Friday, December 2, 2022

Movie Review: Apple TV+’s ‘Spirited’ a comedic twist on a classic tale

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 7 minutes

I need to give fair warning about Apple TV+’s new movie “Spirited.” It is a musical and I wasn’t crazy about that either, but I promise this one is worth it.

The story of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” is a must around this time of year. What if it were told from a different perspective, in a different way? The Ghost of Christmas Present wants to turn the life of nasty guy Clint around while at the same time establishing a life for himself – past Ghosthood.

“Spirited” stars Will Ferrell, Ryan Reynolds, Octavia Spencer, Patrick Page, Sunita Mani, Tracy Morgan, Loren G. Woods, Marlow Barkley, Joe Tippett, Andrea Anders, and Rose Byrne.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (Ferrell) and his co-workers are in the business of change.

We meet Karen (Byrne), who is having a tough time with the possibility of her future. She is relieved to find out there is still time to change her wicked and awful ways. After which it is revealed that she has officially changed.

There is a dedicated staff, run by Jacob Marley (Page), who work hard to make sure these odious individuals change their ways. They haunt someone, change them, and then sing about it.

After the successful turnaround of Karen, HR gives The Ghost of Christmas Present the option to retire and return to Earth. The Ghost of Christmas Present is not ready; he enjoys changing people.

Enter Clint Briggs (Reynolds); a self-centered, manipulative man whose company creates controversy, conflict and disinformation to benefit their clients.

He is described as a combination of Mussolini and Ryan Seacrest. Marley objects to trying to change Clint because he has been deemed unredeemable. However, after some begging and probably singing, Marley says yes, and the ghosts get to work on figuring out how to change this unpleasant man.

Clint’s assistant, Kimberley (Spencer), is unhappy with the work she does and thinks she is a terrible person. The Ghost of Christmas Present thinks otherwise and may have a tiny crush on her.

Marley visits Clint, but it doesn’t go as it usually does in the famed ghost story. Marley gets frustrated and leaves. Marley classifies Clint as a Level 20 pain in the butt.

And now Clint’s hauntings begin. However, the ghosts don’t behave as you might think they would, and The Ghost of Christmas Past’s visit has some adult themes.

Clint had a hard life as a child which may be the reason – not an excuse – for the way he is today.

The Ghost of Christmas Present then has to step in. During a particularly hard key life moment, Clint manages to escape seeing this uncomfortable moment from his past; a moment that could lead to Clint becoming a better person.

Clint learns he has been classified as “unredeemable,” and tells The Ghost of Christmas Present mankind is as bad as the comments section on an internet forum. You learn a secret about The Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Ghost of Christmas Present quits. Clint doesn’t want to deal with the potential consequences from his actions shown by The Ghost of Christmas Future (Morgan).

Ferrell and Reynolds are great together. I signed up for Apple TV+ just to watch this and I do not regret it. It was less than seeing it in the theater. It’s funny and has an important message about doing good in the world. One small act of kindness can have a ripple or even a wave effect and who knows how far and how many people that can reach?

Two shower loofas up!

Now streaming on Apple TV+. <

Friday, November 18, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Ticket to Paradise’ has laughs, heart

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 44 minutes


From the very start, this movie was cringeworthy yet funny. After seeing their only daughter graduate from college, a divorced couple follows her to Bali where they plan to break up her engagement to a man that she met there on a post-college trip. What follows is unexpected for all parties involved.

“Ticket to Paradise” stars Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Billie Lourd, Kaitlyn Denver, Maxime Bouttier, Lucas Bravo, Dorian Djoudi and Genevieve Lemon.

David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) have a very strong dislike for one another. However, they love their daughter, Lily (Denver). They each attend Lily’s college graduation and are not happy to sit next to each other. When it comes to Lily, everything is a competition between David and Georgia; so much so they when she gets up to receive her diploma the two try to outdo each other in proclaiming how proud they are and how much they love her.

Lily is on track to start at a top law firm as a lawyer, but not before a vacation to Bali with her best friend Wren (Butler). During the trip, she and Wren are separated from a tour group and it’s here that Lily meets Gede (Bouttier).

In a little over a month’s time, Lily is calling her parents to tell them she is engaged to Gede and will stay in Bali and not become a lawyer.

Both parents are not thrilled with the news, and each think they have to go down there to talk/trick her out of marrying Gede. They attempt a truce, but it’s very difficult for both of them.

Lily even asks them if they have made a pact to not murder each other before they murder her.

Shortly after meeting Gede, David tries to scare him by making him think Lily might bail on the marriage at any moment.

Despite this manipulation, when David is talking to Gede about how their marriage went south, there is a tinge of sadness in his voice.

When Georgia and David devise a plan and successfully steal the wedding rings, putting the ceremony on hold, Gede becomes suspicious.

While David continues to manipulate and tries to drive a wedge between Lily and Gede, Georgia has second thoughts about their sabotage.

In a moment of unity, Georgia and David challenge Lily and Gede to a game of beer pong, and some serious dances moves are busted out. This was definitely my favorite part in the whole movie. Lily said she was praying for an asteroid.

Around this point, Georgia’s boyfriend, Paul (Bravo) surprises her which only complicates matters.

After a tour gone wrong, Lily finds out about the rings and tells her parents she’s getting married – they can either get on board or fly home.

Clooney and Roberts play a very convincing bickering old (ex-)married couple and are an excellent comedy duo. There are many funny parts throughout this movie. I wasn’t busting a gut laughing, but this is a light and fun movie that is sweet, sad and malicious at times. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to see it in the theater, but I did, and enjoyed myself.

Two clumps of seaweed up!

Make sure you stay for the beginning of the credits.

Now playing in theaters and available to rent. <

Friday, November 4, 2022

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘The Adam Project’ action-packed, heartfelt fun

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes


“Time travel exists, you just don’t know it yet,” is the first line of this science-fiction adventure.

A time-traveling fighter pilot named Adam finds himself in 2022 (from the year 2050) and meets his 12-year-old self. The two join forces to save the future. Along the way the two learn about and from the other version of himself.

“The Adam Project” stars Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Keener, Alex Mallari Jr., and Braxton Bjerken.

Future Adam (Reynolds) steals a time-traveling jet to save his wife, Laura (Saldana) in 2018, but overshoots and ends up in 2022.

In 2022, 12-year-old Adam (Scobell) is often the target of bullies, due in part to talking back. When a fight gets him suspended for the third time, his mother Ellie (Garner) is furious.

Adam tells her with all these suspensions, you think he’d be better at fighting; she is not amused.

One night, while Ellie is on a date, 12-year-old Adam is playing video games and the power goes out. His dog takes off and he goes outside to find him where the atmosphere is similar to the Upside-Down. Adam finds his future self, injured in his dad’s shed. Adam’s dad was killed in a car accident.

Since future Adam is injured, he needs younger Adam’s DNA to enter his ship. Future Adam needs younger Adam to help him get to 2018.

While the two have some very sincere exchanges, younger Adam realizes things might not be so easy for his future self.



Adam is attacked by Maya Sorian (Keener), leader of the dystopian world. She also tried to assassinate Laura, who is also stuck in the past. Laura, who had a secret, helps the Adams defeat Sorian’s thugs.

Adam’s dad, Louis (Ruffalo) invented time-travel and Laura tells Adam he has to go back to 2018 in order to stop time travel from being invented; he must save the future. The two Adams return to 2018.

Here they meet their dad who is not thrilled to see them. He tells them they can’t be anywhere but their own timeline. The Adams need their dad to save the future.

The Adams share their thoughts on life with each other and their interactions can be profound at times.

Everything changes when another version of Maya Sorian threatens to kill younger Adam. Things go wrong. Is it too late to save the future?

This was an action-packed heartfelt movie. I did find it a little convoluted in parts, trying to figure out whose timeline is whose. I was satisfied with how it ended.

As time-travel movies go, it’s not one of my favorites. However, I’d still recommend it as a movie the whole family can watch. Note: there is mild language and violence.

Two “lightsabers” up.

Available on Netflix. <

Friday, October 21, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Smile’ a disturbing surprise

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes


In order to get the maximum screams for your buck, go into this movie knowing as little as possible. I honestly thought this would not affect me the way it did. I would put this in my top 20 favorite horror movies.

A doctor experiences a horrible incident and from that point on believes a malevolent spirit or force is coming for her in the form of smiling individuals. After doing some research, she finds that there have been several deaths and other traumas as a result of this possible force that was passed to her before she experienced the horrible incident. Is the doctor coming unhinged or is she onto something? Could there really be an evil presence that presents itself through smiling victims?

I realize that might sound stupid, but what I thought would be a not-so-scary overall disappointing horror movie (based on seeing only the trailer), turned out to leave me feeling anxious throughout. This was a very unsettling, albeit satisfactory horror movie, a good scare.

“Smile” stars Sosie Bacon, Jessie T. Usher, Caitlin Stasey, Kyle Gallner, Kal Penn, Robin Weigert, Rob Morgan and Gillian Zinser.

Dr. Rose Cutter (Bacon) sees patient Laura (Stasey) in the psychiatric unit of the hospital after Laura has experienced a violent act. Laura tells Rose it’s not a safe place for her; she is seeing something only she can see. It wears people’s faces like masks and smiles – not friendly smiles. Laura is screaming and completely beside herself.

Before Rose has a chance to intervene, things get very, very bad. And now Rose is beside herself. She is ordered by her boss (Penn) to take a week off.

Things only get progressively worse for her, and she decides to see a therapist (Weigert).

Rose is seeing and hearing things that she describes as a fleeting moment of stress-induced hallucinations.

When she tries to convince her family that an evil presence has attached itself to her, fiancĂ© Trevor (Usher) and sister Holly (Zinser), don’t believe her.

Watch out for the birthday party scene.

More time goes by, and Rose is only getting worse. Trevor is worried about her. Rose is worried because mental illness runs in their family and her mother committed suicide several years back.

There are only two people who believe her: a police officer, Joel (Gallner) and an inmate who somehow escaped the “curse,” (Morgan). The inmate tells her the thing needs trauma to spread. There’s only one way to pass it on.

This movie left me nervous and dreading what was going to happen next. That’s kind of what I was looking for in a good horror movie; this one may have over-delivered.

This movie is heavy on the language. It’s pretty violent and there are a lot of frightening scenes. Plus, suicide is a theme. Parts of the movie are shocking, yet sometimes ridiculous.

I continually asked myself what was real and what was not. The ominous, haunting music only exacerbates the disturbing nature of this movie. Even the voices and booming echoes as the credits ran gave me a feeling of uneasiness. For the most part I found it unpredictable and messed up. As a Halloween movie night, I would see this one in the theater – preferably not alone.

Two toy trains up.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, October 7, 2022

Movie Review: Disney+’s ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ different from original

By Matt Pascarella

Rated PG
Run Time 1 hour, 43 minutes


It’s officially the scariest time of the year! What better way to begin the Halloween movie season then with a sequel to a classic.

The Sanderson Sisters return to Salem to try once again to gain immortality, and this time a new group of kids will maybe thwart these witches. Are the sisters just as powerful as they used to be? Is this as much fun as the original? Or maybe a bit of a letdown?

This sequel stars Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kathy Najimy, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, Hannah Waddingham, Lilia Buckingham, Taylor Henderson, Nina Kitchen, Juju Journey Brener, Sam Richardson, Doug Jones and Tony Hale.

It’s 1653 in Salem and a young Winifred Sanderson (Henderson) is very upset because it’s her 16th birthday and she doesn’t want to marry the Reverend she’s committed to. The actresses who play the Sanderson sisters (Kitchen and Brener) give incredible performances. Henderson especially has Winifred’s cadence, facial expressions and movements down.

The Reverend banishes them from Salem, but they escape to the Forbidden Wood where they meet The Witch Mother (Waddingham) who tells them one day Salem will belong to Witches and gives Winifred Book.

It's Halloween, current day and is Becca’s (Peak) birthday. She and her best friend Izzy (Esccobedo) have plans for a sleepover. They wish their friend Cassie (Buckingham) would hang out with them, but things have changed since she got a boyfriend.

Magic shop owner Gilbert (Richardson) tells the story of the Sanderson Sisters. He has Winifred’s Book on display. Gilbert gifts Becca a Black Flame Candle.

When Becca and Izzy light the candle, lightning strikes and the Sanderson Sisters return. The girls trick the sisters and take them to a modern apothecary where they run amok.

Later you find out Gilbert tricked Becca because he is the Sanderson Sisters’ biggest fan. The sisters throw Izzy and Becca in a “dungeon” under Gilbert’s shop.

Winnie who wants to be the most powerful witch on Earth will perform the Magicae Maxima spell to achieve this – a spell The Witch Mother said must never be performed.

Gilbert must gather the ingredients for the spell or be killed. He digs up Billy Butcherson (Jones). The two team up to get back at Winifred.

Mayor Trask (Hale) is in danger because he is a descendant of the Reverend. Becca and Izzy warn Cassie of this and trick the Sanderson Sisters again.

Gilbert may have been a little untruthful. Once the sisters do escape from being tricked, they steal Cassie. They plan to perform Magicae Maxima and then torture her.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved the original “Hocus Pocus.” So, when I found out the Sanderson Sisters were returning to Salem 29 years later, I set my expectations high ... too high.

Let me start off by saying this is a good sequel. It is not a great sequel though. It’s fun and there are many callbacks and flashbacks to the original. It has a lot of physical comedy and some great gags.

Mary Sanderson rides a couple of Roombas – or Broomies through the air – and the Sanderson Sisters even interact with Amazon’s Alexa. I wish the story had continued with Allison, Max and Dani though Billy was in it. While this sequel does not hold a Black Flame Candle to the original, it’s still hauntingly good fun.

One Broomie up.

Available on Disney+ <

Friday, September 23, 2022

Book-signing event a success for newspaper columnist

By Ed Pierce

Columnist Andy Young of The Windham Eagle had little idea what to expect when he agreed to appear at a book-signing event at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Windham last weekend, but says he was pleasantly surprised to meet readers there while promoting his new book “Work(s) in Progress.”

Andy Young, a columnist for The Windham Eagle newspaper,
autographs a copy of his new book 'Work(s) in Progress'
for Windham High School student Lillian O'Brion during a
meet the author and book-signing event at Sherman's Maine
Coast Book Shop on Sept. 17. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 
Young, a Kennebunk High School English teacher and a columnist for The Windham Eagle newspaper, penned the collection of essays contained in “Works(s) in Progress” over the span of 17 years and derived them from columns that he’s written for newspapers in Maine. His first book was called “Young Ideas” and came out in 2014.

He wanted to have his new book, issued by Jackanapes Publishing of Cumberland, available sooner, but circumstances and the global pandemic postponed its publication until this year.

“I wanted to have it for Christmas two years ago,” Young said. “Fortunately, someone put me in touch with a woman in Portland, Lori Harley, who puts together books and she was very helpful with all the layout stuff and even helped proofread it.”

Young’s column focusing on humorous observances about life has appeared in The Windham Eagle since May 2020 and he formerly wrote for the now-closed Maine newspapers Falmouth Community Leader, Yarmouth Notes and Biddeford Journal-Tribune.

According to Young, his favorite subject to write about is something all readers can relate to.

“I like to write about life and what life does,” he said.

His least favorite thing to write about, Young says, are “things everyone else writes about.”

He said for him, the best time to write his selected observations about life is before 7 a.m.

“Let me specifically say I do my best work between 4 and 8 a.m.,” Young said.

Among his personal favorite authors, Young says he enjoys the writing of novelist and newspaper columnist Carl Hiaasen and esteemed author and Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam.

“When it comes to non-fiction there is nobody better than Halberstam,” he said. “I could read his work all day.”

His appearance at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop was a success for several reasons, Young said.

“I sold some books and two of which were to people I hadn't previously known,” he said. “All copies were suitably inscribed, so everyone got 6.3 percent off the cover price.”

He said the exposure at Sherman’s was fantastic, he enjoyed meeting people there that day and for readers who couldn’t make it there, Sherman’s has a supply of “Works(s) in Progress” available for purchase.

Plans for yet another book are already in development, Young says.

“Yes, I’ve got one more and I’m already picturing what the cover will look like,” he said.

And for readers who seemingly can’t wait for the publication of his next book, Young said he hopes to continue to write his column for The Windham Eagle newspaper for as long as he can.

“I’m truly grateful to The Windham Eagle for including my column in the paper and I’m thankful so many readers like it,” he said. <

Movie Review: ‘Vengeance’ good, but falls a little short

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes


Written and directed by B.J. Novak, “Vengeance” is the story of a writer who travels to Texas to solve the death of a woman he had been seeing casually. What he finds is a shock to him and her family.

In this directorial debut, Novak stars along with Boyd Holbrook, Issa Rae, Dove Cameron, Ashton Kutcher, J. Smith-Cameron, Isabella Amara, Lio Tipton and John Mayer.

Ben Manalowitz (Novak) is a writer for The New Yorker and wants to tell a story people will connect with; his producer, Eliose (Rae) wants to help him do it.

When Ben gets a call from a grief-stricken family after the death of their daughter Abilene (Tipton) from an opioid overdose, they are convinced she and Ben were close, when really, they were barely acquaintances. They insist he fly to Texas and attend her funeral.

Her brother Ty (Holbrook) thinks she was murdered, and he and Ben are going to avenge her. Ben says as a personal boundary, he doesn’t avenge deaths, his life is not a Liam Neeson movie. Ty says being in Texas could be a good story. Eliose agrees and Ben flies down.

There is no actual proof of a murder, just theories because the truth might be too hard to accept.

Ben creates the podcast “Dead White Girl” and will record interviews with friends, family, and members of the community to try to get to the bottom of what might have really happened.

He goes to a recording studio where Abilene recorded a song and meets with Quentin Sellers (Kutcher) who, I found interesting initially. At one point Ben asks what advice Quentin would give and he tells him to just listen and repeat what you hear back.

The family gets very comfortable with Ben while he is staying with them. They are learning from him, and he is certainly learning from them.

This movie has funny moments, like when Ben visits a rodeo, tries a deep-fried Twinkie, and gets caught Shazaming “Deep in the Heart of Texas.” There is also some darker, more subtle humor.

As soon as Ben begins to make progress, something happens. His producer says they have enough for the podcast and tells him to come back. He chooses to stay and that’s when the real truths come out.

With a movie title like “Vengeance” you would think there would be action and maybe some violence. There is very little of that. This is a satirical fish out of water revenge movie but is more satire than revenge. This movie has more heart than action – and that’s not a bad thing.

As you get further and further along in Ben’s podcast, I found it very interesting, and it is definitely something that I might listen to in my long list of podcasts.

My fault with this movie lies in the ending. I liked it but think it could have been done differently.

This is absolutely worth seeing or renting, but I only give it one podcast microphone up.

Streaming on NBC’s Peacock and available to rent. <

Friday, September 9, 2022

Oldies Dance to return in October

If classic rock n’ roll is the soundtrack to generations of music lovers, the Rock n’ Roll Oldies Dance is a way to let loose and embrace a trip back through time on the dance floor.

The 20th Rock n' Roll Oldies Benefit Dance will be held
from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday Oct. 15 at the Eagle's Hall
in Biddeford. For tickets, call 207-284-4692. 
The 20th edition of the popular benefit dance will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Eagle’s Hall, 57 Birch St. in Biddeford and is the largest community fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Portland. Tickets are just $10 with proceeds donated to the Ronald McDonald House, which provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients, supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and enables family centered care to ensure that family members are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.

Oldies Dance Group organizer Bruce Martin says that to date, the organization has raised $85,500 for Ronald McDonald House and he recommends that anyone interested in attending the dance to act fast as tickets are a hot commodity, selling out quickly with seating limited.

“I’m constantly amazed at how quickly these tickets sell,” Martin said. “It’s confirmation that people still love to dance, and they love to listen to classic rock n’ roll oldies music. We can only accommodate about 300 people at each of these dances, so I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in attending to call and get their tickets as soon as possible.”

According to Martin, the Oldies Dance Group sold 349 tickets to its May 7 dance in just 10 days and had to turn away 82 additional requests for tickets because of seating limitations. This reinforces the continuing popularity of rock n’ roll music and public support for the Ronald McDonald House, he said.

Martin attributes the ongoing success of the oldies dance in the community to the public’s enduring love for some of the greatest rock n’ roll music from the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He said that for many participants, the Oldies Dance is an opportunity to get out of the house on a Saturday evening and dance the night away in a safe and comfortable setting or just socialize with friends and listen to some classic tunes.

“Without a doubt, the most popular song at every dance is ‘Unchained Melody’ by the Righteous Brothers,” Martin said. “Even guys who don’t normally dance get up and are out on the dance floor for that one. The music is fantastic and takes you back to a simpler time where you know all the words to the songs by heart and the beat is contagious and makes you want to get up and express yourself through dancing. Those memorable Motown hits and anything we play by Elvis Presley ensure the dance floor will be packed.”

The bottom line though is that each Oldies Dance is highly affordable and raises money in a fun way to support the important work that the staff of the Ronald McDonald House in Portland is doing, he said.

To purchase tickets for the October dance or for more information, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692. <

Movie review: Heartfelt ‘Gigi & Nate’ film falls short

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes


What starts in an incredibly emotional and heart-breaking place, does eventually ease up and become a less intense movie about a teenager, Nate, who weeks before he was to head off to college contracts meningitis and goes through a harrowing life-change that takes a toll on himself and his family.

To help Nate who has become paralyzed, his family gets a service animal, a Capuchin monkey name Gigi, to help him. It starts off nice and very effective for Nate, but a run-in with an animal activist group puts the fate of Gigi’s companionship and service to Nate in jeopardy.

Intended to be a feel-good movie, and it is in spots, the ending leaves much to be desired and glosses over what could have been a more satisfying conclusion against the movie’s antagonist.

“Gigi & Nate” stars Charlie Row, Marcia Gay Harden, Jim Belushi, Zoe Margaret Colletti, Josephine Langford, Diane Ladd, Hannah Riley, Sasha Compere, Deja Dee and Welker White.

Nate (Rowe) goes off with some friends on the Fourth of July and meets Lori (Colletti). They all go out on a boat for some tubing. Later, Nate jumps from a cliff into the water. Initially, he seems fine, but later complains of a headache.

After their dinner gets rained on, Nate is found throwing up and is having trouble breathing. He is rushed to the hospital where it is discovered his brain is swelling. He is airlifted to another hospital closer to where his family lives.

Four years later Nate is a quadriplegic. He lives a completely different life with his mother, Claire (Harden), father, Dan (Belushi) and sister Annabelle (Riley).

Nate is understandably angry and depressed and even attempts to kill himself.

Claire requests a service animal and that’s when Nate meets Capuchin monkey Gigi. It’s a rocky start with the possibility of returning Gigi discussed by Claire and Dan.

After Gigi observes Nate’s day-to-day routine for a while, she eventually figures out how to help him. One such instance is when she lifts his fingers up so he can grip a ball during a therapy session.

Gigi and Nate go everywhere, and Nate’s attitude is greatly improved.

While the two are in the grocery store one day Nate runs into Lori, who invites him to a party.

Nate also runs into Chloe Gaines (White) who says the monkey is a public health issue, and they need to leave the supermarket. This interaction later leads to protests and a hearing to decide if the state of Tennessee will ban Capuchin monkeys as service animals. Nate testifies and tells the committee Gigi is not a screen he stares at or a robot he orders around and that he wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Gigi.

Loosely based on real-life events, I thought this would be a feel-good, cheery movie. It has its moments, but overall, I say this is sub-par at best. The first 15 to 20 minutes are stressful. What followed did not have me leaving the theater feeling uplifted, but kind of let down. The solution to the problem that arises misses an opportunity for another victory for this guy whose life is tough enough. Wait until this comes to streaming if you really want to see it.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Windham Parks and Recreation prepares for upcoming fall activities

By Masha Yurkevich

Summer was a blast, with fun days at the beach and stary nights by the campfire. But as the calendar turns to September, fall is hiding just around the corner. Leaves changing colors and warmer clothes exchanging summer dresses, sandals and shorts doesn’t mean that fun times and making lifetime memories has to stop; fall in Maine is a wonderful and beautiful time to take advantage of and enjoy all that Maine has to offer. Windham’s Parks and Recreation Department help people make the most out of the beautiful time by coming together and offering fun activities for people of all ages.

Last year's Halloween Costume Contest and
Family Winner were Leanna, Bryce and Isaac
as Alvin and the Chipmunks.
SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Fall activities for the department start in September and run all the way through December. It includes holiday and community events such as the popular Halloween Costume Contest, Family Line Dancing Party, Holiday Light Parade and the North Pole Hotline, youth programs such as Playdates in the Park, Kiddie Gym, School Vacation Trips, Mad Science, Hiking Club and karate, adult sports programs like Tennis in Parks, Men’s Basketball League, Sunday Open Gym and Adult Pickleball. There are also events for seniors that include apple picking, a visit to the Fryeburg Fair, a holiday lunch and concert, a mystery breakfast outing, fall foliage trips and much more. There are also discounted tickets, Shawnee Peak night season passes, Sesame Street Live and Disney on Ice.

For many of the events, there is a registration start and end time and specific deadlines for participants to enroll.

Kelsey Crowe is the Deputy Director at Windham Parks and Recreation and has been a part of Windham Parks and Recreation for five years.

“Some programs and events are free to participate in like Trunk or Treat, but most programs have a cost,” says Crowe. “We do have scholarship money available that families and seniors can apply for through Windham Social Services if needed.”

While some events are free and some require a fee, there are also events that welcome donations, such as the Family Line Dancing Party.

Most of the programs and events are open to everyone whether they are Windham residents or non-residents. There are a few programs that are for Windham residents only, like the after-school program for kids at Windham Middle School, or the Halloween Costume Contest because it is free to enter, and Windham Parks and Recreation covers the cost of prizes to the participants.

“Many of our programs and events also have registration deadlines so we can plan and prepare for the number of participants at the event,” said Crowe.

There are many benefits of Parks and Recreation in any community and here are a few: programs and events provide a social outlet and a way to connect with people in the community, after school programs provide a safe space for at-risk youth, and senior programs enhance seniors' quality of life.

“There is never just one person in charge of an event or program in our department, we all work together to prepare for the event, and everyone helps to run the event as well,” Crowe said. “Many of our programs and events would not be possible without the support of many Windham businesses and organizations who volunteer and donate their time to help us throughout the year.”

Many of the large community events have been going on for many years, before Crowe’s time with Windham, and they have been very successful. During COVID, the activities had come to a bit of a halt. Many of previous the activities included people interacting and being surrounded by each other. Parks and Recreation had to come up with some new programs and events where the community could participate and be together but at a safe distance like the Town Wide Easter and Light Parade or Winter Bingo where families would go to our different parks and do different activities to complete a bingo. As life is slowly getting back to normal, so are the events and activities.

To find more information about upcoming programs and events, please visit the Windham Parks and Recreation website, windhamrecreation.com. There is also a flyer with all upcoming fall activities and events with the registration dates, location and more information and details. People can also stop by the office at Windham Town Hall for more information. <

Friday, August 26, 2022

Movie review: Disney+’s ‘Lightyear’ the story of a man who becomes a toy

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes


It’s 1995 and a little boy named Andy is about to receive a new and exciting toy for his birthday. This toy is based on a movie about a Space Ranger. This movie is his story.

Disney+’s “Lightyear” is all about the adventures of the one and only Buzz Lightyear, a heroic Space Ranger and how he comes to grips with failure, why he considers it important to keep trying and the importance of friends – in every form.

Like so many Pixar movies, it works on a level that I think both kids and adults can enjoy. “Lightyear” stars Chris Evans, Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, Taika Waititi, Uzo Aduba, Keira Hairston, Dale Soules, James Brolin, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Bill Hader.

Commander Hawthorne (Aduba) and Buzz Lightyear (Evans) are set to explore an uncharted planet where sensors have detected potential lifeforms.

Suddenly, they are attacked. Things go badly.

After a full year of being marooned, the crew has put the planet’s resources to use. Buzz is ready to leave though; his first hyper-speed test flight is a go.

He is granted four minutes off the planet, and it doesn’t go as planned. When he returns to the planet, he realizes that time dilation occurred and four minutes for him was four years on the planet. Everyone is different.

Buzz still wants to correct this mission.

“We’re Space Rangers; we finish missions,” Lightyear tells Commander Hawthorne.

Unfortunately, he keeps failing. So much so that Commander Hawthorne leaves and a new stricter commander, Commander Burnside (Whitlock Jr.) takes her place. Commander Burnside says Lightyear’s mission is over. He will remain on this planet.

Lightyear goes rogue and leaves the planet. Afterward, he meets Commander Hawthorne’s daughter, Izzy (Palmer). She helps him escape from a Zurg robot ship.

Izzy has a team of Junior Patrol (Steel and Waititi), a volunteer team of self-motivated cadets, who are trying their best.

They must defeat Zurg and get off the planet, but their ship is busted.

They need each other in order to survive. Lightyear can’t do it alone.

I was skeptical about this movie. Buzz Lightyear has been a favorite of mine for a long time and while this is a companion to his story, I had trouble seeing him as more than a toy. Those feelings quickly diminished once I started watching. Action-packed with heart and emotional at times, “Lightyear” is another Pixar homerun as far as I’m concerned.

My only issues are little details that don’t line up with what we first learned about Buzz Lightyear.

Why would the toy have a different voice from how Buzz sounded in the movie? (No disrespect to Chris Evans).

Why didn’t SOX come with the Buzz Lightyear toy in “Toy Story?”

However, maybe I’m overthinking it. Actually, I’m definitely overthinking it.

Overall, I’d recommend this. Don’t compare it to “Toy Story” because I feel it’s a different storyline. It has a great cast and is worth two meat sandwiches – with the meat on the outside, bread in the middle – up.

Streaming on Disney+ and to buy. <

Friday, August 19, 2022

Mills announces Maine expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library

During a virtual discussion with iconic singer-songwriter Dolly Parton at the National Governor’s Association, Maine Gov. Janet Mills has announced that the State of Maine is launching a statewide expansion of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 2023.

Maine is launching a statewide expansion of Dolly Parton's
Imagination Library in 2023. The program is dedicated to
improving the lives of children by inspiring a love of 
reading with books and is free to enrolled  children and
their families. COURTESY PHOTO
The Imagination Library of Maine will mail high-quality, age-appropriate books to children from birth until age five every months, no matter their family’s income. The program is dedicated to improving the lives of children by inspiring a love of reading with books and is free to enrolled children and families.

As part of the recent bipartisan budget Mills proposed, and the Maine Legislature approved, a $200,000 investment to implement the program, which will be administered by the Maine State Library. Together, The Dollywood Foundation and the Maine State Library will develop an implementation strategy this year with local libraries, community non-profits, the Maine Department of Education, and school systems – to establish and expand the program in the coming years.

By the end of 2023, the State of Maine and the Imagination Library hope to have sent an initial 106,000 books to more than 14,000 children across Maine.

Maine is the 13th state to commit to achieving statewide coverage of the program.

“We know the simple act of reading to a child stimulates brain development, reduces stress and anxiety, builds vocabulary, and develops the literacy skills they’ll need to succeed in school and beyond,” Mills said. “Today, we are taking another step forward to help make that happen by delivering books free of charge to Maine kids. Maine is proud to join the family of states that participate in the Imagination Library. On behalf of all Maine children who will be served by this program in the years to come, I thank the one-and-only Dolly Parton.”

State library officials agree.

“The Maine State Library is excited to be able to administer this program that will eventually connect tens of thousands of families and Maine children with wonderful books sent right to their homes,” said State Librarian James Ritter. “Working with Maine’s libraries and other organizations, we will have the opportunity to foster and grow generations of young readers through the Imagination Library, and for every child that learns to read, we know we are helping to build a community of lifelong learners.”

The Imagination Library builds on the Mills Administration’s commitment to increasing childhood literacy in Maine, including investing $10 million through the Governor’s Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan to create and expand pre-school programs across Maine.

The Administration is also creating “Literacy for ME 2.0” to revamp its statewide literacy plan and the Maine Association for Improving Literacy to mobilize a network of educators who are committed to supporting statewide literacy efforts.

This summer, the Maine Department of Education will also be hosting its first ever Educator Summit to train our teachers in the most effective, evidence-based practices for increasing childhood literacy. Every year, the Department also sponsors the statewide “Read to Me” challenge to encourage adults to read to their children.

In 2019, about 57 percent of fourth grade students who are eligible for free or reduced lunch scored below proficiency reading levels while 33 percent of students who are not eligible for free or reduced lunch scored below proficiency reading levels. However, Maine is ranked fifth in the nation for the percentage of parents with children aged 0 to 5 who read to their children every day (46.9 percent).

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library in 1995 to distribute books to the impoverished Tennessee county where she grew up. The State of Tennessee quickly adopted the program statewide, and, since then, the nonprofit program has expanded into five countries. As of June 2022, the Imagination Library has gifted 184,615,046 books with over 2 million kids currently registered.

According to The Dollywood Foundation, 90 percent of a child’s brain is developed by the age of five, making that time period critically important for their development that can be enhanced by reading books. The Foundation notes that daily readings by parents or caregivers provide the greatest opportunity to prepare their child for school and that literacy is a major social determinant of health and economic impact in the long-term.

Since launching in 1995, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has become the preeminent early childhood book-gifting program in the world. The flagship program of The Dollywood Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, has gifted well over 182 million free books in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and The Republic of Ireland.

The Imagination Library mails more than 2 million high-quality, age-appropriate books each month to enrolled children from birth to age five. Dolly envisioned creating a lifelong love of reading, inspiring children to dream more, learn more, care more and be more. The impact of the program has been widely researched and results suggest positive increases in key early childhood literacy metrics. Penguin Random House is the exclusive publisher for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

For more information, please visit imaginationlibrary.com <

Friday, August 12, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Uncharted’ a lot of pure fun

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes


A disoriented man hanging out of a cargo plane, cargo falling out the back of the plane, several henchmen and a very expensive car. “Uncharted” opens in mid-air and from its start is a non-stop thrill ride. It’s fun, funny and a good time for viewers. Get the cat and gather round for a tale of mystery and adventure.

“Uncharted” stars Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Antonio Banderas, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Tiernan Jones and Rudy Pankow.

Some 15 years prior to the disoriented man, Nate (Holland) falling from the cargo plane, he and his brother, Sam (Pankow) are getting into some trouble. And since this is the third strike for Sam, he’s being kicked out of the orphanage they reside in. Nate hasn’t seen Sam since.

New York: present day. Nate is a bartender with an extracurricular activity. He runs into Victor Sullivan (Wahlberg), or Sully, who makes him an offer he refuses. Sully may know Sam.

Sully tries to entice Nate by saying they could find his brother on this expedition to find Magellan’s gold. Nate eventually accepts. They use an ancient map that Nate and Sam have reveled over for years to take them to Magellan’s gold.

In order to begin their journey, they must first steal a cross-shaped key from an auction house.

It is here that the two meet Jo Braddock (Gabrielle), along with Santiago Moncada (Banderas) who are also in search of Magellan’s gold.

Sully gets a hold of the cross in less than legal ways. Nate and Sully head to Barcelona. Nate is introduced to Chloe (Ali), a pickpocket who is ambivalent about working with others – however she has the other key needed to take the three closer to the gold.

Moncada is upset he missed out on getting the cross and commits a horrible act.

Nate finds a possible clue as to the whereabouts of his brother.

Nate, Sully and Chloe open a tunnel and are the first ones to enter in 100 years.

Jo is not far behind.

The ancient tunnel does not lead where they expected it to. Chloe says she knows Sam. Chloe steals the map; is it possible she is a double agent?

Nate says he’s going to finish what he and his brother started, and he and Sully go their separate ways.

Then there is a lot of double-crossing.

Nate and Sully eventually meet back up. Nate realizes the clues to the gold might be in the postcards his brother wrote him after leaving the orphanage.

“Lost is not gone; there’s a difference – if something is lost it can always be found.”

I regret that I didn’t see this when it was in the theater, but even watching it on Netflix, it was a wild, adrenaline-fueled ride. Based on the videogame of the same name, the plot was reminiscent of a smaller-casted “Goonies”, minus Sloth.

The special effects were spectacular with breath-taking scenery. Stick around after the credits, as there is hint to the possibility of a sequel. From everything I read, it looks like it is very likely to happen. Even if you can’t see the original on the big screen, this is an energetic good time.

Two pieces of Bubblicious Gum up.

Available on Netflix. <

Friday, August 5, 2022

Author details family’s triumph over alcoholism at Windham book signing

By Ed Pierce

In a journey that took almost four years from start to finish, Ed Crockett was able to express his struggle to overcome the challenges of his father’s struggles with alcoholism in his book “The Ghosts of Walter Crockett.” On July 23, the first-time author met readers during an appearance at a book-signing event at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Windham.

Author Ed Crockett appeared at Sherman's Maine 
Coast Book Shop in Windham on July 23 to promote
his memoir "The Ghosts of Walter Crockett" about
his family's struggle to overcome their father's
alcoholism. Crockett was joined at the event by
his sister, Marie Elder of Windham.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Crockett, a state representative from Portland and the president of Capt’n Eli’s Soda Company, published the book last fall and it recounts his struggle to emerge from a childhood of poverty and welfare as his siblings tried to stay afloat while their father was wallowing in alcoholic despair. His sister, Marie Elder of Windham, also joined Crockett at the book signing and they discussed how so many people relate to this book as it ultimately is a story of love and redemption.

“When my father passed in 2012, he was the feature obituary in the Portland Press Herald. The first line said, "Walter Crockett the biggest drunk in Portland," Crockett said. “Although that was true it was not the full story and certainly not his true legacy. Nobody knew that at the time of his death my dad had been sober for more than 30 years or that he had saved lives through Alcoholics Anonymous.”

He said that in his sobriety, the family had joked that nobody would believe the father’s story unless it was on the big screen.

“Shortly after his death I was reminiscing about my father with my teenage son, Ted, and told him Grampy's life would make a great movie,” Crockett said. ‘He looked at me, the wisdom of a teenager, and said, "Dad, it will never happen unless you do it.’ Those two moments prompted me to start writing.”

Crockett said that putting his family’s story into words helped release him from a troubled past.

“Writing this book freed burdens that I didn't even know existed,” he said. “It was very cathartic. Sharing my feelings was the most challenging. I enjoy talking about my mom and dad, but myself, not so much.”

He had finished his original manuscript of “The Ghosts of Walter Crockett” in 2016 and presented it to his kids and family.

“They encouraged me to share it with friends. In 2019 one of those friends, who had published a few books, asked if he could pass it on to his publisher. I said, "Thank you," Crockett said.

According to Crockett, he started the process of telling this story by trying to write a screenplay.

“I quickly realized I didn't know what I was doing and decided to write down what was in my head chronologically, listing key moments in our lives that intertwined then expanding on those moments,” he said. “It was done on weeknights and weekends. I was working full-time plus trying to get our soda business flourishing.”

Since it’s publication, the feedback Crocket has received about his book has been tremendous.

“It’s been 100 percent appreciative and encouraging,” he said. “It's been incredibly humbling and heartwarming. Everyone has a story. The things my family dealt with are very common. How relatable it is, is the most frequent comment.”

Through his book which is available at Sherman’s, Crockett said he’d like everyone to know that we all have people in our lives that are in a bad place.

“There is always hope. Let's not ever give up on each other,” he said. “The reward is priceless.”

Crockett’s family supports his writing the book and through its publication, something else interesting has happened.

“I've met three first cousins that I didn't even know existed. That has been really cool,” he said.

Currently Crockett is promoting the book and says although he doesn’t have any plans to write another, he does have some ideas percolating.

He said now that the book has been published and you’ve had some time to reflect on the entire publishing process, he’s very happy with the result.

“My editor was extremely helpful organizing the story and improving its flow,” Crockett said. “Being a memoir there wasn't any content to change, but there were healthy discussions on what rose to the top due to space and size.” <

Friday, July 29, 2022

Movie Review: ‘Nope’ will leave you unsure

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 2 hours, 10 min


The first thing that appears on the screen is this verse:

“I will pelt you with filth, I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle.” – Nahum 3:6

Shrouded in a bit of secrecy until it’s release, writer/director Jordan Peele’s “Nope” is the story of the Haywood Hollywood Horse Trainers, the only African American-owned horse trainers in Hollywood and some weird occurrences that happen at their ranch.

After watching the first 30 or so minutes of this movie, I drew a conclusion that I’m still not sure is correct. While the ending left me a little confused, this is still a very good, sometimes very startling movie.

“Nope” stars Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Keith David, Brandon Perea, Steven Yeun, Wrenn Schmidt, Michael Wincott and Sophia Coto.

Did you know the first assembly of photographs to create a motion picture was a two second clip of an African American man on a horse? And that man was Emerald Haywood’s great, great, great grandfather.

OJ (Kaluuya) is out on the ranch with his dad (David) and all of a sudden, objects begin rapidly falling from the sky and kill OJ’s dad.

After a missed opportunity to feature a horse in a movie, OJ and his sister, Emerald (Palmer), meet with Ricky Park (Yeun) who owns an amusement park called Jupiter’s Claim. Park was a child actor on a 1990s sitcom called “Gordie’s Home” where a chimp infamously went on a 6 minute, 13 second killing spree.

Back at the ranch, OJ sees lights flickering and a screeching sound that makes a horse escape its pen. There is something in the sky.

Emerald and OJ are concerned so they buy several outdoor cameras to monitor the sky. They meet Angel (Perea), a somewhat arrogant tech installer and a bit of a conspiracy theorist.

After OJ sees something in the sky again, he contacts a Hollywood producer, Antlers Holst (Wincott) about the possibly of making a documentary.

OJ and Emerald promise the impossible.

In a nightly show Park does at Jupiter’s Claim, he professes to have seen a flying saucer every night at 6:13 p.m. Park calls them “The Viewers.” Some weird stuff happens and results in several disappearances.

Another event in which many things are zooming from the sky to the Earth and this time it’s a little gorier. Emerald, OJ and Angel must run for their lives.

“Nope” is somewhat allusive in plot. So much so that three quarters of the way through the first time I saw it, a thunderstorm knocked out the power in the theater and the movie stopped very abruptly in a key point and I figured this was part of the movie - until the screen never came back on.

A lot happens and I still have not put together how, or if, it all fits together. Not knowing adds to the fright. Why was that shoe standing straight up on it’s heal?

The plot moves quickly and kept me wanting to know more. I might have to see it a third time.

Side note: there is a bit of mild gore, violence as well as language in this movie.

Two cowboy hats up.

Now playing in theaters. <