Friday, June 15, 2018

Movie Review: “Solo: A Star Wars Story” Reviewed by Buford Picklefeather

Riding out the gentle waters left behind from the wave of the most divisive “Star Wars” movie ever
made – “The Last Jedi”  the latest anthology film, “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, was entrusted with healing the wounds of die-hard and casual fans alike. This challenge seemed all the more unattainable when “Solo’s” directors, best known for their box office smash hit, “The Lego Movie,”  left production of this film due to their creative differences. Longtime fans became all the more skeptical when word came back that actor Alden Ehrenreich, bestowed with the “Solo” moniker, was receiving on-set acting lessons; and that rather than being released in mid-December, as its post Disney predecessors, it would be receiving the traditional Lucas-era May 25th release date.

However, there was one small grain of hope that this film may be worthwhile: Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan was the writer responsible for “The Empire Strikes Back” and the original “Indiana Jones” film and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” He answered the writing call from then producer George Lucas in 2012.

The finished product, directed by Ron Howard, took the proper cues set in place from Kasdan and J.J. Abrams efforts in force awakens, and flourished with them. The art direction felt real, specific and inspired, with no divide between the original trilogy and the present. The characters all felt as though they had a back story and a purpose for being who they were and being where they were at that time; while setting themselves up for the consequences of their actions in later films.

There was a perfect balance of whole heartedly invited humor, conviction and action with astonishing performances from Donald Glover taking the reins from Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian and Woody Harrelson as “Solo’s” mentor. Like “Rogue One,” Solo makes for the perfect idealized prequel to the original trilogy. Despite “Solo” currently making less domestically than anticipated, the combination of every facet of the creativity working seamlessly together will contribute to the longevity of the film beyond its theatrical release and leaving its mark in what is now the vast Star Wars Universe.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Book Review: “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” Reviewed by Briana Bizier

Parenthood is an emotional roller coaster; especially with very young children. The high moments
when you feel like your heart is bursting with love compared with trying low moments when you feel like your home has been taken over by a monster - Or a dinosaur.

Jane Yolan and Mark Teague’s (illustrator) whimsical children’s book, How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” captures the high emotions of parenthood in clever, colorful illustrations; while also providing a good-natured message or reassurance to adults and children alike.

Younger readers will enjoy the colorful illustrations of actual dinosaurs, including species like Tsintaosaurus and Nothosaurus, as they alternately wreak havoc in the human world and warm their parents’ hearts with spontaneous loving gestures.

Those same parents, meanwhile, delight in the bewildered expressions of the illustrated human caretakers as they watch their wild dinosaur children run screaming across the playground or throw spaghetti into the air during a dinner disaster. Because, while two-year-olds are objectively small and adorable, trying to get one to cross a parking lot can feel like you’re dragging a Triceratops; and driving with a child in tantrum-mode is just like being stuck in a sedan with a Pachycephalosaurus.

It’s rare to find a children’s book whose language and illustrations stand up to repeated viewings by parents and kids alike. Yet “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” is one of those rare and wonderful picture books that can be enjoyed over and over. Small children will be reassured that, yes, parents love their little dinosaurs no matter what. And parents will be similarly cheered by the gentle reminder that the many challenges of raising children are universal.

Even for dinosaurs.

You can find a copy of “How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?” in the children’s section of the Raymond Village Library.

Briana Bizier is a member of the Raymond Village Library Board of Trustees

Friday, June 1, 2018

Movie Review: “Book Club” by Lorraine Glowczak

1 hour 44 minutes

Taking time out on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I went to the theater to watch the “Book Club”. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film ever since I knew it was going to be in theaters. I was a little apprehensive that it would fail all my expectations and the big-screen celebrities that came together would drop the ball on great acting and the whole thing would fall flat. That was not the case at all. I was pleasantly and delightfully surprised at the real and comedic approach this film took to highlight the realities that come with certain expectations while aging in today’s society. 

“Book Club” stars Jane Fonda as Vivian who has never been married and is a successful luxury hotel owner. It also stars Diane Keaton as Diane. The word is – this role was written specifically for Keaton, so they kept her name. She is a recent widow after 40 years of marriage and her two grown, married and over-protective daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton) treat her as if she is already on “her way out.”  

Candice Bergen stars as Sharon, a federal judge who has focused on her career and has not been in a relationship since her divorce 18 years ago (unless you count her relationship with her cat). Mary Steenburgen stars as Carol and she is the only one of the four friends who has remained married. She is a successful chef whose relationship with her husband (Craig T. Nelson) needs a little spark and pick-me up.

In the film, the four long-time friends and book club members do not discuss the literary likes of “Moby Dick” by Hermann Melville (although Diane will lead one to think so), but instead they ooh and ah over the “Fifty Shades of Grey” series by E. L. James. Believe it or not, this book series is the catalyst of self-reflection and living their lives fully.

In each storyline, the women experience varying degrees of fun with matters of sisterhood, joy, hope – and yes, sex (subtle and often only referenced in the film). If diversity in race, social and financial status is what you are looking for in a movie, “Book Club” will fail to offer you that. It only contains one demographic of successful, white, heterosexual and wealthy women.

Due to the occasional strong language, a few references to sex (with one questionable - although funny - scene) and a lot of wine consumption, this film may not be a family go-to. However, I suspect it will be enjoyed by both men and women 40 and over since this is the age that one begins to think about their own mortality. Women 20 to 39 years old may enjoy it as well, since the film carries strong messages about female friendships and healthy relationships.

Without a doubt, this film is a must see for those who need a laugh; and it helps us all to not take the aging process too seriously.

Friday, May 25, 2018

"Deadpool 2". A movie review by Niels Mank

So, we all know Marvel produces amazing movies like “Thor”, “Avengers”, “Iron Man”, “Hulk” and so on and so on. These are all movies that you would take your family to see and the kids would cheer and laugh, wishing they were these amazing superheroes.

Let me be the first to warn you, “Deadpool 2” is not a family movie! Take it from me, I tried to take my teenage daughter to “Deadpool 1” and quickly changed theaters.  PARENT ALERT! This movie has extreme language, violence and sexual innuendos.  It is no place for kids!

Now that the family warnings are over, here is a little hint of what you will see if you are of age.  The who is a burn victim with a bad attitude. He tells the worst jokes whose superpower is superfast healing, which makes him indestructible. 
movie is a continuation of “Deadpool 1” with the main character Wade Wilson aka Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)

Deadpool, besides having the worst potty mouth in history is your average superhero, NOT!  Not only is Deadpool a lone wolf but his moral compass does not point north.  This movie shows him killing people by very graphic means.

This film is not without its comedy though. If you can get past the blood, drugs, sexual innuendos, violence and language in every sentence you will find that there are a lot of pop culture refences throughout the movie. The movie also has a lot of message hidden within it. The story does promote teamwork, collaboration, love and empathy. 

The adults in the room will also see that people, particularly kids, can change throughout life by how they are affected by others and their environment.

“Deadpool 2” is one of those movies that you find yourself laughing hysterically, but at the end of the movie the message really hits you on how you treat others affects their life choices. The main message of the movie is to treat people with kindness because you do not know how they will personally be affected.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Book Review: “Here if You Need Me”. Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree

Kate Braestrup’s memoir, “Here if You Need Me”, is beautiful and tender, funny and sad, sweet but not cloying. Kate’s husband was a Maine State Trooper who was killed in a car accident when their youngest child was just 10. Widowed with four children, Braestrup decides to carry on with her husband’s dream of becoming a Unitarian minister. Once ordained, she begins working as the Chaplain of the Maine Warden Service, something she knows almost nothing about until she becomes their Reverend.

The book opens with the story of a six-year-old girl lost in the woods. The reader stands with Braestrup as she stands with the terrified parents, waiting, cold and afraid. When the parents tell her they don’t believe in God, Kate reassures them that she’s merely there to wait with them. There’s something tremendously tender in that waiting.

The rest of the book unfurls like a sheaf of papers, one story after the other, loosely connected, not in any strict order. And yet, because of Braestrup’s easy and confident tone, I felt secure in the journey on which she was leading me.

This is not merely a sad story. At times, Braestrup is hilariously self-deprecating. She’s funny and sweet about her kids. She has excellent timing with jokes, anecdotes, and quips surrounding her beloved game wardens. But, she’s also generous with her life observations, her biblical interpretations, and her patient belief in the human spirit.

This is a story about faith - what it means to have faith and be faithful. Braestrup’s version of religion lies more in the goodness of people than in any divine being (although she clearly acknowledges and believes in a higher being). This is a story about grief, and the capacity for the human heart to go on. It’s an acknowledgement of the frailty of life, and the risk we take by engaging in it. Braestrup writes with such humanity that readers will be hard-pressed to leave this book without feeling something like hope. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Movie Review : “Avengers: Infinity War”. Reviewed by Daniel Kilgallon

Runtime: 149 mins

It has been ten years since “Iron Man” hit theaters and now the Marvel Cinematic Universe has released their nineteenth installment and most massive project to date, “Infinity War.” Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War”) this modern epic boasts a giant cast featuring just about every hero from the franchise thus far. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana are just a snapshot of A-listers that come together here in what is undeniably one of the most anticipated films ever made.

As explained during earlier Marvel chapters, the mighty, purple titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) has been working to acquire and complete the “Infinity Gauntlet,” a golden glove designed to harness the power of the six Infinity Stones. Each stone represents and wields an essential component of life (mind, time, power, space, reality, and soul). When brought together with the gauntlet, the wearer can essentially do anything they want by controlling all elements of the known universe. Now it is up to the Avengers and some new allies to band together and prevent Thanos from completing his devastating mission.

To no surprise, the sheer entertainment factor of this monumental movie is well worth the ticket price alone; I simply expected nothing less from Marvel this time around. “Infinity War” brilliantly paces unbelievable battle sequences that feel strikingly realistic, while incorporating their signature humor to humanize the larger story. This is something audiences have become accustomed to over the years as the studio continuously cements box office dominance. That being said, there are more moving pieces than ever before in this intense plot and the Russo brothers truly deserve a whole lot of credit for pulling off such a complicated balancing act. Simply put, seemingly every hero involved gets their fair chance to shine, yet that still isn’t what impressed me most about the film.

What sets “Infinity War” apart from just about any other superhero movie is the incredible intrigue of its menacing villain, Thanos and the haunting explanations of his character’s motivations. By understanding his perspective so thoroughly, with plenty of meaningful screen time, Marvel has delivered the most legitimate threat of this giant story and the strongest form of conflict yet. The end result is an epic piece of visual entertainment with an emotionally powerful story to match. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on “Infinity War,” this is a surefire instant classic that I have no problem praising as one of, if not the greatest comic book film of all time.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Movie Review: "I Feel Pretty" by Lorraine Glowczak

Rated PG-13 
1 hour 50 minutes
Feeling the need for a bit of comedic relief, I spent a rainy Sunday afternoon in the theater this past
weekend watching the latest film starring Amy Schumer in “I Feel Pretty”.

Directed and written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein of the “He’s Just Not That Into You” fame, the movie features Schumer as Renee Bennet as well as Rory Scovel as Ethan (her love interest) and Michelle Williams as Avery LeClaire (her boss at a cosmetic company).

“I Feel Pretty” is the story of Renee, who struggles with insecurity over her appearance. She works in a basement office managing a website for an upscale cosmetic company (LeClaire). She declines to apply for a receptionist position for that company after reading the job description's emphasis on being the beautiful "face" of LeClaire. 

One night, she makes a wish to be beautiful. The next day, while she is exercising in her evening spin-class, she experiences a humiliating accident where she falls off the stationery bike. The fall causes a major “head-knock” on the floor, and as a result, Renee suddenly believes that she’s been upgraded to a flawless super-beauty. 

The only thing that’s changed is how she sees herself. No physical change has taken place. Her new viewpoint puzzles others as she begins acting like a world-class diva, mistaking construction-workers’ whistles and fun banter with complete strangers as proof of just how “hot” she has become.
When I watched the previews of this movie, I remembered the 1999 comedy, “Shallow Hal” (staring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black). I enjoyed that film and laughed through a majority of the lighthearted but spot-on-way we, as a society, view the beauty of women. I wondered if this comedy would mimic the “Shallow Hal” slant in some way.

It did. The difference was that in “Shallow Hal,” the changed perception was in the man’s view of a woman’s beauty. This film presented it from the woman’s point of view. 

However, I must admit that I didn’t find this movie quite as funny as “Shallow Hal.” However, it must be noted that in 1999, I was almost 20 years younger than I am now. That may have an impact on what I find funny in the present moment when it comes to the true beauty of women.
I found the movie both irritating and amusing. Irritating because we haven’t progressed much in terms of what we identify as women’s beauty. Amusing because we are still human – and are really messy about how we go about living life. The movie does a great job reflecting that.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie Review by Gayle Plummer

1hr. 39 min.

For any who enjoy old movies, this one is right up there with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  In fact three of the lead characters from this one were in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starting with Lionel Barrymore who played mean old Mr. Potter.  In this one he’s old endearing Gramps. Beaulah Bondi who plays Granny in “On Borrowed Time” was Jimmy Stewart’s mother in “It’s a Wonderful Life”; and Henry Traners who plays Dr. Evan in this one, was the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As you may guess, Lionel Barrymore was related to Drew Barrymore.  He was her great-uncle.

Welcome to the cozy, little home of Gramps and Granny and their grandson Pud. We venture along with them in their ordinary, lazy days of the time period and we are witness to the extremely close relationship Pud has with his grandfather. Pud was played by Bobs Watson, a child actor who was well known for his ability to cry on cue and be extremely convincing about whatever pain he was portraying at the moment. I can attest to this; his performance is beyond convincing. (Yes it is “Bobs” not “Bob.” Mr. Watson reportedly was always able to cry real tears at any given moment, from a very young age in real life.)

The premise of this comfortable old movie is that feisty old Gramps has devised a way to stop Death, who is referred to as Mr. Brink. The movie takes a nice, easy stroll before all the bizarre pieces fall into place. Before all erupts, we are treated to a relaxed, warm, fuzzy experience. And once this plot begins to thicken, you’ll find it is very well written, quite deep and rather intriguing. 

Poor old Gramps has to endure medical scrutiny to determine if he’s sane or not - once word gets out that he believes he has Death trapped. He uses drastic measures to prove he’s not insane. Gramps is deliriously happy to think that Death has been stopped dead in his tracks (excuse the pun). However, it’s about here that things get a little abstract. Gramps is carrying on conversations with Mr. Brink (Death); this does not help his cause at all. Then to prove he has trapped Death, he has to shoot someone and all the while, poor Pud is fretting about being taken away from Gramps. 

All this is unfolding while the doctor, an evil relative and Granny are all trying to figure out if this sweet, wise old man is truly cheating Death. However, amazingly enough, Gramps has indeed stopped Mr. Brink from having any power. Mr. Brink no longer can escort people off this planet at their appointed time. 

But now the hard questions begin, both for Gramps and the viewing audience.

This seemingly simple plot carries some extremely complex issues within it. Not only does Gramps have to prove he’s sane to keep his grandson out of the clutches of a money-grubbing relative; but there’s the whole Death issue to figure out. The question of all mankind, since the beginning of time is wrestled with here and we are completely entertained while it’s all being worked out.  

There are several plots going on here at once and while we are taken along for this ride back in time, these characters let us know that we are not alone in our search for a meaningful life – and death.  
Obviously, these old movies lack the razzle-dazzle of today’s special effects movies and their fast moving plots and dialogue. However, when we need to unplug from today’s lightning speed of everything; this one will refresh and recharge our batteries. Rent it or see it on Netflix.