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 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? <

Friday, July 10, 2020

Amazon’s ‘My Spy’ fun for entire family

By Matt Pascarella

It’s been done; more than twice. A big guy has to, for whatever reason, look after a kid or kids and their tough disposition has to adjust to a softer one. Whether it was Vin Diesel in ‘The Pacifier,’ Dwayne Johnson in ‘The Game Plan,’ or even as far back as Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’ the premise is not new. However, despite this being recycled I found a perfect blend of action and comedy in the Amazon Prime original movie ‘My Spy’ about a CIA agent, JJ, (Dave Bautista) who’s sent on surveillance to protect a mother and daughter and soon realizes this is no ordinary nine year old.

JJ meets a Russian general in the beginning. As soon as negoiations begin to go off the rails, the CIA team monitoring him become concerned. JJ even admits out loud that ‘being a soldier came naturally, but this is weird.’ He says he is good at one thing and proceeds to demonstrate what that one thing is. This action-packed scene has some great explosions.

Despite what, at first glance might be regarded as a success, JJ’s boss (Ken Jeong) isn’t pleased with JJ’s work and says he might not be cut out for work at the CIA. JJ is given a surveillance assignment with IT woman (and JJ’s #1 fan), Bobbi (Kristen Schaal). They are sent to protect Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her mom, Kate (Parisa Fits-Henley) from Sophie’s uncle Marquez (Greg Bryk). Sophie recently moved to the United States from Paris and is having trouble making friends.

Bobbi and JJ set up shop in Sophie’s apartment building and install cameras in her home – creepy, I know. After finding one of the cameras, Sophie catches JJ and Bobbi and uses that information to blackmail JJ into having him take her to an ice skating party. According to JJ, this will be a one-time deal. Later, thinking her daughter is in danger, Kate attacks JJ, but Sophie sticks up for him. He joins the two for dinner.
Their one-time deal turns into more, when Sophie needs to take someone to ‘Special Friends Day’ at school and takes JJ. Sophie and JJ grow closer and do nice things for each other like when she tells him she wants to walk all cool-like away from a big explosion he lights a bunch of sparklers, so she can see what that might be like. This presents itself again at the end of the movie. All the while she is also trying to set JJ up with her mom; some attempts are more successful than others.

Bobbi gets upset with JJ for getting so close. Meanwhile, the mission to catch Sophie’s uncle has ended and the boss fires JJ and Bobbi. Although, the mission may not be completely over...

Where is Marquez?

What happens to JJ, Sophie and Kate?

Whether or not you think the the tough guy-kid genre is overdone I’d recommend ‘My Spy.’ It was fun from start to finish. Bautista and Coleman are an excellent pair. The music isn’t bad either. There is mild language and violence, but it’s also emotional in spots. The end will have your heart racing but will also make you smile. I give this: two blue betta fish up. <

Friday, July 3, 2020

Nexflix’s ‘The Night Clerk’ will leave you unsettled

By Matt Pascarella

Bart (Tye Sheridan) is an intelligent young man with Aspergers who works at a hotel as the night clerk. He lives with his mom (Helen Hunt) after his father has died. Bart has trouble with social interactions and cues, so he watches guests in the hotel to learn more about how to socially interact.

Late one night, a woman checks in. Bart begins to watch her through his monitors, even after his shift has ended. When trouble arises, Bart returns to the hotel to find her dead. He enters her room and begins tampering with multiple devices. Another employee of the hotel finds him in her room, which makes Bart the prime suspect. Detective Espada (John Leguizamo) tries questioning Bart but doesn’t make much progress.

A few nights later, Andrea Rivera (Ana de Armas) checks in and Bart becomes taken with her. They begin talking and Andrea tells Bart that her brother had Aspergers. Bart does admit to her he watches people to work on learning social interaction, but he’s not fully truthful about where he does this.
Meanwhile, Detective Espada continues his investigation.

Bart watches Andrea in her room and they later spend time together by the pool, getting to know each other and even share a kiss. Here, you learn a little more about Andrea. Afterwards, Bart goes out and buys new clothes, gets a new haircut and buys a car to attract Andrea’s attention, but when he shows up and calls her room, she is with another man.

Later on, the police raid Bart’s home, taking his computers and hard drives. This makes his mom very upset and worried. Detective Espada continues to pressure Bart. And Bart continues to spy on Andrea. Andrea stops by Bart’s home looking for him and apologizes to him. What for?

Bart notices a man attacking Andrea and goes down to stop it. It’s here that Bart comes clean about his voyeurism. However, Andrea has a secret, too.

What will Detective Espada find?

Will happens to Bart? Did he have anything to do with that woman’s murder?
And what about Andrea?

When this was added to Netflix, I jumped at the chance to watch it because it looked interesting. This was an unsettling movie for many reasons. The idea that someone could be watching you in your hotel room is very real; that could easily happen and probably has happened. Even if the reasoning is innocent, it’s still unsettling. This movie starts out fairly well-paced but drags a little in the middle. And the end, for me, was a back and forth of ‘what? Did what I think happen, really happen?’ I wanted more from the ending – a lot more. There were questions I wanted answered. I would still recommend it, it’s just not the best thriller/crime mystery I’ve seen. <

Friday, June 19, 2020

Move Review -- 'Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey'

By Matt Pascarella

You know his face and have probably heard his voice. Elmo is known by people of all ages throughout the world. But do you know the man behind this fury red monster? Kevin Clash has had an interest in puppetry since he was very young. This documentary shows you how Kevin got started and eventually met Elmo and the impact the two have had on so many.

“I didn’t know this was going to happen,” Clash said at the beginning. He had always dreamed of working with the Muppets. He was captivated by television and was a fan of the Wonderful World of Disney and Captain Kangaroo.

Clash loved Sesame Street from its very first airing in 1969. He wondered how the puppets were made and who was controlling them. He became immediately fascinated by the work of master puppeteer Jim Henson and whenever Henson had a special or a TV show, Clash was watching. He wanted to be a part of what Henson was doing.

Curiosity overcame him one day and he made a puppet out of his father’s coat. He was afraid of how he might react, but all his father said was ‘next time, just ask.’ From that point forward, both of his parents were extremely supportive. Clash began making his own puppets and performing at neighborhood puppet shows and for the children in his mother’s daycare. He had a gift and a dream. A dream that he stuck with from that point forward until today.

His first break came when he got on a Baltimore’s Channel 2 show called ‘Caboose.’ Now TV was more than entertainment, it was research. Clash watched the Muppet Show to try and figure out how to be as good as those puppeteers. He reached out to Kermit Love, who worked with Henson, and Love invited Clash to visit him in New York City. On a class trip, Clash met Love and was able to learn more about building and controlling puppets.

As Clash got better and better, people began to notice him, his skill and love for puppetry. He got a job working on Captain Kangaroo and brought Cookie Monster to life during a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He soon was asked by Henson to work on the movie ‘Labyrinth.’

Afterwards he met Elmo, who was a little different than the Elmo of today. As the years went on, Kevin realized what a difference Elmo was making and how happy he made children. Elmo was quickly a sensation. Now, Clash is in high demand and has earned more responsibility on Sesame Street; the mentee has become the mentor.

This was a feel-good documentary. I never thought about the voices behind the Muppets because they are so life-like and well done. Learning more about Kevin Clash and getting a small peak behind the curtain as to what it’s like to be a puppeteer was interesting. My niece is a big Elmo fan and I think it’s pretty cool that Clash is still making a difference for a brand new generation. I recommend any fan of Elmo, no matter the age, watch this documentary. Two red fury thumbs up! <

Friday, June 12, 2020

‘The Willoughbys’ animated film delivers powerful message of family importance

By Matt Pascarella

Narrated by a cat (Ricky Gervais), Netflix’s computer animated tale tells of four children who have less than desirable parents.

Father (Martin Short) and Mother (Jane Krakowski) are madly in love with each other, but there’s one thing they don’t love: children. Yet, they have four: Tim (Will Forte), Jane (Alessia Cara) and twin boys, both named Barnaby (Sean Cullen).

Willoughbys were soldiers, scientists, explorers, kings, philosophers, aviators and artists – until Father and Mother. The children are often told to be quiet, aren’t fed from day to day or are thrown into the coal bin for lengths at a time. Against all odds, the children still have determination, imagination and hope.

One day, Jane finds a box with a ‘beast’ in it. It’s not a beast, it’s a baby. Jane wants to keep it, but the parents say ‘no.’ Instead, the father kicks all the children out of the house. The children, wanting to restore honor to the House of Willoughby, bring the baby to, what they say is the perfect home: Commander Melanoff’s (Terry Cruz) candy factory. He happily accepts the baby, who gets named Ruth – get it?

Later on, the children hatch a plan to send their parents away because they think they’d be better off without them. So, they design a fake travel agency brochure. Little do the children know, their parents have a similar plan to hire a really bad, really inexpensive nanny in hopes to drive the children away. That’s not exactly what happens, though.

The Nanny (Maya Rudolph) sees how terrible the parents have been to Tim, Jane and the Barnabys. Jane tells the nanny about Ruth and they go back to Commander Melanoff’s factory, where he tells them he wants Ruth to stay. The candy man is a family man.

The parents are enjoying themselves so much, they decide they’re not going to return and will be selling the Willoughby home. With the realtor chomping at the bit to make this sale and people lined up from all around, the children boobytrap the house to drive buyers away. They even scare away the perfect family.

In a darker moment of the film, Orphan Services splits up Tim, Jane and the Barnabys because they believe a bad nanny has been caring for them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

With the entire family split up, will they ever get back together?

Do they need each other?

What about the parents?

Although this movie has several dark moments, it does have a powerful message: the importance of families, that come in all shapes and sizes. With its all-star cast, it stresses teamwork, adventure and when all seems lost, you never know what will happen; ‘the best stories are in the windows nobody looks in.’

It’s a clever movie that I think works on a level for kids and adults. While this wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, I think it’s a nice for a movie night. I give it one and half pink mustaches up. <

Friday, June 5, 2020

‘Prop Culture’ holds interest for fans of cinema, collectors

By Matt Pascarella

Have you ever watched a movie and thought ‘I wonder how they made that prop?’ Or ‘I wonder where that prop came from?’ Well, Disney+’s Docuseries ‘Prop Culture’ sets out to answer some of those questions. This half-hour eight episode series, is hosted by prop collector and cinephile, Dan Lanigan, as he travels all over the country finding and learning about props from ‘Mary Poppins,’ ‘Tron,’ ‘The Nightmare before Christmas,’ ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl,’ ‘Honey I Shrunk the Kids,’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ and ‘The Muppet Movie (1979).’
Lanigan brings parts of his collection to each episode and talks with individuals who worked on that movie about their experiences and what they remember from designing the various props. Despite the immense popularity of many of these movies, many of the props are hard to find or non-existent.
What I learned from watching this series is that after a movie is finished shooting, props can be thrown away, save for a few special pieces members of the crew might take.
In the first episode, Lanigan tries to track down the original umbrella used in ‘Mary Poppins’ and Disney designer Kevin Kidney states he doesn’t know where the original is. However, he has plenty of replicas and recreations of the famous umbrella with the parrot head.
In the ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ episode, you learn that sketches from Tim Burton had this originally as a stop motion short film. One of the very cool pieces you see in this episode is the original Jack Skellington which was created in 1982. You also get to see the Santa Jack prop, in his sleigh with his ghostly reindeer – which is very cool. A fun fact about this movie: there were 227 puppets made to make ‘Nightmare Before Christmas.’
Set in 1947 film noir Hollywood, ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ is a fan favorite. Lanigan sees early versions of Roger and learns Jessica Rabbit was based off actress Lauren Bacall. Plus, you see the venetian screen prop that Roger ran through, leaving a Roger shaped hole in the screen.
Lanigan talks with Brian Henson, son of Jim Henson, as he gives behind the scenes information about his dad working on ‘The Muppet Movie.’ Lanigan tracks down the van the Electric Mayhem traveled in and has an interview with Gonzo the Great, after Lanigan finds some of Gonzo’s original clothing from the movie. Plus, the episode ends with a reveal of a special prop used by a well-known frog.
Being a collector myself, it was very cool to see pieces from Lanigan’s collection and hear about many of the props from these iconic movies. The interviews from the people who worked on the movies are interesting. It’s fun to find out how they controlled certain creatures or characters in a time before computer generated imagery (CGI). If you’re looking for a series that semi-educational and entertaining, I recommend this one. Jack Skellington gives it two thumbs up.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

‘Dangerous Lies’ delivers an entertaining film

By Matt Pascarella

What would you do if you found $100,000 hidden in a trunk? Would you tell the police? Or not? Netflix’s original movie ‘Dangerous Lies’ tells the story of Katie (Camila Mendes) who is a caregiver for Leonard (Elliot Gould).

Katie and her husband Adam (Jessie T. Usher) come across cash hidden in a trunk after Leonard’s passing. From there, things get a bit tangled and it seems like Katie and Adam might be in danger.
At the start, Katie is working in a diner when she and her husband, Adam, witness a robbery, which Adam stops.

Roughly four months later, Katie becomes a caregiver for Leonard and Leonard trusts her and enjoys her company very much.

Katie and Adam are in a lot of debt. When she confides in Leonard, he offers to help out, but she turns him down. Meanwhile, a real estate agent (Cam Gigandet) stops by Leonard’s home and asks Katie if Leonard would be interested in selling. He explains he has a very motivated buyer. Katie assures him Leonard’s house is not for sale and never will be.

A short time later, Katie discovers Leonard has given her a check for $7,000. She thinks it’s a mistake, but she and Adam really need to pay their bills that day, so they decide to cash the check, pay their bills and pay Leonard back later – but they never get the chance. The next time Katie visits Leonard, he has died.

Adam finds a trunk with a hidden compartment and underneath is almost $100,000.

Later on, Adam goes looking for the money and is attacked. Adam and Katie decide to put this money in the bank to protect it from being stolen.

After Leonard’s cremation service, they meet Leonard’s attorney, Julia (Jamie Chung) who has some good news for the couple. Financially, the once struggling Katie and Adam are better off than they were. The attorney does warn Katie that there are big changes coming her way and she hopes she’s ready for them.

While all this is happening, the real estate agent continues to pressure Katie. And the detective who is investigating Adam’s attack and Leonard’s death, Detective Chesler (Sasha Alexander), keeps the pressure on Katie.

Adam believes someone is following him. Detective Chesler speaks to Katie’s boss, Mr. Calvern (Michael P. Northey) where a paper trail of payments made from Leonard to Katie is forming. A few other discoveries are made that make Katie and Adam question how they should handle their situation.

After an incident occurs, Detective Chesler thinks something is off about Katie and Adam’s story. She thinks Adam could be a suspect in Leonard’s death.

Did Adam kill, or at least plot to kill Leonard?

Is there someone else involved?

Am I leaving out crucial information?

This is a slow, slow burn. It isn’t until about halfway through the movie that things being to pick up. There are a few curveballs and twists and turns. 

Without giving anything away, the ending is slightly (very slightly) action packed. And it’s mildly predictable. 

While this thriller did not have me on the edge of my seat, it’s a decent, entertaining movie – maybe even a diamond in the rough. <

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ben Affleck gives moving performance in 'The Way Back'

By Matt Pascarella
Jack (Ben Affleck) is a former high school basketball star who, after suffering a personal tragedy is struggling and needs to find something that gives him purpose.
During Thanksgiving, his sister, Beth (Michaela Watkins) expresses concern about him and tells him his ex-wife, Angela (Janina Gavankar) has also expressed concern. This only puts Jack on the defensive.
Later on, Jack receives a call from Father Edward Devine (John Aylward) the priest of his former high school, Bishop Hayes, who tells him their current basketball coach won’t be able to coach this season and when it came to a replacement, Jack was the first person Father Devine thought of. The team is not doing well; they haven’t played well since Jack played, which was over a decade ago.
At first, Jack is not interested in coaching, but eventually accepts the position. He meets his assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal), who gives him a rundown of each of the players. The team needs work.
After one game in which Jack does a lot of cursing, the team chaplain (Jeremy Radin) speaks to him and tells him his actions and language have a tremendous effect on his team. This makes Jack rethink some of his daily habits, like going to the bar so much. After a lot of hard work and a somewhat bumpy start, the team begins adding some wins to their record. And they keep those wins going. During this time, Jack is also becoming a mentor to one of the players (Brandon Wilson) who is good but lacks confidence.
While attending a birthday party, we learn a little more about Jack’s personal life and past. And where a lot of his anger has come from. His anger gets the best of him one night and he is thrown out of a game. Dan has to fill in for him.
As the season progresses, Jack’s team is headed towards the playoffs. They need to win a big game against a tough team, that beat them earlier in the season, in order to make it.
Something happens to make Jack slip back into his old ways, where he begins drinking more and more. He shows up late to a practice and afterwards Dan approaches Father Devine who kicks Jack off the team for consuming alcohol on school grounds and showing up to practice inebriated.
What happens to Jack after he’s kicked off the team?
Will the team make the playoffs?
What does the future hold for the team without their head coach?
This has been on my ‘to-watch’ list for several weeks. It looked like a Hoosier-esque, feel good movie. And in spots, it is. But the spots are few and far between. There were several key moments that left me wanting more. And there were other moments that weren’t super clear to me. Is this movie worth renting? Maybe, if you really want to see it, but otherwise you could easily leave this one on the bench until it’s available to you. <

Friday, May 15, 2020

Movie Review: 23 Hours to Kill

By Matt Pascarella

Whether you’ve seen him talking to George Costanza or with one of his many comedic friends in a variety of cars while they drink coffee, Jerry Seinfeld delivers an entertaining, funny performance every time. Shot in New York City, ‘23 Hours to Kill’ is no exception. And given the current situation, a somewhat appropriate title. In previous specials, like ‘I’m Telling You for the Last Time’ (which I recommend), Seinfeld steers more toward general observations and less about himself. In this special, he lets the audience in, sharing details of his personal life.

After an impressive opening, Seinfeld walks on stage, unfazed, relaxed and ready to do what he does best.

His observations are relatable as he talks about the inconvenience of socializing and ‘going out.’ He even refers to his special as a ‘made up, bogus, unnecessary, special event.’ He goes on to talk about killing time. Seinfeld lets the audience and the viewers know, that to some extent, we know him, and he even knows us.

Seinfeld has a bit about things being great and not-so-great (he uses a different word) which is both funny and spot on. He says the the two are very close to each other. There is talk of food, especially breakfast, which made me remember the row of cereals in Jerry’s apartment from his show.

He says we have a dependence on phones and goes on about other technologies. Are we using our phones or are our phones using us? Seinfeld agrees texting is great. He has a great line about how being a comedian feels like an ol’ timey profession because he is actually talking to an audience. It would be quicker if he just texted his set and then everyone could leave.

Like many of his specials, a lot of Seinfeld’s material speaks to everyday situations. But in this one, he lets the audience peak behind the curtain and into his personal life – just for a moment. Since, Seinfeld is generally observational, it’s nice to hear him talk about being a dad and in doing so he describes the mission of babies. And how fathers dress.

Some of the routines I’d heard before, but it doesn’t matter. In my eyes, he’s one of the best, if not the best. And those eyes were watering from laughing while I was watching this special.  As I would expect, his bits are solid, clever and flow seamlessly into each other – if that’s what he wants them to do.
Seinfeld is definitely one of the faces on my Comedy Mount Rushmore. He has been consistently funny for over 20 years and each special only drives the point home that he is one of the greats. Highly recommended. Two Pop Tarts way up!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Movie Review: “Vivarium”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and her boyfriend Tom (Jessie Eisenberg) are looking for a new home. While browsing one afternoon they meet Martin (Jonathan Aris) who assures them he has the perfect development. However, this house becomes “waaaaay” more than they were expecting.

Martin shows the two to Yonder; an idyllic development where every house looks exactly the same. As they begin to tour the house, #9, (they are only thinking of buying), they notice a few things that are off, like a welcome home gift already in the kitchen. Martin tells them this is not a starter house and that this house is forever. He then disappears. As Tom and Gemma try to leave, they keep getting turned around and end up back at house #9. Even on foot, they find themselves unable to find the exit.

After they realize they cannot escape, Tom sets fire to the house. This does not work; #9 is indestructible. From here on out things just get weirder and weirder. Tom and Gemma get – not have – a child. As time goes on, Tom and Gemma become overwhelmed and frustrated.  Tom makes a discovery while smoking one day and he begins digging a hole. The child does not make things easy and screams a lot. Tom has the idea of killing him, but Gemma prevents him from doing so. There are a lot of points in this movie where bizarre events occur.

We fast forward an indeterminant amount of time, where the child is maybe in his early to mid-twenties. That’s just a guess. Tom is still digging. Gemma now agrees that they should have tried to get rid of him all those years ago. Tom has slowly been getting sicker and sicker, and one day the child brings a package to Gemma that lets you know what Tom’s future is.
How does this end?

Do Gemma and Tom get to leave the development of Yonder?
What about the child? What happens to him?
And Martin? What happened to him?

I had no to low expectations for this movie and it was a rental. But I thought this was a fantastically disturbing thriller. There are a lot of twists and turns. For the most part, I did not find it all that predictable. I like that there were so many strange things about the child and that, from the start, it was obvious this isn’t a normal neighborhood, if you can call it that. The plot is fairly fast paced with minimal moments lagging. I wanted to know where the movie was going and when and how Tom and Gemma were going to escape Yonder. Find out if Yonder is right for you by renting this well-done thriller.

Spoiler: Yonder isn’t right for you, don’t move there – trust me.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Movie Review: “Stuber”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Are you looking for a comedy where there is a lot of action and you get to see stuff blow up? If so, this is the movie for you.

Dave Batisa is Vic, a detective who lost his partner in a shootout while chasing Tedjo, a criminal he was unable to catch at the time – in part to the fact that during the shootout his glasses fell off. Six months later Vic gets corrective eye surgery and must wear special glasses until his vision returns. Shortly into the movie, he throws the glasses away. Then, for the rest of the movie he has trouble seeing.

Kumail Nanjiani is Stu, who works at a sporting goods store and is a dedicated Uber driver, obsessed with maintaining a five-star rating. Stu is in the process of becoming co-owners of a gym with Becca (Betty Gilpin), who Stu has a secret, but obvious, crush on.

Vic gets a call that there is an opportunity to get Tedjo. He can’t drive, so Vic calls Uber to get him there. Despite Stu’s protesting, Vic tells Stu if he helps him, he’ll give him five stars. Vic ends up dragging Stu to multiple locations in order to find Tedjo. While all this is going on, Stu has been talking with Becca after she broke up with her boyfriend and Becca really wants Stu to come over. As a result, Stu tries to hurry Vic along every chance he gets.

On Vic’s hunt for Tedjo, there are several shootouts where Stu has to get involved. He isn’t too keen on helping Vic, but reluctantly does so, usually resulting in somewhat hilarious results. At one point, Stu is held hostage, but gets away.

Despite the polar “opposite-ness” of Vic, who is a tough detective and Stu, who is kind of a wimpy guy not really cut out for shootouts and running after bad guys, a friendship slowly starts to form.
This is a comedy action-packed movie with a few funny lines. At one point, Vic needs supplies and Stu takes him to his sporting goods store where Vic says to open a tab and just begins grabbing stuff. Stu exclaims “Uber is not a general store in the old west!” And, later, Stu cries out (after his electric car explodes) “It was a lease! There’s no gasoline; how did it explode?!?”

There is a twist at the end, but in my opinion,it  is a weak one. Nanjiani and Batista are a fantastic comedic pair. The action keeps the viewer engaged and wanting to see what’s going to happen next. There is some sexual humor and a scene of nudity, plus a fair amount of blood. Parts of it I found too slapstick, with Batista’s poor vision, but they were still a little funny. The very end even tugs at your heart strings a little. I would definitely recommend this movie...five stars. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

Movie Review: “The Peanut Butter Falcon”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Run time: 1 hour, 37 minutes

If you could use a feel-good movie, then look no further than “The Peanut Butter Falcon”. It is a story of friendship, acceptance and breaking the mold.

Zak (Zack Gottsagen) loves wrestling, has down syndrome and lives in a nursing home. His ultimate goal is to meet wrestler ,The Salt Water Redneck, who has a wrestling school and produces a video from that venue. Zak watches this video.

Zak has made several attempts to escape the nursing home, but always gets caught. Eleanor (Dakota Johnson), an employee of the assisted living facility, has told Zak he can’t keep doing this. This doesn’t stick with Zak. One night with the help of his roommate, Carl (Bruce Dern), Zak is able to escape without being caught. Zak hides in fisherman’s boat.  

That fisherman, Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) is struggling to make a living with his career as an angler. He recently lost his brother and he steals the traps of some other fishermen, Duncan (John Hawkes) and Ratboy (Yelawolf). Things get worse when, later, he sets their traps on fire. Duncan and Ratboy chase after Tyler and he runs away from them and to his boat. Be when Tyler arrives, he is unaware Zak is hiding in his boat. Once Tyler discovers Zak is in his boat, he agrees to let him tag along. Tyler is going to Florida and Zak is going to North Carolina, home of The Salt Water Redneck’s wrestling school. Tyler is sort of mean to Zak when they first meet. Zak tells Tyler ‘I want you to know about me; I am a down syndrome person.’

Tyler stops at a convenience store and inadvertently meets Eleanor, who is looking for Tyler after her boss, Glen (Lee Spencer) tells her to find Zak after refusing to report Zak missing. Tyler sees if there is a reward for Zak, but never fully admits to knowing where he is.

Tyler tells Zak he saw Eleanor and she’s looking for him. After this, a friendship begins to develop between Zak and Tyler.

Tyler encourages Zak and teaches him how to swim. You also learn some of Tyler’s backstory. The two meet Jasper (Wayne Dehart), a clergyman who lets Zak and Tyler build a raft. One night, they practice wrestling moves and Zak dubs himself ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon.’

Eleanor eventually finds Zak and tells him they need to go back to the nursing home. Zak tells her he wants to see The Salt Water Redneck. After some disagreeing, Eleanor joins the group and actually has fun.

Later, Jasper and Ratboy set their raft on fire. They threaten Tyler and Zak comes to his aid.
What will happen to the Tyler, Zak and Eleanor?

Will Zak meet the Salt Water Redneck?

Will he have to go back to the nursing home?

With an energetic soundtrack and uplifting story, this movie will put a smile on your face. It’s funny and the end was unexpected. I hope we see more movies with Zack Gottsagen because he was fantastic and I am not a Shia LeBeouf fan, but he was pretty good in this. With so much negativity out there, this movie will give you a glimpse of hope. Highly worth the rental; two peanut butter covered wrestling masks way up.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Movie Review: “Onward”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Run time: 1 hour 42 minutes

Do your kids (or yourself) need a break from social distance learning? Or maybe a suggestion for the fourth or fifth family movie night this week? “Onward” is a decent family movie with messages about believing in yourself, overcoming fear(s) and the importance of family.

It starts ‘Long ago the world was full of wonder. There was magic, which was hard to master, and the world found a simpler way to get by. Over time, the magic faded away.’

Ian Lightfoot, (Tom Holland), an elf, is turning 16. He and his older brother, Barley, (Chris Pratt) lost their father an undetermined amount of time ago. Ian and his brother are polar opposites: Barley has no fear and Ian is afraid of a lot of things.

While out in public, Ian meets a guy who tells him how great his dad was and how sorry he was to hear about his passing. After meeting this guy, Ian makes a list entitled ‘New Me’ to try to step out of his comfort zone. The final item on his list is ‘be more like Dad.’

He starts by inviting some classmates of his to his birthday party but retracts their invitation when he embarrasses himself.

Ian’s mom, Laurel (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) gives both her sons a gift from their father; a magic wand with a spell that can bring him back for only 24 hours. The spell doesn’t work – then it kind of does, leaving only a portion of their dad. They need a phoenix gem to complete the spell. Barley and Ian go on a quest to finish the spell, find the gem and get to spend some time with their dad.

Once Laurel learns what they are doing she goes after them.

Along their way, Barley and Ian meet the Manticore (Octavia Spencer) a mythical Persian legendary creature.

Barley’s van, Guinevere, runs out of gas and the two get into a bit of trouble. Barley helps his brother conquer some of his fears about driving. At one point they cross an invisible bridge and after being chased by the police, reach what they thought is their destination, but they are right back where they started.

Will they find the gem and get to meet their dad before the 24 hours is up?

With an all-star cast, this movie is another Pixar homerun. Toward the end, they really keep you guessing as to whether Ian or Barley are going to see their dad. The end result is not what I thought it was going to be. This was a funny, heartwarming movie that works on a level for both kids and adults, though it’s not as good as “Toy Story” or “Monsters, Inc.” I’d recommend this movie. Two magic wands up.