Thursday, May 28, 2020

‘Dangerous Lies’ delivers an entertaining film

By Matt Pascarella

What would you do if you found $100,000 hidden in a trunk? Would you tell the police? Or not? Netflix’s original movie ‘Dangerous Lies’ tells the story of Katie (Camila Mendes) who is a caregiver for Leonard (Elliot Gould).

Katie and her husband Adam (Jessie T. Usher) come across cash hidden in a trunk after Leonard’s passing. From there, things get a bit tangled and it seems like Katie and Adam might be in danger.
At the start, Katie is working in a diner when she and her husband, Adam, witness a robbery, which Adam stops.

Roughly four months later, Katie becomes a caregiver for Leonard and Leonard trusts her and enjoys her company very much.

Katie and Adam are in a lot of debt. When she confides in Leonard, he offers to help out, but she turns him down. Meanwhile, a real estate agent (Cam Gigandet) stops by Leonard’s home and asks Katie if Leonard would be interested in selling. He explains he has a very motivated buyer. Katie assures him Leonard’s house is not for sale and never will be.

A short time later, Katie discovers Leonard has given her a check for $7,000. She thinks it’s a mistake, but she and Adam really need to pay their bills that day, so they decide to cash the check, pay their bills and pay Leonard back later – but they never get the chance. The next time Katie visits Leonard, he has died.

Adam finds a trunk with a hidden compartment and underneath is almost $100,000.

Later on, Adam goes looking for the money and is attacked. Adam and Katie decide to put this money in the bank to protect it from being stolen.

After Leonard’s cremation service, they meet Leonard’s attorney, Julia (Jamie Chung) who has some good news for the couple. Financially, the once struggling Katie and Adam are better off than they were. The attorney does warn Katie that there are big changes coming her way and she hopes she’s ready for them.

While all this is happening, the real estate agent continues to pressure Katie. And the detective who is investigating Adam’s attack and Leonard’s death, Detective Chesler (Sasha Alexander), keeps the pressure on Katie.

Adam believes someone is following him. Detective Chesler speaks to Katie’s boss, Mr. Calvern (Michael P. Northey) where a paper trail of payments made from Leonard to Katie is forming. A few other discoveries are made that make Katie and Adam question how they should handle their situation.

After an incident occurs, Detective Chesler thinks something is off about Katie and Adam’s story. She thinks Adam could be a suspect in Leonard’s death.

Did Adam kill, or at least plot to kill Leonard?

Is there someone else involved?

Am I leaving out crucial information?

This is a slow, slow burn. It isn’t until about halfway through the movie that things being to pick up. There are a few curveballs and twists and turns. 

Without giving anything away, the ending is slightly (very slightly) action packed. And it’s mildly predictable. 

While this thriller did not have me on the edge of my seat, it’s a decent, entertaining movie – maybe even a diamond in the rough. <

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ben Affleck gives moving performance in 'The Way Back'

By Matt Pascarella
Jack (Ben Affleck) is a former high school basketball star who, after suffering a personal tragedy is struggling and needs to find something that gives him purpose.
During Thanksgiving, his sister, Beth (Michaela Watkins) expresses concern about him and tells him his ex-wife, Angela (Janina Gavankar) has also expressed concern. This only puts Jack on the defensive.
Later on, Jack receives a call from Father Edward Devine (John Aylward) the priest of his former high school, Bishop Hayes, who tells him their current basketball coach won’t be able to coach this season and when it came to a replacement, Jack was the first person Father Devine thought of. The team is not doing well; they haven’t played well since Jack played, which was over a decade ago.
At first, Jack is not interested in coaching, but eventually accepts the position. He meets his assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal), who gives him a rundown of each of the players. The team needs work.
After one game in which Jack does a lot of cursing, the team chaplain (Jeremy Radin) speaks to him and tells him his actions and language have a tremendous effect on his team. This makes Jack rethink some of his daily habits, like going to the bar so much. After a lot of hard work and a somewhat bumpy start, the team begins adding some wins to their record. And they keep those wins going. During this time, Jack is also becoming a mentor to one of the players (Brandon Wilson) who is good but lacks confidence.
While attending a birthday party, we learn a little more about Jack’s personal life and past. And where a lot of his anger has come from. His anger gets the best of him one night and he is thrown out of a game. Dan has to fill in for him.
As the season progresses, Jack’s team is headed towards the playoffs. They need to win a big game against a tough team, that beat them earlier in the season, in order to make it.
Something happens to make Jack slip back into his old ways, where he begins drinking more and more. He shows up late to a practice and afterwards Dan approaches Father Devine who kicks Jack off the team for consuming alcohol on school grounds and showing up to practice inebriated.
What happens to Jack after he’s kicked off the team?
Will the team make the playoffs?
What does the future hold for the team without their head coach?
This has been on my ‘to-watch’ list for several weeks. It looked like a Hoosier-esque, feel good movie. And in spots, it is. But the spots are few and far between. There were several key moments that left me wanting more. And there were other moments that weren’t super clear to me. Is this movie worth renting? Maybe, if you really want to see it, but otherwise you could easily leave this one on the bench until it’s available to you. <

Friday, May 15, 2020

Movie Review: 23 Hours to Kill

By Matt Pascarella

Whether you’ve seen him talking to George Costanza or with one of his many comedic friends in a variety of cars while they drink coffee, Jerry Seinfeld delivers an entertaining, funny performance every time. Shot in New York City, ‘23 Hours to Kill’ is no exception. And given the current situation, a somewhat appropriate title. In previous specials, like ‘I’m Telling You for the Last Time’ (which I recommend), Seinfeld steers more toward general observations and less about himself. In this special, he lets the audience in, sharing details of his personal life.

After an impressive opening, Seinfeld walks on stage, unfazed, relaxed and ready to do what he does best.

His observations are relatable as he talks about the inconvenience of socializing and ‘going out.’ He even refers to his special as a ‘made up, bogus, unnecessary, special event.’ He goes on to talk about killing time. Seinfeld lets the audience and the viewers know, that to some extent, we know him, and he even knows us.

Seinfeld has a bit about things being great and not-so-great (he uses a different word) which is both funny and spot on. He says the the two are very close to each other. There is talk of food, especially breakfast, which made me remember the row of cereals in Jerry’s apartment from his show.

He says we have a dependence on phones and goes on about other technologies. Are we using our phones or are our phones using us? Seinfeld agrees texting is great. He has a great line about how being a comedian feels like an ol’ timey profession because he is actually talking to an audience. It would be quicker if he just texted his set and then everyone could leave.

Like many of his specials, a lot of Seinfeld’s material speaks to everyday situations. But in this one, he lets the audience peak behind the curtain and into his personal life – just for a moment. Since, Seinfeld is generally observational, it’s nice to hear him talk about being a dad and in doing so he describes the mission of babies. And how fathers dress.

Some of the routines I’d heard before, but it doesn’t matter. In my eyes, he’s one of the best, if not the best. And those eyes were watering from laughing while I was watching this special.  As I would expect, his bits are solid, clever and flow seamlessly into each other – if that’s what he wants them to do.
Seinfeld is definitely one of the faces on my Comedy Mount Rushmore. He has been consistently funny for over 20 years and each special only drives the point home that he is one of the greats. Highly recommended. Two Pop Tarts way up!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Movie Review: “Vivarium”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and her boyfriend Tom (Jessie Eisenberg) are looking for a new home. While browsing one afternoon they meet Martin (Jonathan Aris) who assures them he has the perfect development. However, this house becomes “waaaaay” more than they were expecting.

Martin shows the two to Yonder; an idyllic development where every house looks exactly the same. As they begin to tour the house, #9, (they are only thinking of buying), they notice a few things that are off, like a welcome home gift already in the kitchen. Martin tells them this is not a starter house and that this house is forever. He then disappears. As Tom and Gemma try to leave, they keep getting turned around and end up back at house #9. Even on foot, they find themselves unable to find the exit.

After they realize they cannot escape, Tom sets fire to the house. This does not work; #9 is indestructible. From here on out things just get weirder and weirder. Tom and Gemma get – not have – a child. As time goes on, Tom and Gemma become overwhelmed and frustrated.  Tom makes a discovery while smoking one day and he begins digging a hole. The child does not make things easy and screams a lot. Tom has the idea of killing him, but Gemma prevents him from doing so. There are a lot of points in this movie where bizarre events occur.

We fast forward an indeterminant amount of time, where the child is maybe in his early to mid-twenties. That’s just a guess. Tom is still digging. Gemma now agrees that they should have tried to get rid of him all those years ago. Tom has slowly been getting sicker and sicker, and one day the child brings a package to Gemma that lets you know what Tom’s future is.
How does this end?

Do Gemma and Tom get to leave the development of Yonder?
What about the child? What happens to him?
And Martin? What happened to him?

I had no to low expectations for this movie and it was a rental. But I thought this was a fantastically disturbing thriller. There are a lot of twists and turns. For the most part, I did not find it all that predictable. I like that there were so many strange things about the child and that, from the start, it was obvious this isn’t a normal neighborhood, if you can call it that. The plot is fairly fast paced with minimal moments lagging. I wanted to know where the movie was going and when and how Tom and Gemma were going to escape Yonder. Find out if Yonder is right for you by renting this well-done thriller.

Spoiler: Yonder isn’t right for you, don’t move there – trust me.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Movie Review: “Stuber”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Are you looking for a comedy where there is a lot of action and you get to see stuff blow up? If so, this is the movie for you.

Dave Batisa is Vic, a detective who lost his partner in a shootout while chasing Tedjo, a criminal he was unable to catch at the time – in part to the fact that during the shootout his glasses fell off. Six months later Vic gets corrective eye surgery and must wear special glasses until his vision returns. Shortly into the movie, he throws the glasses away. Then, for the rest of the movie he has trouble seeing.

Kumail Nanjiani is Stu, who works at a sporting goods store and is a dedicated Uber driver, obsessed with maintaining a five-star rating. Stu is in the process of becoming co-owners of a gym with Becca (Betty Gilpin), who Stu has a secret, but obvious, crush on.

Vic gets a call that there is an opportunity to get Tedjo. He can’t drive, so Vic calls Uber to get him there. Despite Stu’s protesting, Vic tells Stu if he helps him, he’ll give him five stars. Vic ends up dragging Stu to multiple locations in order to find Tedjo. While all this is going on, Stu has been talking with Becca after she broke up with her boyfriend and Becca really wants Stu to come over. As a result, Stu tries to hurry Vic along every chance he gets.

On Vic’s hunt for Tedjo, there are several shootouts where Stu has to get involved. He isn’t too keen on helping Vic, but reluctantly does so, usually resulting in somewhat hilarious results. At one point, Stu is held hostage, but gets away.

Despite the polar “opposite-ness” of Vic, who is a tough detective and Stu, who is kind of a wimpy guy not really cut out for shootouts and running after bad guys, a friendship slowly starts to form.
This is a comedy action-packed movie with a few funny lines. At one point, Vic needs supplies and Stu takes him to his sporting goods store where Vic says to open a tab and just begins grabbing stuff. Stu exclaims “Uber is not a general store in the old west!” And, later, Stu cries out (after his electric car explodes) “It was a lease! There’s no gasoline; how did it explode?!?”

There is a twist at the end, but in my opinion,it  is a weak one. Nanjiani and Batista are a fantastic comedic pair. The action keeps the viewer engaged and wanting to see what’s going to happen next. There is some sexual humor and a scene of nudity, plus a fair amount of blood. Parts of it I found too slapstick, with Batista’s poor vision, but they were still a little funny. The very end even tugs at your heart strings a little. I would definitely recommend this movie...five stars. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Movie Review: “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Run time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

If you could use a feel-good movie, then look no further than “The Peanut Butter Falcon”. It is a story of friendship, acceptance and breaking the mold.

Zak (Zack Gottsagen) loves wrestling, has down syndrome and lives in a nursing home. His ultimate goal is to meet wrestler ,The Salt Water Redneck, who has a wrestling school and produces a video from that venue. Zak watches this video.

Zak has made several attempts to escape the nursing home, but always gets caught. Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), an employee of the assisted living facility, has told Zak he can’t keep doing this. This doesn’t stick with Zak. One night with the help of his roommate, Carl (Bruce Dern), Zak is able to escape without being caught. Zak hides in fisherman’s boat.  

That fisherman, Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) is struggling to make a living with his career as an angler. He recently lost his brother and he steals the traps of some other fishermen, Duncan (John Hawkes) and Ratboy (Yelawolf). Things get worse when, later, he sets their traps on fire. Duncan and Ratboy chase after Tyler and he runs away from them and to his boat. Be when Tyler arrives, he is unaware Zak is hiding in his boat. Once Tyler discovers Zak is in his boat, he agrees to let him tag along. Tyler is going to Florida and Zak is going to North Carolina, home of The Salt Water Redneck’s wrestling school. Tyler is sort of mean to Zak when they first meet. Zak tells Tyler ‘I want you to know about me; I am a down syndrome person.’

Tyler stops at a convenience store and inadvertently meets Eleanor, who is looking for Tyler after her boss, Glen (Lee Spencer) tells her to find Zak after refusing to report Zak missing. Tyler sees if there is a reward for Zak, but never fully admits to knowing where he is.

Tyler tells Zak he saw Eleanor and she’s looking for him. After this, a friendship begins to develop between Zak and Tyler.

Tyler encourages Zak and teaches him how to swim. You also learn some of Tyler’s backstory. The two meet Jasper (Wayne Dehart), a clergyman who lets Zak and Tyler build a raft. One night, they practice wrestling moves and Zak dubs himself ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon.’

Eleanor eventually finds Zak and tells him they need to go back to the nursing home. Zak tells her he wants to see The Salt Water Redneck. After some disagreeing, Eleanor joins the group and actually has fun.

Later, Jasper and Ratboy set their raft on fire. They threaten Tyler and Zak comes to his aid.
What will happen to the Tyler, Zak and Eleanor?

Will Zak meet the Salt Water Redneck?

Will he have to go back to the nursing home?

With an energetic soundtrack and uplifting story, this movie will put a smile on your face. It’s funny and the end was unexpected. I hope we see more movies with Zack Gottsagen because he was fantastic and I am not a Shia LeBeouf fan, but he was pretty good in this. With so much negativity out there, this movie will give you a glimpse of hope. Highly worth the rental; two peanut butter covered wrestling masks way up.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Movie Review: “Onward”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Run time: 1 hour 42 minutes

Do your kids (or yourself) need a break from social distance learning? Or maybe a suggestion for the fourth or fifth family movie night this week? “Onward” is a decent family movie with messages about believing in yourself, overcoming fear(s) and the importance of family.

It starts ‘Long ago the world was full of wonder. There was magic, which was hard to master, and the world found a simpler way to get by. Over time, the magic faded away.’

Ian Lightfoot, (Tom Holland), an elf, is turning 16. He and his older brother, Barley, (Chris Pratt) lost their father an undetermined amount of time ago. Ian and his brother are polar opposites: Barley has no fear and Ian is afraid of a lot of things.

While out in public, Ian meets a guy who tells him how great his dad was and how sorry he was to hear about his passing. After meeting this guy, Ian makes a list entitled ‘New Me’ to try to step out of his comfort zone. The final item on his list is ‘be more like Dad.’

He starts by inviting some classmates of his to his birthday party but retracts their invitation when he embarrasses himself.

Ian’s mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives both her sons a gift from their father; a magic wand with a spell that can bring him back for only 24 hours. The spell doesn’t work – then it kind of does, leaving only a portion of their dad. They need a phoenix gem to complete the spell. Barley and Ian go on a quest to finish the spell, find the gem and get to spend some time with their dad.

Once Laurel learns what they are doing she goes after them.

Along their way, Barley and Ian meet the Manticore (Octavia Spencer) a mythical Persian legendary creature.

Barley’s van, Guinevere, runs out of gas and the two get into a bit of trouble. Barley helps his brother conquer some of his fears about driving. At one point they cross an invisible bridge and after being chased by the police, reach what they thought is their destination, but they are right back where they started.

Will they find the gem and get to meet their dad before the 24 hours is up?

With an all-star cast, this movie is another Pixar homerun. Toward the end, they really keep you guessing as to whether Ian or Barley are going to see their dad. The end result is not what I thought it was going to be. This was a funny, heartwarming movie that works on a level for both kids and adults, though it’s not as good as “Toy Story” or “Monsters, Inc.” I’d recommend this movie. Two magic wands up.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Movie Review: “Tiger King”

By Matt Pascarella

Documentary/True Crime
The following review does contain spoilers about Tiger King

Zookeeper. Internet TV star. Recording artist. Entrepreneur. Presidential candidate. Oklahoma candidate for governor. Eccentric personality. If you’ve been anywhere on the Internet over the last two weeks, you probably heard about Joe Exotic; the Tiger King.

The first episode of Netflix’s seven episode limited series is crazy from the start. There’s a lot going on. It opens with the quote “Not every day a zookeeper went to prison for murder-for-hire.” “Tiger King” is about the life of Joe Schreibvogel, who later became Joe Exotic and his contentious relationship with Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue who wants to close down Exotic’s G.W. Zoo.

Filmmaker Eric Goode begins filming in Homestead, Florida where people are running zoos with exotic animals. Joe Exotic runs the G.W. Zoo, where he has over 100 exotic animals.

We meet Carole Baskin who runs Big Cat Rescue Sanctuary and believes Exotic is exploiting tigers and other big cats and wants to shut him down. Exotic has made a lot of money with big cats, bringing them to malls and using them in his zoo. The first episode ends with a threat from Exotic against Baskin.

The following episodes recount various things that happen around the time period this documentary series was being filmed. Some are horrific, like a suicide or an employee of Exotic’s losing an arm; you also meet many of the other individuals involved and most of them are somewhat bizarre characters.

You learn about Joe’s business and some of his suspect practices, all told through the individuals who worked for Joe. You learn a bit about Carole Baskin, who had a husband disappear and is now presumed dead. Throughout these episodes, Joe and Carole’s feud gets nastier and nastier. Joe has some financial trouble and ends up signing over his zoo to Jeff Lowe. From there, it just gets worse.

There are several twists and turns and events or revelations I wasn’t expecting. “Even if it’s a train wreck, you can’t help but look,” this is said late in the series and perfectly describes the Joe Exotic saga – you see it going downhill and you want to see what happens.

What is the outcome for Joe Exotic?

What happens to Carole?

Is there more I’m not telling you?

I was not really sure why there was a documentary about this guy and wasn’t impressed, initially. However, I could not look away. This is a very captivating series. It is hard to watch at points, but at the end of each episode, I needed to know what was going to happen to this guy; what was he going to do next? Parts of it are very in-depth and the whole series, in my opinion, probably could have been a 90 minute movie – if it was solely about Joe’s murder-for-hire case. There are a lot of strong personalities in this series, which is part of why I found it so interesting. Some of them you could swear are right out of a crazy movie, instead of real life. Heads up to the viewer: there are a few hard to watch parts and some animals being mistreated. Recommended.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Entertainment tonight: Looking for something new to watch?

By Matt Pascarella

If you’ve come pretty close to exhausting your Netflix queue while you are socially distancing yourself, here are a few Netflix suggestions that I deem ‘binge-worthy.’

“Black Mirror”
I realize I’m late to the game on this one, but it’s very good. Each episode stands alone and usually has to do with technology. It tells a story and has a twist at the end. Similar to the “Twilight Zone”. Five seasons.

“Good Girls”
This NBC show is in it’s third season and there are two on Netflix. Three women (Christina Hendricks, Mae Whitman and Retta) decide to rob a bank and then things spiral downward from there. They get in over their heads and need to figure how to get out. The third season is currently streaming on Hulu.

“100 Humans”
This is a fun show where you might learn something, too. Three individuals answer various questions like, ‘can good looks keep you from jail?’ or ‘is praise better than criticism?’ OR ‘is the last name effect real?’ They answer these and other questions showing data to back up their answers.

“The Toys That Made Us”
Remember “He-Man”? “Ninja Turtles”? “My Little Pony”? “Hello Kitty”? Were these toys from your childhood? Maybe some you still have? Or maybe your kids play with now...
Regardless of whether you had these toys, get the stories behind them in this fun three season show. The creators and designers talk about starting the various toy lines, how the public reacted, etc.
Oh, and of course they talk about “Star Wars”.

“LEGO Masters”
Ok, this particular show is on Hulu, but it’s a good one. Various teams, with one eliminated each week, participate in challenges like, designing a city, building a movie genre, designing a bridge to see how much weight it can hold (the winning answer will surprise you) or designing a mad lib from a child’s imagination. It’s just a fun show.

“Better Call Saul”
This one is on Netflix and is a little darker than the previously mentioned. If you liked Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad”, “Better Call Saul” is a great prequel. Find out how shady lawyer Saul Goodman became who he is. I found myself needing to know what is going to happen next, which is perfect, especially if you can watch one after another. Oh, and you might see a character or two from the ‘Breaking Bad’ universe.

"The Office"
Shot documentary style, even if you’ve seen this more than once (or more than twice) this is just good TV. You’ll laugh, you might cry, you’ll enjoy yourself. Watch it before NBC pulls it off Netflix.

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 Olaidé 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.