Friday, October 23, 2020

VUDU’s ‘Save Yourselves’ starts strong, but ultimately fizzles

By Matt Pascarella

In the film “Save Yourselves” a couple, Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds), are rarely off the grid. Like many, theses millennials use some sort of device several times throughout their day. When the two decide to go device-free for the week at a friend’s cabin, they picked the wrong week to do so. Is there a right week to do anything, when aliens attack?

Su and Jack attend a wedding where Jack’s friend Raph (Ben Sinclair) offers the two his cabin for a week. Su and Jack make a pact to go device-free for the week, in an effort to become more authentic.

They begin their week by going on a hike where they hear gunshots in the distance and don’t give it much thought. Later that night, after Jack is unable to start a fire, they see what they think are shooting stars lighting up the night sky. Are these really shooting stars?

“The urge to take out my phone is really strong,” says Su.

One of these shooting stars hits the Earth. And there may or may not be chaos slowly happening all around them, but Su and Jack are so tuned into being authentic they do not notice.

What they do notice is a pouffe, a round hairy something, like a hairy soccer ball in the cabin. They later notice the pouffe can move.

Su and Jack trying to be authentic leads to some arguing and a truthful discussion where Jack admits he doesn’t know how to do ‘manly things,’ like gut a fish. Afterward, Su breaks their pact and checks her phone where she has many voicemails and text messages informing her that these pouffes have begun taking over. Su and Jack decide it’s time to turn their phones back on.

From the information in the texts and voicemails the two have received, these pouffes or possible aliens, are attracted to ethanol. This makes Su and Jack’s car a paperweight. The two freak out but develop a plan. They find a working car in Raph’s shed.

From here things really begin to unravel and get very strange. On their way away from the cabin, they see a pouffe kill two people. As Su and Jack are driving by, they realize this couple had a baby in their vehicle and Su and Jack decide they need to try and save him.

While saving the baby and trying to escape these pouffes, a pouffe attacks Jack.

Will he survive? Do they both escape? What is going on?

This is billed as a comedy and it is mildly funny; let me stress mildy. The first two acts are relatively strong and actually pretty good. It’s the third act where this movie lost me. It just gets too weird, with too many strange turns that didn’t seems to add to the overall plot of the story.

I rented this movie and while it wasn’t a total bust, I would save yourself from “Save Yourselves.” <

Friday, October 16, 2020

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Hubie Halloween’ delivers laughs, frights and a familiar feel

By Matt Pascarella

The character of Hubie Dubois may be new to the screen, but in Adam Sandler’s ‘Hubie Halloween’ Sandler, who plays Hubie, brings a very familiar feel from his past movies, like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore”, to this new character’s story. Several big names, and a few surprise cameos, round out the cast of this relatively new, hilariously spooky Netflix film.

It begins with orderly Hal L. discovering someone has escaped from the psych ward in Salem, Massachusetts.

It’s the day before Halloween and Hubie (Sandler) is preparing for the big day. Hubie is a laughing stock around town. Everyone, kids included, constantly tease and are mean to him.

Hubie meets Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi) who has moved in next door to Hubie and seems very nice, but Hubie soon notices something is off about Lambert.

Hubie lives with his mother (June Squibb) who tells him he needs to stick up for himself more. The only person who doesn’t tease him is Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen) who he has had a crush on for many years.

The big day is here – Halloween. The movie’s scenery provides a very, what I would call, classic Halloween feel. Salem is preparing for their annual parade. As daylight is fading fast, where is the escaped psych ward patient?

Every year, Hubie dubs himself the Halloween monitor and goes around monitoring the streets to make sure people are being safe.

He hears noise coming from Mr. Lambert’s home and goes to check it out, only to make an odd discovery.

While policing the streets, all of Salem teases Hubie; it’s even said that “messing with Hubie is a Salem tradition.”

Soon, some kids go missing. Then several adults. Now there is a mystery on Salem’s hands and Hubie is on the case. He even gets accused of making these people disappear.

Was Hubie responsible for the disappearances? What about the escaped psych ward patient? Will the lost people be found...alive? And what about Violet and Hubie? What does their future hold?

I am generally a fan of Sandler’s movie’s, though my two favorites, without question, are “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore.” I only mention these two because this movie had a very similar comedy feel to those Sandler movies of the mid 1990s. 

This movie is very slapstick, with potty humor and several call-back jokes to the above mentioned movies; can you spot the references? It does have some language and a fair amount of sexual humor in the form of several risqué t-shirts, worn by Hubie’s mom. I wasn’t a fan of the voice Sandler gave Hubie and I felt the stupidity was a little over-the-top at times, but still enjoyed this movie and would recommend it. It has great music and great cameos.

Two retractable thermoses up – or is that out? Sideways maybe? <

Friday, October 9, 2020

‘The Addams Family’ shows the lighter side of macabre

By Matt Pascarella

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, The Addams family. The macabre family and their wacky antics are brought to life for a new generation. The movie features a star-studded cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Martin Short, Bette Midler, Catherine O’Hara, Tituss Burgess and Snoop Dogg – yes, Snoop Dogg!

What started as a comic strip in the 1930s, a TV series in the 1960s and later multiple movies and multiple animated series in the 1990s, is now a computer animated movie with jokes both kids and adults can enjoy.

The movie begins with Morticia (Theron) and Gomez (Isaac) getting married and the entire Addamses family is at the ceremony when it is interrupted by angry townspeople calling them monsters and saying the Addams family isn’t welcome in their town. They are soon under attack.

The funny gags appear right from the start. As Morticia and Gomez try to escape, they cut the pants of the torch-carrying villagers, revealing an assortment of underwear. The two eventually escape the angry villagers.

Morticia and Gomez later meet Lurch, a servant of theirs, and the three moved into an abandoned insane asylum. 13 years later, they have two children, Wednesday (Mortez) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). 

We meet Wednesday as she awakens for the day, wearing her noose earrings (a nice touch), and seemingly bored of the same routine. Pugsley is playing with a rocket, when he should be practicing for his Mazurka, ‘the most important day in an Addams’ life’ his father tells him. Family members from all over will be coming to watch Pugsley. Wednesday has never left her home and is curious what is beyond the family gate. The family visits a nearby town.

Here, Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) cracks jokes, while the movie conveys a message about conformity. The family meets Margaux Needler (Allison Janey), a home renovator who offers to give the Addams’ home a makeover. Margaux seems innocent enough at first but may have an ulterior motive. Morticia is not interested and turns her down.

Wednesday makes a friend with Margaux’s daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher). In an effort to break her perceived monotony, Wednesday goes to junior high. Meanwhile, Gomez is worried Pugsley will do poorly during his Mazurka.

Margaux leads a charge to get rid of the Addams family.

Will the Addams family be driven out of town? What happens to Wednesday? How will Pugsley do at his Mazurka?

I was never a fan of the 1960s TV show or the 1990s movies and animated series. This was a good movie though. It had a decent storyline that works for kids and adults. It had a nice message about being different told through Wednesday’s and Parker’s storyline. There are a few scary voices or what could be considered frightening scenes, but overall, I found it relatively tame. Available on Hulu or to rent.

‘Thing’ gives it one thumb up! <

Friday, October 2, 2020

Netflix’s ‘Enola Holmes’ a tale of empowerment and mystery

By Matt Pascarella

There is a mystery afoot. On the morning of her 16th birthday, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter) went missing. Eudoria is mother to Enola (Millie Bobby Brown). Enola’s father died when she was very young and her brothers, Mycroft (Sam Clafin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) (yes, that Sherlock) moved away soon after.

Her brothers have come home to help find their mother. The relationship between the three is strained. They haven’t seen each other in so long, it’s almost as if they are meeting for the first time.

When the brothers first arrived, they seem more interested in making sure Enola is on the correct path she should be on, rather than finding their mother.

However, Enola has no interest in going to “Miss Harrison’s (Fiona Shaw) Finishing School for Young Ladies” and takes it upon herself to begin looking for her mother. She quickly realizes her mother has left her clues. The clues take her on quite a journey. While on a train to London, she meets Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether (Louis Partridge) who is being chased by a man (Burn Gorman).

We later learn this man is related to Tewkesbury. Enola saves Tewkesbury from this man and the two part ways when they reach London.

When Enola arrives in London, she knows she must stay hidden from her brothers, who will be searching for her. In order to do so she must become unexpected. As she travels from place to place, spot to spot, I wondered, what has Eudoria planned? Where is she? What are her motives for doing this?

Sherlock is on Enola’s trail; though she still remains out of his grasp. Enola is now on the trail to find Tewkesbury, who is in danger. Enola finds his treehouse and meets his grandmother, who seems nice enough – at first.

Enola and Tewkesbury find each other again. She tells him she is searching for her mother.

Enola is caught by her brother Mycroft who sends her back to finishing school where she does not enjoy it. She and Sherlock discuss where their mother might be.

“Perhaps she wants to change the world,” says Sherlock. “Perhaps it’s a world that needs changing,” says Enola.

Tewkesbury has another run-in with that disgruntled family member and once again, needs saving.

Another family member appears claiming the future of the country is at stake. This statement is made in response to a reform vote that Tewkesbury could alter.

Where is Eudoria? What will become of Enola and Tewkesbury? Will Enola ever find her mother?

While this is a good movie, it’s slow burn. It has a central theme of making a difference and finding your own path. You have to make some noise if you want to be heard. It also has an underlying political thread.

This is a mystery with a decent amount of action. I found the end satisfying and unexpected, though the reasoning is slightly complex. It’s a fun movie I would recommend. Two sticks of dynamite up – that’s how you make the noise. <

Friday, September 25, 2020

Halloween movies to make you laugh or scream

By Matt Pascarella

Halloween is a little over a month away and if you like it as much as I do, you might be thinking about what to watch as the holiday approaches.

Scary

The Exorcist

I’ve seen a lot of scary movies and I still remember the first time I saw this one. I was legitimately scared and had to turn it off. A little girl shows signs of being sick. As it turns out she’s slowly becoming possessed by a demon and her mother turns to the church to perform an exorcism, but it’s not that easy. Nine out 10 shaking beds. Available on HBO MAX.

US

Definitely one of my top five best horror movies. A family takes a vacation to a summer home where they are terrorized by their doppelgängers. Can the family escape? What do their doppelgängers want? Edge of your seat excitement. 10 out of 10 pairs of scissors. Available to rent.

Hereditary

Also, in my top five best horror movies. After her mother dies, Annie and daughter Charlie follow an unsettling path of secrets and terror that lead to their own bloodline. With jump scares, an overall disturbing tone, and many cringe-worthy moments, this is a great addition to Halloween viewing. Eight out of 10 birds – you’ll see why. Available on Amazon Prime.

The Strangers

A creep out rating of 10 out of 10 skulls. A couple comes home from a romantic evening that turned out to be not so romantic. When a woman knocks on the door asking if Tamara is home, the couple becomes concerned. And things go wrong. And get worse. Available to rent.

Not Scary

Hocus Pocus

This is one of my favorite Halloween movies and a must-watch every year. Max and sister Dani have just moved to Salem, Massachusetts where every Halloween the town becomes consumed with the legend of the Sanderson sisters who were hung during the Salem Witch Trials. When Max, Dani and Max’s crush, Allison bring the Sanderson sisters back from the dead, trouble and hilarity ensue. 10 out of 10 witches brooms. Available on Disney+.

The Nightmare before Christmas

It is debatable whether this is a Christmas or Halloween movie, but it can be both. Jack Skellington is king of Halloweentown and has become bored with their routine of frightening. When he discovers a portal to Christmastown, he becomes very excited and wants to become king of Christmastown too. He comes up with a plan. The clay animation is amazing by 1993-standards. This does have some scarier/frightening parts. Eight out of 10 spooky ghosts. Available on Disney+.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Technically, not a movie, but still a Halloween favorite of mine. Every year, Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin to rise out of the pumpkin patch and bring toys to all the children of the world. While everyone else goes for ‘tricks or treats,’ he convinces Sally to join him as they wait for the Great Pumpkin’s arrival. Will this be the year the Great Pumpkin finally shows up? Eight out of 10 pumpkins. Available on YouTube and to rent. <


Friday, September 18, 2020

Review: Netflix’s ‘Love, Guaranteed’ an enchanting date-night film

By Matt Pascarella

Can a dating website guarantee a user will find love? That’s the question to be answered by lawyer Susan Whitaker (Rachael Leigh Cook) for her client, Nick Evans (Damon Wayans Jr.) in Netflix’s ‘Love Guaranteed.’

Nick is suing the dating website ‘Love, Guaranteed’ because when he signed up, in the fine print it promised after 1,000 dates love was guaranteed. He’s documented every date and refers to them like episodes of the TV show “Friends” (the one who talked about cats, the one who brought her parents, etc.) He claims the website is profiting off lonely souls.

At first, Susan is skeptical of Nick and thinks he might be scamming. She calls him an opportunist. 

In the beginning of the movie, it looks like Susan might be a little lonely. She lives next to her sister. Susan is a workaholic for her own law practice which is struggling financially.

She finds out that ‘Love, Guaranteed’ will be represented by Tamara Taylor (Heather Graham) who is an extremely rich mogul. Whitaker tells her staff they need an airtight case.  As she is about to prepare for the case, she admits she’s never been on a dating website and is talked into joining one - for research purposes only. She goes on no more than three dates and is exhausted. She’s also interviewing Nick’s dates to make sure he just wasn’t working his way to 1,000 dates.

As Susan and Nick begin to spend more time together, they hit it off. Early on, they both make preconceived judgments about one another that they later realize were hasty.

They both meet with Tamara and her group of lawyers where they turn down an offer for $100,000. At this point, Susan and Nick are getting along more and more. Susan realizes it might be a conflict of interest and will give Tamara ammunition for her defense.

Susan also speaks with Nick’s ex-fiancé, Arianna (Kandyse McClure) who will take the stand at the trial.

One of Tamara’s lawyers, Bill Jones (Jed Rees) gets wind of the time Nick and Susan have spent together and what might be happening and uses a loophole to figure out a way they can win the case. Bill Jones gives Susan and Nick one more chance to take the $100,000 deal. They turn it down again and Susan tells Nick they shouldn’t see each other.

How does the trial go? Does Nick win? What happens to him and Susan?

I would recommend this movie. It’s funny, slightly predictable in parts and has a solid ending that also features a twist I didn’t see coming. Yes, it’s pretty cheesy from time to time; not sickeningly cheesy though. Just a sprinkle of cheesiness. It only dragged a little in the middle.

If you’re looking for a ‘date night’ movie, this is it. Two Tiffany (the singer) cassette tapes stuck in a car’s cassette player up. <

Friday, September 11, 2020

Movie Review: ‘The Rental’ an uneasy, heart-pounding thriller

By Matt Pascarella

Two couples book a picturesque house on the edge of a cliff for a weekend getaway and that’s the start of ‘The Rental,’ a new film available for streaming from VUDU. As the weekend progresses, a few unsettling discoveries makes it apparent this rental isn’t as charming as it initially appeared to be.

Couple Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie) book a vacation house for a weekend with couple Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White). Charlie and Mina work together, and Josh and Charlie are brothers.


The house is amazing. However, once they meet the owner/renter Taylor (Toby Huss), he’s weird from the start. He says things like “why would you need a telescope in the city? Are you guys like peeping toms?” when Michelle expresses disappointment because she forgot her telescope. He’s also bigoted towards Mina. But that strange and inappropriate behavior is just the beginning.

As they are checking out the property when they first arrive, Josh finds a door under the deck with an electronic lock on it. Unusual? Only time will tell.

Later that night, Mina and Charlie kiss, which ends up turning into more.

The next day, when they are all supposed to go on a hike and Charlie and Mina stay behind; the two agree that what happened the previous night can never happen again. Meanwhile, while Michelle and Josh are on a hike, some secrets come out about Charlie that upset Michelle.

Mina makes a very alarming discovery in the bathroom that makes Taylor even creepier than he may have originally appeared. This angers both Charlie and Mina who need their secret night not to get out.

When the hot tub breaks, Michelle calls Taylor to have him fix it; unaware of Charlie and Mina’s irritation with him. Taylor comes over and is confronted by Josh. Tensions only continue to rise from there, turning into an altercation when Mina confronts Taylor about what she found in the bathroom. From there, things go from bad to worse.

Everyone begins to freak out a little and Michelle is so distraught, she takes their only car and leaves after she makes a discovery of her own. She doesn’t get far though.

Is Taylor or someone else following the four of them?

Why? What happens to the group?  

I was expecting a decent thriller and that’s exactly what I got. The well-paced plot sets the scene for something to obviously go wrong with this picture-perfect, Airbnb-type rental. While some parts of the movie are predictable, there were other parts where the plot didn’t go where I thought it would. There is some drug use, language and sex and a few gruesome scenes.

The plot is plausible and particularly unsettling, because renting a house for a weekend is not an uncommon occurrence. As this perfect weekend begins to unravel, I wanted to know how the characters were going to deal with everything and what was going to happen next.

‘The Rental’ is worth a rental. Five stars. <

Friday, September 4, 2020

Netflix’s ‘Project Power’ leaves viewers with questions

By Matt Pascarella

If there was a pill that would give you a superpower for five minutes, would you take it? Even if the effects could be detrimental? What if you could use those powers to help people? Would you take it then?

Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro) addresses a group of young ‘entrepreneurs’ and makes them an offer in the beginning of the movie. He will give them a product, a pill called Power and they sell it on the streets of New Orleans. A gentleman called Newt (Colton Baker) has some questions and says this sounds too good to be true.

Six weeks later Power is on the streets of New Orleans and teenager Robin (Dominique Fishback) is attacked by three guys who are looking for it. Detective Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shows up just at the right moment. He and Robin work together to catch guys who are trying to buy Power.

Robin has been saving the money she makes from working with Frank to help her mom (Andrene Ward-Hammond), who has diabetes.

We meet Art (Jamie Foxx), whose daughter, Tracy (Kyanna Simone Simpson) is missing, as he is walking along an apartment complex looking for Newt. Art wants to know who is supplying Power. Art breaks into Newt’s place. Newt takes Power and his body turns into fire. Art and Newt fight which leads to Art having a flashback about losing his daughter. Power is wreaking havoc on the streets of New Orleans. Biggie is also looking to expand his market.

In his search for answers about his daughter, Art kidnaps Robin. After a shootout between Art and some distributors of Power, Robin manages to escape. Despite their weird ‘meeting,’ Robin wants to help Art find his daughter, for a price.

Robin and Art find Biggie and where he is hiding. Frank catches up with Robin. Art, Biggie and Biggie’s crew have a shootout. Frank helps Art escape and arrests him. As Frank brings Art in, Robin follows them. Frank realizes he and Art have similar goals. They all head to a tanker where Biggie is planning to leave that night for a new city. Robin, Art and Frank all end up on the tanker. Later Robin finds Tracy.

Will Tracy see her dad again?  Can they stop Biggie? Will they all make it off alive?

I thought this was an interesting concept, though it’s a bit of a knockoff of 2011’s ‘Limitless’ where a pill enables the user to have 100 percent of their brain’s abilities. Instead of brain abilities, Power offers the user superpowers, like invisibility, becoming fire, super speed, super strength, the ability to become gigantic or it can also cause death. Some scenes are gruesome and bloody. There is a quite a bit of violence; a lot of gunfire and explosions. There is also language and drug use.

This movie had a slow start and only picked up a little as it went on. The special effects are cool. This was an action-packed movie, just not one that kept me on the edge of my seat or wondering what was going to happen next. The end left me with questions about Tracy and the fate of Biggie and his crew. It’s not a bad movie, just one that wasn’t for me. Five out of 10 explosions. <

Friday, August 28, 2020

Movie Review: HBO Max’s ‘Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind’ a treasure

By Matt Pascarella

Earlier this month was the anniversary of the death of actor, comedian and all-around bringer of joy, Robin Williams. This documentary has friends, family and those who knew him talk about him. There are clips and interviews as well as footage from Williams’ stand up specials, USO tours, movies, TV and more.

I have been a fan of Robin Williams from the moment I first saw – actually, it was when I heard him on the big screen. I was 7 or 8 and I saw 1992’s “Aladdin” in the theater. The genie made me laugh. I remember the impressions he did and the way his voice changed to match his impression; like Jack Nicholson for example. I’ll be honest, at seven or eight you don’t know all the people he impersonated as the genie, but it made me laugh and that’s where it counted. From that moment, Robin Williams was on my radar.

A year later, I would see Williams when my parents took my brother, a friend of mine and myself to “Mrs. Doubtfire.” I remember trying to mimic the impressions he did. That movie remains a favorite of mine to this day.

Williams has always been a Tour de Force of energy and comedy from his late night appearances to when he played the character Mork on ”Mork and Mindy.” A fourth camera had to be added to follow him because three were not enough. 

The documentary opens with a scene from Williams’ appearance on “Inside the Actor’s Studio” with James Lipton. This appearance is a good example of how fast he thought and how energetic he was.  

Williams was interested in theater early on, and later gravitated toward improvisation and then stand up comedy. It is said later in the documentary, that he was more comfortable on stage than off. He attended The Juilliard School, but left during his junior year. It was after this that he got in to improvisational comedy. Standup soon followed and a former writer made the observation that “being a writer for Robin’s stand up is like being a pinch hitter for Barry Bonds – you’re not necessarily needed.”

Once the success of “Mork & Mindy” hit, it hit big. Williams got into drugs, but after the death of his friend and actor John Belushi, Williams got clean. He married, had a child and began making movies. It was around this time that he made classics like “Good Morning Vietnam,” or “Moscow on the Hudson” and “The Best of Times.”

He later got divorced and did theater and made even more movies like “Awakenings,” or “The Fisher King” and “Hook” (just to name a few). He continued doing stand up and remarried and had more children.

His oldest son Zak, said “his pathos was seeking to entertain and please.”

I highly recommend this documentary. I’ll warn you about the last 10 minutes, it gets rough. I knew what was coming, but there was a part of me hoping for a different ending. There is some language and sexual humor, but overall, it’s the story of man who just wanted to make people laugh - and share his spark of madness with the world. As Williams said, you’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it. <

 

Friday, August 21, 2020

Movie Review: HBO Max’s ‘An American Pickle’ not a typical comedy

By Matt Pascarella

It’s the early 20th century. You work at a pickle factory. One day, you fall in a vat of pickle brine and are preserved for 100 years.

When you awaken, the world has completely changed and you know no one, except for your great grandson. Based on Simon Rich’s comic novella ‘Sell Out,’ this movie tells the story of Herschel Greenbaum (Seth Rogen) and Ben Greenbaum (also Rogen).

Herschel and his wife Sarah (Sarah Snook) moved to America in the early 20th century where he worked in a pickle factory. After he fell in a vat of brine, and woke up in the 21st century, he feels very scared and alone. His wife is dead, his child is dead, and he doesn’t know anybody.

He meets his great grandson, Ben Greenbaum who is very welcoming and excited to meet Herschel. Ben grants a dream of Herschel’s almost immediately after meeting him.

Herschel is amazed and overwhelmed by the current world. He is amazed that Ben owns 25 pairs of socks. As would be expected, Herschel is confused by some aspects of this ‘new world.’

Ben shows Herschel a photo album with pictures of his grandson and son. Ben’s parents have died, and Ben doesn’t like to talk about it. The two go to find Ben’s parents’ grave.

Herschel finds Sarah’s grave which is now under an overpass and in front of a giant billboard. This upsets Herschel and he gets in a fight with a construction worker and he and Ben go to jail. They are quickly released, but this upsets Ben as he had to pay bail. It then has a negative effect on an app Ben was developing. Ben has had it with Herschel and kicks him out.

Herschel begins selling pickles with found ingredients. They are a hit and his pickle business takes off. Ben sabotages it. Herschel is able to turn his business around and returns to Ben’s apartment to help Ben. Ben sabotages Herschel at least twice more. Herschel makes some bigoted remarks and people turn on him. He goes to Ben for help, unaware that Ben set him up all along.

What happens to Herschel? And Ben? Do they ever find common ground?

This is not your typical Seth Rogen movie. The movie follows the novella fairly closely but includes some things the novella doesn’t and vice-versa. It starts out very heartfelt but takes a turn.

While Ben’s anger toward Herschel for landing them in jail is justified, Ben is vindictive for a lot of the movie. Herschel does some things that aren’t great, and he does say some things that are not politically correct in both the film and the novella. Ben started off very welcoming and turned on Herschel pretty fast.

While this movie is billed as a comedy, I didn’t find it particularly funny. It’s funny in parts, but you won’t be laughing for 90 minutes - or even 50.

It’s still an ok movie and if you’re interested in seeing it, I say go for it. I give it one pickle up and one pickle down. <

Friday, August 14, 2020

Review: ‘You Should Have Left’ a creepy thriller

 By Matt Pascarella

If this movie has a central theme that runs through it, it’s nightmares. The characters rent a house where nothing is as it seems. And you find that doesn’t just apply to the house.

“Violent or upsetting dreams are merely the minds attempt to release the pressures of our daily thoughts and fears,” says the narrator of a meditation relaxation tape.

Theo (Kevin Bacon) is infamous for a crime he was found not guilty of and his wife, Susanna (Amanda Seyfried) is an actress. They decide to get away with their daughter, Ella (Avery Tiiu Essex) for a little while and rent a house in picturesque Wales. The house is enormous and is very nice inside and out.

Right from the start, you notice something is more than a little off about this house. Ella is the first to notice it when she’s playing shadow puppets.

On a walk one day, Ella asks Susanna ‘why people hate daddy so much?’ Before they left, Theo had mentioned to Susanna that he had been recognized when he visited her set. Susanna explains to Ella that before she met Theo he was married, and his wife died. Now, a jury did find him innocent, but there are people who think he had something to do with it.

More house-related weird things happen when Theo goes into town to buy groceries. The clerk asks if anything has happened in the house and if he’s met Stetler yet. And when Theo leaves, a woman is waiting for him at his car and gives warnings about the house. He brushes this off as just weird interactions.

Theo suspects Susanna of cheating and goes through her devices while she’s taking a bath. He finds nothing.

Theo is constantly noticing that doors seem to appear in places where they weren’t and when he tries to show Susanna, they are not there (of course). The house seems to be one big maze from time to time and Theo has trouble deciphering the dreamworld from the real world. This is most evident when he finds himself trapped in the many hallways of the house, looking for Ella. This comprises a very intense few scenes, with Theo even cutting himself to see if he’s asleep or not.

After talking it over, they decide to leave the house. Something stops all three of them from going.

What’s the deal with the house?

Who is Stetler? What role does he play?

Are the three of them able to get away from the house?

I’ve seen a lot of movies about haunted houses, but this isn’t one. This house has its own issues that have nothing to do with ghosts. This movie kept me interested through most of it and there are many details about the house that just don’t make sense and had me wanting to know more and more. It’s not particularly scary, but there are a few extreme scenes. It has some mild sex (no nudity) and language. Stetler creeped me out. The actor who played him did a fantastic job at making the viewer feel uneasy with what they were seeing. This is not an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but it’s a decent rental that will have you guessing why the house is doing what it’s doing to Theo and Susanna until the end. Two creepy hidden doors up.  <

Friday, August 7, 2020

Movie Review: Sequel ‘747 Meters Down Uncaged’ meets criteria

By Matt Pascarella

The Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week will happen this year and is right around the corner. So, in preparation, I chose the sequel to 47 Meters Down on Amazon Prime as something to hold me over until Shark Week is here.

If you haven’t seen the first 47 Meters Down – not to worry. The sequel is pretty much exactly the same premise, people go into the water and must escape sharks, except with a larger cast. Unlike Shark Week, don’t expect to learn anything from this movie, except that sharks don’t like big speeches about how you’re going to outsmart them.

Mimi (Sophie Nelisse) and Sasha (Corinne Foxx) are step-sisters, who aren’t particularly close. Mimi is being bullied at school and Sasha doesn’t really stick up for her. When Mimi’s dad (John Corbett), a cave diver, gets them tickets to a shark tour, Mimi and Sasha skip the tour and go cave diving with friends (Sistine Rose Stallone and Brianne Tju) instead. Everything is going well, and everyone is having fun when out of nowhere, chaos ensues. The group gets separated.

Fortunately, they run into a friend, Ben (Davi Santos), but he’s no help. The group soon discovers they are not alone. More chaos happens around them and part of the cave collapses and the girls have to find a way out. In trying to do so, they only get more lost and oxygen tanks are starting to run out. Mimi knows her dad is working close to where they are and breaks off to try to find him. She eventually finds him. He helps the girls by leading them to a harness that will pull them safely to land. If only it were that easy. The harness gives way and falls into the water. Now, they are right back where they started.

Will they all escape?

Is there enough oxygen to do so?

How many sharks are they surrounded by?

While this film dragged a little and didn’t have my heart racing with excitement (or terror), I still enjoyed it. It had a few jump scares. That being said, it’s not as amusing as one of the many ‘Sharknados,’ but those are big fins to fill.

Parts of ’47 Meters Down Uncaged’ are predictable and in other parts it’s hard to see. I found it was sometimes hard to keep track of where each of the girls were, especially in the scenes where it’s much darker. There is a bit of blood in the water, as the sharks do kill a person (or maybe two), so if you’re squeamish, heads up. But I didn’t find it overly gory.

If you’re looking for a cheesy shark movie, this meets the criteria.  Two fins up – above the water, so look out. <

 


Friday, July 31, 2020

Movie Review: SCOOB! introduces Shaggy and his friends to a new generation

By Matt Pascarella

It’s an origin story, kind of. One with a modern twist. A new generation of fans are introduced to Scooby and the gang and will love their goofy humor and hijinks in this sweet and funny movie.

We meet the talking pooch while he’s being chased by the police after stealing a large block of liverwurst. A sad, lonely, young Shaggy (not his actual name) is listening to a podcast when it tells him he needs friends and should put himself out there. Moments after hearing this he meets an unnamed dog with a lot of liverwurst. When the police catch up to the two, he asks if the dog is Shaggy’s and what his name is. Shaggy names him there on the spot and a lifelong friendship is made.

It’s Halloween. Scooby and Shaggy go trick or treating. Bullies grab Shaggy’s candy and toss it in the old haunted Rigby house. Just as Shaggy and Scooby feel all is lost, they meet younger versions of the rest of the gang: Velma, Fred and Daphne. The group decide to go after the candy, but things don’t go as planned. The end of this particular scene brings back a well-known line uttered by bad guys.

Fast forward several years and the group sits around a diner table and discusses ways to expand their mystery solving business, ‘Mystery Inc.’ Shaggy and Scooby break off from the group and go bowling. It’s here that things get weird; and then they get weirder. Shaggy and Scooby get recruited by Shaggy’s childhood hero, the Blue Falcon and are asked to join the Blue Falcon’s mission.

To Velma, Daphne and Fred, this looks like Shaggy and Scooby were kidnapped. The three put their heads together to try and figure out where the pair could be. They meet bad guy Dick Dastardly and his group of robotic minions. Dastardly is after Scooby because Scooby is the last descendent of Peritas, Alexander the Great’s dog and only Scooby can open the door to a room of riches.

The Blue Falcon befriends Scooby and they go to fight Dastardly together which leads to Shaggy feeling left out. Velma eventually hacks into the Blue Falcon and the two groups meet. Fred warns Shaggy that Dastardly is on his way. But Dastardly is closer than they think.

What happens to Scooby? And Shaggy?

Can these meddling kids save the day and defeat Dastardly?

Or is there a twist here?

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest Scooby Doo fan, but I liked this movie. It was a nice re-introduction of the classic characters from the original series and movies. With an all-star cast, it does have a similar feel to the Scooby Doo cartoons from the past. 

There are famous lines, similar sound effects and the classic hijinks any Scooby Doo fan, including the smaller ones, have come to love. Even the classic explanation “jinkies!” It features a nice message about friendship and being a hero. 

I recommend it whether you’re a big fan of Scooby Doo or just kind of a fan. One Scooby Snack u–wait ... let’s make it two, because Scooby could never have just one. <

 

 

 


Friday, July 24, 2020

TV Review: Little Fires Everywhere Will Draw You In


By Matt Pascarella

Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel, this Hulu mini-series is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 1990s, but has a familiar feel to current day.

The series follows Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) and Mia Warren (Kerry Washington). Elena is an affluent, controlling mother of four who works part-time for the local newspaper. Mia is a single mother and artist who works multiple jobs and travels from town to town as she looks for inspiration for her art. The series follows the lives of these women and their children as well as a custody battle for a baby that was left at a fire station by Bebe Chow (Lu Huang) a friend of Mia’s; the couple who adopted the child and are friends with Elena. This causes a lot of the tension between Mia and Elena.

Episode one begins with a fire. Elena stands and watches her home become completely engulfed in flames. A look of absolute sadness permeates her face. The cause and reason for the fire will present itself at the end of the season – it’s an interesting twist. Elena and Mia meet because Elena sees Mia and her daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood) sleeping in their car and calls the police. Elena then rents Mia an apartment.

Throughout the series you learn the backstories of many of the characters and there is teenage drama, sex, and one daughter who makes a difficult life choice. There is a lot of interaction between the Pearl and Elena’s kids and everyone harbors their own secrets and lies. I was easily drawn into the character’s storylines and problems and felt the acting was well done and kept me captivated.

Race and privilege play a part in this series. Elena and Mia are from two different worlds and have completely different experiences. Early in the series, Elena tells her children that she and their father worked hard to have their kids avoid hardship. And later in the series, Elena’s husband Bill (Joshua Jackson), tells their youngest Isabelle (Megan Stott) she has no idea what they’ve had to do to live this life. Early on, Elena seems ignorant because see she doesn’t think about the things Mia thinks about. But later on, you see real malice in Elena’s mindset.

I also saw class struggle. A tale of the ‘have’ and ‘have nots.’ Mia and Elena butt heads a lot; for various reasons, and at one point Mia turns to Elena and tells her “you didn’t make good choices – you had good choices.” That comment was eye opening. I never saw it like that.

Kerry Washington is fantastic and made me see things from a different perspective. Reese Witherspoon also does a terrific job. I grew to really dislike her character toward the end.

Both actresses deliver emotional, sometimes anger-filled, performances that enhance the plot.

This was a powerful series that had me interested from episode one. I highly recommend it; very entertaining and well done.<



Friday, July 17, 2020

HBO Max’s ‘Ready or Not’ offers a surprise or two


By Matt Pascarella

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of ‘A Quiet Place Part II,’ so I was looking for a thriller that would keep me guessing and in some suspense. This was – well, I’ll get to that.

Grace (Samara Weaving) has just married Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), part of the Le Domas Gaming Dominion. But before she is accepted into the family, at midnight, the night of the wedding, she and the other family members must play a game. This seems simple enough. As she sits around the table, some of the other spouses recount what games they played and they’re board games, nothing too complex. However, when Grace draws the ‘Hide and Seek’ card, it’s clear this isn’t going to be a simple as a game of checkers.

After Alex’s wedding ceremony, the Le Domas family is fairly unwelcoming right from the start. It’s very important to the father, Tony, (Henry Czerny) that the gaming tradition be kept going as the family is more than a little superstitious. They believe terrible things will happen if they don’t keep up this ritual.

After Grace draws her card, she asks Tony if there is any way she can win. He says, ‘stay hidden until dawn.’ It’s obvious this is not a friendly game of hide and seek. Alex does not play and does what he can to help Grace outsmart his relatives.

Right off the bat some unexpected things happen that I definitely did not see coming.

Grace does all she can to survive. And not everyone in the family is out to get her. She gets discovered several times, but each time is able to escape. She even steals a car at one point. Not to give too much away, but eventually Grace is captured. And here, a twist or two occurs. It gets gorier toward the end – kind of to excess. But maybe that was the point.

What happens to Grace and Alex?

What about the game of hide and seek?

Are the superstitions valid?

I’ll admit I was a little confused by the ending. I feel there are two possible routes that would have explained why what happened did happen. I had high hopes for this movie as the trailer made it look like a decent thriller. 

The first act is very good – I was drawn in by this weird ritual and this strange, cold family. But by the second and third act it dragged a little and I found it less captivating. 

The conclusion, while ok, isn’t as satisfying as I would have hoped for. A warning to the viewer: this is for some reason billed as a comedy/horror/mystery (on imdb.com) but I did not find it overly funny, aside from a few offhanded actions or comments. It is more violent and gruesome, with quite a bit of blood. 

There were a couple parts that were hard to watch. There’s also language and drug use. If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, I didn’t think this was it.

But try it for yourself, what do you have to lose? <