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.