Friday, June 11, 2021

‘The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It’ only sub-par

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 52 min

On July 18, 1981, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to document the exorcism of eight year old David Glatzel. Like the previous two “Conjuring” movies, the Warrens must investigate a paranormal disturbance within a family.

This installment is a little different from the other two in that there are murders surrounding the paranormal investigation. The exorcism of Glatzel was only the beginning and this film stars Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble and Shannon Kook.

I am a big fan of the first “Conjuring” movie and rate it up there as one of the best I’ve ever seen. The second one was decent, but not as good as the first. This third chapter in the series, began strong and was okay, but soon got a little convoluted and slowed down its pace. While it did pick up a little at the very end with some information I found interesting, the movie as a whole was kind of a bust.

Eight-year-old David Glatzel (Hilliard) is possessed by a demon and Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) are performing an exorcism to get the demon out of him. It doesn’t go so well and the demon finds his way out of Glatzel and into Arne (O’Connor), the boyfriend of David’s sister, Debbie (Hook). From there things spiral out of control and every clue Ed and Lorraine find could lead them to a way to stop this demon or it could cost them everything and be their demise.

While I did not hate this third installment, the first two movies in this series are much better, so my expectations were high going into “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.”

This movie did not meet those expectations. In parts it resembled – or mimicked – 1973’s “The Exorcist,” but overall, the third movie of “The Conjuring” series isn’t very scary and drags a little toward the end.

The addition of a murder investigation to the plot I felt only complicated matters and I had trouble following how a particular murder that happened in another state related to the investigation and could help Arne.  

To its credit, there are several good jump scares. Without giving too much away, the beginning starts with shaking tables, flying objects, demonic voices and crazy contortions. This movie also featured several moments where you could feel a quiet tension building; you’re given the impression something might happen, but you’re not sure. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. The morgue and waterbed scenes are good examples of this.

This movie is based on a true story, which in doing a little digging, is a very interesting case. If you are a fan of any of the previous “Conjuring” movies, I’d recommend you see this third installment, but only if you liked the previous two; otherwise, I’d pass. One possessed artifact up and one flickering set of lights down. 

Available in theaters and on HBO Max. <

Friday, June 4, 2021

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ a must see

By Matt Pascarella

Running Time: 97 minutes

Make a noise and they might find you. If they find you, you’re in trouble. When we first met the Abbot family back in 2018, it was day 472 of a post-apocalyptic world in which fast-moving creatures are drawn to loud noises.

In this much-anticipated sequel, we are taken back to the start of this madness. We see the beginnings of a world in which sound is a luxury not to be taken lightly. After day one, the movie moves right back to where “A Quiet Place” left off. Some events have transpired, and the Abbot family must now make their way in this bizarre, not so new world. Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou.

Shelved for over a year because of the pandemic, I was very eager to see this. I’ll admit I wanted it to be available for home viewing; it’s not. I’m so glad I saw it in the theater though. It was worth the wait! It will get your heart racing and have you on the edge of your seat. It’s action-packed horror/adventure/thriller that I cannot recommend enough.

After the events of “A Quiet Place” the Abbot family must continue to survive. On day one, the family is attending a youth baseball game, before everything turns to chaos. This sequel quickly fast forwards to immediately following the end of the first movie. The members of the Abbot family are searching for something. They struggle a little and must hide themselves. Someone from their past (Murphy) is watching them. When one of the children, Regan (Simmonds) hears what she thinks might be a transmission signal she wants to go looking for it, but there are many obstacles in the way. And they may not be alone.

This movie had me nervous at times as I watched these characters navigate in an environment where sound might mean death. At one point, a member of the family gets a backpack caught on a loose piece of fence; when the backpack gets freed, the fence rattles. I waited. I might have been holding my breath. In another scene, Regan is cornered by a creature, and she has few options to escape while investigating an abandoned train car. I was nervous for her. I almost wanted to shout out to them. The opening music is creepy and very unsettling. It’s an almost groaning that kind of makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is an excellent continuation of its predecessor. After the Earth is inhabited by sound-seeking creatures, what happens to humanity? Can it still go on? In interviews, Krasinski said that this movie, which he wrote and directed with his wife, Blunt, was a love letter to his children. That seems weird at first, but the movie is about a family taking care of and protecting each other.

For this sequel to have its full effect, I think it’s important to see the original first. This is an edge-of-your-seat intense movie. I recommend seeing it in the theater. It will make this movie’s tense moments and jump scares that much better. As sequels go, it’s common that the second is never as good as the first; that doesn’t apply here. If you are a fan of sci-fi-ish horror or just good horror, you cannot go wrong with “A Quiet Place Part II.” Two portable radios up.

Now in theaters. <

Friday, May 28, 2021

‘Eat Wheaties’ will make you groan, then smile

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes


As I looked through my choices of movies to review for this week, “Eat Wheaties” came up early in my search process. I passed over it but went back to it several times as I was interested to see what this movie was about. It centers around Sid Straw (Tony Hale) who can be kind of annoying. When he is invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion, he becomes overzealous in contacting alumna celebrity Elizabeth Banks. Also starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, David Walton, Alan Tudyk, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Chalke and Paul Walter Hauser.

This movie has cringe-worthy moments like when Sid gives a speech at his brother’s birthday full of inside jokes that barely include the people around him. At times, Sid doesn’t know when enough is enough. However, by the end you realize that Sid is a guy who just has trouble finding his footing in life, but he is trying. The end put a smile on my face.

Sid gets invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion and is asked to be a volunteer co-chair. He claims he went to college with celebrity Elizabeth Banks and sends her dozens of messages over Facebook and becomes obsessed with telling her about his life. After being acused of online harassment, Sid’s life spirals out of control. He loses his job, his apartment and has to move back in with his parents.

I’m sure some of us have met someone like Sid; someone who tries too hard to impress everyone or just doesn’t know when to stop. He means well but can be too much. In the beginning I kept asking “can’t this guy see the reactions of the people around him?” Pump the brakes! Or just stop!

However, as the movie went on, I began to feel bad for him. Here’s a guy who simply can’t see that he’s going too far. At one point, he has a conversation with an African American co-worker Sam (Morris) in which Sid talks about his college improv group and how he used to say things that sounded racist but weren’t. Sam cuts this conversation short.

I did feel bad for Sid at points because some people kind of ignore him; even his sister-in-law, Janet (Cuthbert) is fairly short with him. There is a turning point in the movie where he and his brother (Walton) have a talk. From there, you begin to understand Sid a little better.

This is a funny movie. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes more of a cringing funny. It has a message that no matter your stage in life, there’s always room for improvement and even if you are an annoying person who some find unbearable, there are people out there who like you.

Despite Sid’s behavior early on in the movie, he does work toward improvement. He recognizes some things need to change and he works toward making that happen. I found the end uplifting and happy. For anyone who likes a good movie that will make you smile, this is it. Two Wheaties boxes up.

Available to rent. <

Friday, May 21, 2021

HBO MAX’s ‘Superintelligence’ enjoyable enough

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes

Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) is an ordinary person with a relatively unexciting life. When an artificial intelligence takes over her devices and asks for her help, it wants to decide whether to save or destroy humanity. This puts Carol in a position she never wanted to be in, but both her and the superintelligence learn a thing or two in this moderately fun movie.

Carol is an average person. In the beginning, she goes on an unsuccessful, awkward job interview. Things don’t go her way. So, when a superintelligence (voiced by James Corden) enters the electronics in her apartment, her life gets a bit more compelling.

At first, she thinks she’s going out of her mind. She doesn’t believe the superintelligence is what it says it is. It explains it wants to observe her in order to figure out humanity. It is trying to decide if it wants to save, enslave or destroy the human race.

The superintelligence upgrades a few aspects of Carol’s life, like her bank account and her car.

Carol is still, understandably, freaked out by this and goes to her friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), who works at Microsoft, to let him know what’s going on. No one there believes Carol at first, but they quickly realize she is telling the truth.

The National Security Administration has become aware of the superintelligence and is working to stop it.

When the superintelligence asks Carol what’s the one thing she would most like to do, if she knew the world might end, she answers reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale).

The superintelligence wants to help Carol accomplish this. It arranges for her to run into George at the supermarket. She finds out he’s leaving for Ireland in three days.

Things with Carol and George are off to a good start, and only get better. Meanwhile, Microsoft along with Dennis and the NSA are trying to trap the superintelligence by shutting down electronic signals all around the world. The NSA convinces Carol the superintelligence will destroy the world. Things later get complicated between her and George.

The superintelligence announces to Carol that it will not destroy the world – but it’s not quite that simple. What does the superintelligence want? Can Carol help?

I’m lukewarm when it comes to this movie. While it is better than McCarthy’s “Thunder Force,” I can’t say I was really all that impressed by “Superintelligence.” The storyline does move along quickly and is an okay comedy that has its funny parts, along with mild action. It’s kind of a rom-com, but not really. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but also not the best. Despite all this, it could be fun for your next movie night. Only one coffee maker up. <

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Vast of Night’ engrossing, but slow

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

It is the late 1950s in Cayuga, New Mexico. A switchboard operator, Faye (Sierra McCormick) and a radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz) hear a strange frequency over the airwaves. When a caller provides them with a possible answer to where and why this frequency is occurring, this mystery deepens. This movie is a little slow to start, and doesn’t gain a whole lot of speed, but I found I was captivated by the characters and what this frequency could be.

In the beginning of the movie, a “Twilight Zone” type show called “Paradox Theater” is shown on a TV screen that leads into the beginning of the movie where Everett is trying to help with the recording of a high school basketball game. He runs into Faye who has a new tape recorder and they go around testing it out. Everett pushes Faye to work on her interview skills.

Faye tells Everett she was reading a magazine that had an article about all the predicted advances that will come about in the future like electric cars, vacuum tube transportation and a phone with a TV screen that can fit in your pocket! A TV screen in your pocket!

When Faye returns to the switchboard, she gets a call from a woman who says there is a strange object. Then Faye hears static and a humming sound from her phone. Faye and Everett try to track the sound down by playing it on the radio and asking if anyone has heard this before.

They do get a caller, Billy (Bruce Davis) who has some information. Could this guy be talking about what I think he’s talking about? Billy begins revealing a lot of information and then the line goes dead.

Billy tells Faye and Everett there is a recording of that sound on a tape in the library. Suddenly, the lights in the town go out. Things get a little strange. Is there something in the sky?

Later, a woman, Mabel (Gail Cronauer) calls in and says she can expand on Bruce’s story. What does Mabel have to say? More weird stuff happens to Faye and Everett. Everett makes a discovery.

What’s his discovery? Does it relate to the weird frequency? What is going on?

I’ll admit, while I enjoyed this movie, it was slightly on the predictable side although it did leave me with questions. Like I said, it does start a little slow, but is pretty interesting once it gets going. Even if you think you have figured out what is going on, I’d still recommend watching this. You may – or may not – be right about how it ends. I give this two-radio microphones up.  <

Friday, May 7, 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Mitchells vs. the Machines’ turns out to be quirky fun

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG

Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Every family has its challenges. For the Mitchells, their greatest challenge was the robot apocalypse. I wasn’t expecting the robot apocalypse to happen so soon, but this offbeat, action family film was a good time.

Most families have a lot of strengths, but Katie Mitchell (Abbi Jacobson) explains her family only has weaknesses. They are brave, hungry and have no idea what they are doing as you see their station wagon swerving around a parking lot.

Let’s back up to a few days earlier. Katie says she always felt different and never fit in. She’s really into art and making movies. She says her brother, Aaron (Michael Rianda) gets her. Her mom, Linda (Maya Rudolph) is encouraging and her dad, Rick (Danny McBride) is an unusual man who doesn’t really share her interests. Katie and her dad fight a lot – it’s reflected in their many attempts at a family portrait.

When Katie gets into film school, she can’t wait to go. Her dad is hesitant about her going. The night before she leaves, the two get in an argument and Katie’s computer breaks. In order to make up for this, Rick decides he and the family are going to drive Katie to school. Katie is not thrilled about this decision because it means she’ll miss orientation.

Meanwhile, there is a technology company, PAL, whose CEO, Mark Bowman (Eric Andre), is announcing a life-size robot assistant. He assures everyone that they will not turn evil. However, the name of this movie is “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” so, while I don’t want to give anything away, I think you can piece together what happens.

On the road trip to school, the bonding between Katie and her dad is not going well. They stop at a dinosaur road stop where chaos ensues. “What would a functional family do?” Linda asks.

Humanity is breaking down, but the Mitchells haven’t. They come up with a plan and start executing it. There is still some tension between Katie and her dad. Despite the Mitchell’s efforts to protect themselves, they get discovered. They are at the mall and need to escape.

The Mitchells need to take a chance. PAL is onto the Mitchells. While at the mall, they are met by a giant, popular (at the time), vintage toy. When they try to defeat it, things don’t go as planned. The Mitchells come up with a different plan; this one is high stakes and one wrong move could be serious trouble.

Katie goes to save humanity. Can she do it? Will she get to film school? Does her film school still exist?

This was a sweet, fun movie about family and killer robots that I would recommend. While it is animated, I think both kids and adults will enjoy it. It’s action packed with a star-studded cast. Even talk show host Conan O’Brien lends his voice to a character.

All the struggles that families might have I found relatable. It’s very funny with many jokes and Easter eggs, or hidden jokes, to look out for. 2-three Robertson head non-slip screwdrivers up. <

Friday, April 30, 2021

Netflix’s ‘The Vanished’ will keep you guessing until the very end

By Matt Pascarella

What started as an innocent camping trip quickly turns into anything but relaxing in this fast-paced thriller where anyone in the town could be a suspect. Are they? I felt like this movie ran the gamut of emotions and kept me wondering and on the edge-of-my-seat until the final minutes.

Paul (Thomas Jane) and Wendy (Anne Heche) are headed for a campground in their RV with their daughter Taylor (Kk Heim, Sadie Heim). When they get there, Paul and Taylor are going to go fishing.

As soon as they arrive at the campground, Paul meets Miranda (Aleksei Archer) who is there with her husband, Eric (Kristopher Wente) in their RV.

Shortly after Paul and Wendy arrive at the campground, Taylor goes missing; she was in the RV and now she isn’t. The police are called immediately in an investigation that takes a number of days. Paul and Wendy are informed that there is a prisoner on the loose. They are told to stay in their RV as the police have search parties all over looking for Taylor.

Wendy convinces Paul they need to go out and look for Taylor, despite the advice of Sheriff Baker (Jason Patric). Paul and Wendy go looking and things get more than a little off the rails.

After filing an official missing person report, they have a weird interaction with the campground’s groundskeeper, Justin (Alex Haydon). The investigation is taking a toll on all involved. Do some people know more than they are letting on?

On day three of the investigation, Paul and Wendy go out on the water with Miranda and Eric, in hopes to extract some information from them. When they get stuck on the water, accusations are made and it gets heated.

After a body turns up, Miranda disappears.

Tom (John D. Hickman) runs the convenience store on the campground and he and Justin have a conversation that made me suspicious of Tom. We learn more about Justin and the whole situation unravels further. Wendy continues to struggle.

Wendy comes across something very disturbing which could involve Taylor. It really seems like a member of the town could be involved in Taylor’s disappearance, but is that true? Where is Taylor?

This is an intense thriller with twists, turns and tense, dark moments. I found it to be a good mystery as there were many possible suspects in the town who seemed to be hiding information that may have led to Taylor’s disappearance. I was trying to figure out who the entire movie. In the end, I couldn’t figure it out. I was very surprised by the ending and it was one I found satisfying. This is a fast-paced movie that kept me engaged until the final minutes. It is worth your time, two thumbs up.

Available on Netflix. <

 

 

 

Friday, April 23, 2021

Hulu’s ‘Then Came You’ a romantic comedy that gets weird

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 97 minutes

Howard (Craig Ferguson) is the owner of Awd Inn in Scotland. Annabelle (Kathy Lee Gifford) is looking for ‘new everything’ as she describes it and is going to take a trip to many different countries, starting with Scotland. What follows is an ok movie that caught me a little off guard.

Annabelle is still hurting from the loss of her husband Fred, who died about a year ago. She has a box of chocolates with his ashes in them. When Howard (Ferguson) picks Annabelle (Gifford) up at that train station, they don’t get off to the best start. That quickly changes the more they get to know each other.

Later on, the two talk about their past loves and being stuck in a rut and settling for ‘enough.’ Both Annabelle and Howard have had tough pasts. The bond between the two continues to grow.

Annabelle is in the garden, talking to one of the only other staff members at Awd Inn, Gavin (Ford Kiernan), and he tells her there is a woman who is looking to financially take advantage of Howard. That woman is Clare (Elizabeth Hurley). Howard has a son (Calum Chisholm) who does not approve of Clare.

As it turns out, Howard and Annabelle may not have been completely honest with each other. A small fight between the two brings out the truth.

Howard and Clare have a talk. Annabelle seeks out an unexpected guest, Arlene (Phyllida Law), where Annabelle and Howard learn some new information. At this point in the movie, things took an unusual turn. That’s all I can say.

After visiting and discussing this with Arlene, Annabelle plans to continue her trip and asks Howard to drive her to the train station but not before some other weird stuff happens.  It also gets a little mushy and emotional here.

Does Howard drive her to the train station? What did the two find out from Arlene?

I was expecting something moderately funny and sappy when I sat down to watch this. I think Craig Ferguson is funny and used to watch him on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He has the same type of dry wit in this movie, but not the same type of humor from his late night days. I would say this movie more than exceeded my expectations as a comedy; it is very funny in spots. The romantic part of the movie is relatively predictable and pretty tame, until that meeting with Arlene. I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen and was more than surprised when a very sharp right-hand turn was taken. I still have questions. The end is kind of sweet if you can overlook that one detail. I’m on the fence about this one. One bowl of haggis down.

Available on Hulu. <

Friday, April 16, 2021

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Thunder Force’ promises strength, mildly delivers

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 106 minutes

In March of 1983 a massive pulse of interstellar cosmic rays struck the Earth. This triggered genetic mutations in a few individuals and gave them the ability to unleash unimaginable superpowers, making these few a new breed of human known as Miscreants. Thunder Force tells the story of two friends who join forces to try and stop these Miscreants that are destroying everything. While this movie delivers on action, it falls a little flat in pace as well as delivering comedically.

It’s 1988 and a young Emily Stanton (later played by Octavia Spencer) is getting picked on in school. Emily is super focused on finding a way to stop the Miscreants because they killed her parents.

A young Lydia Berman (later played by Melissa McCarthy) sticks up for Emily and even gives a bully a taste of his own medicine.

Lydia and Emily become friends and remain so through high school. Then they drift apart. Fast forward many years after high school to Chicago and Miscreants are still causing problems for the city. Lydia wants to see Emily again as their high school reunion is coming up. Lydia is nervous about contacting her to see if she is going. Although Emily writes back, she does not show at the reunion.

In hopes of seeing Emily and bringing her to the reunion, Lydia stops by Emily’s office and learns that Emily has made progress in figuring out how to stop the Miscreants.

However, Lydia breaches Emily’s research and has to stay at the lab. Lydia has stolen one of the superpowers Emily had worked years on.

Emily begins to receive the second superpower she has developed. Each of them now have one superpower. Soon, Thunder Force is born. They will stop Miscreants, like The Crab (Jason Bateman), a human-crab hybrid who robs a convenience store which Thunder Force stops.

The King (Bobby Cannavale) is running for mayor and is using Miscreants to help him get what he wants. One in particular, Laser (Pom Klementieff) has been wreaking havoc all over the city.

As Thunder Force gains notoriety, The King gets angrier and angrier. Lydia also finds herself attracted to The Crab.

The King has a plan to get back at those who don’t like him. Thunder Force must find a way to stop him. After a careless act by Lydia, she and Emily get in an argument and a newswoman wonders ‘are we better off without Thunder Force?’

Can Lydia and Emily stop The King and Laser before it’s too late? How will they do it? Will they remain friends?

I had higher hopes for this strong-casted movie and it did not deliver. I was expecting more comedy and it’s not that funny a movie. It is action-packed with nice special effects. It also has a decent soundtrack. It might be worth a watch, but I only give it one strip of raw chicken up. <

 

Friday, April 9, 2021

Movie Review: D.B. Cooper – an aviation mystery

By Matt Pascarella

Running Time 1 hour, 27 minutes

It’s an unsolved mystery of epic proportions. 10,000 feet above Washington state a man jumps from a 727 with $200,000.

Despite this crime being well-known, you may have never heard the name D.B. Cooper before. HBO’s documentary “The Mystery of D.B. Cooper” sheds a little light on the only unsolved act of air piracy in American history. And this story gets weirder and more interesting as it goes on.

Thanksgiving eve, 1971, Portland, Oregon; a passenger boards a Boeing 727 and a short time later tells a stewardess he has a bomb. He demands $200,000 and four parachutes. When the ordeal is over, this passenger, known as D.B. Cooper, has jumped from the plane 10,000 feet above Washington state and no trace of him has ever been found.

This documentary is a mixture of in-person interviews, reenactments and file footage from individuals involved with Cooper’s case and several individuals who suspect they have met or know the real D.B. Cooper.

There are interviews from the crew of the 727. Stewardess Tina Mucklow describes her interactions with Cooper from that day. Other members of the crew tell what it was like the moment they knew Cooper had left the aircraft.

The documentary speaks to authors and FBI agents as well as suspects.

Jo Weber was married to Duane Weber from March of 1978 to March 1995. She recalls several things her husband did and said which makes her believe this man she was married to for almost 20 years may not have been who he said he was.

Robert Dayton is suspect number two. Dayton became Barbara Dayton in 1969 and there is some speculation D.B. Cooper could have been a woman.

L.D. Cooper is uncle to Marla Cooper who gives an account from when an 8-year-old Marla overheard her uncle planning with her dad about a secret event.

The final suspect, at least mentioned in this documentary, is Richard McCoy who hijacked a Boeing jet in 1972, a short time after Cooper’s hijacking. The details of McCoy’s hijacking and Cooper’s are extremely similar. Could they be the same person?

There are many interesting details to this case. Roughly 40 hours after Cooper leapt from the 727, a search party was constructed to scour the area where he may have been.

In 1980, an 8-year-old boy found a few bundles of money near the Columbian River Beach, along the Oregon and Washington Border. How did that money get there? Was it buried there by Cooper?

The case of D.B. Cooper has fascinated many and I am no exception. How does a man just disappear into thin air? And leave little to no trace? And continue to baffle experts? I knew a little about this case, but never knew of the various suspects and how they got involved or were related to Cooper – that made this documentary more interesting. I would recommend any fan of an unsolved mystery watch this and see what they can piece together. Do you think he’s still alive?

Two giant bags of money up; 10,000 feet up.

Available on HBO Max. <

Friday, April 2, 2021

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Yes Day’ wholesome family fun

By Matt Pascarella

This is a fun movie for the family. Imagine there was a day where your kids made the rules and the parents had to say “yes.” There are rules and limitations, but the premise is that kids get to call the shots for 24 hours. And anything can happen.

Before their kids, Allison Torres (Jennifer Garner) and her husband Carlos Torres (Edgar Ramirez) said ‘yes’ to everything, they went on many adventures.

Fast forward to three kids later and ‘no’ has become the new ‘yes.’ Allison says ‘no’ 50 times an hour as it is all part of the job of parenting.

The Torres family is a typical hectic, somewhat messy family. Each parent has very different styles of parenting. Does this sound familiar? Carlos is more likely to be a little less restrictive with the kids, whereas Allison is the opposite. This is evidenced by the music they listen to when they each take their kids to school.

During a parent-teacher conference, Allison and Carlos are shown a video where their son Nando (Julian Lerner) describes Allison as a captor and dictator. Allison does not want to be known as the one who always has to drop the hammer.  

Allison and Carlos are at a loss of what they should do when a coach recommends Yes Day, where for 24 hours, the kids call the shots and the parents have to say ‘yes.’

The oldest daughter, Katie (Jenna Ortega) describes her mom as a fun killer and thinks there’s no way she can go a whole day without saying “no.”

Allison agrees to a Yes Day and bets Katie that if Allison says ‘no,’ during Yes Day, she’ll let Katie go to a concert – unsupervised. If she goes the whole day saying “yes,” she’ll attend the concert with Katie.

Katie, Nando and Ellie (Everly Carganilla) make a list of five big activities for Yes Day; the final activity is a big, big one.

The activities bring the Torres family closer together.

Yes Day gets thrown a little when Carlos wants to quit. Although there are very specific rules about traveling specific distances during Yes Day, Allison allows an exception. Although the exception is very fun and very cool, a discovery on Katie’s phone derails Yes Day even more. Police become involved and things definitely don’t go as planned.

Who ended up in jail? Can the family salvage what is left of Yes Day? Was Yes Day a good idea? Who wins the bet?

Like I said before, this is a great movie I think the whole family will enjoy and maybe even relate to a little. It’s heartfelt and has a nice message of the importance of family – no matter how crazy they make you. Based on the book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Yes Day is a real thing families do. Maybe it’s something you and your family would try – if you dare.

Two giant pink plush gorillas up. <

Friday, March 26, 2021

Showtime’s ‘The Turning’ a decent ghost story with a major flaw

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour 34 min

Rated: PG-13

A giant mansion with a checkered past. A governess hired to look after two unique children. Strange behaviors. A possible haunting. “The Turning” is based on the Henry James novella “The Turn of the Screw,” in which children suspect their estate is haunted. Overall, this is a decent movie with only one flaw.

It begins with a woman running from a large mansion, panicked and terrified. She is struggling to leave and does everything she can to leave the grounds as quickly as possible.

Kate (Mackenzie Davis) just got a job as a teacher, to Flora (Brooklynn Prince) who lives in the large mansion the woman was shown fleeing from in the beginning. Before arriving at the house, Kate stops to visit her mother (Joely Richardson) in a care facility. Once at the mansion, the first person she meets is Mrs. Grose, the caretaker (Barbara Marten). Mrs. Grose has been with the family for many, many years.

Kate and Flora meet and discuss a variety of topics. While giving Kate a tour of the estate, Flora mentions she has no friends. At another point in the movie, Mrs. Grose says that Flora doesn’t leave the grounds; I thought this was an immediate clue about Flora’s existence. Why would someone not be able to leave the grounds, even under supervision?

Flora tells Kate of her prior governess, Ms. Jessel (Denna Thomsen) and how she never got to say goodbye to her.

Flora’s older brother Miles (Finn Wolfhard) returns from school and it’s learned he was expelled for attacking another student. Miles’ behavior toward Kate is unsettling from the start.

Weird things happen inside the house. Kate sees things and hears noises. Is it actually happening or is it in her head? Kate finds Ms. Jessel’s diary and learns about the former stablemaster, Quint (Niall Greig Fulton) who died in a horse accident.

Flora gets scared as she, Miles and Kate are about to leave the grounds; things get heated from there. Miles gets angry and tells Kate to leave like everyone else has. Kate wonders if she can do this and considered quitting.

Kate continues to see things in the house. More disturbing information comes from Ms. Jessel’s diary.

Later, Kate makes a discovery about Mrs. Grose.

What is going on in this house? Is it haunted? And what does Mrs. Grose know? What will happen to Flora and Miles? What does the future hold for Kate?

This is a decent horror movie; it’s not gory, or overly violent, but good enough that it keeps you interested. In watching it, I recognized some of the names and realized that the Netflix series “The Haunting of Bly Manor” is similar to this movie – they end very differently though.

I did mention a flaw; my only issue with this movie is its ending. I can’t say any more than that. It’s definitely worth watching. Maybe with the lights off.

Available on Showtime and to rent. <

Friday, March 19, 2021

Netflix’s ‘Moxie’ addresses tough topics with positive messages

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 111 minutes

Vivian (Hadley Robinson), a high school junior is tired of the sexism and harassment of women at Rockport High School. She’s also sick of the staff’s indifference to it, specifically her principal, Shelly (Marcia Gay Harden) who would rather ignore certain behaviors just because it’s easier. Vivian decides to take a stand in this good movie that comes with a positive message.

On Vivian’s first day of school, she and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) notice that the rankings have already begun. The rankings are list of ‘best this, best that’) put out by the boys, that rate the girls.

The beginning of the movie depicts serious harassment and discrimination from the captain of the football team, Mitchell (Patrick Schwarzenegger). Mitchell is a bully and jerk right from the start. In a discussion about the importance of “The Great Gatsby” he interrupts and undermines a new student, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena). When Lucy tells Principal Shelly she feels unsafe, the principal brushes it off as something that can be worked out. Even after a more serious accusation, that the whole school is aware of, the principal glazes over it.

Vivian is working on a college essay that asks what cause she feels passionate about and what steps has she taken to make a change. She’s having a little trouble, so she talks to her mom, Lisa (Amy Poehler) and finds a box with a bunch of Lisa’s protest pamphlets and patches. Vivian makes a pamphlet, or zine, of her own called “Moxie,” and distributes it anonymously. The zine appeals to a couple girls right away. In it is a list of the dirtbags of Rockport High.

The Moxie zine gathers support very quickly and Vivian prints a few more. While the Moxie zine is largely about girls supporting girls, it draws the support of Seth (Nico Hiraga) who Vivian develops a crush on and it’s quickly reciprocated.

At a party, several girls, including Vivian, talk about the sexism at the school and are impressed by who wrote Moxie. They start a Moxie club. Solidarity among the girls at Rockport High increases as more Moxie zines come out.

Vivian and Lucy become friends and Claudia feels left out. Seth and Vivian get closer (and closer). Moxie officially becomes a school club, thanks to Claudia who later gets suspended. Kiera (Sydney Park) runs against Mitchell in a scholarship contest. Mitchell makes a plea during the school’s televised morning announcements that he is being attacked.

Vivian feels more than a little hopeless when things don’t go the way she wants and lashes out at her mom and her mom’s boyfriend. Mitchell is later accused of a horrific act.

What happens to Vivian and Claudia? And Seth? And even Mitchell?

There are a lot of layers here. This movie deals with subjects of sexism, inequality, race inequality, harassment, assault and probably a couple others I missed. It asks the question, “what are you going to do, nothing?” of anyone who witnesses discrimination of any kind. While the topics discussed in the movie are tough ones, they are important and “Moxie” illustrates that one person can make a difference – even if it’s not easy. I enjoyed this movie and would recommend it. <

Friday, March 12, 2021

Movie Review: Apple TV+’s ‘Palmer’ a story of second chances and acceptance

By Matt Pascarella

Eddie Palmer (Justin Timberlake) didn’t have it easy growing up and recently got out of prison. As he struggles to figure out this somewhat new world ‘on the outside,’ he meets Sam (Ryder Allen), a little boy who is not afraid to be himself. The two develop a connection and become important to one another. ”Palmer” is a heartfelt story of acceptance and second chances.

Palmer has been in jail for 12 years. When he finally gets out, he moves in with his grandmother, Vivian (June Squibb). Vivian rents a trailer out back to Sam’s mom, Shelly (Juno Temple), who disappears for days – sometimes weeks. Vivian often looks after Sam when Shelly takes off.

During one of Shelly’s disappearances, Sam and Palmer meet. Sam doesn’t dress or act the way one might think a boy should; he likes dresses and princesses. At one point, Palmer says to him, “you know you’re a boy, right? Boys don’t play with dolls.” To which Sam responds, “well I’m a boy and I do.”

When no one else will hire him, Palmer gets a job as a janitor at Sam’s school. When Palmer sees Sam getting picked on, he stands up for him. Vivian later dies and Palmer is at a bit of a loss for what to do with Sam, so he takes him to the police station where they agree to take him, but say he’ll probably end up in Child Protective Services. While apprehensive, Palmer decides to let Sam stay with him instead.

Over time, he and Sam become friends and Palmer very much like a father figure. Palmer meets Sam’s teacher, Ms. Maggie (Alisha Wainwright) and the three go bowling together. Palmer and Maggie get close.

News of stipulations in Vivian’s will surprises Palmer. As Sam continues to stay with him, Palmer continues to make sure Sam is safe – even from adults. Sam notices Palmer’s efforts and tells him he is doing a good job. Palmer looks into becoming a legal guardian.

Out of nowhere, Shelly returns and Sam goes back to live with her and her abusive boyfriend Jerry (Dean Winters) who is not nice to Sam. Eventually, Child Protective Services takes Sam away. Palmer tries to convince Shelly to sign custody over to him, but she won’t have it.

Palmer again makes a plea for custody, but the judge turns him down. Palmer takes Sam away from Jerry and Shelly in the midst of a fight. This gets Palmer arrested and upsets Sam.

What will happen to Sam? Will Palmer get custody? What about Jerry and Shelly?

While this movie was a little slow to start, the story is very good. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but also a feelgood movie. It stresses the importance of being okay with who you are and is also a story of friendship and kindness. I’d recommend this one. Two thumbs up.

Available on Apple TV+.  <

Friday, March 5, 2021

Movie Review: ‘I Care A Lot’ a solid exploitive crime-comedy

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 58 minutes

Rated R

Marla Grayson (Rosamund Pike) is great at her job – or that’s at least what she wants you to think. She’s been pretty successful until Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Weist) came along. Loosely based on real life events, this comedy crime-thriller was better than I expected. It will keep you guessing even after you don’t think you have to guess any more.

Grayson and her business partner/girlfriend, Fran (Eiza Gonzalez) have convinced many able-bodied elderly people they are no longer able to live on their own and they must now move to an assisted living facility. Afterwards, Fran and Grayson rob them, stealing from their assets and bank accounts.

In the beginning of the movie, Grayson says, “there are two types of people in this world: lions and lambs; I am not a lamb.”

After the death of Alan Levitt at Berkshire Oaks Facility, it is recommended to Grayson that she ‘go after’ Jennifer Peterson. Why? Peterson has no family, she lives alone, and she is quite wealthy. After a doctor (Alicia Witt) falsifies some information, a judge (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) says Grayson can add Peterson to her caseload. Grayson meets Jennifer and Jennifer is quickly brought to the assisted living facility like so many others who Grayson has taken advantage of before. After Peterson is in, Grayson raids her home and sells her possessions.

Maybe Peterson isn’t as unattached as originally thought. Peterson’s lawyer (Chris Messina) stops by Grayson’s office and says he knows what she’s up to. He sort of threatens her, and then bribes her. 

At this point Peterson is aware of what Grayson has done and tells her she’s the worst mistake Grayson will ever make.

There are some new developments regarding Peterson. Roman Lunyov (Peter Dinklage) is looking for her. Grayson and Fran meet Lunyov and it doesn’t go well. Several questions come up at this point about Jennifer Peterson. Grayson is aware that she may have bitten off more than she can chew. Things get a little crazy.

Have Grayson and Fran met their match? Have they finally conned the wrong person? And what about Jennifer Peterson?  And Roman Lunyov? How is he associated with Peterson?

I went into this fast-paced movie with only a peaked interest and zero expectations. I think it’s safe to say Marla Grayson and Fran are both antiheros. But not ones I was rooting for. Once the story began evolving and Marla had some opposition, I wasn’t rooting for anyone – but I really wanted to see how everything was going to play out.

Just a heads up: there is some language, violence, mild sexuality and drug use.

Also, don’t let your guard down when you think it’s okay to do so. You might be led in the wrong direction.

Two bags of diamonds way up.

Available on Netflix. <