Friday, February 15, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review of “Widows”

By Ben Parrott

Rated: R

I love anything directed by Steve McQueen, so last Friday night I couldn’t help myself when I passed the RedBox at Hannaford and realized “Widows” was available to rent. This movie is available on Redbox at most locations in the Southern Maine area.

“Widows” is a 2018 heist film and it stars popular actors such as Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Liam Neeson. The plot follows a group of women who attempt a heist in order to pay back a crime boss after their criminal husbands are killed on a botched job.

The plot goes something like this: Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson), a renowned thief, is killed alongside his partners Carlos (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), Florek (Jon Bernthal), and Jimmy (Coburn Goss) during a botched robbery. His widow, Veronica (Viola Davis), is threatened by crime boss Jamal Manning (Brian Tyree Henry), from whom Harry and his partners robbed $2 million. Jamal needs the money to finance his electoral campaign for alderman of a South Side ward, where he is running against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell), the next-in-line of the racist Mulligan political family who have historically dominated the alderman position.

Basically, “Widows” is a heist movie that contains mayhem and a plot that contains too many twists and turns to count. It also contains grief, dread and desperation rather than the more popular movie themes of greed, ambition and rebellion.

“Widows” gives this world not only what it needs, but also what a lot of people are looking for in today’s culture and that is a film based around a group of strong and independent women. Veronica, Linda, and Alice, once dependent on their husbands, must take matters into their own hands in order to clean up the mess left by their spouses, reclaiming their independence. They are joined by single mother and Linda’s babysitter Belle. Together they attempt to complete what would have been their husbands’ next job in order to pay their debt and move on with their lives.

The filmmakers don’t really care about the money, politics, or strict rules.

According to other reviews, “a viewer expecting a jaunty fable of female empowerment along the lines of “Ocean’s 8” is likely to be nonplussed by the abstraction and melancholy of this film. But those are also its most surprising and interesting traits. It may lack the energy for fun, but at least it has the nerve to be sad.”

My perspective is that the film breaks the norm of what it means to make a heist film and rather than the fun and more light-hearted nature of the “Ocean’s” franchise, “Widows” is a serious film full of suspense. It deals with racism, corruption in politics, crime and the lengths a person will go to in order to save themselves and especially their reputation. A fair warning goes out to the faint of heart as this film is quite graphic and frightening, however, Director Steve McQueen does a phenomenal job of keeping it tasteful and sophisticated in this piece auteur cinema.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Quote of the week

Netflix Movie Review of “The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned from a Mythical Man”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-MA

He’s very well known. From Dr. Peter Venkman to Carl Spackler to Mr. Bishop, Bill Murray has been all over the film and even some of the television screen. In this documentary, director Tommy Avallone discusses the famous Bill Murray stories - strange encounters with the actor in everyday life.

Murray started on “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) in 1976. He came from the Second City Improv group and after his success on SNL, his movie career began to soar.  “Caddyshack”, “Ghostbusters”, “Lost in Translation” and “Life Aquatic” are just to a few of the movies that are a household name.
The documentary begins with various people describing stories they’ve heard or experienced in which there is an encounter with Murray. Stories that include: A wedding photographer recounts meeting Murray while taking a couple’s engagement photos, or when Murray crashed a house party, where he danced and was the DJ. He also stopped by a bar and was bartender for a night, just out of nowhere.

He is slightly compared to Bigfoot in this documentary, but Murray has been spotted more times than Bigfoot and everyone is very accepting of these random Murray appearances. One person stated, “he has the power to make other people have an amazing experience.” He doesn’t make a big deal about himself, he’s just there to have fun and live in the moment, which is a big part of Murray’s lifestyle.
The documentary continues with more Murray appearances, some standard, like a Comic Con presence, others weirder, like randomly joining a kickball game. One of the funnier things he has said during these unplanned appearances is “no one will ever believe you,” which is true, unless you have proof.

Murray’s random presences aren’t just only wild experiences that happen out of nowhere. There are lessons that he inadvertently teaches to these unsuspecting individuals. He is about having a good time, the documentary explains. A theme in many of Murray’s movies and himself is ‘it doesn’t matter’ it’ll all even out in the end; a ‘roll with the punches’ attitude.

Individuals who have had encounters with Murray say he connects with people on a very human level. When he shows up at a party, he’s not there to perform or show off his celebrity, he’s there to just hang out and get to know people, to create a moment that people will doubt really happened, even after it happened. He is such a famous person, but he still finds the time for people. He removes the barrier between celebrity and regular person. I’ll admit, watching this made me want to meet Bill Murray.

This was an interesting documentary about an interesting guy. If you are a Bill Murray fan, I’d recommend it. If you’re just looking for something to watch, this is probably not for you as it airs a little on the slow side. While Bill Murray has made appearances all over the world, it made me ask the question, could Bill Murray appear right here in Windham, Maine? You never know.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Movie Review: “The Details"

By Lorraine Glowczak

Rated: R

I love quirky movies and I especially love the quirky Toby Maguire so I couldn’t resist watching “The Details”. Although dark comedies are not my usual go-to films, I was willing to give this Netflix movie, directed Jacob Aaron Estes, a try.

Briefly, Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire) and wife Nealy (Elizabeth Banks) are a young Seattle couple with a two-year-old son. Jeff is an OBGYN and Nealy owns - what I think might be a small floral shop, but this is unclear. Considering a second child, they decide to enlarge their small home and also lay expensive new grass in their backyard. But there are worms in the grass and so raccoons regularly destroy it by uprooting the lawn on a nightly basis. Jeff goes to great lengths (it becomes more of an obsession) to get rid of the raccoons, including mixing poison with a can of tuna. Soon after, their neighbor Lila (Laura Linney), an older, lonely, cat woman, visits Jeff and reports that her cat Matthew, is missing. Jeff not yet realizing the connection, hopes Matthew will turn up safe.

The Toyota Prius driving Langs appear to live the idyllic suburbia life, but all is not what it seems. Ten years into their relationship, the spark of youthful love has subsided, and Jeff looks elsewhere to fill in the missing gaps and to reignite passion. He does so with a tryst with a former medical school classmate, Becca (Kerry Washington), who is married to Peter (Ray Liotta).  When Peter finds out, he blackmails Jeff in a roundabout way, and this is when things begin to fall apart – “uprooting” a seemingly perfect life. It doesn’t seem Jeff has learned his lesson because he also slips into a rendezvous with Lila.

Feeling down and unfilled, Jeff decides to donate an organ to a basketball friend, Lincoln (Dennis Haysbert), who is slowly dying and as a result of the donation, saves Lincoln’s life. One would think everything would turn around and become better for everyone at this point, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The Details” is likely one of the most bizarre, absurd films I’ve ever seen. As one movie reviewer put it, “the movie plays like a demented fairy tale, replete with butterflies, rainbows and cross-bows.”
All the acting was superb – especially Laura Linney’s performance. Her execution of the eclectic, 1960s throwback, crazy neighbor is worthy of an Oscar. As for Maguire, he still seems like the unpopular teenage kid named Peter who was bit by a spider in the popular “Spider Man” series and I simply couldn’t get past that image. Maguire’s role as a husband and doctor was not a good fit for him.

Although considered a comedy, I never laughed once. The film was way too bizarre for me to find any humor in it. With that being said, I do believe it is worth the time spent to dive into something a little strange from time to time and watching “The Details” might be a good “stretch beyond your comfort zone” movie. It certainly is for those who are into watching peculiar films. It is not, however, a movie for the whole family. Adults only.

Quote of the week - Black History Month

Friday, January 25, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “And Breathe Normally”

Reviewed by Lorraine Glowczak

Not Rated*

On cold and lazy Sunday afternoons, almost nothing can take me away from staying at home and watching a movie on Netflix. However, since I do enjoy foreign films from time to time (which requires you to read subtitles), I was willing to give up a bit of my laziness and dive into “And Breathe Normally,” a movie set in Iceland and spoken in the Icelandic language.

The film which won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award, is described on Rotten Tomatoes: “At the edge of Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula, two women's lives intersect--for a brief moment--while being trapped by unforeseen circumstances. Between a struggling single Icelandic mother, and a political asylum seeker from Africa, an intimate bond forms as both fight to get their lives back on track.”

Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, stars as Lara, the young, single, proud and tattooed mother who struggles financially to raise and create a happy life for her young and accommodating son, Eldar, played by Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson. In the film we learn, in very subtle ways, that Lara once had a drug problem and is tested to slip from sobriety, she did not always have custody of her son, and her mother lives in Norway – making it difficult for her to reach out for help.

Once she is hired as a border security guard trainee at Iceland’s main airport, Keflavík, the viewer heaves a sigh of relief for the main character, believing her financial woes will be behind her. But her debt is too deep. She tells Eldar, as they are packing their few possessions, “we are going on an adventure.” The adventure is homelessness.

In comes the political asylum seeker, played by Babetida Sadjo. Here, the heart wrenching, emotionally conflicting – and yet caring, intertwining adventure begins.

“And Breath Normally” was the most moving foreign film I’ve seen in a while – but it did defie my perceptions of an Iceland full of beautiful scenery as the background setting is always grim and desolate looking. But, I suspect that was intentional - to set the tone of the film.

George Fenwick of the New Zealand Herald described perfectly, my thoughts on the film: “Director Isold Uggadottir manages to keep the narrative away from melodrama or over-sentimentality. Her direction keeps a careful distance but is forgiving and empathetic to her struggling characters.”
If you are up to reading subtitles and enjoy the complexity that comes with no easy answers, then I suggest you give this film a go.

*Although this film is not yet rated, I suspect it would be considered rated R under American standards. There is one sexual scene and a few mature themes that may not be appropriate for children.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Quote of the week reminds you to follow your gut instincts

Movie review of "Vice"

By Gayle Plummer

Rated R, Drama/History

On the plus side of this movie, the portrayal of Dick Cheney by Christian Bale was beyond perfection. He absolutely is Cheney: the slanted grin, the look from the eyes, the voice, the attitude, the body language and the weight gain. Of course, he is known for his total body transformations to bring home a role. In this movie he gained a whopping 40 pounds. He is absolutely amazing, and he totally deserved to take home the Golden Globe on this one. The supporting actors also did a super job – given what they had to work with . . . but more on that later. They all totally hit the mark in delivering their performances. I enjoyed watching the transformation of these actors, and for me the movie flew by, as I love watching actors who have polished and honed their craft to become someone else. I highly recommend the movie as an entertainment piece.

Let me address all the controversy about this film. There’s lots of buzz out there about this movie not being accurate; about the director not doing any fact checking. Absolutely everywhere you search, someone is complaining about this movie not being historically correct. Well, I have questions to ask these same folks: What part of movie making don’t you understand? What part of artistic license don’t you understand? What part of the term biopic movie don’t you understand? For me, all of the critics are too wound up in the reality aspect to enjoy the entertainment aspect. Many biopic movies stretch the truth because they are trying to entertain while delivering the essence of the people involved. Not to get too heavy here but, Princeton political historian, Julian Zelizer said, “. . . the artists, through fictional films, have the potential to convey things about our history that can’t be done with just a straight, factual-based sequence. It can still capture the essence of a political leader in a way that historians can’t.” 

While I clearly don’t have an issue with whether or not the film is accurate, I do have an issue with the approach that writer/director Adam McKay took in the format he chose here. For me there was way too much narration, which got in the way of the movie itself; and the time span he tried to cover was too broad. The content was like a pebble skipping along the surface of a huge, deep lake but never going below the surface, just darting along the top. I feel that if he had zeroed in on a few events and/or a shorter timeframe, instead of touching on so many political events, this movie would have carried more weight and depth to it. This would have allowed all the actors to truly deliver some real meat to their performance, not just Bale. However, they all did do a fantastic job – with what they were given to work with! Therefore, for me, Sam Rockwell, Amy Adams and Steve Corell did justice to this movie.

I repeat, I recommend it as an entertainment piece – which is what it is meant to be . . .  that’s Hollywood!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

By Emily Maier

Rated: PG

When Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider in an abandoned section of subway, he is forcibly thrust into the role of a hero. While attempting to find answers about his newfound powers, Miles unwittingly runs into Kingpin, a villain hell-bent on bringing back his deceased wife and son by any means necessary. 

After witnessing the debut of Kingpin’s “collider,” Miles learns the device is able to bring multiple dimensions together – though it also runs the risk of creating a black hole in the middle of New York. Though the first attempt to start the collider largely ends in failure, it does bring various “spiderpeople” from other dimensions into Miles’ world. The heroes quickly realize they will have to work as a team if they ever want to defeat Kingpin and go back to their respective realities.

For a movie featuring a cartoon pig called Spider-Ham, I was a little uncertain about all the buzz surrounding “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”. Upon leaving the theater, however, I can easily see why this movie recently won Best Animated Motion Picture at the Golden Globes. The combination of stunning animation, original narrative and emotive voice actors paved a clear path for the movie’s win.

In terms of casting, Shameik Moore did an amazing job voicing Miles, coming across as naïve yet determined to do the right thing. Jack Johnson gave life to his role as Peter B. Parker – a Spider-Man past his prime – and Hailee Steinfeld suited her role as the ever-competent Gwen Stacy. Though they only had minor roles, Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney’s characters both served as great comic relief.

The thought and care that went into each character design was fantastic. Miles and the two other central characters, Peter and Gwen, are especially well-rounded and relatable. They all have unique personalities that are reflected in their clothes and overall appearances. Because of this distinctiveness between characters, the movie never feels cluttered despite having a sprawling cast.

Of course, no review of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” would be complete without mentioning the animation. This movie truly has some of the best animation I’ve ever seen, with certain shots that are not only visually stunning but incredibly original.

While some movies just happen to be animated, “Into the Spider-Verse” was made to be an animated movie. A lot of the scenes simply couldn’t have been pulled off any other way. The entire climax would have looked ridiculous had they tried to create it using live-action but, because it was animated, the sequence felt intense and visually striking. Furthermore, the animation allowed the movie to retain the comic book style from which it was born.

It was especially refreshing to see a protagonist that doesn’t immediately take to the role of a hero. Throughout the film, Miles struggles to harness his powers, which ultimately makes the audience root for him even more. The movie reminds the viewer that while being a hero isn’t easy, it certainly isn’t impossible. When Miles says, “Anyone can wear the mask,” he means that everyone has the ability to have a positive impact on the world. “Into the Spider-Verse” shows the audience that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and the movie challenges the viewer to become one of those heroes.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is one of those rare movies that can appeal to people of all ages. With a PG rating, the movie is safe for kids, yet it still manages to deal with mature themes that will keep older viewers hooked. “Into the Spider-Verse” knows when to be cute, funny, or heartfelt and it pulls off a convoluted plot with finesse. I would recommend it to any moviegoer, especially for anyone with an appreciation for animation. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review of Netflix's “Bird Box”

By Lorraine Glowczak

Rated: R

“Bird Box” seems to be the most talked about Netflix's collection of original movies in recent weeks. The film is an adaptation of the 2014 horror-thriller novel by Josh Malerman and stars Sandra Bullock as Malorie Shannon.

Malorie is a recluse, painter and a single woman preparing to give birth to her first child. One day, reports come in that people in Russia are committing mass suicide for no clear reason.

While Malorie and her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson) are at the hospital for Malorie’s scheduled checkup, the bizarre circumstances seem to be moving their way to America. On the way out of the hospital, Malorie watched as a woman hit her head into a window, over and over, while others were screaming and running in all directions around her. Outside, the chaos continued as vehicles hit each and people purposefully hurt themselves, including Jessica.

Malorie barely manages to escape and seek shelter at a house with several other people, including a wealthy man, Douglas (John Malkovich) and a kind soul, Tom (Trevante Rhodes) to name just a few. They eventually realize the mysterious force that makes people kill themselves can only cause harm if people look at the unknown/unseen force. As a result, in come the blindfolds.

Much of the action in “Bird Box” is told through flashbacks between Malorie’s time in the house and time spent on a river with two children, a boy – named “Boy” (Julian Edwards) and a girl – named “Girl” (Vivien Lyra Blair).

During the flashback, the viewer discovers that Malorie, Boy and Girl are trying to find a walled refuge from the terror. All they must do is take a boat and ride the current toward the sound of birds. At one point, in order to navigate the rapids, someone will have to take their blindfold off.

Although “Bird Box” seems to be a hit among Netflix watchers, I suspect it will not win any major awards. However, if you are up for a psychological thriller and if you can handle the anxiety produced by the dizzying speeds of back and forth flashbacks, it is worth the two hours and four minutes of wasted time.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Movie Review: "The Mule" by Daniel Kilgallon

Believe it or not, it has been a decade since the release of “Gran Torino” that the Hollywood icon directed, produced, and starred in a movie, until the release of 2018’s “The Mule”. While Eastwood’s return to the screen drew me to the theater, he is also surrounded by an impressive supporting cast featuring Bradley Cooper, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia.

“The Mule” is inspired by the true story of a World War II veteran named Leo Sharp, who became a drug mule for the Sinaloa Cartel. In the film, Eastwood portrays a version of this character named Earl Stone, a man alienated by his family and desperate for money due to the foreclosure of his plant business. Stone takes the opportunity to become a mule and begins moving large amounts of illegal drugs across the Midwest, hoping to use the earnings to repair the deteriorating relationship with his family. Meanwhile, he is being heavily pursued by a pair of DEA agents (Bradley Cooper & Michael Pena).

“The Mule” is a very gripping drama, especially in the first half of the movie. As the plot progressed, there were a few far-fetched moments that made the story seem a little bit unconvincing in parts. However, this didn’t take away from an overall positive theme of redemption on display throughout the film. This character represented a near-perfect role for a distinct actor like Eastwood and he absolutely capitalized on it. There was a surprising amount of humor blended in as well, particularly in some of the generational barriers that the title character encounters. Additionally, Bradley Cooper and Michael Pena supplemented the movie with their own charismatic performances and quality acting chemistry.

All things considered, I think that “The Mule” is well worth a viewing and does a very good job of pulling the drama out of this interesting true story. More importantly, the film genuinely illustrates that it is never too late for a positive change in life. Time will only tell if Mr. Eastwood has another project of this sort in store for us. That being said, I certainly think this would be a respectable final performance of a truly legendary career.