Friday, April 19, 2019

Movie Review: "Shazam!"


By Daniel Kilgallon

Rated: PG
Runtime: 132 mins

“Shazam!” follows 2018’s “Aquaman” as the seventh entry of the DC Extended Universe (DCEU). The movie is directed by David F. Sandberg and stars Asher Angel, Zachary Levi, and Mark Strong. 

While this comic book franchise has lacked true cohesion thus far, I think that writers are starting to effectively construct a lighthearted, goofier brand of what has become an overwhelmingly popular film genre. If these great characters continue being brought to life like this in upcoming installments, I believe that the cinematic universe has enormous potential. “Shazam!” will most certainly be overshadowed by the upcoming release of “Avengers: Endgame” in a few weeks, but I must say this movie was much more unique than the “Deadpool” ripoff I was somewhat expecting.

“Shazam!” has an interesting premise in which a fourteen-year-old foster child named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) is granted magical powers after encountering an ancient wizard named “Shazam!” (Djimon Hounsou). The wizard selects Billy as his new champion, so whenever Billy says the word “Shazam!” he turns into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi). While he possesses superpowers such as strength, speed, and flight, the “grown-up” superhero still has Billy’s teenage mind. Billy explores his abilities all while adapting to a new foster family, and soon discovers that an enemy named Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong), has also acquired magic capabilities and is after him.

While the “fish out of water” nature of this story could have made for a boring, familiar movie, “Shazam!” turned out to be a far fresher film than I anticipated. Billy finds himself caught up in several uncomfortable, hilarious scenarios which he handles as one may expect of a rebel adolescent. 

The comedy shines brightest when Billy is discovering his powers; Zachary Levi really did an excellent job of making the adult version of this character both amusing and relatable in these moments.

Needless to say, “Shazam!” is primarily a lighthearted movie, but the profound family element at the center of this story excludes this from strictly being a comedy. There are positive messages to be found in the film and I really liked the way the writers naturally worked this into a very hilarious movie. In addition to that, there were quite a few connections to other DCEU films and this may be the first time that this world building didn’t seem forced into the story. All things considered, I was genuinely surprised by how fresh “Shazam!” was and I would recommend the movie to superhero lovers and families alike.



Friday, April 12, 2019

Quote of the week


Book Review: “Before you suffocate your own fool self” by author, Danielle Evans


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

Perhaps it will show my privilege when I say that this book made me see the world in ways I hadn’t before. Evans’ stories center around young, smart black women. Every story revealed a little something I hadn’t thought about because I hadn’t had to. And yet, the stories are delivered gently, like chats between college friends. The voice in these stories is deeply engaging, personal, honest.

Two stories in particular moved me. In the first, Angel and Laura share an apartment and are friends until Laura, who is white, begins selling her eggs in order to finance her designer wardrobe. Angel, who is black, can’t. She says, “If they had wanted black babies…they would have just adopted.”

The second story that made me catch my breath was the last one, in which two high school cheerleaders, one white and one black, discuss playing a prank on the school. The white girl sees it as just a way to have fun, but the black girl objects. She says white kids play pranks, black kids get felonies.

If it sounds like this collection is too preachy, it isn’t. These are some of the best stories I’ve read in a long time. They are funny, poignant, open, and yes, provocative. These are stories of characters who get in over their heads, love fiercely, try hard and sometimes fail hard. Stories everyone can relate to, in other words.



Friday, April 5, 2019

Quote of the week


Movie Review: “Us”


By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

The movie begins with a foreword. "There are thousands of miles of tunnels beneath the United States. Abandoned subway systems, unused service routes, and deserted mine shafts. Many have no known purpose at all."

“Us” centers around Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o), who, as a child, wanders away from her parents during a carnival. She enters a hall of mirrors where she sees a girl that looks exactly like her. This experience is very traumatic for Adelaide and creates a fear of the ocean.

As an adult, Adelaide is headed to her family’s summer cabin with her husband, Gabe (Winston Duke), her daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and her son, Jason (Evan Alex). We see Adelaide having flashbacks to that day at the carnival and a therapist explaining she might have post-traumatic stress disorder.

One day her husband asks if she’d like to go to the beach. At first she refuses, then eventually agrees. On their way to the beach, they see a man being put into an ambulance. Jason, the youngest, later sees what appears to be this man standing on the beach.

Upon returning home from the beach, Adelaide tells Gabe about the hall of mirrors incident. Suddenly, the power goes out. A family appears at the top of their driveway, wearing red jumpsuits. Gabe confronts them, but they just stand there. The red jump-suited family begins approaching the house and you hear glass breaking and a loud banging as they try to enter the home.

When the two families meet each other, Jason announces, “it’s us.” The doppelganger of Adelaide tells the story of a girl with a shadow (seemingly the evil Adelaide) and how the one girl got everything, and the shadow got very little.

The evil doppelganger family attacks each respective member of Adelaide’s family who must fight for their lives. What follows are several tense and stressful scenes with various unsettling moments and a few surprises.

Adelaide and her family soon discover that it’s not just them who have evil doppelgangers. They see a news report where people wearing red jumpsuits holding scissors are attacking people. The camera pans over to red jump-suited members hand in hand, forming a wall.

“They think like us and they know where we are,” observes Adelaide and the family decides to keep moving. Who will survive? Who are these evil doppelgangers?

The actions of the characters coupled with ominous music is tense and gets your heart pumping. While large parts of this movie are upsetting, there is some humor sprinkled in, which helps undercut the seriousness of the plot. There are multiple metaphors and much symbolism throughout the movie. To mention a few, 11:11 is a theme, bunnies are seen throughout as well as the mention of tethered and untethered people.

This is a fantastic horror movie that leaves you wanting more in the final scenes. I saw this film multiple times and missed the great twist at the end the first time. I would highly recommend seeing this in the theater. A+++



Friday, March 29, 2019

Quote of the week


Movie Review of "Captain Marvel"


By Kaila Mank

Rated:  PG-13

From a Marvel movie lover perspective, “Captain Marvel”, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, was a very well put together addition to the Avengers movie series.

This is a 2019 American superhero film that was released on March 8th and is based on the Marvel Comics character, Carol Danvers (Vers/Captain Marvel), who was played by Brie Larson.

Briefly, the plot summary for this movie is explained by IMBd as, “Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.After crashing an experimental aircraft, Air Force pilot Carol Danvers is discovered by the Kree and trained as a member of the elite Starforce Military under the command of her mentor Yon-Rogg.  Six years later, after escaping to Earth while under attack by the Skrulls, Danvers begins to discover there's more to her past. With help from S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson), they set out to unravel the truth.”

She escapes to planet C-53 where she uncovers more about her past. She does this while trying to harness her unique superpowers to end the war with what she thought were evil Skrulls.

When I first heard about this movie, I was not entirely sure what to expect. The trailer made it seem like they were going to be adding a character to what was already a fantastic Marvel cast.

Watching the movie gave me a completely different perspective. Somehow, Boden and Ryan managed to pull ideas from the original movies, such as “Ironman” and “Thor”, to make the movie seem familiar but also fresh.

If you have seen the rest of the Marvel movies, it will make sense to you that this movie took place as if it was the first Marvel movie. The directors of Captain Marvel followed their storyline very carefully from previous movies to fill in missing details that left many wondering in the past. From what this movie brought, I have high hopes and am excited for the upcoming film Avengers: End Game, which is due to be released on April 26, 2019.





Friday, March 22, 2019

Quote of the week


Table Top Game Reviews


By Lorraine Glowczak

Unlike the past, being a nerd is considered hip and indicates a certain level of intelligence. So much so, that there is even a popular game show where self-proclaimed nerds proudly gather together to display their intellect and ingenuity. “Table Top”, which is a web series and can also be seen on the TBD network is a series in which individuals play a wide range of hobby gaming titles, from classic German-style board games and family games to RPGs and card games.

Due to the popularity of table top games such as these, we thought we’d give you a break from the movie reviews and review a few of our favorite games. They are as follows and are in no certain order:

*“Mysterium” is a co-op game of ghosts, murder and hilarious incompetence, in that order. All but one player is a psychic spending the night in a horrid house where a killing took place. The final player, who may not speak, is a ghost sending everyone else horrible dreams. The ghost must guide the psychics to the correct murder weapon, crime scene and culprit before the week is over, or… well, I’m not sure. Maybe the psychics have concert tickets. It doesn’t matter, and you won’t care. You’ll be laughing too much and thinking too hard. (review by shutupandsitdown.com).

*In “Welcome to the Dungeon”, players are competing to be the first to negotiate a dungeon on two successful occasions, or to be the last player standing if all other players have two unsuccessful dungeon delves. Seems simple enough, but the twists are that:

Players only know a certain amount each about what the dungeon contains.
Players don’t choose to attempt the dungeon, they choose not to, so one player will be the last remaining and will have to enter on their own.
Players don’t even have their own adventurer - one is shared between players and only belongs to a player when they have to enter the dungeon.
So, this is a game about doing what you can with a limited amount of information, resulting in a lot of second guessing, clever bluffing, and a fair bit of luck. (review by board-game.co.uk)

*In “Dixit”, Everyone is given a hand of six picture cards, and the scoreboard is laid upon the table. The candles are lit, and the sounds of the woods Spotify playlist starts to play. Finally, and most importantly every player receives a cute bunny meeple to track their score. Now, it’s time to listen.

Each turn, one player, in a puff of smoke, transforms into the ‘Story Teller.’ They pick a card, any card, and create a wonderous tale about it. Relaying to the other players through a tapestry of words, a melodious humming, or an unintelligible series of grunts or Trump tweets.

Players listen, ingesting every word, and when silence finally overcomes the Story Teller they each repay the entertainer with a card. Not just any card, but the one that they best believe fits the constructed fiction. The Story Teller collects the cards, then with all the deviousness of a caravan of carnies, they shuffle and place them against the scoreboard, numbering them from one to twelve.

Each player chooses the card they think is the Story Teller’s. After everyone has locked in their vote, there can be no changes. Only then can the Story Teller reveal their card, and the scoring begins.

Because it’s easy to learn rules, and casualness, you can pull it out with your family and have a great time. Then the next night, you can pull it out with your adult friends and watch the game turn not safe for work in a heartbeat. It’s an all-purpose game, and one that I’ve had some of my best gaming memories with.  (boardgamegeek.com).


Friday, March 15, 2019

Quote of the week


Movie Review; “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”


By Matt Pascarella

PG-13

Whether you have kids, or you were a kid, you’ve probably seen “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”. It was a regular for my brother and I in the early 1990s so I thought it would be fun to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, a documentary release in 2018 that talks about the children’s television star through interviews with cast members, guests, friends and family.

The documentary begins with early footage of Rogers on what would later become “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”. Rogers was all set to go into seminary and become a minister after college but decided to go into this ‘new’ medium called television. Rogers was a quiet, kind man who felt it was a responsibility of his to use the mass media, “to help children through some of the difficult modulations of life.” He believed television was a tool and he wanted his focus to be with children.
A resident of Pennsylvania, he started a show out of WQED Pittsburgh called “The Children’s Corner”, which later evolved into “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood”. Children liked Rogers immediately. His son, Jim Rogers, said his dad’s inner child never went away; this made it easier for Fred Rogers to interact and relate to children.

Early on, Rogers found television hard, but it got easier when he created characters like Daniel Tiger by accident, when he put a puppet through a paper clock and began talking in a high voice.
This documentary features personal stories of interactions between Rogers and children and demonstrates how welcoming and accepting both sides were towards each other.

In 1968, the “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” aired its first episode. Each episode had a message and aimed to teach a lesson, even if the lesson was a tough one. Some of the subjects talked about were divorce, children getting lost, segregation and death.

When President Nixon wanted to cut funding to PBS, Rogers argued before the US Senate for $20 million and won. After this, Fred Rogers and “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” really took off. Rogers even tried a start a different show where he interacted with adults, but it didn’t go as well as “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.”

Friends and co-workers talk about Rogers personality and say he was the same on TV as he was in real life. He was someone who was truly about acceptance, kindness and love.

At his final commencement address to Dartmouth College, Rogers defined ‘you are special’ as you don’t have to do anything sensational for people to love you.

It was said in the documentary that Rogers never forgot how vulnerable it was to be a kid.
“Children have deep feelings, just like everybody does. Our striving to understand those feelings and better respond to them is the most important task in the world.”

This was a mildly interesting film and brought back nostalgia, as someone who watched the show as a child. However, there was more than one part where it dragged on and was boring. I felt, the entire documentary a little on the long side. While Fred Rogers was an amazing person, this documentary was only ok. If you really liked “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” and are interested in learning about Fred Rogers, I’d recommend it. If not, this documentary probably isn’t for you.












Friday, March 1, 2019

Quote of the week


Movie Review: “Roma”


By Lorraine Glowczak

Rated: R

I had no clue while watching “Roma” on Netflix over a month ago, during a winter Sunday afternoon laziness, that I was observing a film that would win the Oscars in the categories of Cinematography, Foreign Language Film and Best Director in this past Sunday’s Oscar Awards Ceremony.

I was simply fascinated by the plot and, from my perspective, a realistic story. Afterall, I have a cleaning business on the side, and I could identify with much that occurred throughout the film. 

Writers (and other artists) who follow their calling must do what they do to support their creative mission in life and, although this wasn’t a story about creativity, it was a story about serving those who live life through wealth and how that family of advantage, relies upon those they hire to serve them in a beautiful way.

It’s true that Netflix’s film “Roma” lost the Best Picture Award to “Green Book” but according to theverge.com, “….it made history in other ways. It’s the first Mexican submission for Best Foreign Language Feature to win in the category. And its Best Cinematography win for director Alfonso CuarĂ³n (who also took Best Director) marked the first time in history that a director simultaneously won the Oscar in the cinematography category.

“Roma” is set in Mexico City in the early 1970s. It centers on a young indigenous woman who works as a maid for a middle-class white family that’s falling apart. As is the custom in this neighborhood, everyone lives behind locked gates and they all hire maids, cooks and drivers who are actually the people who keep homes running. In one such house, Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) lives with and works for this family that scarcely seems capable of doing anything without her. In the morning, she wakes the children; at night, she puts them to bed. From each dawn and until long after dusk, she tends to the family and its sprawling two-story house. She serves meals, cleans away dog droppings and carries laundry up to the roof, where she does the wash in view of other maids on other roofs with their own heavy loads.

But that’s just the beginning. Cleo becomes pregnant and is not sure how to proceed, the husband of the family she works for is having an affair, and someone in the family almost drowns if it weren’t for Cleo saving them – despite her fear of water.

According to movie reviewer, Owen Glieberman, “Cleo is the central figure of “Roma,” yet for most of the film she barely says a word. She’s stoic and dutiful, with a wide face that suggests a statue of humble rectitude, and the fact that she loves this family as her own is presented without question. 

Speaking in her native Mixtec, Aparacio, a non-professional actress, makes Cleo a doleful earth mother with a deep presence, a kind of working-class saint — and, tellingly, a woman with problems she feels compelled to weather without protest.”

Go to Netflix - turn on your subtitles and watch “Roma”. And perhaps learn a little about those we believe as living a life - who have, by social standards, plenty and are the envy of most. However, they are far from advantaged in a non-physical sense, and don’t know it. Because they have what is most important in their life – Cleo.