Wednesday, November 22, 2023

‘Elemental’ another home run for Pixar

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Element City has many residents, air, earth, water, and fire. Ember, a fire element, immigrated to Element City with her parents Bernie and Cinder Lumen. Bernie runs a shop where he sells a variety of goods. He has promised his shop to Ember someday. When Ember damages a pipe in the shop’s basement, it causes a leak and city inspector Wade threatens to close them permanently.

Wade falls for Ember, but she is very focused on saving her father’s shop and is not interested in a relationship. The two band together to find a way to patch the leak and save Bernie’s shop. Along the way, Wade learns that Ember has other dreams that don’t include running her father’s shop. Will Ember tell her father how she really feels? Can Wade and Ember save the shop?

The new film “Elemental” stars Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Catherine O’Hara.

Bernie (Del Carmen) and Cinder (Ommi) arrive at Element City where they face xenophobia because elements aren’t supposed to mix. They are unable to find a place to stay. When they finally do, Cinder gives birth to Ember (Lewis).

Bernie runs a shop called “The Fireplace” which has been promised to Ember someday. Ember has a bit of temper when it comes to dealing with customers. Bernie tells her when dealing with a tough customer, take a breath and make a connection.

Bernie is sick and cannot run his shop forever. He tells Ember if she can manage a big sale the shop is having without losing her temper, the store is hers.

Ember cannot do this; she loses her temper and breaks a pipe in the basement. City Inspector Wade (Athie) stops by, notices this and writes Ember several citations which could close the shop forever.

Ember tells him if the shop gets shut down it would crush her father, who worked hard and sacrificed a lot to give her and her mother this life in Element City.

It’s too late; Wade already submitted the tickets. The two go to Wade’s boss Gale (McLendon-Covey) and try to strike a deal. Gale says if they can find the source of the leak and patch it, the citations will be forgiven.

Ember and Wade go looking for the source. Wade learns Ember might not want to take over her father’s store but is afraid to tell him. Ember is softening toward Wade. Ember finds a way to patch the leak, but it won’t hold forever.

Wade tries to convince Ember to tell her father.

“Embrace the light while it burns because you don’t have forever to say what you need to say,” said Wade.

Bernie announces his retirement, but Ember still doesn’t want to tell him.

Ember tells Wade it’s over ... but it might not be.

Pixar usually does a phenomenal job with movies appealing to kids and adults, and “Elemental” is no different. It deals with some heavier themes than a Pixar favorite like “Toy Story” did. And expect a lump or two in your throat.

This is a fantastic movie the whole family can watch together. It has a great message about following your heart and not being afraid to go after what you really want. It’s a nice love story, but not too lovey-dovey. While it took me in an unexpected direction, I would recommend it.

Two Vivisteria flowers up.

Available to rent and on Disney+ <

Oldies Dance Group raises $10,416 for Ronald McDonald House

By Ed Pierce

YORK COUNTY – Rock n’ roll music is as popular as ever and as evidence of that, the Oldies Dance Group raised more than $10,000 during its latest dance to support the Ronald McDonald House of Portland.

Members of the Oldies Dance Group Committee present a 
check for $10,416 to Ronald McDonald House of Portland.
From left are Helen Vadnais; Ray Gagnon; Katherine Russo;
Bruce Martin; Wendy Twitchell; Elvis Presley; Ian Tovell,
Development & Marketing Director for the Ronald
MacDonald House of Portland; Diane Dubois; Janet 
Sparkowich; Gail Cole; and Debora Berry.
The organization’s 22nd dance in 15 years on Oct. 7 at the Eagle’s Hall in Biddeford sold 355 tickets in just four days and earned $10,416, pushing the total amount that the Oldies Dance Group has raised through its dances for the Ronald McDonald House to $110,416. The Ronald McDonald House provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients in Maine and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and enables family centered care to ensure that family members are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.

“It’s very gratifying that the public keeps coming back time after time to our dances and we can’t thank them and all of the businesses and individuals who continue to make this the largest community fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Portland,” said Bruce Martin, Oldies Dance Group organizer. “It truly shows their care about others and a strong commitment to assisting sick children in Maine and their families.”

According to Martin, the rock n’ roll dances hosted by the Oldies Dance Group twice a year remain wildly popular, and the generosity shown by the community to support the fundraising mission of the Oldies Dance Group is exceptional.

“For those who question if people still love rock n’ roll music and a night out of dancing, the fact that we continue to sell out each dance demonstrates they haven’t forgotten this great music and sure love getting out on the dance floor,” Martin said.

The next Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit Dance will be the 23rd dance hosted by the Oldies Dance Group and will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight April 13, 2024, at the Eagle’s Hall, 57 Birch St., Biddeford. Tickets are just $10 and sell out quickly as seating is limited.

Martin said that rock n’ roll music links generations in the community and that the dance playlist includes songs that everybody knows, loves and is familiar with.

“These dances really are just a great night out to have fun, socialize with friends, listen to great music and dance to your favorite songs,” Martin said. “It’s heartwarming to be a part of something that supports such a worthy cause.”

For additional information, to purchase tickets or to volunteer, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692. <

Friday, November 17, 2023

Watercolor Workshop on tap at Raymond Village Library

By Kendra Raymond

Located in the heart of town, the Raymond Village Library hosts a variety of events throughout the year and a watercolor workshop is in the queue for early December with more excitement expected for the new year.

The library staff at RVL are committed to providing educational and engaging gatherings for patrons of all ages.

Local artist Cathy Dodge will lead a watercolor painting session from 1 to 3 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4 where you can create your own art to take home. This is a great opportunity to learn something new, hone your existing skills and maybe even create a meaningful holiday gift.

Dodge’s work has been featured during RVL art exhibits in the past. Trained in oils and watercolor, her work specializes in the still life of subjects such as flowers and seashells.

Librarian Rachel Holden says there is a limit of eight participants, so early registration is recommended by calling the library at 207-655-4283 for this 18-and-up event. Best of all, the workshop is free of charge and all materials are provided.

The Raymond Village Library shares its mission statement on its website as follows, “The Raymond Village Library is a community based informational, educational, and recreational facility dedicated to providing quality library services and resources in a welcoming atmosphere. The library will be responsive to the changing needs of the community, cooperate with other entities and strive to fulfill its role as a service oriented, dynamic library.”

RVL offers many regularly scheduled gatherings including Baby Storytime and Preschool Storytime where babies and tots can enjoy short stories, songs, and crafts. These one-hour gatherings foster an approachable appreciation of books for youngsters in a casual and fun setting.

Book Group meets on the last Monday of the month at 5 p.m. in person and by ZOOM, excluding December (because of the holiday season). Participants can expect some great titles, lively discussions, and plenty of access to the month’s book selection check out at the circulation desk.

Bridge Group is held every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon. Attendees can play bridge and occasionally mahjong, socialize, and utilize the library resources.

Holden says that attendance at weekly events is down a bit during winter months but should pick back up in summer.

For those less inclined to venture out to the library in person, the RVL website serves as a portal to several on-line services such as CL newsstand where you can access magazines, Kanopy, a movie streaming service, and LearningExpress, a career and educational program funded by the Maine State Library.

The RVL annual summer book sale has become an iconic event and is typically well-attended. Books are organized by genre at this outdoor sale. Donations are accepted year-round. A smaller selection of titles can be purchased during the on-going indoor sale as well.

Friends of the Raymond Village Library is a recently incorporated non-profit group. Their mission is to help support the library by sponsoring events, purchasing items, and raising awareness about the library’s offerings. Meetings are open to the public, and anyone with a RVL card can become a member.

A lesser-known resource offered by RVL is a discount opportunity to visit Maine museums and parks. Holden said, “(This program) offers a variety of discounts and/or free passes to parks, museums, and things like that. We are lucky to offer these resources.”

By simply calling or visiting the library, families can receive free admission to Coastal Maine Botanical Garden, Railway Village and Museum and Southworth Planetarium during summer months, and a discount at Maine Wildlife Park.

Families of up to four people can receive half price admission to the Children’s Museum and Theater in Portland year-round. A Maine State Parks pass is also available, via a pass which should be displayed in your vehicle’s windshield.

Raymond Village Library is located at 3 Meadow Road, just off Main Street in Raymond.

The library is open daily, excluding Thursday and Sunday. They will be closed Thanksgiving weekend, early on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. Check out the website for their hours, as they do vary.

Friends of the Raymond Village Library can be contacted via email: Donations and volunteering are encouraged. <

Friday, November 10, 2023

Windham High School presents musical comedy ‘Spamalot’

By Masha Yurkevich

It’s the season for Windham High School’s annual musical and this year, they have prepared for us Spamalot, a comedy and musical about King Arthur and his knights in the search for the Holy Grail and the problems they run into along the way.

Windham High School's production of the musical comedy
'Spamalot' based on the Tony Award-winning Best Musical
and the 1975 cult-classic film 'Monty Python and the 
Holy Grail' opens Friday at the Windham High
School Performing Arts Center. SUBMITTED PHOTO
The show will be held at the Windham Performing Arts Center at the high school and will run for two weekends: Friday Nov. 10 through Sunday Nov. 12 and Friday Nov. 17 through Sunday Nov. 19. The Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. and the Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors.

Director Rob Juergens says that Spamalot is uniquely British in its outlook and style of humor.

“It is a show that I have been wanting to do for years, because I love the movie it is based on, Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” he said.

Juergens role is to provide an overall vision and structure for the show. Important input also comes from the Musical Director, Dr. Richard Nickerson, and the Choreographer, Vanessa Beyland.

“The costumer and the set designer also have key roles, and it is my job to make sure all the elements coalesce to provide a consistent picture,” says Juergens. “In addition, I focus on the blocking and acting aspects of the musical.”

Ashlynn Cuthbert is a freshman and plays Sir Lancelot in Spamalot.

“I am relatively new to theater, this being my third show, but ever since I started, I have loved the feeling of performing live, as well as getting to be a person that you would not normally get to play,” says Cuthbert. “I decided to be part of this musical in particular this year because Spamalot is so very different from any other musical you will ever experience. The comedy is such that you will laugh either because it's a genuinely good joke, or because it's so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. Plus, as an actor, it is such a great way to learn how to play different roles in different styles of theater.”

For Cuthbert, her favorite aspect of Sir Lancelot is the difference between the Lancelot people know outside of the show, and how he is portrayed in the show.

“I love trying to connect the two different sides of the character. It's also very fun to play with a sword and mess around with it on stage,” she said.

Molly Plati, a junior, plays Patsy and is also the Student Producer for the production.

“I have been involved with the musical since freshman year so naturally I was excited to audition,” says Plati. “When Spamalot was first announced I was not familiar with the show. However, my parents were thrilled. That night we watched Monty Python's version and instantly I was excited. The dry humor and overall hilarity of the show is what really drew me in.”

Plati’s favorite part about playing Patsy is the tap number I have at the beginning of the second act.

“Patsy is a full comedic role and has many silly moments,” Plati said. “I love playing the funny character because I love making people laugh.”

King Arthur is played by junior Stuart Gabaree who said that he has always felt that he gravitates toward humor when it comes to expressing himself.

“I had never watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail before auditioning, but I had heard of it. I got together with some friends and finally watched the film, and I feel like from that point forward I was sold on the show,” he says. “The humor was up my alley with the way some things barely make any sense at all. Weirdness and randomness has always been my thing.”

His favorite part about his role is how he is not allowed to hold back with it.

“The role calls for me to be the most stuck up, self-centered, egotistical, and dimwitted king there ever was,” he said. “I am able to ham it up and overact to a concerning degree. This might be my only chance to do such a thing, so I am going to take it.”

Senior Kaitlyn Farrin plays Sir Robin and is a Student Director.

She has been doing theater for the past eight years and has truly grown to love it.

“I decided to do Spamalot in particular because I love comedy and I was drawn to the crazy musical numbers,” said Farrin. “My favorite part of my role is how ridiculous and energetic it is. I've always preferred playing more comedic roles, and Robin is definitely one. I love being able to be goofy and make people laugh.”

Windham High School musicals have a strong reputation for high-quality productions.

“People should come to this show to support live, local theater,” says Juergens. “There is no doubt that this show will be an absolute blast.” <

‘Freelance’ film doesn’t quite deliver to full potential

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Mason Pettits has always wanted to help people. He became a lawyer but found that just wasn’t for him. So, he enlisted in the Army and became a special forces operative. He found his life now had purpose. Until, one day his helicopter was shot down and he injured his back. He went back to being a lawyer which is crushing his soul. When he lands a freelance gig to protect a journalist who is interviewing the man who shot down his helicopter, he is taken on an action-filled journey of modest proportions.

“Freelance” stars Alison Brie, John Cena, Alice Eve, Christian Slater, Marston Csokas, Juan Pablo Raba, and Molly McCann.

Mason Pettits (Cena) has returned to being a lawyer after being in the Army and having his helicopter shot down which injured his back. He’s not happy with being a lawyer. When Sebastian Earl (Slater) offers him a freelance job to protect journalist Claire Wellington (Brie) who will interview Paldonian President Venegas (Raba) Mason reluctantly accepts, although Venegas may have had something to do with his helicopter being shot down.

Mason and wife Jenny (Eve) are having problems. They separate. Mason heads to Paldonia with Claire. When a coup breaks out, their vehicles are attacked. Mason takes charge and saves Claire and Venegas. Mason wants to leave; Claire wants to stay and get the story of a lifetime.

A short time later, Mason and Claire split from Venegas. Claire says this is her chance for a Peabody Award. Mason says you can’t get a Peabody if you’re dead.

Claire gets separated from Mason. As Claire is about to be attacked, Mason interferes. They all meet back up with Venegas. They all learn more about each other and their situations. Claire interviews Venegas.

Claire and Mason kind of have a moment.

Mason finds out the real reason he was sent here. Jenny wants Mason to come home. Mason tells Claire they’re headed for the border. Claire is captured.

All along, Venegas’ nephew was trying to kill him. Mason and Venegas travel together; they need to save Claire.

The only expectation I had going into this movie was that it be half comedy, half action. It’s more action than comedy. I was looking for a light-hearted movie and, unfortunately, this isn’t it. However, it was better than I expected, and the story is relatively fast-moving with little drag time. No disrespect to John Cena – he may read this – but I felt like his character could be interchangeable with any big action star. 

You could easily put The Rock or Schwarzenegger in there and it would be almost exactly the same movie. Cena can be a very funny actor and I feel like his talents weren’t fully represented here. Alison Brie shows she is no longer naïve Annie from “Community.” As a heads up, this movie is pretty violent in parts with some language. It’s a decent action-adventure, but I don’t see any reason you need to see it on the big screen. If you do see it on the big screen, stick around through the credits for outtakes.

Two and a half out of five stars.

Now playing in theaters. <

Friday, October 27, 2023

‘Talk to Me’ horror flick a bit overwhelming

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 34 minutes

At a party, Mia and her friends Jade and Hade’s brother Riley play a game where you hold an embalmed hand and say,

“Talk to me.”

Your body becomes possessed momentarily and what or who you see is anybody’s guess. When things get out of hand after Riley plays, Mia must find a way to save him, all while having visions of her own. This was an OK horror movie, but I found it complex and kind of busy, with almost too many intense things happening.

“Talk to Me” stars Sophie Wilde, Alexandra Jensen, Joe Bird, Miranda Otto, Zoe Terakes, Marcus Johnson, and Ari McCarthy.

At a big party, Cole (McCarthy) is looking for his brother. When he eventually finds him, his brother has marks on his body and says,

“They’re inside me.”

After this some very serious stuff happens.

Mia (Wilde), who recently lost her mother, convinces her friend Jade (Jensen) to go to a party. Jade’s brother, Riley (Bird) goes with them. At the party, Mia plays a game that has gone viral where you hold an embalmed hand and say,

“Talk to me. I invite you in.”

Mia becomes momentarily possessed and sees visions of dead individuals. You need to stop after 90 seconds otherwise the spirit will stay with you. Things at this party get creepily out of hand.

The next night Mia wants to try it again and this time, Riley plays and things get very strange and grotesque. On a side note, this is a very violent, bloody scene which took me by surprise.

Riley is injured and Mia gets blamed. Mia realizes that there is still some sort of presence with her; she sees visions of her mother in mirrors.

She wants to see her mother again so bad that she plays the game on her own.

In the hospital, Riley gets worse. This scene is pretty gross, so be forewarned.

Jade and Mia go to talk to Cole about how to save Riley. Mia has a plan about how to bring him back.

Mia continues to see her mother who has a warning for her.

This is a dark, heavy at times, gruesome horror movie. A lot happens that, as much as I wanted to, just couldn’t get into. I will say, it was good, but was more creepy than scary and may have held more gravitas on the big screen. I also found it to be a little confusing. There were good and evil versions of people and sometimes, more toward the end, it was hard to figure out who was who. The end left me with questions. On the plus side, if you are looking for a reasonably decent movie to watch on Halloween, this might be the one for you – if you’re interested. Otherwise, I’d recommend something else like “Smile” or “Us.”

Only one flickering candle up.

Now available to rent. <

Friday, October 13, 2023

Netflix’s ‘Happiness for Beginners’ a feel-good story about challenging yourself

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: TV-14
Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Helen and Mike have been divorced for six years and Mike is having a harder time letting go. He calls and texts Helen more frequently than she would like. Helen decides she needs to challenge herself and signs up for a wilderness survival course, where they hike part of the Appalachian Trail. Along the way she learns more about what she is capable of and even runs into an old friend of her brother’s, who she may have underestimated.

“Happiness for Beginners” stars Ellie Kemper, Luke Grimes, Nico Santos, Blythe Danner, Ben Cook, Shayvawn Webster, Julia Shiplett, Gus Birney, Esteban Benito, and Alexander Koch.

Helen (Kemper) sits alone at a party while groups of people dance around her. She gets a text from her ex-husband, Mike from whom she has been divorced for six years.

Helen is planning a wilderness survival tour of part of the Appalachian Trail because she feels she is stuck in a rut and wants to stop breaking promises to herself.

At this party, she runs into Jake (Grimes), her brother’s best friend. Jake says he remembers when she used to be fun. She insists she’s still fun.

Helen has experienced a lot of grief and loss over her life.

When she starts orientation for the hike, it has a real motley crew of hikers. Their trail leader, Beckett (Cook) is more than a little intense. Helen realizes that one of the hikers is Jake.

Starting out, Beckett points out a lot of the things Helen does wrong.

As the hike goes on (it’s multiple days and nights) Jake and Helen bond. After more time, Jake admits a hard truth to her.

When a hiker gets injured and breaks their leg, it’s Helen who helps him and makes her way back to basecamp to alert the rest of the hikers and Beckett.

She heads home a little better than when she left. But what about Jake? They had a connection during their time hiking the Appalachian Trail, but what does all that mean? Could Helen have underestimated Jake? What’s next?

After my last review, I was looking for something lighter and more upbeat and I definitely found it. This is based on the book of the same name by Catherine Center. I should have noticed from the movie’s poster this was a romantic comedy. However, it’s not an overly lovey-dovey movie. It can be heavy at times, but I found it very positive, uplifting, while being a bit funny, too. The soundtrack is a good one. Aside from the romance aspect of the movie, the characters who go on this adult hike of the Appalachian Trail are looking to make a change or prove something to themselves. They discover people are more than the sum of their parts. I’d recommend this movie.

Two water bottles up.

Now streaming on Netflix. <

Friday, October 6, 2023

Windham Center Stage Theater begins preparing for Christmas production

By Masha Yurkevich

With the production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" closing last month, the Windham Center Stage Theater (WCST) has shifted gears and is now starting to prepare for their Christmas production, “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)” which will run from Dec. 8 through Dec. 17.

As a show with only three roles, this new production promises to be one of the highlights of the year for the theatrical troupe.

“Three actors have decided that instead of doing yet another production of “A Christmas Carol” they are going to tell another Christmas story… or rather, all of them,” says Mel Quackenbush, Vice President of the WCST Board of Directors and the director for the “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)” presentation. “Rudolf, Frosty, even George Bailey make an appearance in 90 minutes of hilarity and hijinks.”

Quackenbush says that this production is special because it has a small cast which is always fun and takes traditional stories that we all know and love and turns them on their head.

The roles are very fluid and adaptable to be played by anyone of any age, race, gender, or physical ability, she said.

Loosely speaking there is one actor who plays as the “serious actor” and who simply wants to do their planned production of “A Christmas Carol” and their two friends who are doing their best to do anything else, Quackenbush said.

This show has not been cast yet. In-person auditions will be held this week and Zoom auditions can be arranged by contacting WCST either through our social media or by emailing the theater at

“This show will have an eight-week rehearsal schedule, which is fairly standard,” says Quackenbush. “The biggest challenge for a show like this is making sure the chemistry of all the actors is very strong. With such a small cast if one actor is even a little off on the timing of their lines or misses their mark it really shows so the other actors have to be very adept at covering each other’s slips while making sure the show stays quick-witted and on track.”

Quackenbush says that everyone should attend this production because it’s going to be a great time with 90 minutes of comedy and shenanigans the whole family can enjoy. And it even includes a sing-along of Christmas songs.

Tickets for “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)” are $15 for adults and $12 for children and seniors. The show will be at the Windham Town Hall, located at 8 School Road. Dates are Dec. 8 to Dec. 17 on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m. and the Sunday shows are at 2 p.m.

According to Quackenbush, tickets will be available on the WCST website, which will open for presale during the week of Thanksgiving. Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Following this production, WCST will stage the children’s show “James and the Giant Peach Jr.” in March 2024, to be followed by “The Music Man” which will run in May 2024. More information about those productions will be available soon.

“We believe that theater is for everyone,” says Quackenbush. “If you’ve been acting your whole life or if you’ve never set foot on a stage before but always wanted to, we would love to be the place where you can do that. We are working diligently to be a place of joy and inclusivity. Don’t want to be on stage but still want to work in the theater? We are always looking for volunteers, props masters, set builders, sound designers and the like. Reach out, we can find somewhere for you to be.” <

Friday, September 29, 2023

‘The Nun II,’ a somewhat scary movie, which offers unexpected occurrences

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes

It’s close enough to October, that it’s time for a scary movie – or two. As part of “The Conjuring” movie universe, “The Nun II” is the sequel to the 2018 movie. In France in 1956 a priest is mysteriously killed. Sister Irene returns in this movie and is told by the Cardinal that she is the only one who can stop the demon, Valak. The demon is responsible for a series of deaths across Europe. I enjoyed this movie on the big screen and although it’s not one of the scariest movies I’ve seen, it did have me jump in my seat a few times.

“The Nun II” stars Taissa Farmiga, Storm Reid, Bonnie Aarons, Jonas Bloquet, Katelyn Rose Downey, Anna Popplewell, Maxime Elias-Menet, Suzanne Bertish, and Peter Hudson.

It opens in France where an altar boy, Jacques (Menet), notices something peculiar in the shadows after serving in a mass. He quickly realizes there is an evil presence in the chapel. He witnesses Father Noiret being viciously killed.

After these events, Sister Irene (Farmiga) is told by the Cardinal she is the only one who can deal with the demon Valak because of her previous experience with the demon. She travels to Tarascon, France with Sister Deborah (Reid).

At the convent, where there is also a boarding school, a student makes a delivery and sees Valak possess handyman Maurice (Bloquet). Later bullies pick on and lock student Sophie (Downey) in the chapel. The girls told Sophie that the Devil is always there, you just have to look. Valak is in the chapel, but Maurice intervenes and helps Sophie escape.

Sister Irene is shown where Father Noiret was killed, and discovers she has a connection to Maurice. After looking for Jacques, and coming up short, she sees the presence of Valak at a magazine stand in a visually very cool scene. Valak appears to the headmistress after she encounters a possessed Maurice. It doesn’t end well for her.

Sister Irene and Sister Deborah meet with a librarian who tells them he thinks Valak is looking for a specific relic, a pair of eyes, and that is the key to getting rid of the demon.

Valak attacks Sister Irene and Deborah through Maurice. They tie up Maurice. Sophie, schoolteacher Kate (Popplewell), Sisters Irene and Deborah must now find the relic and stop Valak before it’s too late.

I want to be scared when I watch a horror movie and while I was startled, I didn’t find this that scary. While this movie is a bit gruesome and violent in parts, I found it over-the-top in some of the scarier parts, usually when Valak makes its presence known.

On the plus side, I thought this was quite suspenseful, with the creepy music often leading up to sometimes shocking events. It featured a few moments that really caught me off-guard. It had me jumping in my seat a few times and overall, I would recommend seeing this on the big screen for the maximum horror effect.

Two thumbs up; make sure you stay through the credits.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, September 15, 2023

Review: ‘Champions’ more about team and less about wins

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Marcus Marakovich is an assistant coach for the collegiate basketball Iowa Stallions. He has an incident where he pushes the head coach. He’s thrown off the team and spends a night in jail after driving drunk. The judge then imposes a sentence of 90 days of community service at a local recreation center where he will coach a team of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Can this big-time coach find a way to give back to this team? This comedy has a lot of heart while also being funny.

“Champions” stars Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Matt Cook, Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hintz, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens and Cheech Marin.

Following an incident where Iowa Stallions coach Marcus Marakovich (Harrelson) pushes head coach Peretti (Hudson), Marcus hits a police car while driving drunk. After spending a night in jail, he is offered a deal by the judge instead of more jail time – 90 days coaching a recreational basketball team of adults with developmental disabilities. Marcus is not thrilled about this but accepts.

Coach Perretti tells Marcus he knows the game but needs to cultivate relationships. The recreational team is a good place to start.

When he meets the team, most of them are open to him, except Darius (Felder). Johnny (Iannucci) takes a liking to him and as it turns out, Marcus has already met Johnny’s sister, Alex (Olson).

Recreation Manager Julio (Marin) tells Marcus the team doesn’t have to be the Lakers, but they need to feel like a team.

Marcus finds out the previous coach quit partway through the season and it devastated the team.

The more time Marcus spends with the team, the more he realizes they are more capable than he originally thought. Despite this, he’s not the most encouraging to his players during games.

Over time, he begins to bond and connect with them. One such moment is when he convinces Johnny, who is afraid of water, to take a shower.

The team wants to make it to Regionals, so they cannot afford any forfeits.

When a pipe bursts in the gym, Marcus takes the practice outside to a local court where they challenge a group of players after being referred to in a derogatory way.

When Marcus’ 90 days are up, he stays with the team. They are one win away from the Regional Tournament. Marcus also has an offer from the NBA he plans to accept.

After Marcus talks to Darius, he agrees to play for them.

However, they don’t have the money needed to travel to the tournament. Marcus and Alex have an idea.

This is a funny, charming, awkward, emotional feel-good movie. It has a great message about teammates playing for each other and not to discount or overlook someone just because they have a disability. It has mild language and sexual situations, watch out for the sprained finger scene toward the end. “Champions” can be defined in many ways, not just by winning it all. This one is worth a stream.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Amazon Prime and to rent. <

Friday, September 1, 2023

‘You Hurt My Feelings’ a heartwarming drama-comedy

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 33 minutes

When novelist Beth overhears her husband vehemently saying how much he doesn’t like her current novel, it upsets her and makes her question what else he could have been lying about. This drama-comedy deals with the hard truth of being honest with one another, not just our significant others, with sometimes subtle, sometimes dark humor. Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives a solid performance in this sincere movie.

“You Hurt My Feelings” stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Amber Tamblyn, David Cross, and Jeannie Berlin.

Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) is a published author and teacher who has written a memoir and is working on her second book, a work of fiction. She is married to Don (Menzies) who is a therapist. Her agent doesn’t think her second book is as strong as her first.

When Beth and her sister Sarah (Watkins) overhear Don telling Sarah’s husband, Mark (Moayed), how much he really dislikes Beth’s second book, she is upset. She’s been working for two years and has given Don many drafts to read and every single time he says they are good. Beth says her hands are numb and she thinks Don probably doesn’t respect her or understand why she teaches. Beth says she needs Don’s approval.

Sarah admits to lying to her husband from time to time when he is part of something she doesn’t think is good.

When their son, Elliot’s (Teague) girlfriend breaks up with him, he visits them and brings up the topic of trust. Beth is very cold toward Don.

The fears of being not good enough are only reinforced when she discovers no one in her class has read her first book.

Beth finally confronts Don during a dinner with Sarah and Mark. She says she might stop writing altogether.

Don claims what she heard was taken out of context. Beth says she can never trust him again.

Each of the characters in this movie struggles with not feeling good enough; although Beth is the only one who overhears someone bashing her work.

While this drama-comedy was funny, it’s not like my sides hurt from laughing, but it may bring a tear to your eye. We all may have told a small lie to protect someone’s feelings. It’s a hard subject to broach. I found this movie relatable in that it’s an uncomfortable experience that may be pretty common. How do you tell someone you care about you may not like something they did?

Beth’s mother (Berlin) is a funny character and I related to adult children dealing with their older parents. I can’t say I felt like a solution to what Don did to Beth was reached, I think they just moved on. Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives a fantastic performance which in no way reminded me of her Seinfeld role as Elaine Benes. This is worth a rental, and I give it two thumbs up.

Available to rent on most major streaming platforms. <

Friday, August 18, 2023

Review: ‘The Out-Laws’ action-packed silliness

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes

What if you suspected your to-be in-laws were current bank robbers? What would you do? This is exactly what happens to Owen when he meets his fiancé Parker’s parents, Billy and Lilly, whom he suspects robbed the bank where he is manager.

His intimidating in-laws know he’s on to them, and he’s having trouble proving their guilt and his innocence. When Parker is kidnapped by Billy and Lilly’s boss, Rehan, he must work together with his in-laws to save his to-be wife from a gruesome fate – all in time for their upcoming wedding in this outlandish comedy.

Produced by Adam Sandler, “The Out-Laws” stars Adam Devine, Nina Dobrev, Pierce Brosnan, Ellen Barkin, Michael Rooker, Poorna Jagannathan, Richard Kind, Julie Hagerty, Blake Anderson, Lil Rel Howery, Lauren Lapkus, and Dean Winters.

Owen (Devine) and Parker (Dobrev) are getting married. Owen is mapping out the seating chart for the wedding using a variety of action figures. When Parker asks if there is room for two more seats, Owen is psyched her parents are coming; he’s never met them. Parker is less than thrilled and says her parents can be a bit much.

Despite Owen’s parents (Kind, Hagerty) not being crazy about Parker, he is excited to meet her parents. He assures her it’s OK if her parents are a lot.

“Have you met my parents?” said Owen. “I only picked Medusa and Skeletor [as representatives for his parents in the seating chart] because they don’t make Stalin and Lizzie Borden dolls.”

When Parker’s parents, Billy (Brosnan) and Lilly (Barkin) arrive early, it’s a surprise. To say they’re intimidating is an understatement.

Billy, Lilly and Owen all go drinking and Owen tells Parker it was like hanging with the cool kids.

Later, Owen’s bank is robbed, and the robbers know Owen by name. Detective Oldham (Rooker) has been tracking notorious criminals, the Ghost Bandits, for years and he suspects this is their handywork.

After carefully considering several details from the robbery coupled with initially meeting Billy and Lilly, he thinks they may have robbed his bank.

Billy and Lilly’s boss, Rehan (Jagannathan), tells them she wants more money than the $1 million they’ve already given her, otherwise Parker is in trouble.

While Agent Oldham is tracking the Ghost Bandits, he finds the equipment they used to rob Owen’s bank in the trunk of Owen’s car. Owen turns them in almost immediately and Agent Oldham wants him to wear a wire.

While Parker and Owen are cake tasting, Rehan bursts in and kidnaps Parker.

Owen tells Billy and Lilly they need someone familiar with how to get in and out of bank vaults in order to get the rest of the money they need to save Parker. The three come up with a plan to rob the heavily secured Atlas Reserve Bank run by Phoebe King (Lapkus).

I liked this movie. It was funny in parts with a lot of action; the scenes in the cake shop and the cemetery are intense. It is a little raunchy, with mild violence, a little bit of blood, and moderate language. While there are many great actors in this movie, Richard Kind in typical Richard Kind fashion is over-the-top ridiculous, especially when working with Agent Oldham. I felt like it started strong and lost a bit of momentum as it progressed, but this is still a fun one.

The fifth James Bond gives it two thumbs up!

Available to stream on Netflix. <

Friday, August 4, 2023

Disney’s ‘Haunted Mansion’ a fun ride on the big screen

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 2 minutes

Gabbie and her son Travis are moving to and starting over in a new house, Gracey Manor, with the intention to open a bed-and-breakfast. When strange things begin happening in the house, they are both convinced it’s haunted. They soon call on a dream team of experts to help rid their home of these unwelcome guests. 

They enlist the help of Ben; an astrophysicist, Father Kent, Harriet; a pyschic, and Professor Bruce Davis. They must join forces to banish the Hatbox Ghost, also known as Alistair Crump in this spooky adventure.

“Haunted Mansion” stars LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chase Dillon, Jared Leto, and Charity Jordan.

Ben (Stanfield) is a grieving astrophysicist who developed a camera to detect dark matter. After the loss of his wife, Alyssa (Jordan) he takes over her ghost tours, despite being a non-believer.

When Gabbie (Dawson) and Travis (Dillon) move into Gracey Manor to open a B&B, they discover their house gets frightening, especially after midnight. They call on Ben to see if he can photograph some ghosts with his “ghost camera.” Ben meets Father Kent (Wilson) who has considered doing an exorcism on the manor.

Gabbie tries to convince Ben that setting foot in her home could change the course of his life. Ben’s not buying how scared they are. After being in the manor, Ben experiences strange occurrences at his apartment and now believes the ghost may have followed him home.

He returns to the manor and Gabbie and Travis tell him the hauntings have gotten worse. Ben thinks they need an exorcism, but Father Kent is hesitant.

After Ben explores the house on his own, he says they’ll need more help. They bring in Professor Bruce Davis (DeVito) and psychic Harriet (Haddish). Professor Davis has newspaper clippings detailing the deaths that took place in the manor.

While examining the attic of the manor, they find an old trunk with a crystal ball which houses Madame Leota (Curtis). The group finds a secret séance room and contact the spirit of William Gracey, who owned the manor previously. She explains there is a terrible evil that was summoned long ago; this is Alistair Crump (Leto). If Crump is not banished, the ghosts will remain at Gracey Manor.

Crump wants Ben as his last soul. A reverse séance is performed, and Ben goes looking for Crump.

Crump locks Gracey Manor down, but Ben, Travis and Father Kent have escaped, and traveled to Crump Manor, now a historical site with guided tours, to stop Crump. In Crump Manor, Travis finds Crump’s hat, which can be used as part of the ritual to banish Crump.

One of my favorite rides at Disney World is the Haunted Mansion. This movie has many elements from the ride, from changing picture frames to rising walls, and just an overall air of spookiness. It’s not super scary, though I did jump in my seat once. This is a perfect pre-Halloween treat. It’s funny and sweet in places, but the realistic abundance of ghosts may be too scary for younger audiences. I really enjoyed this action-packed movie and its special effects. Pay attention to the background in Gracey Manor for anything unusual. If you’re a fan of the Disney ride, haunted houses and ghouls, you have to see this one on the big screen.

Crump Manor tour guide Vic gives this movie two thumbs up.

Now showing only in theaters. <

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Windham varsity boys’ basketball wraps up successful summer session

By Matt Pascarella

It’s been a busy and productive summer for the Windham High School boys’ basketball team. They became Gold Rush champions during a basketball camp at Thomas College in Waterville. The entire team has been working hard each morning showing up for early morning practices. In the final game of the summer season, Windham boys’ varsity beat Edward Little at home, 56-49, on Thursday, July 27 in a game that showcased their hard work and dedication.

Windham junior Conor Janvrin dribbles past two Edward
Little opponents on Thursday, June 27 during a summer
basketball game at Windham High School.
For the first time, the boys’ high school basketball program invited Windham seventh and eighth graders to join them in a week of practices as they finished their summer season.

“We couldn’t wait for the summer to start, just because of the guys we had coming back,” said Windham varsity boys’ basketball coach Chad Pulkkinen. “Summer has been great, because we get to hang out with these guys, but also helping fuel their passion for the game. It’s very rewarding for me.”

During the final game of the summer season, Edward Little jumped to an early lead. Windham tied the game with the Red Eddies several times and the game was tied at 22 at the half.

At the start of the second half, Windham really increased their intensity and took the lead. Windham remained out in front and made it difficult for Edward Little to get this win.

Windham junior Creighty Dickson said they pushed the pace, finished at the rim and played fast pace on defense; it was a solid game.

When Pulkkinen opened practice up to seventh and eighth graders, he said he’s seen his players start to understand their roles as role models and that gives them a sense of how to hold themselves as players and athletes. It’s a win-win for both sides. It’s been very collaborative and powerful for the program.

“It’s been good we all work out together a lot,” said Windham junior Conor Janvrin. “We all worked together, everyone knows their role and plays a part in the team; I’m looking forward to the upcoming season [this winter].”

Windham sophomore AJ Moody sunk 3 three-pointers during the Edward Little game and said this was the last summer with some of the seniors. He really wanted to show up for them and put everything on the line; he couldn’t ask for a better coaching staff. He likes teaching the upcoming high school players new things and he can’t wait to play with them.

The varsity players got to show the middle school players how they do things offensively and strategically. The overall comradery has been really fun. Pulkkinen enjoyed seeing his team as a great set of role models. It was fun for him to see varsity players giving back to the youth program.

“It was really fun to watch and play against a bunch of high-level players and being able to learn from them,” said Windham eighth grader Sean Lebel. “They showed me the pace that high school basketball is played at and is a very big step up from middle school. It was a great way for me to work on fundamentals and get up a lot of shots. It was nice to build relationships with a lot of the high schoolers too.”

Windham junior varsity and assistant varsity coach Geoff Grigsby said the commitment and dedication he’s seen on the court from players of all ages this summer really proves Windham is a basketball community on the rise. <

Friday, July 21, 2023

Hulu’s ‘Rye Lane’ a nice, candid, romantic comedy

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Dom and Yas are two 20-somethings in South London who recently left their significant others. Dom is struggling to get over his ex and inadvertently meets Yas at a gallery. The two are different personalities but have a connection. As they learn more about each other’s past relationships, their bond increases. Although Dom and Yas may be discouraged with love, could they be right for one another?

“Rye Lane” stars David Jonsson, Vivian Oprah, Poppy Allen-Quarmby, Benjamin Sarpong-Broni, Karene Peter, and Simon Manyonda.

At an art show, Dom (Jonsson) goes into a unisex bathroom stall to have a cry while scrolling through his ex-girlfriend’s posts. Yas (Oprah) goes into the stall next to him and hears his whimpers. She asks if everything is OK. She leaves without seeing Dom’s face.

In the gallery, Yas notices Dom’s shoes and the two get to talking. Yas takes an interest in Dom and his messes. She says everyone has a mess. Dom, interested in Yas, finds out she just left her boyfriend.

Dom is on his way to meet with his ex-girlfriend, Gia (Peter), who cheated on him with his best friend. He says he wants to clear the air. Dom has been so heart-broken this is the first time in three months he’s left the house.

Yas wants to go with him to this meeting, but Dom says no.

At the meeting, Dom confronts Gia about why she cheated. She says it’s because they were unhappy and had grown apart. This is a cringe-worthy scene and Dom is at a loss for words until unexpectedly, Yas shows up; she quickly fabricates a story of how they met. This visibly upsets Gia.

Dom is so thankful to Yas for stepping in he offers to buy her something to eat.

Their personalities are very different; Yas is an outgoing person, not above complimenting a stranger, whereas Dom is more reserved and describes himself as a grand gesture guy when it comes to relationships.

Yas says Dom should try to “see what happens” more, as that is good for the soul.

When Yas tells Dom her breakup story, she adds that she left an album of hers at her ex-boyfriend’s place. She and Dom go on a mission to get it back. They end up doing karaoke in order to get help to break into her ex’s place.

Yas is hesitant, but Dom is excited to do karaoke, until it starts, and goes badly. At this point Yas steps in and the two bring the house down with a popular song from the 1990s. This is a very sweet scene.

Yas gets upset going for the album and they get caught by her ex who badmouths her to Dom – who won’t hear of it though. Things spiral; it comes out that lies were told. Dom and Yas go their separate ways.

This romantic comedy is a sincere story about not giving up, even if you feel there is no hope in your romantic future. It’s somewhat funny but doesn’t have the fastest moving plot. Jonsson and Oprah had real on-screen chemistry and their characters and relationship issues were relatable. It’s not the strongest romantic comedy, but I still enjoyed it.

I’m giving this one 3 out of 5 stars.

Now streaming on Hulu. <