Friday, August 16, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark”

By Matt Pascarella

1 hour 51 minutes

The town of Little Mill Valley is celebrating Halloween. Horror enthusiast, Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti) is being pestered by her friends, Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur) to come out with them. She agrees and the three set out to prank the school bullies. Although their prank is fairly tame, it causes the bullies to crash their car. Stella, Auggie and Chuck are running to save themselves and meet Ramon (Michael Garza), who lets them hide in his car.

The four then break into Sarah Bellows house, a house haunted as it is said Bellows did some unspeakable acts many, many years ago. Stella comes across Sarah Bellows’ book of scary stories and it is rumored that if you say, “Sarah Bellows, tell me a story,” she will. Stella says just that and finds out the rumor is true. What follows are four stories from Sarah’s book that wreak havoc on the town.

Story one is about Harold the scarecrow and how one of the bullies, Tommy (Austin Abrams) dislikes this particular scarecrow. I won’t spoil the ending, but let’s say Harold isn’t fond of Tommy, either.
Stella decides to return the book to Sarah Bellows’ house, but the book finds its way back to Stella’s home; leading into story two.

Auggie is looking for dinner while his parents are away. He finds a stew in the fridge and begins to eat it; he discovers an unpleasant surprise and is soon being chased. Later, Stella claims, “you don’t read the book, the book reads you.”

The group researches Sarah Bellows and learns more about her tragic past.

Story three; The Red Spot: Ruth (Natalie Ganzhorn) has a pimple on the night of a school play. When she goes to the bathroom to take care of it, it has grown – she also gets a surprise.

The group goes to a psychiatric hospital to locate Bellows’ medical records which lead into story four; The Dream: Chuck has a recurring dream where he is trapped down a corridor with white walls. A monster-ish creature appears at every corner until the two eventually meet.

Can Stella save herself and her friends from Sarah Bellows before it’s too late?

This movie is based on the trilogy book series released from 1981-1991, which were popular when I was in elementary school. I don’t recall the stories themselves being particularly unsettling but the artwork of Stephen Gammell, left an uneasiness in your memory that stuck with you.

While this movie does take stories from all three books, it did not leave me with the same unsettling feeling of Gammell’s illustrations. However, this movie has several scenes that make you jump, a few twists and turns and creepy, ominous moments that add nicely to the storyline. I did enjoy “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and would recommend it if you want to get a jump start on your scary movie watching before Halloween.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”

By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 2 hours and 16 minutes

After I watched “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”, I did my research, and asked around to see what other people thought of the movie and what they would have liked to see more of.  Don’t get me wrong, although this film, directed by David Leitch, was an overall astounding movie, there was something that had fans leave the “Fast and Furious” series disappointed by the end of the movie.

When I asked, “What is the first thing in your head when I say the words ‘Fast and Furious’?”, some of the most common responses were cars, family, action, thriller, speed, humor, and rivalries.

Something that I always looked forward to in these movies was the cars. There has some been some disappointment that there was very limited car/action in the movie. There was a little bit of trying to show favorite scenes from past “Fast and the Furious” movies but even that wasn't what the viewers and past fans were expecting.

However, the major subject that came up when talking with others about this film, was family. If you are a fan of the movies, you know how important family is to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). They did an amazing job incorporating family scenes into the movie - from Decker “Shaw” (Jason Statham) with his mother Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren) in jail while he does his best to do anything he can for her. And that doesn’t include all that he does for his sister, Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), who is the “villain” to the world. He is tries his best to get her out of all sorts of  trouble.

And, it doesn't stop there, there is also Luke “Hobbs” with his family. His daughter, Samantha Hobbs (Eden Estrella), who we have seen repeatedly since “Furious 7”, along with his Hawaiian family he had left years before, creates a connection between viewer and the movie itself.

As far as the rest of the movie goes, there is the action we all expect. In fact, there were times I was on the edge of my seat.

As far as humor goes, this film was one of the most hilarious movies with the “Fast and Furious” theme. And when it comes to rivalries, the oldest one in the books is Hobbs and Shaw who first faced off in 2015 in “Furious 7”.

Overall if you haven't seen “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”, I would highly recommend it, as it is a family oriented movie filled with a bit of comedy.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “The Lion King”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Run Time: 1 hour and 58 minutes

It began just as the original I’d seen as a child. The sun rises over Pride Rock as a variety of animals gather to see the presentation of Simba, the next in line to be king. The 2019 remake of Disney’s “The Lion King” is a live action retelling of the classic movie. Heads up: this review does contain a spoiler or two.

As soon as I saw the baboon Rafiki (John Kani) lift young Simba (JD McCrary) to show the animals
the future king, I definitely felt nostalgic. Zazu (John Oliver), the messenger toucan, addresses Mufasa’s brother Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Scar is about to eat Zazu and Mufasa (James Earl Jones, reprising his role from the original) interferes. It is apparent from the moment you meet Scar that he is jealous of Simba and wants to be king – and will do what it takes to make that happen.

Mufasa takes Simba on a walk around Pride Rock and explains to Simba, “everything the light touches is our kingdom.” Mufusa goes on to add that someday Simba will be king and that he must respect all creatures, as they are connected in the circle of life.

Mufasa warns Simba to stay away from the elephant graveyard and when Simba runs into Scar later in the film, Scar reiterates this point, only to ensure that Simba goes there.

Simba goes to the elephant graveyard with his best friend Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and is surrounded by hyenas. Just as the hyenas are about to pounce, Mufasa steps in and saves them both.
This next part is a bit of spoiler, so if you’ve never seen “The Lion King” before and don’t want to know, skip to the next paragraph. Scar encourages Simba to work on his roar in a giant gorge, that attracts hyenas and antelope. They begin chasing Simba. Scar alerts Mufasa of Simba’s danger and Mufasa does all he can to save Simba. At one point, Mufasa leaps from the herd and claws his way up the gorge where he pleads with Scar to help him up; only to have Scar throw him to the herd. Simba survives.

Scar blames Simba for what happened and tells him to run away and never return. Scar returns to Pride Rock and tells the others what has happened. Scar is now king.

Simba runs into a Warthog, Pumbaa (Seth Rogen) and a meerkat, Timon (Billy Eichner) and we see Simba grow up (adult Simba voiced by Donald Glover). 

Scar has destroyed Pride Rock and it is now a wasteland, patrolled by hyenas where Simba’s mother Sarabi (Alfre Woodward) and others live in fear and want Scar gone.

We meet adult Nala (Beyonce Knowles-Carter) who runs into Simba, while chasing Timon and Pumba. Nala tells Simba how bad things are at home and that he needs to challenge Scar.
Can Simba stop Scar?

I was skeptical going into this remake of the classic cartoon, but I must admit this was a homerun; a very enjoyable movie I’d recommend seeing on the big screen. It’s funny and emotional and features new versions of the original songs like ‘Circle of Life,’ ‘Hakunata Matata,’ and ‘I Just Can’t Wait to be King’. The CGI was very good and all in all, I consider this a solid remake for a new generation.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Spider Man: Far from Home”

Reviewed by Kaila Mank

Rated: PG- 13
Run time: 2 hours and 9 minutes

For those of us who love the Marvel series, viewers seemed to take a hard turn after the ending of “Avengers: Endgame”. However, after hearing the news about the newly released “Spider-Man: Far From Home” movie, people seemed to be excited but curious how director, Jon Watts, was going to follow the 2.783 billion dollar box office movie of “Avengers: Endgame” that was directed by Joe Russo.

Now Peter Parker (Tom Holland) has made many appearances in previous Marvel movies but is most known for his appearance in the previous Endgame movie, and the first movie in his series “Spiderman: Homecoming”.

In this new movie, our “friendly” neighborhood superhero decided to take a little vacation with his friends, Ned (Jacob Batalon), MJ (Zendaya), and the rest of the gang to Europe. Although this little trip gets interrupted when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) needs Spider Man’s help to uncover the mysterious element creature attacks, creating destruction across the continents. However, when Peter refuses to help Nick because he longs to be a normal kid for a couple weeks, Nick throws a wrench in Peter's plan by “upgrading” his class trip to all the places Nick needs Spider Man to help.

So, when Peter finally does accept the offer to help Nick, he needs to do it on the downlow, so his classmates don't find out. While still trying to impress MJ, Peter meets a new friend, Mysterio (Jake Gyenhaal), who pretends to help Peter defeat these creatures while also helping Peter with his girl problems.

Imagine the shock that comes to Peter when he finds out he passed on the one thing Tony Stark left behind for him to someone who was trying to create chaos among the continents. Although, as you might think, Spider Man would win in the end even though Mysterio put up a fight. However, in this case, the world was turned against Spiderman after some fake footage was released to the world - leaving it wide open for another movie.

If you haven't seen “Spider Man: Far from Home” yet, I would highly recommend taking a trip to your local theater to watch the latest Spider Man adventure film. It is an excellent addition to not just the Marvel series but also the Spider-Man series, too.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Crawl”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1h 27min

A category 5 hurricane hits Florida hard. Mass evacuations, almost all roads closed, rain and high winds creating a path of destruction, people told to get out of their homes and stay out. However, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) has been calling her dad and not heard back from him. She decides to go, amidst the warnings to do the opposite, and see if he is ok.

The movie opens with Haley at a swim practice. Afterwards, she talks to her sister who is concerned about their father, Dave (Barry Pepper). Haley says she will go check on him.

On her way, she is stopped and told to turn around as the roads are too dangerous and conditions too severe. She ignores the warnings and goes to find her dad. She travels first to his condo and then to the house she grew up in and, after seeing blood marks on a pipe in the basement, finds her dad unconscious in the basement and badly hurt.

As she begins to move him, an alligator bursts through the wall and slowly walks toward her. This is one of several unexpected events that happen throughout the movie. She is able to get herself and her dad to safety. Haley leaves her father to go retrieve her phone so she can call 9-1-1. She is quickly found by the alligator who clamps down on her leg and drags her. She fights it off but realizes there are two alligators. She now has a huge gash in her leg.

As the basement is filling up with water fast, Haley spots some looters who are robbing a nearby gas station. She tries to signal for their help, but before she is able to get their attention, alligators kill the looters. The same thing happens to the police when they arrive at Haley’s home.

Haley is able to save her father from the alligator attacks and tells him, “I should have never come back here.” Her dad tells her, “We do not give up.”

In looking for a way out, she finds a group of alligator eggs that have hatched, and some that haven’t. An alligator bites her arm, but she escapes.

Can Haley and her dad escape and get to safety? Or will only one of them survive? Can they protect themselves from the multitude of alligators swimming below?

I can say with almost no shame, that I am a fan of the “Sharknado” movies. So, when I saw a disaster movie about alligators, I figured it was worth a trip to the theater. And I was right. This movie is fast paced, and action packed. There are several moments that really catch you off guard, or make you jump – I love that. Watching Haley and Dave try to escape definitely gets your heart pumping. This movie even has an emotional moment or two thrown in. I won’t go so far as to say this is up to the high quality and cinematic excellence of a “Sharknado” movie, but it’s a solid thriller and a fun ride. I would recommend it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Movie Review: “Midsommar”

By Emily Maier

Rated: R
Runtime: 147 mins

In the wake of a family tragedy, Dani decides to join her boyfriend, Christian, on a month-long trip to Sweden in an attempt to forget her own trauma and to keep their crumbling relationship intact. Their mutual friend, Pelle, comes from a small, pagan commune that invites them to join their midsummer celebrations. However, something doesn’t seem right about the community, and Dani’s group struggles to chalk everything up to cultural differences, especially when things turn bloody.

“Midsommar” is Ari Aster’s second feature-length film, debuting a year after his first movie, “Hereditary.” Because “Hereditary” was my favorite movie of 2018, I was beyond excited to see what Aster would produce next. From the looks of “Midsommar,” the director is sticking to what he does best: capturing painfully human emotions.

The entire cast does a great job, but Florence Pugh (Dani) definitely steals the show. I was impressed with every scene, whether she was meekly trying to appease her boyfriend, gleefully dancing, or uttering gut-wrenching sobs. One of my favorite things about Aster’s films is that he’s not afraid to let his actor’s get ugly – in fact, he seems to encourage them to contort their faces to show intense, visceral emotions. Another notable cast member was Will Poulter, playing one of Christian’s friends (Mark), who brought a surprising amount of humor to a very dark movie.

As with “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” is a commentary on grief. The film begins with events grounded in reality, but gradually becomes more surreal as the plot progresses. The bizarre, cult-related events allow the story to symbolically discuss the real-world problems presented in the first half. At its core, Aster calls “Midsommar” a breakup movie. Though it might not be immediately apparent, the film follows a pattern of conflict, misery, anger, and – ultimately – a strange sense of release. This emotional journey, combined with the nightmarish cult practices, culminates in a truly unhinged experience.

The dark content starkly contrasts with the bright, beautiful cinematography. Traditionally, daytime is a “safe” time in horror movies, so keeping most of the horror in the sunlight added a sense of eeriness to the film. Much like “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” doesn’t rely on traditional jump scares for its horror, instead using disturbing visuals and implications. While not traditionally scary, “Midsommar” still had to fight for an R rating instead of NC17 due to “disturbing ritualistic violence, grisly images, and strong sexual content,” so consider yourself warned.

Despite the similarities, “Midsommar” didn’t captivate me the same way “Hereditary” did. Though I was invested in the story, certain elements only felt included for shock value and others felt completely unrelated to the plot. It’s possible the symbolism of some scenes went over my head or the unknown is meant to scare the audience, but either way, “Midsommar” was definitely not as straightforward as its predecessor. I also felt “Midsommar” was a little too long, coming in at two and a half hours.

That being said, I did enjoy the movie. Aster pours a palpable amount of care into his work, which makes each story unique, passionate, and thoughtful. I love his films because they haunt you; they keep you thinking about hidden details and meanings long after you’ve left the theater. While I’d love to wholeheartedly recommend this movie, I know it won’t be for everyone. If you don’t mind heavy symbolism and graphic imagery, definitely check out “Midsommar” this summer. You’d be supporting a bold piece of work from a budding director.

Book Review of “History of Wolves” by Emily Fridlund

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulations Supervisor at the Windham Public Library

“History of Wolves”, a novel by Emily Fridlund, is a dark, suspenseful coming-of-age novel. Fifteen-year-old Madeline, who introduces herself as Linda, lives on an abandoned commune in the Minnesota woods with people who might be her parents or who might just be the people who stayed when everyone else left. She is strange, self-sufficient, defiant, inquisitive.

Linda’s story begins with the arrival of a new history teacher, Mr. Grierson, who Linda tries awkwardly to seduce. With all the feelings of unrequited lust and not-belonging, Linda meets the new people across the lake: young mother Patra and her four-year-old son Paul.

The storyline of Mr. Grierson and the beautiful Lily (another student) will play out in fragments alongside the bigger story of Paul’s death. We learn very early on that Paul has died, but Fridlund takes her time revealing how and why. We see Linda become immersed in this life with Patra and Paul, with their snacks and walks in the woods and bedtime rituals.

In the deep Minnesota woods, it feels like a fairytale. And then Patra’s strange scientist husband shows up and like with every fairytale witch, that’s when the story begins to unravel. The reader starts to put clues together before Linda does, but eventually she gets it. It is what she does and doesn’t do that haunts her well into her adult life.

The two plots converge on a few central questions: How much do you have to know to be culpable? What is justice? Is a lie of omission the same as a lie? Who gets to decide who is forgiven and when?
I like novels that don’t wrap up with neat answers, and so I appreciated that the adult Linda we meet is still wrestling with all the questions that summer brought forth.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Lettermen”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-MA
2 Seasons, 11 episodes

David Letterman has returned, (kind of) and this time things are a little different. This isn’t any version of his Late Show. “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” is a Netflix show where Letterman interviews fascinating people; all whom you’ve probably heard of, but maybe not.
The first season of the show featured Barack Obama, George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z, Tina Fey and Howard Stern. The recently released new season features interviews with Kanye West, Ellen DeGeneres, Tiffany Haddish, Lewis Hamilton and Melinda Gates.

The set is different, simplistic; no band, two chairs and that’s pretty much it. In these interviews, Letterman sits down and has sometimes eye-opening discussions with well-known individuals. Letterman usually focuses the conversation on their career, but the discussion can get in-depth and personal.

Comedian Tiffany Haddish spoke of growing up in the foster care system. Letterman discusses Formula One car racing with Lewis Hamilton, how he got involved and what that entailed for him and his family. President Obama spoke of life after the presidency. The viewer learns that Tina Fey’s first name is actually Elizabeth and her dad was a veteran who studied journalism. Howard Stern spoke of his rough childhood.

Letterman has done his research and, similar to his late-night show, you learn new things about someone you may have thought you knew. Unlike his talk show, Letterman spends roughly an hour with these guests, and you don’t just learn one or two things about them, you learn quite a bit. And the interviews are engaging, with bits of humor. In between the interview segments, you see Letterman learning more about his guest. For example, Letterman took to the racetrack with Formula One race car driver, Hamilton and when Letterman interviewed Kayne West, they spent time in West’s enormous closet talking about sneakers and clothes. He went gardening with Tiffany Haddish.
Letterman continues to be an excellent interviewer, in my opinion, and gives his guests the opportunity to be funny, while also asking the right questions to get to the best interview possible.

I love a good interview and learning new things about people I find it immensely interesting and entertaining. If you were/are a fan of David Letterman, and like interviews, mixed with a little bit of comedy, I recommend this Netflix series. Dave, if you happen to read this, my only complaint of your show, is I’m not a fan of the beard.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Movie Review: “Murder Mystery”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins.

This Netflix movie tells the story of a couple who get mixed up in a billionaire’s tangled family feud and have to prove their innocence.

Detective Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) and his wife Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) live a somewhat mundane life. He is a former detective who recently failed his detective’s exam. She is a hairdresser and, with their fifteenth wedding anniversary coming up, wants to go on a trip to Europe that Nick promised her after they first got married.

A trip to Europe is not what Nick has in mind as he’s seen picking out an Amazon gift card as a present for her. However, when Audrey expresses that she’d really like to take that trip, Nick claims a trip to Europe is a surprise and they are quickly on a plane.

Audrey wanders up to the first-class section of the plane where she meets billionaire, Lord Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) and he invites her and Nick to join them on their yacht in Monaco where his uncle is to wed Cavendish’s ex fiancĂ©. Audrey and Nick agree.

Upon boarding the yacht, they meet a colorful cast of characters. All have gathered on board for Malcom Quince’s (Terence Stamp) nuptials, but also for the reading of his will, in which someone could inherit billions of dollars. Quince announces his entire fortune will go to his bride, Suzi Nakamura. Everyone, except the Spitzs’ are upset about this.

Suddenly, the lights go out and a gunshot is heard. When the lights come back on, a dagger has been plunged into Quince’s chest and he is dead.

The crime scene is closed off.

While Nick and Audrey discuss the case later that night, another gunshot is heard and Quince’s son, Tobey (David Walliams) is found dead. Each of the remaining individuals are questioned by an inspector. Nick and Audrey are pegged as the persons of interest as they stand out the most compared to the other guests. The Spitzs’ are kicked off the yacht and forced to stay in a hotel room.

Nick and Audrey discuss the three motives for murder: love, money and revenge and try to figure out who the killer might be. They question the suspects the following day at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Later, a note is slipped under their door telling them to come to room 802. There, the Colonel’s bodyguard reveals information pertaining to the case.

There is a knock at the door and the bodyguard is shot. Nick and Audrey manage to escape from room 802, but soon realize their faces are all over the news and that everyone thinks they are the killers.

Are they? Or do they need to prove their innocence? If so, who is the killer?

Murder Mystery is a solid murder mystery. It has action, comedy – multiple funny lines and scenarios – and Aniston and Sandler are a good duo. The ending is satisfying with a few surprises and is even a little sweet. I would recommend this movie, two thumbs up.   

Friday, June 21, 2019

Movie Review: “Men in Black International”

By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 55 mins.

We all know the original story of the first three “Men in Black” movies that starred Will Smith as Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K. The two agents regulated all alien life on Earth, while investigating unregistered aliens with intentions to harm Earth. Barry Sonnenfeld directed all three films (1997, 2002 and 2012, respectively) and all films had the same reaction once they hit the box office, almost immediately a hit.

Now seven years later, the fantasy/sci-fi series continues with “Men in Black International”. Directed by F. Gary Gray, there was a little bit of a different look on the story line.

It goes something like this as described on Common Sensemedia:

“A young Molly watches as her parents who are visited by the Men in Black and neutralized after encountering an alien. She grows up wanting to join MIB and, through great perseverance, finally manages to find their headquarters. She's made a probationary agent, known as Agent M (Tessa Thompson), and was sent to London, where she meets the reckless, charming Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Their first mission is to meet a friendly alien called Vungus in a nightclub. After an attack by two powerful alien twins, Vungus gives Agent M a mysterious object, asking her not to trust anyone. Returning to headquarters, Agent M deduces that, for the attack to have happened, there must be a mole inside MIB headquarters.”

The two agents find two alien forces that can take the shape of any human and they must embark on a global adventure to save the agency,  ultimately saving the world.

In my opinion the first three movies were better put together and much more organized – making it easy to follow the storyline.

However, “Men in Black International” is nothing short of a good movie. It has a good plot line and the characters play their parts very well. I would recommend seeing this movie, it ties with the first three just enough to keep it interesting.