Friday, July 19, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Crawl”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1h 27min

A category 5 hurricane hits Florida hard. Mass evacuations, almost all roads closed, rain and high winds creating a path of destruction, people told to get out of their homes and stay out. However, Haley (Kaya Scodelario) has been calling her dad and not heard back from him. She decides to go, amidst the warnings to do the opposite, and see if he is ok.

The movie opens with Haley at a swim practice. Afterwards, she talks to her sister who is concerned about their father, Dave (Barry Pepper). Haley says she will go check on him.

On her way, she is stopped and told to turn around as the roads are too dangerous and conditions too severe. She ignores the warnings and goes to find her dad. She travels first to his condo and then to the house she grew up in and, after seeing blood marks on a pipe in the basement, finds her dad unconscious in the basement and badly hurt.

As she begins to move him, an alligator bursts through the wall and slowly walks toward her. This is one of several unexpected events that happen throughout the movie. She is able to get herself and her dad to safety. Haley leaves her father to go retrieve her phone so she can call 9-1-1. She is quickly found by the alligator who clamps down on her leg and drags her. She fights it off but realizes there are two alligators. She now has a huge gash in her leg.

As the basement is filling up with water fast, Haley spots some looters who are robbing a nearby gas station. She tries to signal for their help, but before she is able to get their attention, alligators kill the looters. The same thing happens to the police when they arrive at Haley’s home.

Haley is able to save her father from the alligator attacks and tells him, “I should have never come back here.” Her dad tells her, “We do not give up.”

In looking for a way out, she finds a group of alligator eggs that have hatched, and some that haven’t. An alligator bites her arm, but she escapes.

Can Haley and her dad escape and get to safety? Or will only one of them survive? Can they protect themselves from the multitude of alligators swimming below?

I can say with almost no shame, that I am a fan of the “Sharknado” movies. So, when I saw a disaster movie about alligators, I figured it was worth a trip to the theater. And I was right. This movie is fast paced, and action packed. There are several moments that really catch you off guard, or make you jump – I love that. Watching Haley and Dave try to escape definitely gets your heart pumping. This movie even has an emotional moment or two thrown in. I won’t go so far as to say this is up to the high quality and cinematic excellence of a “Sharknado” movie, but it’s a solid thriller and a fun ride. I would recommend it.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Movie Review: “Midsommar”

By Emily Maier

Rated: R
Runtime: 147 mins

In the wake of a family tragedy, Dani decides to join her boyfriend, Christian, on a month-long trip to Sweden in an attempt to forget her own trauma and to keep their crumbling relationship intact. Their mutual friend, Pelle, comes from a small, pagan commune that invites them to join their midsummer celebrations. However, something doesn’t seem right about the community, and Dani’s group struggles to chalk everything up to cultural differences, especially when things turn bloody.

“Midsommar” is Ari Aster’s second feature-length film, debuting a year after his first movie, “Hereditary.” Because “Hereditary” was my favorite movie of 2018, I was beyond excited to see what Aster would produce next. From the looks of “Midsommar,” the director is sticking to what he does best: capturing painfully human emotions.

The entire cast does a great job, but Florence Pugh (Dani) definitely steals the show. I was impressed with every scene, whether she was meekly trying to appease her boyfriend, gleefully dancing, or uttering gut-wrenching sobs. One of my favorite things about Aster’s films is that he’s not afraid to let his actor’s get ugly – in fact, he seems to encourage them to contort their faces to show intense, visceral emotions. Another notable cast member was Will Poulter, playing one of Christian’s friends (Mark), who brought a surprising amount of humor to a very dark movie.

As with “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” is a commentary on grief. The film begins with events grounded in reality, but gradually becomes more surreal as the plot progresses. The bizarre, cult-related events allow the story to symbolically discuss the real-world problems presented in the first half. At its core, Aster calls “Midsommar” a breakup movie. Though it might not be immediately apparent, the film follows a pattern of conflict, misery, anger, and – ultimately – a strange sense of release. This emotional journey, combined with the nightmarish cult practices, culminates in a truly unhinged experience.

The dark content starkly contrasts with the bright, beautiful cinematography. Traditionally, daytime is a “safe” time in horror movies, so keeping most of the horror in the sunlight added a sense of eeriness to the film. Much like “Hereditary,” “Midsommar” doesn’t rely on traditional jump scares for its horror, instead using disturbing visuals and implications. While not traditionally scary, “Midsommar” still had to fight for an R rating instead of NC17 due to “disturbing ritualistic violence, grisly images, and strong sexual content,” so consider yourself warned.

Despite the similarities, “Midsommar” didn’t captivate me the same way “Hereditary” did. Though I was invested in the story, certain elements only felt included for shock value and others felt completely unrelated to the plot. It’s possible the symbolism of some scenes went over my head or the unknown is meant to scare the audience, but either way, “Midsommar” was definitely not as straightforward as its predecessor. I also felt “Midsommar” was a little too long, coming in at two and a half hours.

That being said, I did enjoy the movie. Aster pours a palpable amount of care into his work, which makes each story unique, passionate, and thoughtful. I love his films because they haunt you; they keep you thinking about hidden details and meanings long after you’ve left the theater. While I’d love to wholeheartedly recommend this movie, I know it won’t be for everyone. If you don’t mind heavy symbolism and graphic imagery, definitely check out “Midsommar” this summer. You’d be supporting a bold piece of work from a budding director.

Book Review of “History of Wolves” by Emily Fridlund

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

“History of Wolves”, a novel by Emily Fridlund, is a dark, suspenseful coming-of-age novel. Fifteen-year-old Madeline, who introduces herself as Linda, lives on an abandoned commune in the Minnesota woods with people who might be her parents or who might just be the people who stayed when everyone else left. She is strange, self-sufficient, defiant, inquisitive.

Linda’s story begins with the arrival of a new history teacher, Mr. Grierson, who Linda tries awkwardly to seduce. With all the feelings of unrequited lust and not-belonging, Linda meets the new people across the lake: young mother Patra and her four-year-old son Paul.

The storyline of Mr. Grierson and the beautiful Lily (another student) will play out in fragments alongside the bigger story of Paul’s death. We learn very early on that Paul has died, but Fridlund takes her time revealing how and why. We see Linda become immersed in this life with Patra and Paul, with their snacks and walks in the woods and bedtime rituals.

In the deep Minnesota woods, it feels like a fairytale. And then Patra’s strange scientist husband shows up and like with every fairytale witch, that’s when the story begins to unravel. The reader starts to put clues together before Linda does, but eventually she gets it. It is what she does and doesn’t do that haunts her well into her adult life.

The two plots converge on a few central questions: How much do you have to know to be culpable? What is justice? Is a lie of omission the same as a lie? Who gets to decide who is forgiven and when?
I like novels that don’t wrap up with neat answers, and so I appreciated that the adult Linda we meet is still wrestling with all the questions that summer brought forth.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

“My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Lettermen”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-MA
2 Seasons, 11 episodes

David Letterman has returned, (kind of) and this time things are a little different. This isn’t any version of his Late Show. “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” is a Netflix show where Letterman interviews fascinating people; all whom you’ve probably heard of, but maybe not.
The first season of the show featured Barack Obama, George Clooney, Malala Yousafzai, Jay-Z, Tina Fey and Howard Stern. The recently released new season features interviews with Kanye West, Ellen DeGeneres, Tiffany Haddish, Lewis Hamilton and Melinda Gates.

The set is different, simplistic; no band, two chairs and that’s pretty much it. In these interviews, Letterman sits down and has sometimes eye-opening discussions with well-known individuals. Letterman usually focuses the conversation on their career, but the discussion can get in-depth and personal.

Comedian Tiffany Haddish spoke of growing up in the foster care system. Letterman discusses Formula One car racing with Lewis Hamilton, how he got involved and what that entailed for him and his family. President Obama spoke of life after the presidency. The viewer learns that Tina Fey’s first name is actually Elizabeth and her dad was a veteran who studied journalism. Howard Stern spoke of his rough childhood.

Letterman has done his research and, similar to his late-night show, you learn new things about someone you may have thought you knew. Unlike his talk show, Letterman spends roughly an hour with these guests, and you don’t just learn one or two things about them, you learn quite a bit. And the interviews are engaging, with bits of humor. In between the interview segments, you see Letterman learning more about his guest. For example, Letterman took to the racetrack with Formula One race car driver, Hamilton and when Letterman interviewed Kayne West, they spent time in West’s enormous closet talking about sneakers and clothes. He went gardening with Tiffany Haddish.
Letterman continues to be an excellent interviewer, in my opinion, and gives his guests the opportunity to be funny, while also asking the right questions to get to the best interview possible.

I love a good interview and learning new things about people I find it immensely interesting and entertaining. If you were/are a fan of David Letterman, and like interviews, mixed with a little bit of comedy, I recommend this Netflix series. Dave, if you happen to read this, my only complaint of your show, is I’m not a fan of the beard.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Movie Review: “Murder Mystery”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 37 mins.

This Netflix movie tells the story of a couple who get mixed up in a billionaire’s tangled family feud and have to prove their innocence.

Detective Nick Spitz (Adam Sandler) and his wife Audrey Spitz (Jennifer Aniston) live a somewhat mundane life. He is a former detective who recently failed his detective’s exam. She is a hairdresser and, with their fifteenth wedding anniversary coming up, wants to go on a trip to Europe that Nick promised her after they first got married.

A trip to Europe is not what Nick has in mind as he’s seen picking out an Amazon gift card as a present for her. However, when Audrey expresses that she’d really like to take that trip, Nick claims a trip to Europe is a surprise and they are quickly on a plane.

Audrey wanders up to the first-class section of the plane where she meets billionaire, Lord Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans) and he invites her and Nick to join them on their yacht in Monaco where his uncle is to wed Cavendish’s ex fiancĂ©. Audrey and Nick agree.

Upon boarding the yacht, they meet a colorful cast of characters. All have gathered on board for Malcom Quince’s (Terence Stamp) nuptials, but also for the reading of his will, in which someone could inherit billions of dollars. Quince announces his entire fortune will go to his bride, Suzi Nakamura. Everyone, except the Spitzs’ are upset about this.

Suddenly, the lights go out and a gunshot is heard. When the lights come back on, a dagger has been plunged into Quince’s chest and he is dead.

The crime scene is closed off.

While Nick and Audrey discuss the case later that night, another gunshot is heard and Quince’s son, Tobey (David Walliams) is found dead. Each of the remaining individuals are questioned by an inspector. Nick and Audrey are pegged as the persons of interest as they stand out the most compared to the other guests. The Spitzs’ are kicked off the yacht and forced to stay in a hotel room.

Nick and Audrey discuss the three motives for murder: love, money and revenge and try to figure out who the killer might be. They question the suspects the following day at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Later, a note is slipped under their door telling them to come to room 802. There, the Colonel’s bodyguard reveals information pertaining to the case.

There is a knock at the door and the bodyguard is shot. Nick and Audrey manage to escape from room 802, but soon realize their faces are all over the news and that everyone thinks they are the killers.

Are they? Or do they need to prove their innocence? If so, who is the killer?

Murder Mystery is a solid murder mystery. It has action, comedy – multiple funny lines and scenarios – and Aniston and Sandler are a good duo. The ending is satisfying with a few surprises and is even a little sweet. I would recommend this movie, two thumbs up.   

Friday, June 21, 2019

Movie Review: “Men in Black International”

By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour, 55 mins.

We all know the original story of the first three “Men in Black” movies that starred Will Smith as Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K. The two agents regulated all alien life on Earth, while investigating unregistered aliens with intentions to harm Earth. Barry Sonnenfeld directed all three films (1997, 2002 and 2012, respectively) and all films had the same reaction once they hit the box office, almost immediately a hit.

Now seven years later, the fantasy/sci-fi series continues with “Men in Black International”. Directed by F. Gary Gray, there was a little bit of a different look on the story line.

It goes something like this as described on Common Sensemedia:

“A young Molly watches as her parents who are visited by the Men in Black and neutralized after encountering an alien. She grows up wanting to join MIB and, through great perseverance, finally manages to find their headquarters. She's made a probationary agent, known as Agent M (Tessa Thompson), and was sent to London, where she meets the reckless, charming Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Their first mission is to meet a friendly alien called Vungus in a nightclub. After an attack by two powerful alien twins, Vungus gives Agent M a mysterious object, asking her not to trust anyone. Returning to headquarters, Agent M deduces that, for the attack to have happened, there must be a mole inside MIB headquarters.”

The two agents find two alien forces that can take the shape of any human and they must embark on a global adventure to save the agency,  ultimately saving the world.

In my opinion the first three movies were better put together and much more organized – making it easy to follow the storyline.

However, “Men in Black International” is nothing short of a good movie. It has a good plot line and the characters play their parts very well. I would recommend seeing this movie, it ties with the first three just enough to keep it interesting.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Movie Review: “Bad Times at the El Royale”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: NC-17
Run time: 141 minutes

The El Royale is a hotel where, just like the title suggests, there isn’t much good that happens there, just a lot of bad. The movie centers around four individuals: Father Daniel Flynn (Jeff Bridges), Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Ervio), Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson) and Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm).

The movie opens with Felix O’Kelly (Nick Offerman) walking into a hotel room, setting down some bags, then tearing up the floorboards and putting his bags beneath the floor.  Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and he is immediately shot.

Ten years later, circa 1969, Darlene Sweet and Father Daniel Flynn arrive separately at the El Royale. They meet loudmouth Laramie Seymour Sullivan who claims to be a vacuum cleaner salesman and has been waiting for a room for a while; no front desk clerk seems to be around. Emily Summerspring enters also needing a room.

Once Laramie Seymour Sullivan has gotten his room, he begins ripping wire taps from all electrical devices around the room. He later goes snooping around the front desk and discovers an underground tunnel that enables one to see and hear into the different rooms. He sees each of the previous guests doing various activities, some questionable.

We get a flashback to Darlene Sweet in a recording studio where she is being somewhat criticized by a recording manager. Flash forward and there is a knock on her door where Father Danielle Flynn asks if she’d like to get something to eat. Over pie, she and Father Flynn talk. When Father Flynn offers to get her a drink, he slips something in it and just as he’s about to hand it to her, she hits him on the head with a bottle and he falls to the ground.

We later learn that Laramie Seymour Sullivan is not who he says he is; his name is actually Dwight Broadbeck.

Cut to Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) who is walking along the beach. He approaches a girl, Rose Summerspring (Caliee Spaeny) who, in a flashback we see Emily Summerspring saving her sister from an abusive parent. Emily and Rose are currently in the hotel room where Emily tells her sister she will “get her clear.” Broadbeck bursts into their room, knocking Emily to the ground. Emily later shoots Broadbeck and he falls through the mirror, revealing the underground tunnel used to spy on all the rooms.

Later, the front desk clerk, Miles, (Lewis Pullman) helps up Father Flynn and Flynn soon discovers the underground spying tunnel. There are flashbacks which intertwine the recent series of events. After Miles is injured, Emily Summerspring has tied him up.

When Darlene Sweet is trying to escape after discovering her neighboring guest’s actions, she is approached by Father Flynn who confesses who he really is. They make a plan and begin to execute it.  

What will become of the remaining guests? Are their more secrets and lies? Who else might we meet?

This movie is intense, to say the least, but it’s interesting. A stellar cast portray these fascinating characters well. It’s relatively violent in parts and a lot happens. It can be hard to follow at times but does all kind of come together in the end – it might help if you take notes, like I did. I’d recommend this, if you’re a fan of action thrillers.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Book Review: “All my Puny Sorrows”

By Jennifer Dupree, circulation supervisor at the Windham Public Library

How can a book about suicide be heartbreaking and funny at the same time? How can a book with the thinnest of plots be completely compelling? I don’t know, but “All My Puny Sorrows” by Miriam Toews is a beautiful, thoughtful, engaging story of two sisters, one who wants to die, the other who wants her to live.

Yoli is a forty-something-year-old woman who has made something of a mess of her life but who loves her bright, beautiful, talented, suicidal sister, Elfrieda. The bulk of this book is about Elf’s suicide attempt (not her first) and what happens as the family rallies around her hospital bed. Most of the tension in the book arises from the question of if Elf will attempt suicide again and if, as Elf begs her, Yoli will help her end her life.

There are scenes of Yoli and Elf’s childhood growing up in a rural Mennonite community sliced in between hospital conversations between Yoli and Elf. Outside the hospital room, life goes on. Yoli tries to manage her pending divorce (her second), her teenager daughter’s budding romance, her own disastrous romances, and her plucky, sweat-pant-wearing mother.  

This book made me cry, but it also made me laugh. Yoli is smart, funny, honest, self-deprecating. 
This is a story about the deep love between sisters, the pain of loss, the hilarity of everyday life, and mostly, the will to keep going.

Movie Review: “Aladdin”

By Kaila Mank

Rated: PG
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

The original Disney's “Aladdin” from 1992 directed by Ron Clements has always been an all-time favorite to many. So, when the word was out that the live-action version was coming, there were many doubts. However, if you have seen this latest movie directed by Guy Richie, you can put those doubts to rest. The film was very well put together with everything from the music to the characters matching the original animated version.

We all know the story of the street “rat” Aladdin (played by Mena Massoud), falling in love with the Salton daughter Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott). Aladdin doesn't think he's good enough, so he releases the genie (Will Smith) from his lamp to help him become the Prince of Jasmine’s dreams.

This love story gets interrupted by the villain in the story, Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who wants to become Salton (Navid Negahban) and will do anything to get it. I thought this overall movie was amazing. The music matched the original, it was funny and must have been one of the most difficult things to do with live-action and the look-alike characters.

The elaborate character, Jafar, would have been one of the hardest to capture in this live-action film – looking much like the animated character in the original movie. The director and the actors did an amazing job with all of it.

So if you haven't seen it yet, I would highly recommend you see it, and it will put those doubts you may have about animated movies being turned into live-action movies to rest.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Welcome to Marwen”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Running time: 1 hour and 56 minutes

Based on a true story, “Welcome to Marwen” is about Mark Hogancamp, also known as Cap’n Hogie, (Steve Carrell) who was assaulted by several Natzis for being different and wearing women’s shoes.

The movie opens in the sky above Belgium during World War II, where we meet Cap’n Hogie as his plane is about to crash. The plane goes down and his shoes are burned up. As Cap’n Hogie is walking along, he finds a suitcase that is filled with women’s clothing and a pair of high heels. He puts them on. As he’s walking through the grass, he comes upon a group of Nazis who push him to the ground and assault him. It is later revealed that this scene is being acted out by Mark Hogancamp; who uses his action figures who inhabit his town of Marwen, as a therapeutic outlet to deal with his assault.

Every action figure he has represents a person in his life (the woman at the hobby shop, his physical therapist who helped him learn to walk again, etc.). Mark suffers from anxiety, is really hurting and is abusing his medicine. Mark is contacted by his lawyer who heavily encourages him to attend the trial of his attackers and testify against them. Mark does not want to go, he’s too anxious. He meets Nicol (Leslie Mann), who moves in across the street. Nicol befriends Mark right away. When Nicol asks Mark about his past, he explains to her about the attack and that he lost most of his memories as a result of it.

A short time later, Mark’s lawyer tries to convince him to come to the trial and testify. He agrees to do so, but with the help of his friend Roberta (Merritt Wever), who works at the hobby shop. He has a panic attack during the sentencing, and it looks like he might not be able to go through with it. He needs the help of his friends, e.g. his action figures, which he never goes anywhere without.
Will Mark be able to face his attackers and testify in court?

To be honest, this movie was good, but not as good as I wanted it to be. Steve Carrell is a phenomenal actor and plays the part of this suffering man well. The movie drags in spots and I found other parts confusing. The end left me with several questions. It has a nice message about acceptance and it being okay to be different. This was a good story about a guy who went through a lot and found a way to cope. Although this wasn’t the best movie, it also wasn’t the worst. It’s probably worth the Redbox rental.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Movie Review: “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum”

By Emily Maier

Rated: R
Run time: 130 mins

When the world’s top assassin breaks the rules of the criminal underworld, the leaders known as the High Table put a bounty on his head for $14 million. As a result, John Wick is now being hunted by every assassin that crosses his path – and in this movie, assassins are just around every corner.

“John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” is the third installment of the John Wick franchise, starring Keanu Reeves as the titular assassin. The movie follows the fallout of John’s decision to murder a member of the High Table within the walls of the Continental Hotel – a place where “business” is not allowed to be conducted. The deadly gunman is once again forced to cut through a field of innumerable enemies if he ever wants to return to his peaceful life of retirement.

To anyone that likes action flicks, I really can’t recommend this movie enough– and the series in general. “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” is stylish and fun, without succumbing to tropes typically found in the action genre. John might be feared for his invincibility, but he still gets injured throughout the film, so each fight actually has consequences. Characters frequently run out of bullets and are forced to get creative when using the things around them as weapons. For example, a few interesting “weapons” John utilizes are a library book, a belt, and horses. What’s more, I’m always amazed by the clever worldbuilding in each “John Wick” film. The criminal underworld is intricate and full of lore, and each sequel makes sure to give the audience just enough details to keep them wondering.

Whether returning characters or new additions, the cast of “John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum” is as colorful as ever. A few familiar faces include hotel manager Winston (played by Ian McShane), concierge Charon (played by Lance Reddick), and the Bowery King (played by Laurence Fishburne). New characters include Halle Berry as a German-Shepherd-wielding assassin named Sofia, Asia Kate as a representative of the High Table known as The Adjudicator, and Mark Dacascos as a hitman sent to kill John Wick.

Though “John Wick” excels in many ways, the astounding fight choreography has always been what makes the series stand out in a sea of other action films. Each fight scene has the fluidity and grace of a dance, which is emphasized with the presence of ballet throughout this third installment. The action is also very easy to follow because the movie uses long shots instead of the choppy editing found in most action flicks. Skilled choreographers, actors, and cameramen combine to make scene after scene wonderful to watch. The movie’s trademark neon aesthetic only adds to the stunning visuals.

Each movie in the trilogy is rated R for violent content, but I found “Parabellum” to be the bloodiest installment yet. However, the gore in no way takes away from the levity of the movie, as this third sequel may also be the funniest. The comedic timing had my entire theater in stitches more than once.
I’ve been a fan of the series since the first movie came out in 2014, so it’s great to see the movies are still going strong five years later. Though most franchises tend to outlive their expiration dates, leaving audiences with contrived, purposeless plots, “John Wick” has never felt tired or worn out. Much like the protagonist, “John Wick” only seems to be getting better with age. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Long Shot”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Running time: 125 minutes

Is the unlikely necessarily impossible? That is the underlying question in “Long Shot”, where two individuals with very different lifestyles fall for each other. The movie centers around journalist Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) and Secretary of State Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron). The two meet unexpectedly and it takes off from there.

The movie opens with Flarsky about to be inducted as the newest member of a white supremacist’s group. As initiation begins to progress a little quicker than Flarsky expected, it is discovered he is a journalist. He jumps out the window, falling several stories onto a car and then runs off.

Then we meet the Secretary of State, Charlotte Field, sitting with current United States President Chambers (Bob Odenkirk) who confides in her he will not be seeking reelection. Charlotte says it would mean a lot if President Chambers would endorse her; he agrees. Field expresses an interest in running in 2020 to her team, but the only thing that seems to matter to the people they polled are not Field’s policies, but how she looks doing her job.

Back at Fred’s office, his boss tells him the company has just been bought by a giant media conglomerate and things are going to change. Fred is so disgusted he quits right there on the spot. Fred goes over to his friend Lance’s (O’Shea Jackson Jr.) office and Lance takes Fred to a party that night. Charlotte happens to be at the same party.

Fred is nervous when he first sees Charlotte because she used to babysit him, and he used to have a crush on her. She remembers him and although Fred makes a big scene at the party, Charlotte asks if he would like to work for her, punching up her speeches. He agrees to do so.

Charlotte has embarked on a ‘save the planet’ initiative and will be travelling around the world to try to get countries to join the initiative. One of the first speeches Fred helps her write goes very well and she is impressed. As they spend more time together, Fred and Charlotte get to know each other more and eventually start to fall for one another.

Amidst things going well, President Chambers tells Charlotte she needs to ditch her environmental agenda if she wants his endorsement. Understandably, Charlotte isn’t happy and tells Fred "I don’t want to do this job anymore."

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s assistant, Maggie (June Diane Raphael), tells her that remaining involved with Fred will hurt her campaign. President Chambers and a big media conglomerate then blackmail Charlotte, threatening to expose footage taken from Fred’s webcam.

What will happen to Fred and Charlotte? What will Charlotte decide about her campaign?

Rogen and Theron have real on-screen chemistry. This motley pairing is a recipe for a good comedy. This movie is funny, with a great soundtrack and is, at times, heartwarming. I enjoyed it and would recommend it to any fan of Rogen, Theron or anyone just looking for a funny movie.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Quote of the week

Netflix’s ‘The Highwaymen’

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: NR
Runtime: 132 minutes

The year is 1934. Bonnie and Clyde are infamous and beloved by many in the country for their rebellion against the government and the banks. They are not loved by law enforcement who are seriously trying to catch and stop these unruly criminals before they cause more bloodshed.

Netflix’s ‘The Highwaymen’ tells the story of the most famous Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and his partner, Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) as they come out of retirement to catch these dangerous lovers.

The movie opens at Eastham Prison Farm in Texas where we see several prisoners working in the fields. At another location, a car pulls up and a woman with a tommy gun gets out and stands waiting. Back at the prison farm, a prisoner pulls a gun on a guard and shoots him. Gunshots are heard in the distance, the woman with the tommy gun is firing rapidly. Prisoners scatter everywhere. Several prisoners make it to the location where the woman, later learned to be Bonnie Parker, is waiting and a few prisoners jump in her car as it speeds away.

The governor, Ma Ferguson (Katy Bates) is questioned by the media regarding the prison break. She vows to capture the Barrows Gang, along with Clyde Barrows and Bonnie Parker. The warden, Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch) recommends Frank Hamer (Costner) be put on the case. Simmons visits Hamer, who is unofficially retired, and asks for his help; Hamer agrees.

Gault (Harrelson) is unemployed and living on his daughter’s couch. When he gets wind of Hamer’s mission, he confronts him and asks to join; Hamer begrudgingly agrees. Although there is a lot of action and shootouts in this movie, there is a bit of humor, too. Hamer and Gault chase a boy who could lead to Bonnie and Clyde. When they fail to catch him, Hamer says, “I thought you had my back, I could have died!” Gault replies, “If he’d run one more block, we’d both be dead.”

Intermittently, you see Bonnie and Clyde travelling around, causing destruction.

Hamer and Gault get a tip at a gas station that Bonnie and Clyde came through there recently, driving a blue sedan with black tires. The Texas Rangers catch a glimpse of Bonnie and Clyde in the next town, when their car is swarmed by adoring fans. Hamer and Gault manage to follow Bonnie and Clyde and tail them out into the desert where, after a hot pursuit, the dangerous duo escape.

Frustrated, Gault wonders if maybe he and Hamer don’t have it in them anymore to catch the crime couple. Do they? Spoiler alert: The answer is in the tagline.

Although the story of Bonnie and Clyde is very well known, it was interesting to see it from the point of view of these crotchety Texas Rangers, who Costner and Harrelson portrayed very well. The two make a good team. ‘The Highwaymen’ has plenty of action, some comedy and is a little bloody in parts. While the film is over two hours long, it kept me interested. Although you probably know the ending, ‘The Highwaymen’ is worth the time.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Avengers: Endgame”

By Daniel Kilgallon

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 181 mins

I have been able to witness some monumental movie releases in my lifetime, but “Avengers: Endgame” is an event that simply steamrolls the rest. This film did something which has never been achieved before in concluding a shared universe of 22 major motion pictures, now called “The Infinity Saga,” which began with 2008’s “Iron Man”. Needless to say, “Endgame” holds a tremendous amount of cultural weight as legions of fans have quite literally and figuratively invested in these characters over the course of the last 11 years.

Financially, the movie surpassed all expectations, earning an astounding $1.2 billion in its’ opening weekend at the global box office. This shatters a record of $640.5 million previously held by its’ 2018 predecessor, “Avengers: Infinity War” (BoxOfficeMojo). While this is an impressive accomplishment, I am happy to say that I was equally stunned by the unpredictable story at the heart of this film.

Following the downfall of the universe caused by Thanos (Josh Brolin) at the end of “Infinity War”, the remaining Avengers must figure out a way to reverse his catastrophic actions in “Endgame”. 

Keeping in mind that some people may have missed the opportunity to experience the movie on opening weekend due to sold out theaters, I have decided to provide no further plot details here; watch out for a spoiler review in the near future!

From the opening frames, “Endgame” did an outstanding job of creating a feeling of absolute hopelessness again and again throughout the lengthy run time. By bringing the beloved heroes to new lows in this grim manner, the climatic actions of the story were made that much more powerful as various plots reached long awaited conclusions. Somehow, the abundance of character building was just as riveting as the fight scenes here and there were several truly heartbreaking moments in the film.

“Endgame” is even more dramatic than its’ predecessor, but every bit of character building made the last act of the movie that much more rewarding. To no surprise, directors Anthony and Joe Russo delivered a grand finale battle sequence which redefined just how epic a film can be. “Endgame” did justice to our favorite heroes while providing plenty of visually stunning superhero smackdowns - we just can’t seem get enough of them. From my interpretation this movie’s greatest accomplishment is maintaining a constant sense of urgency while delivering a groundbreaking epic that is full of surprises; “Endgame” is a must see.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: Elsey Come Home by Susan Conley

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulations Supervisor at Windham Public Library

Full disclosure: Susan Conley is one of my writing mentors, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for her. That said, I wouldn’t say I liked a book unless I truly liked it, and I loved “Elsey Come Home”.

This is a quiet, gently emotional book about a woman living in China with her family and struggling with how to be a wife, mother, and artist. As the novel opens, Elsey’s husband, Lukas, suggests she needs help for her excessive drinking, and he urges her to attend a retreat in the mountains of China. Elsey does, and there she meets others who are at the retreat for their own reasons. Elsey stops drinking and the story becomes even more reflective.

Conley weaves Elsey’s present with her past. We learn about her sister’s childhood death and Elsey’s early life as a painter. We feel the pressure she feels, the sadness when she doesn’t live up to her own expectations. Elsey returns home sober but unsettled from the retreat.

This is a novel about place, about how we define “home.” For Elsey, home is Maine where she was raised, and home is China where she has lived for several years. But, ultimately, home for Elsey is her husband and two daughters, which is I think what resonates the most with me. Home is more people than place.   

Friday, April 19, 2019

Movie Review: "Shazam!"

By Daniel Kilgallon

Rated: PG
Runtime: 132 mins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 12, 2019

Quote of the week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 5, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Us”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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