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. <

Friday, July 7, 2023

Author and Illustrator promotes new graphic novel series in Windham

By R.D. Frum

Graphic novel author and illustrator Seny may not exactly be famous yet, but she’s hoping to change that as more readers explore her graphic novel series which combines inspired storytelling with her passion for art. On Saturday, July 1, Seny met readers and discussed her graphic novels at a book-signing event at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Windham.

Graphic novelist and illustrator Seny was at
Sherman's Maine Cost Book Shop in Windham
on Saturday, July 1 to promote 'Saigami
Volume 2,' a continuation of her fantasy
manga-inspired series. 
Born and raised in Hungary, Seny now lives in Maine. She was in Windham to promote Saigami Volume 2, a fantasy manga-inspired series that continues from where Saigami Volume One left off. The main characters are thrust into an action-packed turn of events where they must face challenges and endure a series of tests in order to be able to fit into a group with the Saigami people, who command the elements with varied powers.

“Manga and graphic novels have been a passion of mine ever since middle school.” Seny said. “I personally started doing comics and graphic novels because I started writing my own novels as a kid and I found that describing certain things was hard so I thought surely drawing them will be easier,” Seny says.

“This is somewhat true because I find that I really like drawing environments, expression, and all those things rather than just describing them but also, it's a lot more work and it's definitely more time consuming than writing.”

Saigami Volume One took Seny around six months to complete from the moment of the contract signing. Seny joined Saturday AM Publishing at the beginning of 2014 where the story was running in magazine issues biweekly. Seny said Saigami Volume One would’ve taken longer if she hadn’t completed 70 percent of the illustrations already.

Then there was a previous Saigami Volume One version that was self-published and then in 2020 Quarto Publishing gave the series a soft tribute and so it was recreated with name changes and several scene additions. Saigami Volume Two took about eight months to finish with multiple new scenes.

Seny’s inspiration came from wanting to draw something she would have loved to read herself in middle grade. “As I got older and a little bit more refined in taste and storytelling, I rebooted the whole story and while still trying to accommodate something that I wish my younger self could have read, but also making sure that it's a good enough story that can be pitched to publishers and it can be a good story for people to read,” Seny says.

However, writing and illustrating graphic novels does have its obstacles.

“I would say the most challenging part was trying to find a middle ground between what my publisher thought should be done with the story and what my vision is like with the story and the characters,” Seny said. “For me, as someone who was raised in a very conservative environment and later got out from that...I wanted to incorporate that in the story to focus on that and hopefully inspire young readers. My publisher had other ideas, focusing more on just the hype and the action aspects, so there’d be a little bit less depth. Apart from that, the rest is pretty much just an endurance game, because drawing all those pages is a lot of work.”

Seny said that there is not much of a scene for comics back in Hungary.

“I started to pitch for publishers, and I was lucky enough that I got my first publication at the age of 19 while I was there in university,” she said. “But that was also pretty much a reality check for me, that my home, Hungary, is so small that there's no way of making a living for comics there. So that's when I started to try and self-publish online on various platforms.”

Seny created a YouTube channel (@saigmaiproject) to teach others how to draw comics and other various things, and that’s how she was led to the publishing company Saturday AM.

Currently, Seny is focusing on promoting Saigami Volume 2, but she does have a couple ideas for future projects.

“My wife and I are actually working on a story together. It's set in Maine,” Seny says. “So we are very hopeful that can be a series we get to work on, even just as a single graphic novel.”

Seny is also working on adapting a novel series into graphic novel volumes.

“Apart from that, of course, if Sagami has more volumes that is something that would be great, but I also have another series that I would like to work on in the future, which is about women's volleyball, which is very close to me,” she said.

Saigami Volume 2 is now available at Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop in Windham. <

‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny’ a fun ride for summer’s start

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 34 minutes

Your favorite archeologist is back for one last adventure. And this fifth installment is action-packed. After the death of his colleague Basil and following the success of Apollo 11, Jones is forced to retire from Hunter College. He meets Helena Shaw, Basil’s daughter and Jones’ goddaughter, who tells him of the Archimedes Dial that is believed to locate fissures in time, allowing its owner to travel through time. Shaw tells Jones her father was obsessed with its secrets. Jones has half of the dial from a previous expedition and Shaw wants to find the rest of it. She needs Jones’ help – and maybe he needs hers. Prepare for some edge-of-your-seat action.

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” stars Harrison Ford, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Shaunette Renee-Wilson, Mads Mikkelsen, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Ethan Isidore and John Rhys-Davies.

It’s 1944 and a young Indiana Jones (Ford) and his colleague Basil Shaw (Jones) are captured by Nazis working for Dr. Jurgen Voller (Mikkelsen). They try to kill Jones and Shaw but are unsuccessful. There is some great action and special effects here.

In 1969, America has just landed on the moon. Jones is a history professor at Hunter College in New York City; he lectures to an unenthusiastic class. Later Jones is thrown a retirement party and in a bar he meets Shaw’s daughter Helena (Waller-Bridge), whose father is now deceased. She is an archeology student looking for Archimedes Dial.

Shaw has a map and tries to talk Jones into going on one last adventure.

“Why are you chasing the thing that drove your father crazy?” Jones says.

“Wouldn’t you?” says Shaw.

Voller is well aware of Jones’ whereabouts and his henchmen are always nearby.

Shaw was untruthful and Jones is captured, but escapes. There is an excellent chase scene through a parade-filled street and narrow subway tunnels.

Jones meets an old friend who helps him follow Shaw, who has the dial, to Tangier. Here Jones prevents her from selling the dial in an auction.

We meet Shaw’s sidekick/friend Teddy (Isidore) who helps her escape when Voller shows up. Shaw needs to find the other half of the dial before the Nazis do. She can’t do it without Jones.

Jones takes the two to his friend Renaldo’s (Banderas) boat who will help them look for the other half of the dial in the Aegean Sea. Voller appears again, and Shaw makes a deal with Voller. She assures Teddy she is still in control.

Voller kidnaps Teddy.

Shaw and Jones find the Tomb of Archimedes and the other half of the dial just in time for Voller to show up; Jones is shot and Voller escapes. But there’s much more to this story.

I enjoyed this fifth installment. Is it as fun as one of the original films? I didn’t think so, but this was a very fun movie on the big screen. It is a long, but moves quickly and is action-packed. It’s mildly funny and I’d even go as far as to say this is one you could watch with the whole family. It even has a little heart. Ford steals the show again as the tough Indiana Jones who won’t be stopped. Waller-Bridge is a great accomplice to Jones in the hunt for this rare artifact. Going in, it helps to see this one with some previous knowledge of the story of Indiana Jones.

A whip and a fedora up.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, June 30, 2023

WCST preparing to stage Oscar Wilde play this fall

By R.D. Frum

The curtain is about to rise for Windham Center Stage Theater as it continues its 49th season with the play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde.

Windham Center Stage Theater will present
'The Importance Of Being Earnest' by
Oscar Wilde from Sept. 8 through Sept. 24
Melanie Quackenbush, vice president of the Board of Directors, and Chelsea Richardson, treasurer of the Board of Directors, will serve as the directors for this play.,

The Windham Center Stage Theater has been around since 1974 when Harry Grey shared the story of a theatre company he had once directed in Canada at a meeting with Frank Brautigum. Intrigued by the concept of community theater, Brautigum asked Grey if such a group could be started in Windham. They were immediately motivated by the idea and quickly published a notice of the organizational meeting in the local newspaper.

The earliest program, which is still kept in the theater group’s archives, was created for the production “The Apple Tree” and was presented at Saint Joseph's College in Standish on Feb. 28 and March 1, 1975. Tickets were only $2.50 each. On March 18, 1978, a grand opening event was conducted to mark the Windham Community Theater's relocation to the Community Center at the Windham Town Hall. The use of the garage area there was granted to WCST in 1985.

Like other community theater groups, Windham Center Stage Theater had to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual fundraisers took place to keep the theater going.

“This year we sat down…and we want to do something that doesn’t cost us a lot of money because we had two years where we didn’t really make any…because everything was virtual, and we were shut down,” Quackenbush said.

Choosing what show or set of shows to put on for each season is a year-round process for WCST.

“We have one big meeting where we sort of hash everything out,” Quackenbush says. Over the course of the season members of the Board of Directors collect show ideas to go over at the annual meeting. Each season consists of one straight play, a children’s show that is always a musical, and at least one musical.”

Quackenbush says that WCST can perform what the theater group already has rights for, because obtaining theater rights, especially musical theater rights, are a process.

“What can we get that isn’t going to cost a bunch of money? How much things are going to cost really plays into it, musicals are always more expensive than straight plays,” she said. “Musicals I find to be more fun, but there’s also a lot more that goes into it because you have a music director, a choreographer, all these people, and there’s a lot more moving parts to it.”

While auditions for shows at the Windham Center Stage Theater usually occur in person, those trying out for The Importance of Being Earnest were allowed to do either a self-taped, on Zoom, or by in-person audition. For a play, people will then act out a certain scene or monologue from the show.

“When they read, we’re having them read once in their normal voice, and we’re having them read a second time with a British accent,” Quackenbush said. “When you do a musical, it’s very much the same thing for the acting, but then you also have...a singing performance of some kind...and they have you do a dance audition as well where they will teach you 16 bars of a dance.”

“The Importance of Being Earnest was written by Oscar Wilde,” Quackenbush said. “The whole premise of the story is that there are these two gentlemen who have essentially created alternate personalities for themselves, so they can be one person when they’re in town and they can be someone else when they’re in the country. There are these two young ladies that these gentlemen are enamored of who think that both of their names are Earnest.”

The play is set during the Victorian era, but Windham Center Stage Theater plans to update it to bring the play into the 21st century when it is performed.

“It’s…silly, funny, mistaken identity and what happens when the person you’re pretending to be and the person you are…come to a head,” Quackenbush says.

The Importance of Being Earnest is taking center stage in Windham from Sept. 8 through Sept. 24. <

Friday, June 23, 2023

'Knock at the Cabin’ an unsettling ride keeps you guessing, slow to deliver

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Wen and her dads are vacationing in an isolated cabin in the woods. Wen is collecting flowers outside when she is approached by Leonard who tries to befriend her. He and three other individuals soon tell Wen’s dads, Eric and Andrew that they must make a grave decision in order to save humanity. Is this true? Could someone be lying?

I was excited to see this M. Night Shyamalan movie because I’ve enjoyed several of his movies in the past, but while this one is quite tense and unsettling in numerous parts, I wasn’t as surprised as I would have liked to have been when it ended.

“Knock at the Cabin” stars Kristen Cui, Dave Bautista, Johnathan Groff, Ben Aldridge, Rupert Grint, Nikki Amuka-Bird and Abby Quinn.

Wen (Cui) is learning about insects. She is outside catching grasshoppers when she is approached by Leonard (Bautista) who asks if he can talk to her. She says she’s not supposed to talk to strangers. He tells her if they can talk maybe they’ll be friends and no longer strangers.

Leonard tells her he has a broken heart because of what he has to do. Leonard and his associates Redmond (Grint), Sabrina (Amuka-Bird) and Adriane (Quinn) have the most important job in the history of the world.

Wen tells her dads Eric (Groff) and Andrew (Aldridge). When Leonard and the others come to the door, they are told to go away.

Leonard and crew force their way in and tie Eric and Andrew to chairs. They each introduce themselves.

The way this possible invasion is slowly taking place, is one of the movie’s most unsettling, but beneficial characteristics. Four strangers force their way into a home and are so meticulous about their process, that they let the terrified party get to know them. I found that creepy.

The group tells Eric and Andrew that they are here to prevent the apocalypse and the couple must make a tough decision or humanity will begin to suffer.

Eric tells them they need help, but this only makes Leonard double down on his reason for being there.

“For every no you give us, we will unleash a plague for the sins of humanity,” Leonard says.

There are ceremonial actions that take place between the group, some worse than others.

As all this is going on we see flashbacks to when Eric and Andrew first met. Other points in their life play out at various points during the movie, sometimes depicting Eric and Andrew being hurt or not accepted for their relationship.

At one point, breaking news comes across the TV. This may have confirmed something said by Leonard earlier.

Sabrina says to Eric they are all on the same side; the group won’t let up; a choice must be made.

Eric and Andrew try to poke holes in everything that has happened in the last 12 to 16 hours.

Eventually, Eric and Andrew break free from the chairs. Things get worse. The tables turn. There are several tense moments and things take another turn.

This definitely is a slow burn as horror movies go. I did appreciate the creepy and unsettling nature of unwanted visitors who are there for reasons that go beyond human abilities. This movie is based on the 2018 novel “The Cabin at the End of the World” by Paul G. Tremblay. The ending was not as straightforward as I would have liked. Unfortunately, I’d lump this in with Mr. Shyamalan’s 2022 movie “Old,” which I also felt failed to deliver.

One thumb up.

Streaming only on Peacock and available to rent. <

Friday, June 9, 2023

‘About My Father’ film has laughs, heart and relatable family dynamics

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes

When Sebastian gets invited to his girlfriend Ellie’s family summer home at a country club, he brings his Italian father, Salvo along. As Sebastian tries to gain acceptance from Ellie’s family in order to propose to her, his father makes things harder than expected, but better in the long run. This is a funny, sweet movie that will bring laughter and maybe tears.

“About My Father” stars Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco, Leslie Bibb, Kim Cattrall, David Rasche, Anders Holm, and Brett Dier.

Sebastian’s (Maniscalco) story begins like most Americans stories on another continent, in Sicily. His father, Salvo (De Niro) is from there and moved to Chicago where he is a Sicilian hair stylist.

Sebastian was brought up in a very Italian household with old school values and work ethic. He fell for the complete opposite of himself, Ellie (Bibb) who opened his eyes to many things like naps, beauty regimes and smiling. She is a painter and has her own art gallery.

When Ellie’s parents invite her and Sebastian to their summer country club, Sebastian describes it crudely as being classy; he says the dogs there went to better schools than him.

This weekend will be the perfect opportunity for him to propose. This invitation may mean he is breaking through to being accepted by Ellie’s family.

Salvo is not so sure about Ellie and doesn’t hold back in letting Sebastian know this. If Sebastian wants to marry her, Salvo wants to meet the parents. Ellie suggests Salvo come along, but Sebastian fears he’ll embarrass him.

Salvo wants to go, and he does. These families are from two entirely different walks of life. Ellie’s father Bill (Rasche) is a hotel mogul, her mother Tigger (Catrall) is a U.S. Senator, her brother Lucky (Holm) is wealthy, and her brother Doug (Dier) is more of a spiritual eccentric.

Salvo has trouble relating to them at first and doesn’t want Bill and Tigger to pay for his lunch. He says they’re strange and nobody has a job.

Sebastian explains that they have their money in the stock market and not mayonnaise jars buried in the back yard.

Bill offers Sebastian a job at one of his hotels in an effort to get him and Ellie to move from Chicago to the District of Columbia. Sebastian thinks about it.

There is a cringy flyboarding scene that is pretty funny.

Salvo has had enough and wants to leave. Sebastian tells him Ellie is his future and Salvo should make more of an effort. Sebastian wants to see the Salvo at the salon everybody likes.

A few other things happen that could jeopardize the weekend. It’s not just Sebastian who has an issue with his parent.

This movie is full of great lines and De Niro is nothing short of hilarious. At one point, Sebastian is hesitant to tell Salvo he’s been taking tennis lessons. Salvo tells him the country club is like a cult, except instead of Kool-Aid they serve champagne.

I found this movie very relatable in terms of being embarrassed by your family. When serving a home-cooked meal to Ellie and her family, Salvo says his father had an old Italian saying, “family isn’t one important thing. It’s everything.”

This is a movie families can relate to. While it’s rooted in Italian culture, the overall message is one of family. There is mild language and brief nudity.

Two sound bowls up!

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, May 26, 2023

Review: Apple TV+’s ‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ a triumph in face of adversity

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 Hour, 34 minutes

He was one of the biggest stars of his time. “Family Ties,” “Teen Wolf,” “Back to the Future,” “Doc Hollywood,” plus an abundance of others. At 29, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He hasn’t let this stop him and has turned this diagnosis into more of a positive, refusing to let this disease crush him or his spirit.

This documentary isn’t cut with friends, family and famous people talking about Fox, but rather an interviewer (who is never on camera) asking Fox questions while he tells his story in his own words along with actor portrayals or footage of Fox from various points in his life.

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” stars Michael J. Fox, Danny Irizarry, Hannah Galway, Sherry Klassen, Darren Zimmer, and Bradley Peters.

Florida, 1990. Fox awakens from a night of drinking with actor Woody Harrelson (Peters) to notice his pinky finger is auto animated. Fox struggles to recall the events of the previous night. Despite Fox’s popularity at this point in his life, he describes himself as being in an acid bath of fear and professional insecurity.

It’s now the present day. Fox gets out of bed, puts on slippers, and brushes his teeth. He sits down to be interviewed. Fox describes himself as a tough individual, who has stuff to do and won’t be slowed down by his disease.

Originally from Canada, Fox came to California to be an actor. He found success relatively quickly, but it was short-lived. By 1982, he was barely surviving; taking jam packets from IHOP restaurants to eat because he had no money – he was living beat to beat.

At 22, Fox got the TV show “Family Ties.” While producers weren’t excited about Fox initially, that would change. Once he found success on “Family Ties” more offers came in. He simultaneously shot “Back to the Future” while also shooting “Family Ties.”

As Fox tells his life story, you get glimpses of him dealing with Parkinson’s today. The disease causes him to fall a lot; and that’s something Fox works very hard to prevent.

“Gravity is real,” says Fox. “Even if you’re falling from my height.”

After the success of “Back to the Future,” Fox was everywhere. While filming “Family Ties,” he met his wife, Tracy Pollan, and they married in 1988.

When he was first diagnosed, he hid it from everyone but his family. He took pills to control the tremors. By not thinking about Parkinson’s, he thought he was hastening its arrival. He started drinking and ran into problems. The media suggested Fox’s popularity was over.

Fox was doing all he could to avoid the fact that he had Parkinson’s. He went back to television, but the stress of a weekly show only exacerbated his symptoms. There was no way out.

When talking about Michael J. Fox, my instinct can be to feel bad for him, but from everything about him that I’ve read and what he says in this documentary, he does not want pity. This documentary really illustrates how hard it can be for Fox to do simple tasks, like walking or brushing his teeth, and while it can be heartbreaking to watch, the fact that Fox continues on, shows how inspiring he truly is. While it’s one thing for Fox to talk about his struggles with Parkinson’s in his books, it’s another thing to physically let the public see his struggles on camera.

Aside from the fact that I’ve been a “Back to the Future” fan for many years, the more I learn about Fox, the more I appreciate him. His positivity is truly something to aspire to. This feel-good documentary might change the lens with which you look at life.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Apple TV+. <

Friday, May 12, 2023

‘Murder Mystery 2’ only a sub-par sequel

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Nick and Audrey Spitz are back. They are now in the detective business full-time and it’s not going so great. When the two get invited to a billionaire’s wedding on an island, they witness a murder. In the process of solving the case, they become suspects and must clear their names on top of solving the case. Or will they be outsmarted? This Netflix original movie seemed to promise a lot and ended up falling short.

“Murder Mystery 2” stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong, Melanie Laurent, Jodi Turner-Smith, John Kani, Kuhoo Verma, Adeel Akhtar, Enrique Arce and Dany Boon.

Nick (Sandler) and Audrey (Aniston) Spitz have solved some of the most high-profile murders of the century. They’ve quit their jobs to become full-time detectives ... and it’s not going great. They need to become officially licensed to increase their business.

When the couple gets invited to an all-expenses-paid wedding of The Maharajah (Akhtar) on an island, they decide a break would be good – but murder follows them.

During the ceremony, The Maharajah is kidnapped, and a man is killed. Nick and Audrey begin collecting clues. Of the 400 people at the ceremony, it’s a select few that are isolated as persons of interest, (Laurent, Turner-Smith, Verma, Arce and Villanueva).

Nick is sure the killer is on their trail. As the two are trying to piece together who the killer might be, each of the persons of interest knock on their door with information.

The kidnapper(s) sends them a message saying if they contact authorities, The Maharajah dies.

An MI6 hostage negotiator, Miller (Strong) arrives at the island and has heard of Nick and Audrey, but he is not impressed by them.

The kidnapper(s) calls again and demand $50 million. Nick and Audrey’s antics increase that ransom to $70 million.

Miller, Nick, and Audrey head to Paris to drop off the money and rescue The Maharajah, but things don’t go as planned. At this point there is some very cool action with several explosions.

Audrey begins to suspect Miller may be in on this.

Nick points out that two bad guys never works out because one always double-crosses the other – it’s a cliché of the genre.

When Delacroix (Boon) helps the couple track a license plate, he says they are now suspects because their prints are on the murder weapon.

Things go from bad to worse.

I feel conflicted about this movie. It is fun with great action, and some mildly funny lines, but I wanted this sequel to be funnier and it just wasn’t. I did like it, but I went in with expectations a little too high. If you liked the first “Murder Mystery,” I say watch this one. It starts a little slow but does pick up and Sandler and Aniston are a good pair. This is not a boring movie; it just wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

One dinosaur leather suitcase up.

Available on Netflix. <

Friday, April 28, 2023

‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ fun for kids and maybe adults

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes

Mario and his brother Luigi are struggling plumbers from Brooklyn, New York who just sunk all their money into a new commercial they are very proud of but doesn’t have the phone ringing. When they both fall down a magic pipe the two are split up and sent to different parts of an alternate dimension. Mario must work with Princess Peach and an assortment of other characters recognizable from the Mario universe to find Luigi and stop Bowser before it’s too late.

I grew up with Mario trying to save the princess. I enjoyed this movie with the references and nostalgia it brought up.

“The Super Mario Bros. Movie” has an amazing cast of Chris Pratt, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Day, Jack Black, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jessica DiCicco, Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Armisen and Seth Rogen.

Mario and Luigi watch their commercial for their new plumbing business. Mario’s father is unhappy with this choice and tells both of them that you don’t leave a steady job to follow a dream. Mario’s dad is upset with him for bringing his brother into the plumbing business.

Business isn’t booming either and people like Spike (Maniscalco) make fun of the brothers. Mario is tired of feeling small.

When a plumbing emergency happens, the brothers rush to the scene. Things don’t go as planned though. The brothers make a discovery and are sucked into another dimension but get separated and sent to different parts – one cheerier than the other.

Mario is sent to the Mushroom Kingdom and meets Toad (Key) who takes him to meet Princess Peach (Taylor-Joy). Luigi is sent to Bowser’s (Black) Dark Lands and is in trouble.

Bowser is headed toward the Mushroom Kingdom, but Princess Peach is adamant she won’t let anything bad happen.

Bowser has plans to marry Princess Peach and won’t be happy if she says no. When he learns of Mario spending time with her, he imprisons Luigi after learning they are brothers.

The trio meets Cranky Kong (Armisen) who will lend his army to the fight against Bowser if Mario can beat Donkey Kong (Rogen) in a Colosseum-style fight – kind of.

Mario Karts are used on the way to defeat Bowser and save Luigi. The group takes Rainbow Road. Things don’t exactly go as planned there either.

As Mario travels and meets various characters, there are classic Mario sound effects accompanied by a solid soundtrack of music from the 1980s. It also features many characteristics from the various games like flying bullets, fire-flower power-ups and swimming squids.

This was a fun movie, but it’s one that’s definitely geared toward a younger audience. There aren’t a lot of jokes for adults, but there are some. Plus, if you grew up playing any of the Mario Bros. games, there is a nostalgia aspect. The storyline moves relatively well, and I was interested to see where it was going. Bowser has a pretty ear-wormy song about the princess. I did spot several Easter Eggs, which I thought was cool.

Two blue mushrooms up.

Now playing only in theaters. <