Friday, November 16, 2018

Quote of the week


Netflix movie review: "Lion"


By Lorraine Glowczak

Rated PG-13
  
I enjoy most every movie I see, but it takes an amazing film before I believe it to be Oscar-worthy. But I can say without a doubt that “Lion” is deserving of such high honors. Available on Netflix, DVD and Blu-ray, “Lion” is an inspiring and true story about a five-year-old boy from India, named Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who gets lost on a train. He ends up thousands of miles away from his home and family, arriving in Kolkata where he doesn’t speak the local Bengali language. There he must learn to survive alone on the streets.

Saroo eventually ends up in an orphanage and is adopted by an Australian couple, John (David Wenham) and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman). They provide a warm and loving home in Tanzania.

Twenty-five years later, the older Saroo (Dev Patel) joins friends one evening as they eat Indian food together. It’s there he sees jalebi, a Indian delicacy he remembers from his childhood and the memories come flooding back. 

With dogged determination, Saroo spends almost every waking hour in search of his biological family and eventually finds them with the then new technology, Google Earth. With his adoptive parents’ support, Saroo sets out to find his lost family and finally returns to his first home – and reunites with his biological mother and meets his sister.

It is impossible not to be moved by “Lion” and the great performances of all the actors – but special recognition should go to Kidman and Patel for playing their roles realistically and with excellence.

The film is both heart wrenchingly sad and yet so superbly beautiful that it has landed on my list of all-time favorites.

A fun interesting note about the name of the film. Once Saroo visits his biological family, he discovered that he had been mispronouncing his own name, which was actually Sheru, meaning "lion" in his native language.

“Lion” is definitely a must-see!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Quote of the week


Netflix Review: “Slow West”


By Colby Willis

Originally released in 2015, but recently added to Netflix, John Maclean’s “Slow West” calls back to the golden age of cowboy films with a modern feel.

Nothing is more iconic in westerns than somber soundtracks, beautiful backgrounds, and intense gunfights. “Slow West” brings all that back and more. Jay Cavendish, played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, is a young British noble on a foolhardy journey heading west to find his childhood crush. At the start of the film, while musing about stars and philosophy, he wanders into a tense standoff and is saved by a mysterious cowboy played by Micheal Fassbender. What follows is a slow burning journey through the American frontier, as Jay quickly comes to realize that his fantasies of the Wild West may be far more romantic than he originally thought.

While this is an action film, it is not a wholehearted one. The lulls between shootouts are long; the Dollars Trilogy. While he doesn't say much, every word he says and every action he does has an impact, leaving the viewer entranced during the whole film.
actual bouts themselves are quick and deadly. This isn't to say they aren't engrossing though, Maclean manages to instill a sense of dread and tension into each time a gun is drawn, leaving the viewer on the edge of their seat. Fassbender's character invoked the “Man with No Name” from the

The style and setting are top notch. Nearly every shot in the film was a feast for the eyes, as Maclean takes full advantage of the natural beauty of America's Mid-West. Lush forests, open plains and of course, the iconic plateaus and mountains were shot in such vivid color that they practically looked like paintings. The visuals were interesting and never felt stale or rigid, using fun perspectives to spice up the slower scenes.

While this is a serious drama, there were plenty of laughs as Jay's naive nature bounced off the mysterious Cowboy's gruff one. Seeing the lead slowly learn just how foolish he was to venture out into the country on his own was amusing at times and terrifying at others. However, he never came off as annoying, just genuine.

Unfortunately this film bombed at the box office, and did not make back its budget. However, if you are a fan of old school western films, Wes Anderson comedies or just the beauty of the American West, you couldn't go wrong with this underappreciated gem of a flick.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Quote of the week


Movie Review of “Private Life”


By Lorraine Glowczak

Rated: R

Although it took me a while to realize that parenthood wasn’t in the cards for me, there was a time that I longed for and tried to have at least one child. That’s why I couldn’t resist watching the Netflix movie, “Private Life”, that was also in theaters in limited locations.

“Private Life” is about a bohemian and artistic married couple, Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti), who live in New York’s East Village and are desperately wanting to have a child but are having difficulty conceiving.

Rachel is a writer whose new novel is about to be published. Richard used to run an experimental theater but now runs an artisanal pickle company. The couple are educated, sophisticated, witty and fun people who are admired and loved profusely by their step-niece, 25-year-old Sadie (Kalie Carter). Sadie is the step-daughter of Richard’s brother, Charlie (John Carroll Lynch) who is married to Sadie’s mother, Cynthia (Molly Shannon).

In spite of multiple failed attempts at artificial insemination as well as a failure in vitro fertilization, they never give up. They even have signed up to adopt a child. They connect with a pregnant teenager from Little Rock, who was looking to give up her child. They go to meet her, but she doesn’t’ show up at the agreed upon location.

In comes Sadie. She decides to leave her college writing program to finish in absentia and go live with Richard and Rachel. Rachel, who struggled with the idea of an unknown egg donor, decides that she wants to ask Sadie for her eggs. To their surprise, Sadie quickly agrees, both because she loves Richard and Rachel and because she thinks the egg donation will bring meaning to her life.

Sadie is told at a doctor’s appointment that she is not developing eggs quickly enough. Determined not to let Richard and Rachel down, she increases her drug dosage on her own.

Richard and Rachel go through with the implantation, but it is a failure.

Nine months later Richard and Rachel receive a call from another woman looking at them as potential parents to adopt her child. The couple drive to an Applebee's where they wait to meet the woman. Does this woman offer the child that the couple have yearned for? You’ll have to see for yourself.

“Private Life” is definitely a must see for everyone – whether you have had children, or you have struggled to do so. You will enjoy this witty film that contains authenticity and love.














Friday, October 26, 2018

Quote of the week


Movie Review: “First Man”


By Lorraine Glowczak

I was only three years and 10 months old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon on July 20, 1969. Ironically, there is very little I know about these two astronauts and their adventure before, during and after their space exploration. As a result, I couldn’t wait to see the film, “First Man”, directed by Damien Chazelle and produced by Steven Speilberg, when it came out in theaters on October 12. This weekend, I took the time to watch it and I have mixed reviews of this biographical movie.

Briefly, “First Man” is the story about Armstrong (Ryan Goseling) and his life from 1961 to 1969. The film reviews the sacrifices and costs on the Nation as well as on Armstrong, his wife Janet (Claire Foy) and his two sons. The movie also lets the audience take a peak in on Armstrong’s mourning of his two-year old daughter, Karen, who died of brain cancer. He also experiences the death of two fellow astronauts who were also great friends.

Although the viewer is aware of his sadness, Armstrong never breaks down. He remains stoic and often, emotionally distant. Goseling does a fantastic job portraying this famous man in history (but I personally believe, as an actor Goseling can do no wrong, so you might take my opinion with a grain of salt.)

What I liked best about the film is that it includes the family’s perspective of having a husband and father who is going to the moon – and may never return. In one poignant scene, Armstrong sits down with his two sons and discusses the possibility that they may not see him again. The conversation would not have happened, however, if his wife didn’t demand it. It’s for this reason that I enjoyed Foy’s portrayal of Armstrong’s wife.

Although I learned a bit about history and was moved by the life of Armstrong and his family, I found this film a bit too somber for my liking. One reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes stated my perception the best: ‘“First Man" never quite connects at a gut level. For a story that shoots for the moon, it has trouble leaving the ground.”


Friday, October 19, 2018

Quote of the week


A Netflix review of Daniel Sloss' “Jigsaw”


By Colby Willis

In my second review of Daniel Sloss’ comedy, I highlight his second show “Jigsaw”, a sequel to his recently aired Netflix special “Dark”, which I couldn't praise enough.

“Jigsaw” follows suit with another intensely funny, deeply personal hour long set that shows Sloss' sharp comedic wit and ability to add a message to which anyone can relate. While “Dark” was about death, “Jigsaw” focuses on life, and specifically the complexity of building one's life.

Sloss, in the same vain as one of his peers, Bo Burnham, has grown up in an era of social media posturing that has left him critical of how society functions as a whole. He is able to weave in light jabbing jokes while also repeatedly touching back on the titular “Jigsaw” metaphor that he lives by.
His is a tone of self-love and accepting when there isn't love between people. As someone just four years his junior, I couldn't help but relate to this special from start to finish.

“Jigsaw” is a repeat success from Sloss, and I couldn't recommend his work enough. Though, if you do have the time, watching his first special “Dark” lays important groundwork for “Jigsaw”, the two don't truly need to be watched in order. There was however, an amazing comedic and emotional arc that matches a good film that I was able to glean from watching these two sets of comedy in sequential order. Another edgy, dark, hilarious outing from Sloss. I can't wait to see what he comes up with next.



Saturday, October 13, 2018

Quote of the week


A review of of comedian Daniel Sloss and his “Dark” comedy on Netflix


By Colby Willis

Rated R
           
Standup comedy is a means in which people can tackle some of the world’s most depressing topics through the shared coping mechanism of laughter.

Daniel Sloss, a young Scottish comedian who is on the rise in America, touches upon such themes in
his first Netflix stand up special “Dark”. The title itself is a joke, Sloss has said, because he considers his stand up to be quite tame in his own opinion.

However, I was quick to realize that he may have quite the different idea of what dark comedy is to the general public. A start focused on culture shock and poking fun at religion got the crowd prepared for edgy comedy, while still being handled quite well by Sloss, towing the line between offensive and hilarious.

However, the second half of the show was a deep, personal, meaningful string of stories by Sloss about the nature of death and how it has affected him and those around him. I was blown away by this special.

Sloss was able to keep me laughing for the entire show while picking apart themes that should have been emotionally crushing. All of this was summed together with a hopeful message at the end that perfectly wrapped the special up. This is not an easy, light special, but is hilarious, profound, and as the title suggests, dark.




Saturday, October 6, 2018

Quote of the week


Engaging mystery delights audience at Schoolhouse Arts Center


By Elizabeth Richards

If you’re a fan of mystery and intrigue, you won’t want to miss Schoolhouse Arts Center’s rendition of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.”

On the second night of the run, a respectable sized crowd filled the theater. The first act found ten strangers thrust together on a remote island, either as staff or guests, with no sign of their host. 
As they get acquainted, a record is played, accusing each one of a terrible crime. While they all have what seems like a plausible explanation for the accusations, they are understandably nervous and confused about what is going on. And then one of them dies.

From there, the action is non-stop, with characters coming and going on stage, and one by one turning up dead. It quickly becomes obvious that the deaths are no accident, and tension builds as each character suspects another of being behind the murders.
 
The set was a perfect representation of the interior of an island retreat, and the constant sound of the sea placed the audience on that remote island, far away from civilization. The effects of weather, power outages and off-stage discoveries of dead bodies were well timed and well executed.

The cast is strong, and although there were some moments of struggle over lines which broke the flow on occasion, for the most part the show was fast paced and engaging. Each performer found subtle ways of making their character come alive, and also of creating suspicion and doubt to keep the audience guessing. There were also plenty hilarious moments, fueled by flawless timing and perfect line delivery. 

Of particular note were the performances of Zachariah Stearn as Phillip Lombard, Barbara Levault as Emily Brent, and Ricky Brewster as Dr. Armstrong. Each created and maintained a character that was both authentic and hilarious, making the moments that they were speaking incredibly fun to watch.
Saying too much would detract from the fun of watching the story unfold, so suffice it to say that you won’t be bored. The audience was engaged throughout the show and gave the cast a standing ovation to show their enthusiasm and appreciation.

The show runs for one more weekend, with performances on Friday, October 5th at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, October 6th at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 7th at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $12 for students and seniors and $14 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online at schoolhousearts.org or at the door.


Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review of Netflix Series “Atypical” by Lorraine Glowczak


Not Rated

I am one of the many who has cut the cable and now rely upon Netflix for my lazy rainy afternoon movie fix – or Netflix series binge watch

The most recent series that has me hooked is “Atypical”, a story about 18-year old Sam (Keir Gilchrist), who is on the autistic spectrum. Each show in the first season follows Sam as he searches for love, trying to fit in and to be “normal”.

Sam is certain that he loves his therapist, Julia (Amy Okuda), but upon realizing he can’t share his love with her, decides to have a “practice girlfriend” with fellow high school student Paige (Jenna Boyd). Paige, who may be on the spectrum herself, sees past Sam’s quirks and really seems to like him.

Sam lives with his mother, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is overprotective, ultra-organized and also seems to display behaviors from the spectrum. Sam also lives with his father, Doug (Michael Rapaport) who does his best to be a good father, trying to make up for the time he left Sam, his mother and younger sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine.) Casey toggles back and forth between being gruff with her older sibling or being a loving and protective sister.

Sam and his family are each dealing with their own demons and changes, proving that there really isn’t any such thing as being normal.

Although I have worked with children on the autistic spectrum, I often wonder if the show accurately portrays the life and behaviors of those on the spectrum.

According to a review by a mother with a child on the autistic spectrum, she had this to say about “Atypical”

“The makers of the new Netflix series Atypical, including creator Robia Rashid clearly want to help the world understand what it’s like for those on the autistic spectrum, and to deliver that lesson with comedy and warmth. Deeply well-meant and probably incredibly illuminating for those who don’t know much about the condition, the show is unequivocally a good thing in and of itself, and it’s hard not to applaud both the intention and the effort. That’s me speaking as the mother of a pre-pubescent boy on the autistic spectrum. As a critic of films and sometimes TV, I wish I could applaud “Atypical’s” result more.”

With that being said, know that the two-season series may fall flat for those who know the ins and outs of living with autism, it does offer a bit of humor and reveals, if only slightly, the life of those touched by autism.



Saturday, September 22, 2018

Netflix series review of "Disenchantment". Reviewed by Colby Willis


Rating (for mature audiences only)

Recently, I sat down to watch the first three episodes of show runner Matt Groening's newly released Netflix series “Disenchantment”. This marks his third outing as lead creator of an adult focused cartoon -  his first two, the highly acclaimed “Futurama” and the legendary “The Simpsons”.

Groening and his team once again bring crude humor and a cast of unique and out there characters to the screen to make audiences laugh, while providing some subtle social commentary. The show follows the princess Bean who lives in the fantasy kingdom of Dreamland. The rebellious youth is compelled constantly to go on misadventures by the prankster demon Luci, and the meek, affable Elfo the elf. The three have to contend with a cruel king, a self-absorbed prince, and many other fairy tale tropes that aren't given a twist to suit the comedic nature of the show.

I had high hopes going into the series. As a massive fan of Futurama, the shows similar art style seemed like a return to form. There were some growing pains, however.

The pilot episode was awkward and many of the jokes fell flat. As it went on though, the chemistry of the cast began to mesh far more naturally. Even characters I initially did not like ( the prince was a standout) were quick to turn about and become charming, even in their obvious arrogance. By the end of episode three I could see that the potential in this Netflix original was quite apparent, and I am eager to dig in for more.

I would suggest this show to any fan of Groening's first two shows, as well as teens and up that enjoy crude, yet lighthearted adventures.







Saturday, September 15, 2018

Movie Review of “The Nun” by Matt Pascarella


Rated R for its horror content

As a fan of “The Conjuring” movies, when I saw there was another prequel, I was ready for a similar, scary movie experience. “The Nun” tells the story of a priest (Demian Bichir) and a nun (Taissa Farmiga) who hasn’t taken her vow. They are sent by the Vatican to investigate a suicide at a convent in Romania. They must confront an evil demon who is posing as a nun.

The opening of the movie foreshadows an evil spirit who has taken over a convent. The camera passes over a sign that reads ‘God ends here’ in Latin.

Ominous music and a dark, low lit atmosphere set the tone for this horror movie. You hear a nun say, “evil needs a vessel to escape.” After which she jumps out a window hanging herself. Shortly after, a man known as Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), comes across the hanged body. He puts it in a mausoleum out of respect.

Father Burke is addressed by members of the Vatican to investigate this death. He is told to take Sister Irene to aid in the investigation. Frenchie is the one who brings them to the haunted convent. One of the characters says, “I think being here is a mistake.”

Sister Irene tells Father Burke of how, as a child, she had visions involving the demonic nun. Later on, Sister Irene is told by other nuns in the convent the only way to combat the demonic nun is to pray. She enters a chapel where nuns are praying and suddenly, one of the nuns is killed. Sister Irene looks around and notices all the nuns in the chapel are laying dead on the floor.

 “This place is no longer holy,” states Sister Irene. The demonic nun attacks Father Burke and Frenchie saves his life. The three must defeat the demonic nun and seal up the evil portal that has been open inside the convent for too long. Will they be able to defeat the demonic nun and prevent her return?

I found this movie entertaining, but not as good as “The Conjuring” or even some of the other movies in the franchise. “The Nun” has some predictability. There are several scenes that will make you jump, along with some plot twists. Creepiness is all over this movie: Sister Irene is followed by a shadow, Father Burke is buried alive, the demonic nun makes a few appearances including one in which she carries a noose (taunting Frenchie of the suicide) – good for a movie scare when you see these parts.

The music is ominous; chanting, loud pounding and suspenseful which add to this movie’s eerie tone. The dark and foggy setting of a haunted convent is an ideal setting. Without giving too much away, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) make an appearance.

If you are a big fan of “The Conjuring” and its other films and don’t want to wait for the DVD release, I would recommend you see this in theaters. It’s a decent horror movie, more jumpy than scary. Is it absolutely necessary to see this in the theater? No. You’ll jump just as much when you watch it on DVD.


Friday, September 7, 2018

Movie Review: “Christopher Robin” by Lorraine Glowczak


Rated: PG

I have studied the Tao de Ching, a sacred text written during the third century B.C. by Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu. But I have never read, “The Tao of Pooh” by Pooh, himself. I suspect now it is a must read after watching the latest film that follows Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the gang in “Christopher Robin” where simple, yet profound, life philosophies are sprinkled throughout the movie.

The film opens with the final scene of “The House at Pooh Corner,” in which Pooh (Jim Cummings) and the rest of the cast that includes: Tigger (Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Owl (Toby Jones), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), and Roo (Sara Sheen) host a farewell dinner for 9-year-old Christopher Robin who is bound for boarding school. As they spend their last moments together, Pooh offers this piece of advice to Christopher after he admits he enjoys doing nothing in 100 acre wood with his pals; “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”

Then, life happens. Christopher (Ewan McGregor) grows up, gets married to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and has a child named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Although he loves his family very much, he is a dedicated employee, putting in long hours for a high-end luggage manufacturer in 1940s London.

The economy, as a result of WWII, has declined and the wealthy have stopped traveling as much – and thus the luggage business declines. Christopher’s boss (Mark Gatiss) insists that they cut production costs or cut the staff.

To save jobs, and – at the same time, provide the good life for Evelyn and Madeline, Christopher works day and night, giving to the company 100%.  He's not only forgotten his animal pals of long ago, but it might seem he’s also dismissed his family in his attempt to do well. Until, that is, Pooh surprises him in a park near his home and the old adventures begin.

This is truly a heartwarming, family-friendly story that is perfect for the young family who has read AA Milne’s Pooh stories at bedtime. There's a strong theme of being grateful for your life and for those you love. Compassion, teamwork, play, friendship and imagination also weave themselves throughout the film.

But don’t let the sentimental family themes fool you. My husband, who is drawn to shoot ‘em up, high action, fantasy movies, found this film to be one of his new favorites. We both recommend Christopher Robin – whether you are a young family who loves the stories of Winnie the Pooh or you wish to enjoy a little philosophical whimsy, “Christopher Robin” is for you.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Movie review of a Netflix's Comedy - Bert Kreischer's “Secret Time” by Colby Willis


 Rated R for adult language

Bert Kreischer adds to the resurgence of standup comedy on Netflix with his second standup special “Secret Time.”

Through an R rated lens, Kreischer tells stories of family, friendship and bumbling through daily life even if one doesn't know how to do so. His trademark, shirtless performance is coupled with an energy that many comedians don't possess, moving about the stage and looking completely flabbergasted by the stories he is telling - whether it be the only time he made his father laugh, or his completely disbelief at the antics of his children. Kreischer seemed along for the ride with the audience as he tried to understand just as they did how these events fell in to place.

The show had a particularly adult bent, constantly dropping grown up language and themes that reminded me of unfiltered performers such as Carlin, but with his own childish glee added in to bring the intensity up a level. However, it was not a torrent of potty humor and curse words, there was a genuine intelligence to his shows. Jokes that did not seem to land near the start were weaved back into the narrative later in the special only to leave the audience roaring with laughter.

Though the first five to ten minutes may have felt a bit rocky, as the show progressed I found myself laughing more and more, to the point where I had to catch my breath and wipe tears from my eyes.  Kreischer seemed to be having incredible fun with his expert comedic performance, laughing nearly the whole set, and yet the audience was always laughing along with him. While I would certainly not recommend that you watch this with the kids, if you have time to watch it with a friend or even on your own I'd highly recommend it to any fan of raunchy comedy. This new special can be found exclusively on Netflix.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Movie review of "The Meg". Review by Emily Maier


When a team of marine biologists venture into a previously undiscovered ocean trench, they find an entirely undisturbed ecosystem. Among this wondrous aquatic life, however, they encounter something that makes “Jaws” look like a goldfish.

In “The Meg’s” titular role is the megalodon, an ancient 75-foot shark with an insatiable appetite. After a confrontation with the megalodon leaves the team’s submarine stranded on the ocean floor, the research facility sends in the best rescue diver they can find: Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham). Unfortunately, in his efforts to get the team back to the surface, Jonas ends up paving a road for the megalodon to follow. With this prehistoric beast on the loose, the team scrambles to kill it before it can reach populated shores.

Ultimately, “The Meg” is a generic monster movie through and through. The director, Jon Turteltaub, is also responsible for movies such as “National Treasure” and “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, which should tell you something about how cheesy “The Meg” often comes across. It’s still a fun watch, but in the mindless, uninspired way that most monster movies are nowadays.

The cast features a few familiar names such as Li Binging, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Cliff Curtis, and, of course, Jason Statham. The acting is neither terrible nor compelling, but sits in some forgettable middle ground.

Similarly, the soundtrack was surprisingly mundane. The trailer’s use of Bobby Darin’s “Beyond The Sea” was wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, but the song was nowhere to be found in the movie itself. Instead, the only song I recall playing was a Thai version of Toni Basil’s “Hey Mickey.” Twice.

Prior to seeing “The Meg”, I had hoped the movie was going to be self-aware enough to poke fun at itself. After all, the trailer seems to suggest this when Rainn Wilson’s character states, “He certainly looks heroic” about Jonas. Perhaps naively, I had taken this as a sign that the movie might make light of common tropes. But aside from this instance and another mention of Shark Week, the movie seems to take itself seriously – too seriously, for a movie about a giant, extinct, man-eating shark.

Though I’m a fan of both “Jaws” and “Sharknado”, this movie seems to have fallen into the crack (or trench) between the two. “The Meg” is neither skillful enough to be taken seriously nor lighthearted enough to have “Sharknado’s” B-movie charm.

That being said, it’s hard not to be entertained by a massive shark wreaking havoc on beach-goers. If nothing else, the terrifying visuals and jumpscares featuring the shark are sure to make a few people think twice about plunging into the ocean.

My advice to potential viewers is don’t watch the trailers. Virtually all the best scenes in “The Meg” are shown in the trailers, which created a very frustrating movie experience. There were some truly gripping visuals that were effectively ruined just because the filmmakers didn’t have the restraint to save them for the actual movie.

All in all, “The Meg” took a big bite out of missed opportunities. While it’s still a fun monster flick to end the summer with, it easily could have been a lot better. Had it embraced a better soundtrack and a more playful, campy tone, “The Meg” could have been a much more memorable film.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Movie review of “Eighth Grade” by Colby Willis


It's rare to find a movie so authentic and compelling as “Eighth Grade”, the directorial debut of
standup comedian Bo Burnham.

Kayla Day, portrayed by Elsie Fisher, is a young girl on her way to graduating from middle school, and in her final week goes on a self-actualizing journey towards adulthood.

When I entered the theater, I was under the impression that I was about to watch a quality comedy that reflects the high reviews it has been getting online. However, there was something else to the film; a coming of age story both unique and relatable. It was not a comedic romp as I had expected, but a dive into the mind of a young woman who was unsure of who she was.

Throughout the film, Burnham managed to display the silliness, awkwardness and horror that comes with being an insecure eighth grader. An expansive cast shows different interactions that echoed my own past.

Well meaning, but awkward, parenting as well as popular kids who are mean for no real reason along with a barrage of other struggles are depicted in so realistic a fashion that it is hard not to wince out of sympathy for the lead.

Burnham successfully filled the theater with laughter and fear, while passing on a message of growth.
Even with the dense narrative that takes place over the last week of the school year, the film managed to stave off any pretentious airs and remains a fun, awkward, genuine story. If you are looking for a nostalgic flick for the modern era, I can wholeheartedly recommend Burnham's fantastic first film, “Eighth Grade”.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Movie Review: “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” by Lorraine Glowczak


As long as I can remember, I have loved the famous actors and actresses of the 1930s and 40s. I adored Jimmy Stewart in “Harvey”, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “Philadelphia Story” – where I also worshipped Katharine Hepburn’s independent spirit.

One famous actress I wasn’t aware of during that era was Hedy Lamarr. I learned about her approximately eight years ago when I was an instructor for a hands-on science enrichment program for children pre-school to fifth grade. It was then that I learned about this female inventor.

“This scientist”, we told our students, “was a well-known actress known for her beauty but her intelligence and contribution to science and present-day technology has been overlooked.”

So, I was excited to learn that Netflix produced the documentary, “Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” and looked forward to watching the film to learn about this inventor and her life. Of course, this film directed by Alexandra Dean, focuses on the actress’ life as a celebrity who just so happened to be an unidentified inventor. As a result, my review may have a different outlook and twist than most reviews for this biographical film.

The documentary shares the eclectic twists and turns of Lamarr’s story. Born in Vienna as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler in 1914, the film follows her life from her early career in a highly controversial film, secretly leaving her husband and being discovered in London by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Louis B. Mayer.

The film highlights the early successful years in Hollywood, her marriages (married and divorced six times) and the many relationships she had, including one with aviation tycoon, Howard Hughes.

“Bombshell” also looks at her reason for inventing a secure, radio-controlled torpedo guidance system, known as “frequency hopping,” that is the basis of WiFi, Bluetooth and cellphone technologies used today. The film also follows her downward spiral of failure, scandal and reclusiveness.

Although her beauty and brilliance were eventually overshadowed by scandal and disaster, “Bombshell” is sensitive to highlighting her story without diminishing her wonderful contributions to society.





Friday, August 3, 2018

Movie Review on “Oceans 8” by Kaila Mank


For people who have enjoyed the “Ocean’s” film series - “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001), “Ocean’s Twelve” (2004) and “Ocean’s Thirteen” (2007), they were no doubt excited to hear about the new “Ocean’s 8” coming out in theaters.

It was no surprise on June 8, 2018 “Ocean’s 8” was released, it was a race to the theaters. I was right
there with all the excitement, as my family and I headed to the drive-in to see it early this summer.

 The plot of this story is about Danny Ocean’s estranged younger sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) who attempts to pull off the biggest heist of the century at the New York City’s star-studded annual Met Gala.

After getting out of jail for good behavior, Debbie is on a mission to assemble her perfect all- female crew. Now, I am a huge fan of the “Ocean’s”, and in my opinion, the plot was clever on paper. But when put into action, it was sloppy and very disorganized.

The mix of actors, as chosen, did not mix well with the concept of “Ocean’s 8” and did not match any of the personalities from any other “Ocean’s.”

A significant difference I found that makes a good movie from a bad one is the action, suspense and excitement. In all the other “Ocean’s” movies, there was action and conflict in the plot, however, this all-female crew just walked through the film with no suspense. Expecting a continuation from the other films, I simply could not find the excitement that keeps you on the edge of your seat. There never seemed to be a climax to the story.

In my final opinion, I do believe that the director (Steven Soderbergh) of the first three films did a much better job than Gary Ross in this particular film.

Overall, something that was really good and very strong about this movie was the popular cast characters. Gary Ross (director) did one thing right in this entire movie: it was loaded with well-known actors. But if there ever is a next film, I would recommend the director to use their strengths and create a better storyline.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Lively and engaging, “Seussical the Musical” delights audiences at Schoolhouse Arts Center by Elizabeth Richards


Schoolhouse Arts Center is bringing the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss to life on stage in their production of “Seussical the Musical,” and they’re doing it with a unique twist. Throughout the production, American Sign Language (ASL) is incorporated into the usual singing and dancing.

When director Zac Stearn, who is also the Artistic Director for Schoolhouse Arts, announced that ASL would be infused throughout the show, I wondered if it would be a distraction, detracting from the momentum of the show. Instead, I almost forgot it was happening, as it was beautifully intertwined into each scene, often feeling like an extension of the choreography.


Emily Paruk as JoJo and Joy Lemont as The Cat
The show, with a cast of more than 30 characters – many of whom felt like old friends, was lively and engaging, capturing the full interest of the audience; even the numerous children in attendance. It’s a perfect show to take children to see. The continuous flow from song to song keeps the action moving forward, and there are often so many different things happening on stage that it’s almost impossible to not be engaged. 

One of the things I enjoy most about shows at Schoolhouse Arts Center is how well they use the space they have, and this show was no exception. The set allowed for the cast to move freely on stage, and cast members used the sides and the center aisle as well, drawing the audience into the magical world of Seuss. With a cast that large, movement could have felt crowded and overwhelming, but it never did.

This show is all about the music. Every scene is a song that moves the plot forward. Narrated by the Cat in the Hat, the main story follows Horton the Elephant in his quest to save the miniscule Who planet. There are several other stories incorporated into the songs, which are centered on the beloved books of Dr. Seuss.

The cast began with high energy and maintained it throughout the show. There were times when it was difficult to hear soloists, but overall the cast had good projection and was able to pull me into the action. The choreography was fun, engaging, and well executed.

This musical, like the books of Dr. Seuss, manages to subtly incorporate several important messages into the show: respect for the lives of others; appreciating what you have; and the importance of embracing your own unique qualities are just a few examples. This is a feel-good show well worth the time and ticket price. 

“Seussical the Musical” is playing through July 29th on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., and Sunday evening at 5 p.m. Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at www.schoolhousearts.org or at the door.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Review on “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.” Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree


Emma Straub’s first novel, “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures”, feels a little like an old-time
Hollywood movie and a little like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

The novel begins in Wisconsin in 1929 with Elsa Emerson, her family, and their backyard theatre. When she’s a teenager, a tragedy compels Elsa to leave home and pursue the acting career her deceased sister Hildy would have had. 

Soon after arriving in Hollywood, Elsa ditches her old name and becomes Laura Lamont. Soon after that, she divorces her first husband and marries the love of her life. The novel spans five decades, two marriages, three children, and a career that rises and falls. It holds all of the things a well-lived life holds: humor and loss, success and failure, birth and death, happiness and regret. 

This is the story of a small-town nobody who becomes a Hollywood icon and then a has-been. It’s about the life we leave behind in pursuit of something better, and it’s about the people we hurt even when we don’t mean to. It’s about being humbled and finding peace. It’s not a surprising, breath-stealing novel, but one with a rather quiet presence. It’s the kind of book you can escape into, the kind that carries you away.

           

Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie review of "Hereditary” by Emily Maier


As someone who isn’t a big fan of horror, I was initially wary about going to see “Hereditary” in theaters. I certainly didn’t expect it to be one of my favorite movies of the year, but this movie surprised me in more ways than one.

At the core of “Hereditary” is the Graham family: Annie, Steve, and their two children, Peter and Charlie. The film opens with the funeral of Annie’s mother, a secretive woman whose actions were steeped in mental illness and dysfunctional tendencies. Charlie takes the recent death of her grandmother especially hard, exhibiting behavior ranging from odd to downright disturbing. As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that the secrets being held from the Graham family are far more sinister than they ever could have imagined.

It’s difficult to reveal much more without spoiling the plot. While I enjoyed the film most when it was functioning as an analysis of grief and familial trauma, I also enjoyed the supernatural turn that it took.  

Toni Collette gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance as Annie. Whether she was depicting unbridled grief, fury, or mania, she did it with incredible mastery and authenticity. Alex Wolff did an amazing job as the frequently traumatized Peter as well. Though his crying left something to be desired – especially considering he had to do it a lot – he still handles some of the movie’s most intense scenes admirably.

The cast gave everything they had in this movie, and their portrayal of raw emotion is what makes “Hereditary” really stand out. Whether it’s overwhelming grief, guilt, rage, or terror, the film captures it all with an unflinching gaze. It refuses to let up, no matter how much the audience squirms. While watching “Hereditary”, I had the unique experience of suddenly feeling like I was not watching a movie but intruding upon someone’s life during a tragedy. This is not only a testament to the cast’s skill but something that made the movie much more spine-chilling.

I was surprised to learn that the film is the directorial debut of Ari Aster, who directed and wrote the script. It’s an incredibly strong start for the budding director, and I’ll be patiently awaiting his future work. In less surprising news, “Hereditary” is the newest film produced by A24, the same company that has brought us renowned films such as “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird,” “The Witch,” “Ex Machina,” and “Room.”

While a majority of “Hereditary” wasn’t as scary as I’d anticipated, I should note that I spent the last twenty minutes of the movie absolutely terrified. Instead of relying on traditional jump-scares, “Hereditary” uses subtle horror: things you don’t notice at first, or the things suggested but not seen. There are also a few truly graphic scenes throughout the movie that may be permanently burned into my retinas. Though not the typical horror movie, “Hereditary” is – above all – not for the faint of heart.

While “Hereditary” is by no means a perfect movie, the care both the cast and crew held for the movie is evident in every scene. I was mesmerized by the realistic acting, bold storytelling, and the unique way in which the film was shot. Keeping in mind the graphic bloodshed and the heart-wrenching plot, I’d recommend “Hereditary” to anyone who thinks they can stomach it.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Movie review of "Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom" by Stephen Signor


Run time: 128 min.

Like most everyone, I became addicted to the hype surrounding the opening of “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom”. And as in the past, I walked away with a somewhat empty feeling and disappointment.

While there was an impressive increase in prehistoric creatures over the preceding films, and even though all of them expressed themselves more often and in greater volume, I still felt there was something missing.

Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that's about to erupt. They soon encounter terrifying new breeds of gigantic dinosaurs, while uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the entire planet.

Flashbacks of a now defunct, vacated and rundown Jurassic Park proves nostalgic but not necessarily noteworthy in the plot. Not known for work on other Jurassic films, director J.A. Bayona (“A Monster Calls”) did his best and deserves credit for at least making it believable as well as the challenge of this being first in the franchise to be shot digitally as well as in wide-screen format.

Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as Ian Malcolm after 21 years since his last appearance. Although he only appeared in two, relatively short cameo spots, the message he delivered to politicians and the world spoke volumes.

This brings me to the positive aspect I did acquire from watching this movie. This was not your average sequel. There was a subliminal message throughout about the real issue of mistreatment of animals in today's society. This film focuses more on the responsibility for these animals that were originally made as a result of greed. It’s about the darkness and worst instincts.

Screen-writer Colin Trevorrow indicated that “the dinosaurs are a parable of the treatment animals receive today: the abuse, medical experimentation, pets, having wild animals in zoos like prisons, the use the military has made of them, animals as weapons."  I think that ultimately, when people are able to watch this film and where this franchise is going, it really is about the ethical treatment of animals in the world and our responsibility to the living creatures that we share the planet with, alongside our responsibilities to the planet itself.

This being said, the overall entertainment value of “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom”, while exceeding its predecessors, was short lived.


Friday, June 29, 2018

Movie review of “Incredibles 2”. Reviewed by Emily Maier


Run time: 118 mins


After fourteen long years, everyone’s favorite family of superheroes is back in “Incredibles 2.”
Growing up, “The Incredibles” was always one of my favorite movies, so I was (incredibly) excited to see what Pixar did with this second installment.

“Incredibles 2” picks up right where “The Incredibles” left off, with the Parr family teaming up to fight a mole-like villain known as The Underminer. Unfortunately, things don’t go exactly as planned and, in a world where superheroes are already deemed illegal, this only adds fuel to the fire.

In an effort to put people’s faith back in superheroes, the owners of a corporation known as DEVTECH enlist Elastigirl to star in their campaign to repeal the anti-superhero law. As Helen takes off to fight crime, Bob/Mr. Incredible is left to navigate his new role as a stay-at-home dad.

Overall, I was really happy with the turn this movie took in terms of the focus on characters. Though the first movie mainly followed Mr. Incredible, he took a backseat in order for “Incredibles 2” to explore Elastigirl’s character. The movie’s reversal of stereotypical gender roles was very refreshing; with Helen becoming the family breadwinner and Bob taking on the full-time task of raising three kids. It was also exciting to see more of Frozone, Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. Though I had been hoping for more scenes with Edna Mode, the screen time she does get is perhaps the funniest portion of the film, so it’s hard to complain.

I was also surprised at the rather realistic portrayal of teenagers. Violet and Dash are both susceptible to moody outbursts and instances of rebellion, but they developed as they learned lessons throughout the film. Oftentimes, movies will use children to take whatever steps are necessary to further the plot, causing unpredictable characterization. But “Incredibles 2” let kids be kids, and their actions felt natural instead of some forced plot device.

The animation is wonderful. This is ultimately expected of a Pixar movie, but I still found myself in awe of the natural fluidity of each character. Looking back at the first movie, there is a pronounced difference in the level of animation – after all, things have come a long way in fourteen years!
One of my only complaints is that the plot was often very predictable. Though “Incredibles 2” attempted a couple “twists,” even these seemed rather obvious. Still, I didn’t feel this took too much away from my overall enjoyment of the movie.

The action scenes were intense and the slower, family-centric scenes were heartfelt, so there was never a time in which I felt bored.

Nostalgia aside, “Incredibles 2” holds up perfectly fine on its own. Many sequels to popular animated films often have trouble finding their own voice, but I didn’t find this to be the case with “Incredibles 2.” The film expands upon already beloved characters and delves deeper into themes brought up in the first movie. Though I didn’t find “Incredibles 2” quite as compelling as the original, it was still a solid addition to the story.