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.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Movie Review: “The Tomorrow Man”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes

Last week’s movie was definitely on the heavy side, so with Valentine’s Day in progress, coming up or past, depending on when you read this, here is a lighter movie in which no one is running from the law.

Ed (John Lithgow) is I guess what you could call a Dooms Day prepper. He has a special room stocked with supplies and talks out loud and in chat rooms about ‘it all going down’ a lot. Ronnie (Blythe Danner) is more of a free spirit who prefers living in the moment.

“The Tomorrow Man” begins with Ed telling his son the importance of being ready. Ed is constantly in chat rooms talking with other like-minded individuals about conspiracies and what they believe to be strange occurrences; always planning for tomorrow.

When Ed meets Ronnie at the grocery store, he can’t get her out of his head and purposely stages a meeting. At first, she seems a little put off by Ed, but they go on a date and talk about their lives. Ronnie lives a very quiet life; her daughter died very young and she tells Ed she was her whole world. Ronnie now works at a boutique. After their date, Ed freaks out and tells Ronnie he really likes her and that scares him. Despite Ed’s strange behavior, they begin spending time together. 

Ronnie goes over to Ed’s where they watch TV. Ronnie tells Ed she likes being in his home. She falls asleep on his couch while watching TV. Afterwards, Ronnie is late for work. This part is a little funny.

Ed is kind of grump and thinks everything was better ‘back in the day’ (though he never actually says that exact sentence). Ed begins to trust Ronnie more and shows her his secret room, stocked with supplies. He tells her it’s his security blanket, his 401K. They spend more time together and grow closer.

He invites Ronnie to Thanksgiving dinner at his son’s house. Ronnie is excited for this. However, Ed and his son, Brian (Derek Cecil) have a rough relationship and Thanksgiving dinner turns into a big argument with everyone leaving the table except Ronnie and Brian’s wife, Janet (Katie Aselton).
At one point Ed sees Ronnie’s house and there are big piles of stuff everywhere. This scares Ed a little. While at Ronnie’s, Ed has a mini-stroke. He ends up being ok, but does this change the way he views the world? Or will he insist his old way of doing things is much better? Similar to Ebenezer Scrooge, can the people that love him help him realize it’s better to not always focus on tomorrow?

Overall, this was a good movie. It has the important lesson to be present, but not to worry about the ‘what ifs’ that life throws our way. Not an easy lesson to learn. Life is unexpected; sometimes, you’ve got to roll with the punches. This movie is kind of funny and has several heartfelt moments. I would recommend this as a movie to watch in the vicinity of Valentine’s Day. Two cans of non-perishable food up.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Netflix Movie Review “Changeland”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 26 minutes

After Brandon (Seth Green) suspects his wife is cheating on him, he takes his anniversary trip alone, where he meets up with friend, Dan (Breckin Meyer). As the two travel Thailand, they discover life can offer more than they are aware.

The movie begins with an unfeeling Brandon flying to Dubai where he meets up with Dan, whom he hasn’t seen in a while. Brandon tells Dan he suspects his wife, Vanessa, (who you never meet) is cheating on him and Dan asks Brandon if he plans to fight for the relationship.

While in Thailand, Brandon does not enjoy the incredible experiences and scenery that surround him. All he is focused on is his marriage ending. He and Dan tour Thailand and discuss the situation. Brandon is not sure how he would fight for the marriage; and he does not want to get a divorce. Dan tells Brandon he never really liked Vanessa because of the way she treated him and Brandon.

Dan and Brandon continue to have incredible experiences, travel to amazing places and meet interesting people; through most of this, Brandon is very uptight.

On a coral tour, they meet Ian (Macaulay Culkin) who was originally from South Dakota, but he did not want the life that was offered there, so decided to move to Thailand. Brandon asks him “don’t you miss your life?” Ian replies, “How can I miss a life when I’m busy living it.”

Despite encouragement from Ian and others, Brandon is still very scared of taking chances and won’t do things like jump off an embankment into the water or explore a cave that’s under a waterfall. He remains unhappy for most of the trip. He wonders what he is doing there and at one point tells Dan he wants to go home.

Dan tells Brandon they are going to a bar with Ian where they run into a couple tour guides (Clare Grant and Brenda Song) from one of their tours. Some crazy things happen while they are in the bar. Will Brandon’s begin to appreciate Thailand? Will he get back together with his wife?

OK, let me start with the positive. This movie had a very cool message about being present, enjoying yourself and appreciating what you have. It was actually shot in Thailand and the scenery is spectacular. However, this is a slow movie with little conflict that didn’t keep me wondering what was going to happen. Despite its star-studded cast, ‘Changeland’ fell flat. It’s so slow, you kind of forget there’s conflict at all and it’s more about a guy moping around Thailand. It’s billed as a comedy, but it is not that funny. I would not recommend it. Two thumbs down. Sorry, Kevin McCallister.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Movie Review: “Star Wars”: Live action films ranked

By Dan Kilgallon

Since “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker”, has been in theaters for several weeks now, it seems like a good time to evaluate the live action films of the storied franchise to date. Having seen these movies at least several times each, I decided to rank the films in order of worst to first, with my favorite entries ultimately being the most memorable/meaningful to me. Please enjoy my completely biased rankings of this sprawling space opera, complete with a 1-10 rating and best scene for each movie!

11. “Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace” (1999)
Run Time: 136 min
My Rating: 3/10
Best Scene: Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) face Darth Maul (Ray Park) in a lightsaber duel beneath the palace of Naboo.

10. “Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones” (2002)

Run Time: 142 min
My Rating: 4/10
Best Scene: Mace Windu (Samuel L Jackson) arrives with hundreds of Jedi to face Count Dooku (Christoper Lee) and the droid army at the Petranaki arena on Geonosis.

9. “Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker” (2019)
Run Time: 142 min
My Rating: 6.5/10
Best Scene: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and crew are pursued by the First Order and Knights of Ren in a long chase sequence on the desert planet of Pasaana.

8. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018)
Run Time: 135 min
My Rating: 7/10
Best Scene: Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) join forces with Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and his team in a train raid on the planet of Vandor.

7. “Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi” (1983)
Run Time: 131 min
My Rating: 8/10
Best Scene: The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) watches as Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) faces his father, Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) in the throne room of the Death Star.
6. “Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith” (2005)
Run Time: 140 min
My Rating: 8.5/10
Best Scene: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) duels his former master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) on the volcanic planet of Mustafar.

5. “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens” (2015)
Run Time: 138 min
My Rating: 9/10
Best Scene: Finn (John Boyega), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and the Resistance battle Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order on the planet of Takodana.

4. “Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope” (1977)
Run Time: 121 min
My Rating: 9/10
Best Scene: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) defend their team from Stormtroopers while attempting to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the Detention Center on the Death Star

3. “Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)
Run Time: 124 min
My Rating: 9.5./10
Best Scene: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and the Rebels face an Imperial army of AT-ATs during the Battle of Hoth.

2. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)
Run Time: 133 min
My Rating: 10/10
Best Scene: Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) visits Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) at Mustafar to discuss the construction plans for the Death Star.

1. “Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi” (2017)
Run Time: 152 min
My Rating: 10/10
Best Scene: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) appears to face Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order at the Battle of Crait.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Movie Review: “Uncut Gems”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 2 hrs, 15 mins

Ethiopia, 2010. A severely injured man is being taken from a mine; he is bleeding badly. Two miners are then seen looking for and finding a large precious opal.

Now, it’s 2012 and Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) is getting a colonoscopy. Ratner is a gem dealer in New York City. He owes several people a lot of money and a few guys have come to his office to collect. Each time Ratner makes a little bit of money he’s quick to gamble it to try and make more. Things don’t always go his way though.

(At the time) Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett comes into Ratner’s store and is looking for some watches. Ratner has just received the precious opal from Ethiopia and is so happy, he shows Garnett. Garnett is mesmerized by it and immediately wants it. Ratner tells him it’s set for auction. Ratner does let Garnett hold on to the opal for a few days, taking Garnett’s championship Celtics ring as collateral. Ratner pawns the ring for $21,000 in hopes he can quickly make the money back to retrieve it. The collectors are watching Ratner this entire time. Ratner is also being followed by other individuals he owes.

Ratner has bet on a Celtics game that could give way to a big payout. Because he is always wheeling and dealing, Ratner doesn’t give his family the attention they deserve. Ratner has a girlfriend, Julia (Julia Fox) and he and his wife Dinah, (Idina Menzel) have made plans to divorce after Passover. At his daughters play, he is followed by some thugs and kidnapped after spotting two of the collectors sitting behind him. The thugs take everything Ratner has and leave him naked inside his car trunk. His wife bails him out.

Garnett still has the opal and Ratner goes to several locations looking for it. Ratner catches his girlfriend at a club with singer, The Weekend. Ratner and she have a big fight and tentatively break up. Later in the movie, Ratner tries to make amends with Dinah, and she tells him she never wants to see him again.

Howard finds out the opal was appraised much lower than he initially thought, so he asks a family member of his (Judd Hirsch) to bid against Garnett at the auction in order to drive up the price. Things don’t go Howard’s way and he ends up having a bit of a nervous breakdown.

Will things turn around for Howard Ratner? Will he be able to pay back all the people he owes money to?

I knew going into this, this was not your typical Adam Sandler movie. Sandler gives an incredible performance. I felt this was a fast-paced movie with a great story about a guy consistently down on his luck – through fault of his own. I found myself rooting for Howard even after I watched him make bad decision after bad decision after bad decision. The plot definitely kept me wanting to know ‘what’s going to happen next?’ This is a terrific movie that I’d recommend seeing in the theater. It has an ending you might not see coming. Two precious, ‘uncut gems’ way up.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

By Daniel Kilgallon

Rated: (PG-13)
Runtime: 142 mins

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” follows 2015’s “The Force Awakens” and 2017’s “The Last Jedi” as the concluding chapter of Disney’s sequel trilogy. It also serves as the final installment of the nine-episode “Skywalker saga.” Director J.J. Abrams (“The Force Awakens”) came back to helm this picture, building off of Rian Johnson’s work on “The Last Jedi”. Additionally, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver all return to their starring roles while archive footage of the late Carrie Fisher was used to complete her final scenes. As a loyal fan of the saga, I was really looking forward to seeing how this epic narrative came to a close.

As seen in initial posters, the evil Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has seemingly returned from the dead and now poses a threat to the surviving members of the Resistance. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is completing Jedi training in preparation for her inevitable rematch with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Soon, she joins forces with Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) in a desperate effort to save the galaxy once and for all.

“The Rise of Skywalker” is a bold film that brings the stakes of this saga to a whole new level, to say the least. While I found the development of the monumental threat to be a bit rushed this time around, there is no denying that it led to an unbelievably exciting thrill ride of a movie. It was so satisfying to see our trio of new heroes finally team up for a substantial journey and the comradery of the group is fueled by powerful, authentic performances. The force connection established between Rey and Kylo Ren in “The Last Jedi” is once again showcased spectacularly, culminating in a stunning conclusion to that key element of the trilogy.

Putting aside my thoughts on the choppy exposition, I still found this to be amongst the most exciting of the Star Wars films. As expected, the visual effects are absolutely off the charts in a number of standout scenes, including a gritty chase sequence on a new desert planet called Pasaana. Like much of the material released since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, this movie offers something for everybody through a faithful blend of nostalgic elements and a story for a new generation. Ultimately delivering a well-deserved, heartfelt conclusion, “The Rise of Skywalker” stands as a grand finale that shouldn’t be missed.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Movie Review: “The Movies That Made Us”

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: Various

We are all familiar with, or at the very least know of these four popular movies: “Home Alone”, “Ghostbusters”, “Dirty Dancing” and “Die Hard”. Have you ever wondered what went on behind the scenes? Or what it took to do some of the stunts/action?

This four-episode, one season Netflix series gives interesting background information about these well-liked films. It features interviews with cast, producers and those involved with the movies. They talk about working on the films and give tidbits about these well-liked movies. Here are just a few fast facts about some of these classics:

Dirty Dancing (Episode 1)
Baby is based on an actual person.
Initially, Winona Ryder and Sarah Jessica Parker were considered for the role of Baby. Billy Zane was almost cast as Johnny Castle.
Swayze and Grey weren’t exactly crazy about each other – in the beginning.

“Home Alone” (Episode 2)
Daniel Stern originally turned down the opportunity to be a henchman
Large portions of the movie were filmed in an abandoned high school
There were no special effects or CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) for any of the stunts done on “Home Alone”, so all the hits and slips and falls actually happened

“Ghostbusters” (Episode 3)
Dan Ackroyd wrote ‘Ghostbusters’ for himself, John Belushi and Eddie Murphy.
There were two different titles for the movie; they lucked out to get the one everybody knows.
There were 12 slimers created before the designer landed on the one in the movie.

“Die Hard” (Episode 4)
It is based on a book called “Nothing Lasts Forever”.
They were legally obligated to initially offer the lead to Frank Sinatra.
Neighbors and occupants of the buildings and areas around where they were shooting complained of all the noise and explosions that happened during filming.

The big scene where the helicopter and the top of Nakatomi Plaza explode is a little different than you might imagine.

Overall, this is a fun series. It’s interesting to learn the story behind the script. Sometimes, I felt like producers, directors, creators, etc. go on a little too long about lesser interesting parts of a film – like what it took to secure funding. Some of these episodes are more entertaining than others, depending on which movies you like, but I found all the episodes feature facts about the movie that I may not have expected. I would recommend this series as a post-holiday, watch-in-one-weekend series. I’m hoping and looking forward to a second season. Two VHS cassettes way up. Now, where’s that VCR?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Movie Review: “Klaus”

By Matt Pascarella

Netflix Movie
Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour and 37 minutes

Every year, around this time, millions of letters are written to one man, asking for something for Christmas. But, how do those letters get to him? Who is responsible for seeing they are delivered?
“Klaus: is an animated tale of postmaster-to-be Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), whose wealthy father wants him to be a postmaster. Jesper has spent nine months at the postmaster academy and did not do very well; his heart is not in it, and he likes living off his father’s wealth.

His father won’t have any of this and sends Jesper to Smeerensburg to be their postmaster. He gives Jesper an ultimatum: spend a year in Smeerensburg, develop a working post office and stamp 6,000 letters or be cut off from the family fortune.

Jesper is less than pleased about this and on arriving in Smeerensburg, ‘home of the world’s finest feuds’, it is a dark, unwelcoming, cold place. The townspeople are nasty and laugh when he tells them he is there to be their postmaster.

At first, there is nothing to mail. Looking for mail, Jesper heads to the Woodsman’s cabin and gets trapped inside. However, while he’s in there he finds shelves and shelves of toys. He also meets a somewhat unfriendly man named Klaus (J.K. Simmons). With the help of Jesper, he and Klaus deliver a toy to a child who sent Jesper a letter. Word gets out that writing letters means you get a toy, so many of the children of Smeerensburg begin writing to Klaus. Jesper’s letter count begins to rise.

Since Smeerensburg is the ‘home of the world’s finest feuds’ the Krum and Ellingboe parents (Joan Cusack and Will Sasso) do not like their children playing with one another. And they do not like Jesper. As more and more letters pour in, it becomes clear that some of the children cannot write and go to a teacher, Alva (Rashida Jones) for help. Alva had pretty much given up on being a teacher and was saving money to leave. She thought there was no point in trying to teach the children anything, but the arrival of Jesper begins to change her mind.

Jesper stresses the importance of being good and helpful in order to get toys, and this changes the behaviors of many of the children.

Meanwhile, Ellingboe and Krum want to stop Klaus and Jesper and return Smeerensburg back to the dark and dismal place it was.

After some time, Klaus has delivered all the presents he had. Jesper suggests Klaus make more. Klaus becomes very angry at this idea and tells Jesper to leave. Here, we learn a little about Klaus’s past.
After some convincing, Klaus agrees to make more toys. Alva has decided to stay as a teacher and tells Jesper that he has really made a difference in Smeerensburg.

Jesper’s father arrives in Smeerensburg and congratulates him on meeting his goal and that he can now return home. This is the doing of the Ellingboe/Krum team. Will Jesper decide to go, or will he stay in Smeerensburg?

This is a perfect movie for the holiday season. With an all-star cast, it comes at the story of Santa from a different angle and is fun(ny) for both kids and adults. This is a great tale of friendship and the ending will leave you feeling happy. Highly recommended. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Movie Review: “Living with Yourself”

By Matt Pascarella

A Netflix TV Series
Rated: None

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to meet your clone? How would they act? What would they do? Would it be problematic, or nice to have a doppelgänger around? These questions were answered for Miles Elliot (Paul Rudd), who has grown bored and indifferent with his current life and is looking for a way to better himself. He gets a tip from a co-worker who got a special, experimental, treatment that improved his life.

This eight episode Netflix series is a little weird. But the end of each episode does keep you wondering, what will happen next?

The series begins with down-on-his-luck Miles Elliot going through the motions of his life. When he hears about this special treatment that essentially creates a new, better you, he is curious and decides to put up the $50,000 it costs. The promise is he will be made into the best he can be.

However, something goes wrong during the treatment and “real” Miles Elliot wakes up underground, covered in plastic wrap. He arrives home to discover he is already there.

The real and fake versions of Miles compare how they’re different. They are also very careful to keep this from friends and family, especially Miles’s wife, Kate (Aisling Bea). Real and fake Miles return to the spa, where the cloning took place, and demand a refund. Although they are refunded, what will become of the “fake” Miles?

One of my criticisms of this series is I found  it difficult to differentiate between the clone and real versions of Miles. The real Miles decides to leave town. So, as I understand it, the clone Miles is pretending to be the real Miles – he’s the one who goes to work and does things like be the life of the party, at actual parties. There are certain areas where “real” Miles steps in. We soon learn that fake Miles has trouble handling the responsibilities of real Miles’s life.

If you can deal with the fact that this is a series about a man who is living with his clone and dealing with the problems that might arise if an identical version of yourself was out there living your life, you might enjoy this series; I did. There is solid character development, with an interesting backstory – we learn the struggles Miles and Kate are facing and why Miles thought the cloning would improve things. There are a few excellent bombshell moments throughout the series that definitely keep you engaged. I felt the episodes did not drag. Although, there is a lot of back and forth with a timeline throughout the series, which can be a little confusing.

I thought this was a funny, weird, entertaining series and the end leaves you hopeful for a season two. I would recommend it. Two identical thumbs up.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Movie Review: “Frozen 2”

By Sage Bizier who is nine years old and a fourth-grade student at Raymond Elementary School

Rated: PG
Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.

“Frozen 2” was really awesome!

It gave a nice view on what it would be like if you had magical powers and you had to deal with changes in your life. The movie starts with everything going great, and then Elsa (voice actor, Idina Menzel) who is now the Queen of Arendelle, hears something beautifully magical calling her. This is when the adventure begins!

Anna and Elsa (voice actor, Kristen Bell) go on a journey to an enchanted forest to find out why Elsa has magical ice powers. Sven the reindeer leads them, accompanied by Olaf the snowman, (Josh Gad) and Anna’s boyfriend Kristoff has this really shining moment, which you’ll have to see the movie to understand. Let’s just say this: Kristoff (Jonathan Groff) has all of his dreams come true.

There are many changes in this movie, almost all of which get resolved. It’s interesting because there’s no real antagonist. Instead of one bad guy, there are different challenges the characters face. In some places, the movie was a bit scary. In other places, it was more beautiful than you can imagine, especially at the end. The message was to deal with change even when it gets hard.

I think that everybody who loved the first Frozen movie and who has ever dreamed about going on magical adventures should see this film!

Sage’s five-year-old brother Ian adds that “Frozen 2” was great, and the moral of the film is to never give your sister magic.

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.