “body wash commercial,”  than hear her talk about her new book.

After the first stop of her tour doesn’t go well, Loretta wants to stop writing and stay home. Alan even says to her, “You are so afraid of life hurting, that you’ve stopped living.”

That is all about to change. Loretta is kidnaped by henchman and brought to Abagail Fairfax (Radcliffe) who needs her help to decipher symbols and find Calaman’s Tomb and in it, the Crown of Fire. King Calaman was the first man to build a city on the Atlantic Ocean.

Alan calls Jack Trainer (Pitt) to save Loretta and insists on going with Jack to which he begrudgingly agrees.

Fast forward to Alan and Loretta on their own, working to escape the jungle. At some point, they are pursued by more henchmen. After this, beware of the leeches scene.

Afterward, things get a little cozy between the two. And then they get real.

All the while, Beth (Randolph) is on her way to save Loretta. She gets some help from an unlikely lionheart along the way.

I was hesitant to review two movies in a row about recluse authors. However, Loretta is very different from Harris Shaw in that she is not a nasty person only out for herself. While some of her actions are defined as selfish, she gets thrown into a much different book tour than Shaw went on.

Without giving anything away, it was obvious relatively early on in the movie what the end result would be for Loretta. That’s really my only complaint for this movie – mild predictability. And I mean only a very small amount. This is an excellent, funny action movie.

Filmed in the Dominic Republic, the scenery is magnificent and compliments the plot well. I saw it on the big screen, and it paid off big time. It’s worth a trip to the theater to laugh and gasp during this fun adventure.

Bullock and Tatum have superb on-screen chemistry. I’ve seen Tatum in a few movies, and I think this is a different type of character for him. Radcliffe as a villain was pretty great, too.

Make sure you stick around for the end credits. It will have you asking “quid deinde?”

Two sequin dresses up.

Now playing in theaters. <

Friday, March 25, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Best Sellers’ film tugs at the heartstrings

By Matt Pascarella

He’s a cranky, retired author who had a big hit 40 years ago. She’s inherited her father’s publishing company and is looking for anything to help the company stay in business. When Stanbridge Publishing convinces Salinger-esque Harris Shaw to go on one final book tour, Lucy Stanbridge did not know what she was embarking on. To be fair, neither did Shaw.

That’s the plot of “Best Sellers,” which might make you laugh while also tugging at your heartstrings a little. It stars Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza, Ellen Wong, Scott Speedman and Cary Elwes.

Harris Shaw (Caine) has a well-known reputation for being a recluse. However, this does not stop Lucy (Plaza) from pursuing him to get another book from him to give her publishing company a much-needed boost. According to a contract, Shaw owes Lucy one more book. She breaks into his home to plead her case. It is not well received.

Breaking and entering aside, Shaw is not a nice guy. But for some reason, he drives to Stanbridge Publishing and gives Lucy her “pound of flesh.”

Stanbridge informs him, he now has to go on a book tour. In his first stop on the tour, he flubs it by instead reading from “Penthouse.” He later ends up in jail.

On the next stop, he says everything is drivel, though he uses a different word. Although he is self-sabotaging, people love him. His popularity increases online. Shaw continues to refuse to read from his own book.

And then Shaw’s popularity grinds to a screeching halt. People still want to see him, but only for his antics, not to buy his book.

With Shaw’s book not selling, Stanbridge is being pressured to sell the company by Jack (Speedman) but continues to hold out. She finds a very clever workaround to get Shaw’s words to be heard.

Shaw is not getting any nicer and Stanbridge is struggling. In what could be described as a moment of weakness on Shaw’s part, he tells Stanbridge about his personal life and his wife.

In regard to him finding someone to marry him, he tells her,

“Even the worst of us get lucky.”

From here on out, Shaw softens a little.

You learn a little more about Lucy’s personal life and some revelations are made. Shaw continues to self-sabotage, but the effect is not what he had in mind.

As the movie draws to a close it’s both sweet and sad.

Caine and Plaza are wonderful together. They both need the other for various reasons, but don’t know it. At times being somewhat of a comedic team, with Caine as the straight man.

As a fan of the television series “Parks and Recreation,” it was nice to see Plaza in a non-April Ludgate role. Caine’s transformation from a rather unpleasant fellow to who he is to Lucy at the end of the movie is a heartwarming one.

Although the language and character behaviors, one in particular, can get a bit rocky from time-to-time, this is a good movie. It’s probably not for the whole family, but one worth the time.

Two thumbs up.

Available to rent or on the Starz network. <

Friday, March 11, 2022

Netflix’s ‘The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window’ a thriller with laughs

By Matt Pascarella

This title is so this long and complex and references other movies; when I first heard it, I thought this is a farce – but it’s actually a decent thriller. It may be both.

If you take this series at face value, it can be nothing more than a solid thriller. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, star Kristen Bell described the series as a satirical thriller, poking fun at movies like “The Girl on the Train,” “The Woman in the Window,” and others.

And it does do that. However, unless you are very familiar with these types of movies, you might not pick up on all the jabs they take. I know I didn’t.

This eight-episode series, “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window” stars Kristen Bell, Michael Ealy, Mary Holland, Tom Riley, Cameron Britton, Appy Pratt and Shelly Hennig.

Anna (Bell) is divorced and spends her days in a funk, upset over the past. When she runs into neighbor Neil (Riley) and daughter Elizabeth (Pratt) she notices he is in a similar situation. They begin to become friends. This may or may not be short lived.

Anna has ombrophobia, a fear of rain.  This plays somewhat into the series. She wishes for a future where monsters don’t exist.

When Anna finds out Neil has a girlfriend, Lisa (Hennig), her feelings toward him change. Despite her aversion to Lisa, Anna notices something strange from her window – or is it because of all the wine and pills she’s taken? It’s raining, so Anna has trouble getting over to Neil’s house. She calls 911.

Things don’t go so well for Anna from this point on. She decides if the authorities won’t handle this possible mystery, she will. Anna begins to build a case through Instagram and tracks down certain individuals.

There are many Lifetime-ish, After-School-Special lines throughout this series.

At one point Anna asks herself,

“When am I not hallucinating?”

Or says stuff like,

“Life is for the living.”

“I barely believed in myself.”

“Would someone please tell me what’s going on?”

And of course,

“I didn’t kill anybody!”

I hope this series gets a season two. It was a very good mystery, and you cannot go wrong with Kristen Bell. By the end of episode two, I was hooked and watched the entire thing in one day. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but the series is that good).

It does contain a little violence, language and mild nudity, but it’s both fun and suspenseful. Can you figure out who did it?

I give this two casseroles up; why are there so many casseroles? I saw more casseroles in this series than I’ve seen in real life in the past couple years.

I highly recommend this satirical thriller starring Princess Anna ... as Anna.

Available on Netflix. <

Friday, February 25, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Safety’ shows benefits of will, determination and family

By Matt Pascarella

In 2006, Ramon "Ray Ray" McElrathbey was a freshman at Clemson University on scholarship as a special teams football player. McElrathbey was working overtime to stay on the team and keep up with his classes. Everything changed for him when his mother went into a drug treatment facility and McElrathbey chose to take care of his younger brother, Fahmarr.

After some time, it became very difficult and McElrathbey needed help. He was afraid of losing his scholarship if his coaches found out his little brother was living with him on campus.

Can McElrathbey make it all work?

Disney+’s “Safety” is an inspirational story – based on a true story – about Ray McElrathbey and the hardships he endured and determination he put forth for his family and his team. “Safety” stars Jay Reeves, Corinne Fox, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Matthew Glave, James Badge Dale, Amanda Warren, Hunter Sansone and Isaac Bell.

“What does sacrifice mean to you?”

A question Coach Bowen (Glave) asks his team early on. Bowen goes on to explain that scholarships are earned and if you are here, you need to perform on the field and in the classroom. You need to give 110 percent.

That’s exactly what McElrathbey (Reeves) does on his arrival to Clemson. He is taking 18 credits which is a lot for  anyone, not just a freshman, a professor points out. Ray meets Kaycee (Fox), a sports reporter and they soon start spending time together.

Ray is just making everything work when he gets a call from his brother Fahmarr (Mixson) that their mother (Warren) is in a drug treatment facility. Unless there is someone to care for Fahmarr, he will be placed in foster care. At the time, their mother was only supposed to be in the facility for 30 days, so Ray said Fahmarr could stay with him at his dorm.

Ray quickly realizes he can’t keep this going. He’s found out by his coaches, and they do find a way to help Ray and Fahmarr. However, it gets noticed that Ray and Fahmarr accept occasional help, like rides from coach’s wives or additional assistance from members of the community. This teeters on what the National Collegiate Athletic Association allows for those individuals on scholarship.

Ray needs to make an appeal to the NCAA to make an exception so he can receive additional assistance and remain on scholarship. Ray must choose between football and family. Can he have both?

This is an incredibly uplifting story. Ray McElrathbey is the definition of hard work and persistence. “Safety” is emotional, sweet, funny and displays the meaning of family - biological or not. It’s very easy to forget it’s okay to ask for help. It’s hard and not always comfortable. But everybody needs it sometime and the community that came together for Ray and Fahmarr are amazing. This is a great movie.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Disney+. <

Friday, February 11, 2022

Review: Disney+’s ‘Welcome to Earth’ will take you all over the place

By Matt Pascarella

One season

In episode one of Disney+ and National Geographic’s “Welcome to Earth”, Will Smith tells the camera he never swam in a lake, climbed a mountain or slept in a tent. At 51, he’s beginning to think he’s missing out. But he’s going to change that.

Smith, along with many skilled and talented professionals in a wide variety of fields take him to the ends of the Earth and then some.

In episode one, Smith scales down Mount Yasur, one of the most active volcanos on Earth, where his guides assure him that they can “almost guarantee he’ll survive.”

The videography in this six-episode series is incredible. Every episode features stunning imagery from high altitudes to low altitudes, hot places and cold places. You see so much of the planet.

In episode four, Will ventures to the Great Barrier Reef where I learned Tiger sharks are the meanest of sharks and actually eat other sharks.

Smith intertwines each episode with personal details and thoughts about his various expeditions. In episode two, he says his grandmother used to say,

“All the best things in life live on the other side of fear.”

Smith hopes she’s right, because he and two others are plunging into the ocean a whopping 3,000 feet down in a Nadir.

As you plummet into the darkness of the ocean, which color is the last to disappear? The answer is very cool.

Also in episode four, Australian researchers are charged with the task of tagging these mean Tiger sharks, to see where they are going and why.

Jump to episode five where Smith and another crew of experts, sometimes battling adversities you might not think are ideal to – spoiler alert – zipline across a crocodile-infested river. However, they do and as Smith points out, because these individuals are so proficient you forget they may be part machine.

Smith shows a completely different side of himself in this docuseries; one you may not have been familiar with if you grew up seeing him grow up on TV or in the movies. While he may be hesitant in some areas, like scaling down a gushing volcano, he conquers his fears, especially his fear of nature. Smith explains this further, though the nature he’s brought to each episode is not easily accessible or particularly welcoming to those who want to explore it.

I’m not really a world traveler. The idea of flying into an area where one wrong move could mean you are a crocodile’s lunch doesn’t appeal to me. However, seeing Smith navigate these rough areas and terrains with people who may be missing a limb showed me that, if you want to do it, there’s always a way. I’d still rather stay away from those crocodile-infested waters though.

This is a great docuseries you can watch with the whole family. I’d definitely recommend checking out “Welcome to Earth.”

Agent J and I give it two thumbs up. <

Friday, January 28, 2022

Movie Review: ‘The Lost Daughter’ might leave you with questions

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 2 hours, 1 minute

Leda, a professor, is on holiday in the Greek island of Kyopeli. In what starts as a nice quiet getaway soon drudges up some torment from the past when Leda meets Nina and her family. Nina seems exhausted and almost trapped at times by the responsibility of being a mother. Nina’s experience, at least what Leda observes for the short time they see each other, runs parallel to Leda’s and the troubles Leda had raising her two daughters, who are now grown and out of the house. The viewer catches glimpses of Leda’s past.

This is not a movie where a lot happens, but there are a few things that happen that kept me asking questions and engaged as to where the plot was going. Adapted from a novel by Elena Ferrante, this Golden Globe-nominated movie stars Olivia Coleman, Dakota Johnson, Dagmara Dominiczyk, Ed Harris, Jessie Buckley, Peter Sarsgaard and Paul Mescal.

Leda (Coleman) arrives at a resort on the island of Kyopeli where Lyle (Harris) is there to help her with her bags. Her holiday starts very quietly and calm. Leda sees Nina (Johnson) on the beach with her child and surrounding family. It was clear seeing Nina with her child evoked something in Leda and reminded her of what it used to be like with her two children. We flashback here to young Leda (Buckley) and her children, Bianca and Martha.

“I’m suffocating,” Young Leda says.

Back in present-day, Leda is clearly annoyed by the boisterous presence of several members of Nina’s family, who hoot and holler, along with foul language that upsets Leda. She is told by Will (Mescal) that she should be careful because these are bad people.

As the movie rotates back and forth between Nina’s experience as a mother and Young Leda’s experiences there are clear similarities. Both are exhausted and get little help from their spouses.

“Children are a crushing responsibility,” Leda says to Callie (Dominiczyk), Nina’s Sister-in-Law.

While in a store, Leda runs in to Nina and Callie and when they question her about her children, she has a dizzy spell and almost collapses. It is later explained why Leda has disconcerting feelings about her children.

The movie semi-focuses on an item Leda has and it is still unclear to me why she did what she did with this item. This part alone kept me wondering what was going to happen.

This is not an edge-of-your-seat psychological drama.  I guess on the simplest of levels it highlights the difficulties that may arise with being a mother. On another level it tells the story of a woman who was in over her head and needed help. Nina and Young Leda are similar individuals, but they don’t live similar lives. Both react differently to being a parent. Despite this movie’s lack of any real action, I still wanted to see how it ended and was curious until the final minutes.

I would give this one thumb up and one thumb down.

Available on Netflix. <

Friday, January 14, 2022

Movie Review: 'The Tender Bar’ a nice coming-of-age movie

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes

J.R. is looking back on his life as an adult (narrated by Ron Livingston). He and his mother are on their own after she and J.R.’s father, The Voice, divorced. When his mother has trouble with the rent, they move in with her family.

From that point on, J.R.’s family is focused and encouraging to make sure he has the best life possible. Specifically, his Uncle Charlie who acts as a pseudo-father figure for J.R. into his adult years. You see J.R. grow and learn, make mistakes and live life.

Overall, not a bad coming-of-age movie. It has very little action, but an engaging plot. “The Tender Bar” stars Ben Affleck, Tye Sheridan, Daniel Ranieri, Lily Rabe, Christopher Lloyd, Max Martini, Briana Middleton and Rhenzy Feliz.

In 1973, J.R. and his mother move in with J.R.’s grandfather (Lloyd) after five months of not being able to pay their rent. It’s an assortment of people and personalities at his grandfather’s house which J.R. tells his mom he likes having around – especially his Uncle Charlie (Affleck). 

“When you’re 11, you want an Uncle Charlie,” says J.R.

When J.R. was 11 (Ranieri), he would listen to his dad, ‘The Voice’ (Martini), who was a disc jockey on the radio because that’s the only way he could hear him. He would later learn why his mother (Rabe) got upset whenever she heard ‘The Voice’ on the radio.

Uncle Charlie tells J.R. he’ll always tell him the truth. Uncle Charlie runs a bar called “The Dickens” where he encourages J.R. to read and is very supportive of him. J.R.’s mother is dead set on J.R. going to Yale University.

When young J.R. has a father-son breakfast at his school, his grandfather, a cantankerous man, goes in The Voice’s place and later tells J.R. to not let anyone know he’s a good grandfather.

When J.R. becomes college age (Sheridan) you see him experience life, love, work and so on. The movie juts back and forth to various stages in everyone’s life surrounding J.R., who remains close with his Uncle Charlie.

J.R. tells his mother he’s going to be a novelist.

He and his mom both want him to be happy; problem is nether knows how to achieve that.

My favorite thing about this movie was its soundtrack. I loved many of the songs from this soundtrack, like “Dancing in the Moonlight,” “It’s Your Thing” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” There are many more recognizable songs throughout the movie.

Based on a memoir of the same name by J.R. Moehringer, this is a captivating, but kind of slow movie. It starts strong but drags a little in the middle. I was interested to see where J.R.’s life was going, but aside from a few trials and tribulations, not a lot happens. Still a heartfelt, enjoyable movie. Worth watching.

Available in very select theaters and on Amazon Prime. <

Friday, December 31, 2021

Movie Review: What to watch as the new year approaches

By Matt Pascarella

2022 is mere hours away, and as you wait for the ball to drop you may be looking for a movie (or two) to pass the time. Here is an earlier favorite plus a couple others to close out 2021.

Happy New Year!

The Harder They Fall   Rated: R   Runtime: 2 hours, 19 min

I regret waiting so long to watch this; it’s a great western. When Nat Love (Johnathan Majors) was young, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) killed his family. Now, years later, Buck is out for revenge. This movie grabs your attention from the start and offers a few surprises. When Rufus is released from prison, Nat Love rounds up a crew to go after Rufus. This movie has a great soundtrack and solid action. It is fairly violent with rough language – they are cowboys. Starring Zazie Beetz, RJ Cyler, Regina King, DeWanda Wise and LaKeith Stanfield; two six-shooters up. Available on Netflix.

Ron’s Gone Wrong   Rated: PG   Runtime: 1 hour, 51 min

Marc Wydell (Justice Smith) has created an algorithm for friendship with the world’s first Bubble Bot – your best friend out of the box. A B*Bot helps kids connect through social media; and everyone at Nonsuch Middle School has one, except Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer). Barney has trouble making friends and his dad (Ed Helms) is concerned. When Barney finally gets a B*Bot, Ron (Zach Galifianakis), it’s a little defective. Barney goes to return Ron but realizes he might not be as defective as originally thought. However, the Bubble company is aware of this defective bot and wants it back. This is a nice movie about friendship with lessons about the importance of not being glued to our devices. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” is an uplifting story to take you into the new year starring Olivia Coleman, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall and Ricardo Hurtado. Two robot shaped beanies up. Available on Disney+

Queenpins   Rated: R   Runtime: 1 hour, 51 min

Connie (Kristen Bell) and her friend JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) love couponing. They are always looking for new ways to save and make money. When Connie complains to a manufacturer about a stale box of Wheaties, she receives a coupon for a free box – which gives her an idea. An idea where she and JoJo sell coupons and make a boatload of cash. However, their efforts do not go unnoticed. Ken (Paul Walter Hauser) and Simon (Vince Vaughn) are tailing them. And aside from that, things spiral a little more for Connie and JoJo. Based on actual events. A funny, feel-good crime drama starring Lidia Porto, Joel McHale and Bebe Rexha. Two coupons up. Available on Paramount+, Showtime and to rent.

Ted Lasso   2 seasons

American Football coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) takes his knowledge of European soccer – which is nothing – to manage AFC Richmond, an English soccer team that could use a little help. The owner of the league Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) hired Lasso to make the team worse in hopes of seeking revenge against her cheating ex-husband. However, Lasso and his assistant coach, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), might change her mind. “Ted Lasso” stars Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple and Nick Mohammed. An all-around winner. It is only available on Apple TV+, but I promise, “Ted Lasso” is well worth $4.99 a month. Two biscuits up. <

Friday, December 10, 2021

Movie Review: ‘8-bit Christmas’ reminds you what season is all about

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG

Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes

It’s Christmastime in the late 1980s and there is just one gift on every kid’s mind ... Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was so awesome it wasn’t just a console; it was an entire system.

Jake takes his daughter Annie to visit her grandparents for the Christmas holiday. They arrive early and no one is home. Annie is bored and Jake seizes this opportunity to tell her how he got his Nintendo, which Annie says looks like Tupperware.

Like Jake, I didn’t have an NES growing up and it was something really special when I got to go to a friend’s house who had one.

Before Jake begins his story, he tells Annie it’s probably the most amazing, dangerous story of all time. Given what followed I don’t know about all time, but it certainly was a very good story that is filled with thrills, spills and chills.

This fun, family-friendly movie stars Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael, Bellauna Resnick, Sophia Reid-Gantzert, Che Tafari, Santino Barnard, Max Malas, Chandler Dean and David Cross.

Annie (Reid-Gantzert) isn’t overly impressed when her dad, Jake (Harris) tells her he wanted a Nintendo even more than she wants a phone. She tells him that’s not possible. They begin to play, and you see some classic Nintendo setup techniques like blowing in the bottom of the cartridge to make it work.

It’s the late 1980s and the only kid in Batavia, Illinois with a Nintendo was anger-driven Timmy Keane (Dean). On Saturday mornings he would allow 10 kids into his home where they could be able to play this glorious machine, if Timmy let them.

Young Jake (Fegley) knows he needs his own system and will stop at nothing to get one. Since it is Christmastime, he asks his parents (Zahn and Raphael) who are a “no-go on the ‘Tendo.”

Young Jake enters a wreath selling contest through the Ranger Scouts where a flyer shows that first prize is a Nintendo. He does everything he can to make sure his list has the most wreath sales on it.

Every kid in town is working very hard to be the top wreath seller. Despite their efforts, something happens to alter the results.

Other plans are made between Young Jake and his friends. Do they work? We already know Jake eventually gets a Nintendo, but how did he get it?

Young Jake is very focused on this goal but is reminded what the season is all about by a scalper (Cross).

I think this is the perfect definition of a family Christmas movie. Adults might get nostalgic for this video game system they had when they were kids. And kids can learn what video games used to be like.

This is a very funny movie that, in all honesty, made me realize my age. At one point Jake is telling Annie something happened at a roller rink and Annie has no idea what that is. Why would she?

There is a sweet ending that will warm any Grinch’s heart and is wi – I should stop. Trust me, this is a good one.

Two NES controllers up!

Available on HBO Max. <

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Red Notice’ an action-packed historical thrill ride

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes

In the movie Red Notice’s prologue, we learn there were three bejeweled eggs that Marc Antony gave to Cleopatra before their wedding. Two of those eggs were recovered outside of Cairo with the third only rumored to be in existence. No one has ever found it or is 100 percent sure it exists.

In Rome, one of the eggs is on display in the famous Castel Sant’Angelo Museum. There is word that someone may have already stolen the egg, despite it being on display in front of a large crowd. John Hartley proves this to be true. He and Inspector Das order the room be sealed off, but Hartley notices a man hurriedly escape through the closing doors as alarms blare from all over.

This is just the beginning of this gripping crime-comedy starring Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos and Ivan Mbakop. It’s a fun adventure right from the start.

Nolan Booth (Reynolds) is doing his best to try and escape from Hartley (Johnson) and Das (Arya). Booth claims he’s quite an art thief and will later say it usually works out pretty well for him.

56 hours later, we are in Bali, Indonesia and Booth returns home only to find Hartley waiting for him. Hartley says he works for the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). He’s been following Booth who is wanted in several countries.

A Red Notice is the highest level of arrest warrant issued by Interpol, reserved for the world’s most wanted criminals.

Hartley takes the stolen Cleopatra egg, puts it in a police van opposite the van Booth was loaded into and drives off.

Things don’t exactly go the way Hartley would have wanted. He finds himself in Russia with the most annoying – and familiar – cellmate.

Here, they meet The Bishop (Gadot), the best art thief in the world. The Bishop informs Hartley he has been framed.

Hartley and Booth devise a plan to take down The Bishop by crashing a party where they can steal the second known egg. Hartley wants to clear his name by arresting The Bishop and Booth just wants to become the No. 1 art thief again.

The second egg is in the possession of an international arms dealer Sotto Voce (Diamantopoulos). Hartley and Booth plan to crash an exclusive party Voce is throwing.

From here on out, so many crazy things happen. It’s a lot of fun and might keep you guessing about who works for whom.

When I saw the cast to this movie, I was pretty much sold. Gadot, Johnson, Reynolds. It’s a winning combination. This movie grabs your attention from second one and kept me interested until the very end. It has some unbelievably ridiculous stunts that are fun on the big or small screen. Reynolds has a Deadpool-esque demeanor, and he and Johnson are a very funny pair. Gadot’s performance as the ... well I better stop there, but suffice to say, she kicks butt.

Two stylish leather jackets up.

Playing in select theaters and streaming on Netflix. <

Friday, November 12, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Here Today’ a nice story of friendship

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Rated PG-13

This movie is what I would consider a hidden gem. It hit harder than I was expecting. It’s both funny, but also emotional and heartbreaking.

When comedy writer Charlie Burnz is diagnosed with a form of dementia, he wants to get his thoughts about his late wife on paper while he still can. When he meets Emma, they form a friendship which becomes important to both of them.

Based on the short story, “The Prize” by Alan Zweibal, “Here Today” stars Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti, Louisa Krause, Alex Brightman, and Audrey Hsieh.

Charlie (Crystal) has been a comedy writer all his life and works on a Saturday Night Live-type show. One day, he has lunch with Emma (Haddish) a singer whose ex-boyfriend won a lunch with him from an auction, but she decided to go. Emma orders a bunch of seafood, which to her surprise, she is allergic to. It lands her in the hospital where Charlie has to pay a lot to get her out and healthy, but he saves her life.

Charlie is in the early stages of dementia and has flashbacks to a specific horrible event in his life. He also occasionally forgets people’s names or who they are.

When Emma stops by to pay Charlie back some of the money she owes him, she learns a little about his life. Emma and Charlie become friends. Charlie tells Emma about his dementia and that he wants to write a book for his wife; he has to finish before he runs out of words. Emma wants to help him. She does what she can to help him remember.

Charlie has a strained relationship with his children (Padgley and Benanti) because of the horrible incident.

Charlie’s dementia is getting worse. During a taping of the show, Charlie has an outburst, which receives a mixed reaction. The flashbacks are intensifying.

Charlie is angry. He’s told he can’t be alone anymore. Emma says she’ll stay with him. Their friendship grows.

At one point, Charlie’s granddaughter, Lindsay (Hsieh) runs away from her mom. Charlie and she take a trip but then Charlie ran away. Lindsay gets scared and calls her mom. What follows will make you smile.

I thought Haddish and Crystal are a good pair. This movie had a lot of heart. I thought there was some classic, Billy Crystal humor in this movie. Emma and Charlie are going to Lindsay’s Bat Mitzvah, and he tells he can’t dance and was the only person who ever had to take out Mambo insurance.

I thought the acting was very good – especially Crystal’s. Early on, both Emma and Charlie are unsure or indifferent about the other person, especially after Emma’s shellfish incident. The more they get to know each other, the more they like and begin to care about and for one another.

This movie might make you might shed a tear or two, but overall, I enjoyed it and would suggest anyone rent this. Two typewriters up.

Available to rent on most major streaming platforms. <

Friday, October 29, 2021

Movie Review: ‘The Night House’ might creep you out

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

How well do you really know the people you think you know? A disturbing thought. Beth returns home from her husband Owen’s funeral, after he committed suicide. In her grief, she notices a few unusual things happen in their house. Are these things real or is it something else? This movie caught me off guard in several places and was a good scare, especially with Halloween just days away.

“The Night House” starts in a very dark place but took me on an emotional ride where I wasn’t sure what to think or what was actually occurring. This movie stars Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigket, Stacy Martin, and Samantha Buck.

Beth (Hall) is understandably shaken up and despondent after the death of her husband. Once she returns home, she notices the gate to her dock is open; she closes it and later on notices it’s open, again.

Later that night, Beth has a weird dream … or was it a dream? It seems so real to her that she goes searching for clues in Owen’s (Jonigket) phone. What she finds only opens the door to more questions. Her friend, Claire (Goldberg) tells her everyone has secrets though Beth insists she and Owen did not.

More weird things happen. Beth searches into what she thinks may have been one of Owen’s secrets. She makes a discovery or two and things complicated.

One afternoon, Beth is walking in the woods and runs into her neighbor Mel (Curtis-Hall). He tells her she’s not in her right mind. I’m still not 100 percent sure if he was right. After she questions him intensely, Mel admits a few things to Beth. Here she finds out more about Owen’s alleged secrets.

Beth digs more and the situation only spirals. What was Owen up to?

Beth visits a bookstore where she meets Madelyne (Martin) who sheds more light on who Owen really was. Despite it taking a real toll on her mental state, Beth continues to look for more information, against Claire’s advice.

What she finds was confusing, exciting, mildly horrifying and satisfying all wrapped up into one.

I had zero expectations going in. I had seen several ads and it look like a decent thriller/horror movie. This movie has what I would call the rollercoaster effect; it’s a little slow to start. As I was climbing to the top, the first few events happen to Beth, before a sharp drop and a fast ride with my heart pumping and I felt nervous in several places along the way. I was creeped out in a couple spots. I also tried the entire time to figure out what was really happening but could not until the very end – and I’m still unsure if I was actually correct.

A minor spoiler alert: the ending left me with questions, but overall, I enjoyed this movie and would recommend it. Two stereo systems up.

Available to rent on most major streaming platforms. <