Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Movie Review: “Ford v. Ferrari”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hours. 32 minutes

Carroll Shelby was an American automotive designer, race car driver, entrepreneur and author. Ken Miles was an English race car driver and engineer. The two worked together to help the Ford Motor Company beat the Ferrari Motor Company in the Le Mans 24-hour sports car race. Prior to 1966, Ford had never beaten Ferrari.

The movie begins with Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) sitting in the doctor’s office where the doctor tells him he has a heart condition and that Shelby is lucky to be sitting there.

The audience is then introduced to Ken Miles (Christian Bale) who is a mechanic and race car driver.
Cut to Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) telling factory workers they’re all fired, except for the man who comes to his office with an idea, an idea that can help Ford beat Ferrari.

A little while later, we meet American executive, Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) who wants the Ford Motor Company to get into racing. “We need to think like Ferrari; his cars mean victory. What if Ford meant victory?” Iacocca asked.

Iacocca proposes a merger between Ford and Ferrari, as well as a Ford/Ferrari race team. This doesn’t go over well with Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone).

Henry Ford II says he only wants the best of the best working on the design for their race car that he insists should be able to beat Ferrari. Iacocca goes to Shelby and asks him what it takes to win Le Mans. Shelby asks Miles to be on his team and help drive and design the car. Miles asks how much time they have to complete this immense task. Ninety days is the answer. Initially Miles wants nothing to do with this project, but his mind is quickly changed.

Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), who is an executive at Ford, doesn’t like Miles and calls him a Beatnik, telling Shelby he needs to “put a Ford-type drive in a Ford car.”

Shelby is called into Ford II’s office and questioned as to why everyone on Shelby makes a very good case and convinces Ford II that Miles has what it takes to win. A deal is made that if Miles wins the Daytona race, he can race at Le Mans. Miles, of course, wins. Now it’s on to Le Mans.

After a rough start at the 24-hour race, Miles finds a groove, though Beebe is still looking for a way to sabotage Miles. Will Ford beat Ferrari?

I liked this movie. It’s got a lot of action and tells an interesting story. It is a little on the longer side, but it keeps a steady pace and the characters and acting kept this viewer engaged. It’s funny in parts, too. Damon and Bale are already known for being good actors and their portrayal of these real-life individuals is no exception. The ending caught me a little off guard, but this is a very good movie. I recommend you see this on the big’s a fun ride!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Movie Review: “The Hustle”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hr., 34 mins.

Josephine Chesterfield (Anne Hathaway) and Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson) are two very different types of con women. One is no nonsense, while the other takes a different approach. They both have the exact same goal: to make themselves rich.

I thought this movie started with funny dialogue right away. We meet Penny as she is in the process of conning a guy in a bar. Part way through, she is outed by the last guy she conned and the police chase after her. She manages to escape in a very clever way.

We meet Josephine in a casino, where a man is trying to con her, but is unsuccessful. Cut to Penny and Josephine on a train and Josephine overhears Penny running a con. Penny confesses to Josephine she is a con woman.

While Josephine is setting up her next con, she quickly realizes Penny has beat her to it and already run her con. Josephine saves Penny from this con, as she may have gotten in a little over her head.

Later, Penny suggests they run cons together, but Josephine insists she works alone. Penny asks for Josephine’s help and she eventually obliges. Soon, the two can effortlessly con one man after another.

After a series of cons, Josephine refuses to pay Penny. Penny decides to no longer work with Josephine.

As the island they are both on isn’t big, the two realize they both can’t have success conning the same people. So, they make a bet: first one to con a guy out of $500,000 is the winner and the other must leave. One week; may the best con win. They pick a Mark Zuckerburg-esque guy (Alex Sharp) who designed a smartphone app that has become very successful.

As the two try to outdo each other there is a cringeworthy moment and a lot of physical comedy. Penny finds out Thomas Westerburg (Sharp) might not be what he seemed and tells Josephine they should find another guy to con. Will they? Who will win the bet?

I enjoyed this movie. I found Hathaway and Wilson good partners-in-crime and very likeable con-women. The movie is funny in parts and a good time. There’s a decent twist at the end that I did not see coming. It’s another movie where you should stay through the credits. I think it is worth renting, just don’t con anyone out of the money to do so.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Movie Review: “Seth Myers: Lobby Baby”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-MA
Running time: 1 hour, 1 minute

You may remember him from “Saturday Night Live”, behind the Weekend Update desk; or, maybe you’re a fan of the “Late Night with Seth Myers”. Myers steps from out behind the desk and takes his jokes to Minneapolis, for his first streaming standup comedy special.

Myers, who appears very relaxed throughout the entire special, begins by addressing the fact that it might be weird to see him not sitting behind a desk. It might be weird to see my legs, he adds.

A majority of the special is about his family; his wife, and living with their two toddlers, but Myers also talks about his parents and shares a story or two growing up with his brother and interactions with their dad. I found some of his humor to be self-deprecating.

He talks about dating his wife and how she got food poisoning the night before they were married, what it’s like to be a parent, and the unusual way one of his children was born. The special’s title, ‘Lobby Baby’ is somewhat of a giveaway.

He briefly talks about religion and, as is his style, spends a bit of time talking about politics. Now this can be an uncomfortable topic for some, and Myers is aware of that, which is why his special features a first ever ‘skip politics’ button which allows the user to skip over that section of the special.

Directed by comedian Neal Brennan (co-creator of Chappelle’s Show), this special offers a look at what the late-night host is like, when the cameras are off and he doesn’t have his desk.

As a comedy fan, I watched Meyers from his “Saturday Night Live” days and occasionally watch his late-night show. He is funny and so are parts of his special, but my eyes weren’t watering from laughing. However, Myers is an excellent storyteller. I found his personal stories engaging and he has a way of telling them that keeps you interested. While I didn’t find this special to be a gut-buster, I would recommend it. I give it a Netflix thumbs up.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Book Review: “Rabbits for Food” by Binnie Kirshenbaum

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor of the Windham Public Library

If you liked “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews, “Rabbits for Food” might also be for you. While not as sweet or tender as “All My Puny Sorrows”, Kirsenbaum’s book, which like Toews’s tackles mental illness, is funny and heartbreaking all at once.

Bunny, once a novelist, now a woman on the verge of a breakdown, and later a woman institutionalized for that breakdown, is pointed, sardonic, and heartbroken.

Even though she hasn’t washed, dressed, or moved from the couch in weeks, Bunny insists on attending a New Year’s Eve party with her dedicated, sweet, and imperfect husband, Albie. The party is pretentious and obnoxious, and Bunny tries to keep it together but fails. She has a breakdown.

She’s institutionalized. Through her, we meet the other patients (the addicted nurse, the anorexic who starts pulling out her hair, the man who wears his underwear on the outside), the rules (what is allowed and not allowed), the group activities, the awful food. In the absence of the therapy dog, Bunny participates in creative writing and through her loosely interpreted “assignments” we learn about what brought her to this sad place in her life.

This book shifts in time and perspective which is, I think, intentionally disorienting. The feel of the book mimics the strange disassociation that can often mark a depressive episode. This is an emotionally powerful book—I laughed, I cried. I felt truly heartbroken for each of the characters and I rooted for Bunny to be okay. Which (spoiler alert), she kind of is.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Movie Review: “The Laundromat”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

Based on the book, ‘Secrecy World’ by Jake Bernstein, ‘The Laundromat’ is the story of Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) and her husband, Joe (James Cromwell), who are involved in a tour boat sinking, and Joe dies. Martin realizes the insurance company is taking advantage of her and she wants to get to the bottom of it.

At the movie’s start, a man is describing how his life changed overnight for him and his associate. He feels only one side of the story was told. Now it is his turn to tell his side. We later learn this is Jurgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and his associate is Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas); the movie circles around the dealings of these two. Mossack describes the origins of money and how it has evolved.

We then meet Ellen Martin after her husband has died. The captain (Robert Patrick) is being told that the insurance company won’t pay and/or doesn’t exist. Once Martin finds out she is being taken advantage of she goes on a tour to try and track down the individuals responsible for this fraud. What follows are accounts of all the shady companies and individuals associated with Mossack and Fonseca as they try to explain away why that what they’ve been doing is okay.

This is a biographical movie that was based on a book about the Panama Papers about the leaked financial documents regarding thousands of offshore entities. First, the stuff I liked about the movie: It is mildly funny in spots and has several cameos from some very funny people, and a well-known actor from a popular 1990s sitcom. There is a moment or two that caught me off guard and the end was a surprise, although I had trouble putting it all together in my head.

Now the stuff that confused me or I didn’t like: when I watched the trailer, I thought this was going to be a bit of a revenge story. It is – kind of, however is badly laid out and slow in several areas. I was under the impression this movie centered around Ellen Martin, but it is all over the place for large chunks, characters come and go and come and go and it wasn’t made clear (or maybe it was and I missed it) how they were involved.

The movie does make an important point at the end, but it takes a very long time to get there and there is a lot of confusion in between the problem that is pointed out in the beginning and the final solution at the end. Though it has a decent cast, I cannot say I would recommend this movie. I give it two puzzled face emojis.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Zombieland: Double Tap”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 33 mins.

Way, way back in 2009, we were introduced to four characters in a post-apocalyptic world. They were running from (what else), zombies, and choose to identify themselves by where they were from. The first ‘Zombieland’ is very funny and worth watching, but all you really need to know to watch the second film is that Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) are still alive ten years later. This movie is called Double Tap, because that is one of the many rules explained throughout both movies.

‘Zombieland: Double Tap’ is funny from the moment you see the image for Columbia Pictures. It begins with Columbus identifying a few types of zombies they’ve discovered through the years.
The group is currently living in the White House and it is described that they were a family making everyday feel like Christmas. Little Rock, the youngest in the group, expresses that she would like to leave and look for people her own age. Wichita and Little Rock leave Columbus and Tallahassee.

Very soon after, Columbus meets Madison (Zoey Deutch) who has been living in a refrigerator at a mall. A little while later, Wichita returns and tells the others Little Rock met a boy, Berkley (Avan Jogia), and they took off together. Madison, Wichita, Columbus and Tallahassee all go looking for Little Rock.

They head to Graceland, because they had all talked of going there, but when the four get there, it’s not as they expected. In a nearby motel (Elvis-themed, of course) Tallahassee meets Nevada (Rosario Dawson).

Meanwhile, Little Rock and Berkley have gone to the pacifist, gun-free, setting of Babylon.
The group meets Albuquerque (Luke Wilson) and Flagstaff (Thomas Middleditch), and what follows is nothing short of mayhem.

Everyone eventually finds Babylon and Little Rock – and after they do - Tallahassee decides to separate from the group, but quickly changes his mind when he sees a hoard of zombies coming for Babylon. Can the group get rid of these zombies before they reach Babylon? Will there be any casualties?

With an all-star cast, Zombieland: Double Tap is fun from start to finish. It reminded me of a much funnier version of the TV show, “The Walking Dead.” They both have a similar premise and similar scenery. This movie is very violent and gruesome, with a lot of blood and some salty language. 

Harrelson and Deutch are great. With clever lines like ‘the King [Elvis] is dead...probably’ along with a surprise here and there, this is the perfect zom-com pre or post Halloween. I give it two zombie limbs, of your choice, up.

Oh, and don’t leave right after the movie; stay for the credits – you won’t regret it!

Friday, October 18, 2019

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

By Matt Pascarella

Not Rated
Run time: 2 hours and 2 mins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 11, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “In the Tall Grass”

By Matt Pascarella

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Haunt”

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 32 min
Rated R

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 27, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Between Two Ferns: The Movie”

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 22 minutes
Rated: TV-MA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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