Friday, July 12, 2024

‘Christmas in July’ Boat Parade a festive tradition in Lakes Region

By Ed Pierce

Every Christmas, it’s inevitable that someone wishes that the holiday spirit could last all year long. Here in the Lakes Region, the ‘Christmas in July’ Boat Parade in Naples has become a beloved tradition and revives the magic of the holiday season when it’s most needed.

Participants easily find the holiday spirit during
last year's 'Christmas in July' boat parade in
Naples. This year's event will start at dusk on
Saturday, July 20 and the parade route includes
Long Lake, the Naples Causeway and Brandy
Launched by Naples resident Mark Maroon during the COVID pandemic as a safe way to bring people together to celebrate community, this year’s parade is hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Naples Marine Safety Patrol. The boat parade will begin at dusk on Saturday, July 20 and turn Long Lake, the Naples Causeway and Brandy Pond into a festive occasion featuring holiday-themed lights and decorations.

Harbor Master Shawn Hebert of Naples Marine Safety said it’s tough to know in advance how many boats will participate in this year’s parade.

“The first few years we averaged between 48 and 62 boats,” he said. “Last year we only had 18. We attribute that to the amount of rain we received last summer. It is our hope we can get as many boats as we can to put on a great event.”

Hebert said the parade is a fundraising event to the Naples Marine Safety Association with members donating their time and efforts to put this event on.

“All of the sponsorship donations and any donations raised help purchase needed equipment, tools or specialized training that we would not be able to obtain through our annual operating budget,” he said. “This parade was developed during the height of COVID. It was a means of bringing members of the community together even when we needed to social distance. Over the years this parade has taken on a life of its own. We are seeing business participation, spectator participation on shore as well as ever increasing spectators watching the event from the shoreline, causeway or from a boat. In the midst of summer, this event brings people together, businesses prosper and just an overall feeling of joy.”

According to Hebert, the long-term benefits of the event help bolster the local economy.

“We see spectators coming out early to the venue,” he said. “Before they set up their seats, they are going to a local restaurant or ice cream parlor and even purchasing merchandise from local vendors. It is our goal for this event to help bolster our association’s mission but to also bolster the local Naples economy.”

Joanne Jordan is serving as a volunteer and committee member helping to organize this year’s boat parade.

“This event is unique for this area. There are other boat parades around the country, but the Naples Causeway provides a unique opportunity for this to happen in fresh water with a beautiful viewing area that allows the boats to get up close to the crowds when going under the causeway or visiting one of the waterfront businesses,” Jordan said. “The event is free for boaters to participate and free to watch. It creates a feeling of joy for both groups. We have been lucky to have talented music producers create a fun atmosphere for the crowd while waiting for the boats to arrive and when the boats reach the crowd, everyone is excited, and everyone feels like a kid at Christmas.”

She said anticipation for the parade in the community is always fun to watch.

“Every year the momentum builds. Many of our marina sponsors compete for the best decorated marina boat and some of the local shops and restaurants have started decorating their businesses with lights and trees and blow-up characters. Safety is key for this event so much of the committee's time is spent on route and boater safety. This year members of the Naples Marine Safety made up 800 packets with the information on the parade, and how to register, and dropped them in boats on Brandy Pond and Long Lake to encourage boaters to participate. Of course, letting the community be aware of when and where it is happening is key so they can enjoy the festivities and patronize our sponsors.”

Jordan said staging a parade on the water is interesting and challenging.

“Standard parades are able to close the streets and keep spectators in a safe viewing area,” she said. “We cannot close the waterway and the people who watch from their boats can create a challenge. We have not had any serious issues and have designated people along the route communicating with boat spectators.”

Friendly competition between the marinas makes the annual event special, Jordan said.

“One of our past marina boat winners is vowing to get the trophy back this year. After the parade some of the local kids will come up to me and tell me about their favorite boats,” she said. “Ice cream shops will tell me they had lines down the causeway while waiting for the parade. Restaurant owners on the waterfront say their patrons enjoy having prime seating for the parade while we have one restaurant sponsor not on the water who has sponsored every year just to support the community. People who own waterfront property have started launching fireworks when the parade passes by while other waterfront owners request that we go past their house. We love the enthusiasm of the community but know we can't go around the entire shoreline because of the size of the lakes. Luckily, we have a photographer who volunteers to capture the boats as they approach the causeway so everyone can enjoy the work the boaters put into making this a great event.”

The parade line-up for registered boats begins at 8 p.m. July 20 on Long Lake and the parade is sponsored by Captain’s Club members Brother Flecker’s, Dingley’s Wharf, Freedom CafĂ©, Naples Marina, and the Songo River Queen II.

To view the parade route map or to register a boat, visit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce website at <

Movie review: ‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ a wild, hushed ride on big screen

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 40 minutes

“A Quiet Place: Day One” begins at the start of the problems witnessed in the first two movies. Samira has cancer and is struggling in hospice care. When a chance field trip into New York City gets cut short because of an unknown emergency occurring, Samira finds herself at the center of an evacuated city, but not out of harm’s way. It’s been discovered that noise attracts giant monsters. In her efforts to survive she meets Eric; can the two escape the city before it’s too late? This third installment delivers in being more a fear-based thriller than a straight-up horror movie.

“A Quiet Place: Day One” stars Lupita Nyong’o, Joseph Quinn, Alex Wolff, Djimon Hounsou, Eliane Umuhire, Thea Butler and Elijah Ungvary.

Samira (Nyong’o) or Sam, is in a hospice center and, understandably, is not happy about it. When center director Rueben (Wolff) gives his support group the opportunity to see a show in New York City, Samira jumps on the chance. She brings her cat, Frodo, along.

Shortly into the show, Rueben tells Sam they need to leave because something is happening in the city. Sam gets on the bus and there is a giant explosion. She gets off the bus and the city is covered in a dusty smog. She’s told to take cover.

People are screaming and then quickly disappearing. There’s another explosion and this one knocks out Sam. She then wakes up in the theater with a man (Hounsou) covering her mouth and emphasizing she needs to stay quiet. Noises are attracting monsters that have destroyed the city.

Frodo runs away and Sam follows him. She stops short in front of some broken glass so as not to make any noise. TVs and radio are issuing warnings worldwide.

After Sam’s group leader is killed, she goes outside the theater to get supplies. Helicopters circle the city and say to seek shelter on water because the monsters can’t swim.

People flood the streets. Lives are lost. Sam hides under a car with Frodo to stay safe.

She later meets a man, Eric (Quinn) who follows her. She insists he stop following; he continues. The two eventually rely on each other for support.

Sam returns to the hospice center to get some of her things. She learns Eric has no nearby family.

Sam wants to go to Harlem to get pizza. Eric wants to go with her, but she doesn’t want that. A while later she goes out on her own, walking through a once populated city that is now desolate, silent and crumbled. She ends up running into Eric. Sam is struggling and needs her medication.

There are very good, very intense subway scenes that will have you gasping and nervous. The lack of dialogue adds to the intensity of this movie. This is a not a typical creature feature.

Since I saw the first “A Quiet Place,” I was instantly a fan of this unique and straightforward concept for a horror movie. I was slightly underwhelmed with “A Quiet Place: Part II,” although it was still quite good. If you haven’t seen the first two, I recommend it, but it’s not necessary for the viewing of this prequel. This third installment was full of jump scares and had an emotional aspect to it that I was not expecting but improved these fear-based movies. The special effects were good, and I liked getting a closer look at the mysterious creatures. I found the character’s confusion and panic with dealing with a completely new world relatable. I didn’t find it particularly gory or violent, although there are a couple parts – there is a lot of darkness though. I would say this is not as good as the first one but better than the second one; see it on the big screen.

Two thumbs up.

Now showing only in theaters. <

Friday, June 28, 2024

Amazon’s ‘The Idea of You’ is so-so at best

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Solene is a 40-year-old single mother with a daughter, Izzy, in high school. When her ex-husband is unable to take Izzy and her friends to Coachella, Solene takes them. It’s here that she meets 24-year-old Hayes Campbell, a member of the band “August Moon.” Over time, they get to know each other and what could be classified as a relationship forms.

However, once the press gets wind of this, it blows things up for all involved. Is there a way to make this relationship work? While this movie started out pretty good, it’s a little on the longer side and I felt like it dragged a bit too much in the third act.

“The Idea of You” stars Anne Hathaway, Nicholas Galitzine, Ella Rubin, Annie Mumolo, Reid Scott and Perry Mattfeld.

Solene (Hathaway) is a single mom with a teenager daughter, Izzy (Rubin). Solene is going on a camping trip while her daughter and her friends go to Coachella.

At the last minute, Solene’s ex-husband (Scott) has to go to work, and Solene takes the kids to Coachella.

At Coachella, Solene is looking for the bathroom, and meets Hayes (Galitzine) who, to her surprise is a singer in the very popular band “August Moon.” They share a moment. He invites her to hang out after the show.

He says he feels inspired and kind of dedicates a song to Solene.

During Solene’s 40th birthday party, she talks to a bunch of guys her age who are weird or just boring, despite their interest in her.

Solene works as an art dealer and Hayes stops by to buy some art. She takes him to the gallery of a friend of hers where they learn more about each other. Hayes says he doesn’t meet people like her very often. He admits he’s attracted to her.

Paparazzi follow Hayes everywhere and are parked outside Solene’s house, which is distracting.

The two get to know each other more, and kiss. Solene is concerned about the age difference. Hayes wants to see her again.

While Izzy is off at a summer camp, Hayes invites Solene to join him on a part of the tour in New York City, then to Europe. They get to know each other better. The two are happy together dancing to Wang Chung.

Hayes tells Solene his greatest fear is that people think he’s a joke. Solene worries what people will say if they start dating; Hayes doesn’t care. Solene hasn’t told Izzy about Hayes yet.

Tensions emerge between Solene and the girlfriends of the other “August Moon” bandmates.

She finds out Hayes has not been 100 percent honest. He tries to explain himself, but Solene has already been down the road of having a dishonest partner.

Solene likes Hayes but is ashamed. They break up.

The paparazzi have published photos of Hayes and Solene and it’s all over the internet, being met with various reactions. She tells Izzy; and admits she still likes him.

This is generally not my favorite genre of movie, though this one started out OK. It did have a semi-sweet reverse “Mrs. Robinson” quality to it. The characters seemed genuine throughout most of the movie. However, by the end of the second act the story began to drag. There was too much “will they, won’t they?” As in most romantic comedies, the ending is almost always fairly predictable.

To its credit, I thought the ending left the final moments up to the viewer to interpret. I wanted to find myself rooting for them as a couple, but by the end I just wanted them to decide if they’d get together so the credits could roll. Maybe I’m being too harsh on this one, but this is one I think can definitely be passed on.

Two out of five stars. <

Available to stream on Amazon Prime. <

Friday, June 21, 2024

Strawberry Festival nears at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Boyhood Home in Raymond

One of Southern Maine’s beloved annual events, the Strawberry Festival at Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Boyhood Home at 40 Hawthorne Road in Raymond returns this year from 6 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday, June 29.

The Strawberry Festival will be held at Nathaniel 
Hawthorne's Boyhood Home at 40 Hawthorne Road
in Raymond from 6 to 7:45 p.m. Saturday, June 29.
Reservations are suggested. FILE PHOTO 
This year’s special guest speaker will be award-winning author/editor Tess Chakkalakal, professor of Africana Studies and English at Bowdoin College. Chakkalakal is creator and co-host of this summer’s podcast series from Maine Public Radio entitled “Dead Writers: Great American Authors and Where They Lived.”

Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children aged 8 and under, with reservations at or by calling 207-329-0537.

Reservations are strongly recommended but walk-ins also are welcome.

Wrapping up the event, all attendees will enjoy yummy homemade strawberry shortcake, served with coffee, punch, and lots of friendly smiles.

Those who would like to donate to the ongoing restoration of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Boyhood House in Raymond may do so by sending a much-appreciated check payable to “Hawthorne Community Association” to: Hawthorne Community Association, P.O. Box 185, South Casco, ME 04077.

Secure credit card, debit card, and PayPal donations may be made online at

The Hawthorne House is the boyhood home of the legendary author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables in Raymond and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places since 1969.

Author Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, a descendant of William Hathorne, a Puritan who emigrated with his family from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Hawthorne’s grandfather John Hathorne was a judge who presided over some of the Salem Witch Trials.

Hawthorne’s mother was widowed when he was age 4 and after living for 10 years with relatives in Salem, the family moved to a home near Sebago Lake in Raymond built for them by Hawthorne’s uncles Richard and Robert Manning in 1816. He lived there with his family for three years until being sent to boarding school in 1819, but later in life, said the time he spent at that home was indeed the happiest period of his life.

For Strawberry Festival reservations and other information about the Hawthorne House, send an email to or call 207-329-0537. <

Cryin’ Out Loud band to perform at Windham Summerfest

By Kendra Raymond

With the countdown to Windham Summerfest well underway, festival fans are starting to make plans to join the festivities. Whether you’re looking for some great eats, parade excitement, crafting exhibits, field day activities, or live music – there is something for everyone.

The Cryin' Out Loud band is typically known for playing
blues but at Windham Summmerfest, they will also perform
popular songs from the 1960s to the present day and a lot
of original music. SUBMITTED PHOTO
This year, the Summerfest theme is, “Summerfest Turns Back Time.” What better way to “turn back time” than to listen to some great tunes from the well-known group Cryin’ Out Loud? Typically known as a blues band, COL performs well-known songs from the 1960s to the present day. This band packs a punch; In addition to popular tunes, the band also plays a variety of original music.

Band member Jim Fratini says that the current iteration of the band has been together for about two years. Last year the band found themselves opening for the Grammy-winning guitarist and producer Paul Nelson, who took on the job of producing their first Album “Play Loud and Smoke Often.” Paul passed away earlier this year.

The band consists of Brandon Stallard on guitar and vocals from Lamoine, Ben Chute on guitar from Damariscotta, Jim Fratini on bass and vocals from Winterport, and Bob Evans on drums from Bangor.

“As a veteran musician of the Bangor music scene, I have had the opportunity to play with some of the greatest musicians in Maine,” said Fratini. “There is nothing like being part of a group of musicians that are bringing their talents to a stage and having people enjoy what they are presenting.”

A middle-school science teacher by day, Fratini incorporates fun musical elements into his classroom. Students enjoy learning through his laid-back attitude and interesting connections. A veteran student recalls Mr. Fratini’s class fondly by saying “A lot of teachers don’t realize the importance of arts and personal connection to learning. Mr. Fratini’s classroom was always a space to have fun and learn in a relaxed and productive environment.”

Fratini has been heavily involved in the Maine Invention Convention, a competition created to promote creativity, forward thinking, and confidence in middle school-aged students.

Former student and Invention Convention winner Nolan Raymond says that Frantini’s class was special.

“Mr. Fratini always incorporated creativity and music into his class. By encouraging kids to think outside the box, we were able to tap into the more nuanced ways of looking at things.”

Fratini shared the exciting news that Pilot Light Records has announced that its blues-rock artist Cryin' Out Loud has broken the Top 10 of Roots Music Report (Blues Radio Chart) on their recent album "Play Loud and Smoke Often." The album was produced by the late Paul Nelson, Grammy Award winning guitarist of Johnny Winter.”

Fratini said that the Cryin’ Out Loud CD is now available on all music platforms. Produced by Nelson and recorded in Bangor, their debut release is highly anticipated and inspired by the likes of The Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Little Feat, and of course all the blues greats. There is something for everyone on this album and it’s full of brand-new originals and features guest appearances from Erik Lawrence, Paul Nelson of the Paul Nelson Band, and Ana Popovic’s renowned keyboardist, Brooks Milgat.

“Maine truly has an outstanding musical community and supportive venues that support live music,” said Fratini.

COL is set to hit the main stage at Summerfest from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Windham High School. <

To learn more about Windham Summerfest, visit

Check out the COL website for more information to learn about upcoming shows at <

Friday, June 14, 2024

Netflix’s ‘Unfrosted’ a sweet movie

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes

Breakfast – arguably, is the most important meal of the day. In the 1960s, cereal was the king of breakfast until the invention of a rectangular-shaped confection would change the breakfast game forever. Who would be first to reach this milestone, Kellogg’s or Post? And at what cost? “Unfrosted” tells the story of the invention of the Pop-Tart. Although large parts are maybe more than slightly embellished, this is a fun movie which brought a smile to my face and a rumble to my stomach.

“Unfrosted” stars Issac Bae, Jerry Seinfeld, Melissa McCarthy, Rachel Harris, Christian Slater, Jim Gaffigan, Amy Schumer, Kyle Dunnigan, Max Greenfield and many more.

A boy (Bae) walks into a diner and orders two Pop-Tarts and tells the waiter to leave the box. He reads a cartoon on the side that explains how Pop-Tarts got its name. A man (Seinfeld) tells him that’s not how it really happened and asks him if he wants to hear the real story; the boy says make it quick.

In the early 1960s, breakfast was defined by milk and cereal. Battle Creek, Michigan is where breakfast juggernauts Kellogg’s and Post battled it out.

At the 1963 Bowl and Spoon Awards, Kellogg’s cleans up winning almost every award. Post executives, Marjorie Post (Schumer) and Rick Ludwin (Greenfield), are visibly upset about this but have something up their sleeve.

Bob (Seinfeld) who has been trying to crack the fruit pastry equation is struggling. Post may have been trying to steal Bob’s work.

Whomever gets into the fruit pastry business first means big trouble for the other company.

Bob needs to figure it out first, he wants to send his kids to college and it’s as much as $200 a year.

Bob needs help and requests a former associate of his, Donna Stankowski (McCarthy), also known as Stan. Bob and Stan work together again.

“The magic of cereal is eating and drinking with one hand,” says Bob.

July 20, 1963 – Kellogg’s develops its first ever taste pilots; a group of celebrities and others to help in the development and promotion of the new fruit pastries. When asked about nutrition, fitness guru Jack LaLanne says sugar is poison, so they’re working on something called high fructose corn syrup.

In order to secure the upper hand, Bob and Stan fly to Puerto Rico where they meet with El Sucre, who controls 99 percent of the world’s sugar supply.

Kellogg’s creates “the Dingus” as a fruit pastry prototype, but it’s a bust. Kids know what will work for breakfast – you just combine whatever you have.

Bob and Stan have split the atom of breakfast.

Post retaliates by heading to Moscow to get sugar.

All this pastry talk has upset the Milkmen (led by Slater), who depend on cereal to keep their business going.

The Milkmen capture Bob. After some time, the cereal mascots (led by Thurl Ravescroft) go on strike.

I remember the excitement of getting a box of unfrosted Pop Tarts and eating them before -or after- school or on a Saturday morning when I was a kid in the early 1990s. And seeing this movie made me want to see if Pop Tarts are just as I remember them. While the origin story is mostly untrue, there are multiple things that actually did happen in the “breakfast wars” as well as many historical jokes and references throughout this movie.

The casting for “Unfrosted” is incredibly well-done with several big-name stars giving standout performances. I enjoyed the breakfast-based humor and while I’m unfamiliar with what the 1960s looked like, parts of the movie had a real old-fashioned feel and look to them, which I enjoyed. There’s slapstick comedy and the movie advances at a good pace. It also features many hit songs from this time period. I recommend seeing this delicious comedy.

Two toasters up!

Now streaming on Netflix. <

Friday, June 7, 2024

Windham Public Library’s summer schedule approaching

By Kaysa Jalbert

The Windham Public Library is hosting a summer of reading, fun and exciting programs, kicking off on Monday, June 17 with the opening of registration for the Summer Reading Program. All summer long, the library will travel to different outdoor events, host unique guests and hold hands-on learning experiences for all ages.

The Windham Public Library will offer
reading programs all summer for all ages
under the theme of 'Read, Renew, Repeat.'
“Library cardholders of all ages will find a reading program to join and events to attend all summer long,” says Jennifer Wood, Windham Library Director. “This year’s theme is Read, Renew, Repeat and our programs will follow this theme of conservation.”

Starting Saturday, June 15, the library will be off-site at the Windham Farmers’ Market every other Saturday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Visitors can get a new library card, pick-up reserved holds for that week, drop off returns or check out something from the new inventory.

Following the Summerfest parade on Saturday June 22, the library will have a booth at the Summerfest venue from noon to 4 p.m. where participants can sign up for one of the Summer Reading Programs and see what events are in store for the summer.

On Wednesday June 26, visit the Maine State Society for the Protections of Animals in Windham for a library story time with horses. They will read books and follow the normal story time routine, then make time for questions and visiting with horses. The event is aimed at children ages 2 to 7 and will be held from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. The Maine State Society for Protection of Animals is located at 279 River Road in Windham.

Also on June 26, the library hosts a smoothie making program for children ages 2- to 6-years-old. Kids can learn how to make their own smoothies and learn different recipes. This event will take place at the Windham Public Library from 2 to 3 p.m.

The library will host Mr. Drew and His Animals Too with Windham Parks & Recreation at Windham Middle School from 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday July 3. Mr. Drew and His Animals Too is an education center and exotic rescue in Lewiston. This event is for ages 3 and up to get a hands-on educational experience with reptiles.

In July, families can also enjoy a Garden Party at 3 p.m. Monday, July 15 to explore ways to build and support healthy, happy and sustainable gardens indoors and outdoors. Later, from 1 to 5 p.m. July 29, art supplies will be scattered in and around the library for a Family Art Day for families to get messy, have fun and make art.

Starting July 12 and running through Aug. 16, the event Fun with 4-H will take place at the library every Friday from 10 to 11 a.m. Aimed at children ages 4- to 9-years-old, this event is an introduction to animal science with a representative from 4-H, a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provide hands-on experiences for youth development.

One highlight of the author discussion program, Wood said, is hosting local author Monica Wood at 6 p.m. Wednesday Aug. 7.

“Monica is a wonderful, local author and a staunch library supporter,” the library director said. Her newest work called “How to Read a Book,” was published in May.

In addition, the library will have regular programming for story times, books and babies, author talks, movie showings, cribbage and anime clubs, tech help, teen crafternoon, sign language class and outdoor movement. A calendar with dates and times for all events is available on the Windham Public Library website.

The Windham Public Library also has several Adventure passes to local museums and parks. The passes are checked out to cardholders and allow free or reduced entry fees to Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Portland Museum of Art, The Children’s Museum of Maine, Southworth Planetarium, Dundee Park, Maine Wildlife Park, and Maine State Parks.

The Windham Public Library Summer hours are Monday and Wednesday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fridays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed on Saturdays through Labor Day and on other summer holidays. Ther library is at 217 Windham Center Road in Windham.

For further information and more details about the summer calendar of events, visit or call 207-892-1908. <

Friday, May 31, 2024

‘IF’ a classic in same vein as many Pixar movies

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 44 minutes

12-year-old Bea has been through a lot. She recently lost her mother, and her dad is in the hospital awaiting heart surgery. She is moving in with her grandmother until her dad gets out of the hospital. One night Bea notices someone who could be about her age heading upstairs. She’s looking for a friend and goes upstairs but is told there is no one there.

However, soon Bea realizes she and Cal (who lives upstairs) can see everyone’s forgotten IFs or Imaginary Friends. There are so many of them, once a child outgrows their Imaginary Friend, they need to be rematched with another kid. It’s up to Bea and Cal to see if they can connect kids, current and former, with their Imaginary Friends. This was a very sweet and sincere movie that makes you feel many emotions but is ultimately fun, too.

“IF” has a star-studded cast of Cailey Fleming, Ryan Reynolds, John Krasinski, Fiona Shaw, Steve Carell, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Louis Gossett Jr., Alan Kim, Bobby Moynihan, Awkwafina, Emily Blunt, George Clooney, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Keegan-Michael Key, Blake Lively, Sebastian Maniscalco and Brad Pitt.

Bea (Fleming) is moving in with her grandmother (Shaw) after losing her mother and her father (Krasinski) is in the hospital for heart surgery. Bea is feeling sad and alone.

One night, she notices someone that looks to be about her height, but they hurry upstairs before she gets a chance to see them. Bea meets Cal (Reynolds) who lives upstairs.

She spies on him breaking into a home one night. After addressing Cal about this Bea learns he’s there for Blue (Carell) a giant fuzzy – and purple – IF, or Imaginary Friend. For whatever reason, Cal, an adult, is able to see all the forgotten Imaginary Friends that children leave behind; Bea can also see them and meets Blossom (Waller-Bridge) who lives with Cal and Blue.

Cal explains that the right IF needs to matched up to the right child. Only children who need IFs can see them.

Cal takes Bea to an amusement park where they meet more IFs.

“They’re not scary, they’re worse – desperate,” says Cal.

At a retirement home for IFs, Bea meets Louis (Gossett Jr.), a bear, who wants her help with placement. He tells her the retirement community can be anything she wants; it just takes a little imagination. Bea decides to take on the task of matching IFs to the right children.

Cal and Bea interview IFs for Benjamin (Kim), a child patient, at the hospital where Bea’s dad is. However, Benjamin cannot see the IFs.

“Will you please put some pants on, you’re freaking everybody out,” Cal says to Banana (Hader). This was one of my favorite lines.

Bea helps Blue find his child (now an adult), but it doesn’t go well. On their second attempt, the result is different.

Bea learns some touching lessons throughout the movie.

Written and directed by John Krasinski, who was inspired by his own children as he watched them use their imaginations, “IF” hits all the points of being a near-perfect family movie that works on multiple levels to entertain, touch, inspire and open the imagination of both children and adults. It deals with some pretty tough subject matter, the loss of a parent at a young age, but then turns that into something magical through the IFs.

It’s heartfelt and gentle and reminded me of a simpler time when there wasn’t so much to focus on – and worry about. Performances all around are spectacular, especially from Fleming and Reynolds. In addition, the voice acting will undoubtably bring a smile to your face, regardless of age. This is one you can watch over and over and I recommend seeing it on the big screen. It’s definitely worth it.

Robot gives it two thumbs up.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, May 17, 2024

‘The Fall Guy’ a thumbs-up winner

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 6 minutes

Both Ryan Gosling and director David Leitch described the movie “The Fall Guy” as a love letter to stuntmen; the guys who do all the cool moves like get thrown through windows or out of vehicles, set on fire and blown up, but don’t really get the credit they deserve. The plot involves Colt, a stuntman for popular actor Tom Ryder. When Ryder goes missing, it’s up to Colt, who is in the middle of shooting a movie with director Jody, someone he used to date and might still have feelings for, to find him or the studio will shut down production. Colt only has 48 hours; can he find Ryder before it’s too late?

This movie literally has it all – action, adventure, romance, twists, and a fast-moving plot with a strong cast. This was excellent on the big screen.

“The Fall Guy” stars Emily Blunt, Ryan Gosling, Hannah Waddingham, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Teresa Palmer, Stephanie Hsu, Winston Duke, Ben Knight, Matuse, Adam Dunn and Zara Michales.

Colt Seavers (Gosling) is the stuntman for actor Tom Ryder (Taylor-Johnson). Jody (Blunt) is a camerawoman. Colt and Jody are dating.

When a stunt goes horribly wrong for Colt, he retreats and breaks up with Jody. He is now a valet and has little interest in returning to the stunt world. Gail (Waddingham) tricks Colt into coming back to stunt work by telling him Jody wants him for her new movie “Metalstorm,” which Jody is directing.

However, Jody is still upset about the breakup, but may still have feelings for Colt. She is not happy to see him on set. She wants another stuntman, but options are limited. Colt tells Jody that he’s been living his life in regret and is afraid she’s moved on.

Gail tells Colt that Tom is missing, and he needs to find him, or the studio will pull the plug on production.

Colt promises to make it up to Jody and they have somewhat of a reconciliation after Jody catches Colt jamming to Taylor Swift.

Jody says if Colt stays with the production, he needs to keep it professional.

Colt goes looking for Tom in his home and finds there are Post It notes everywhere. He is attacked by Iggy Star (Palmer), Tom’s girlfriend.

Iggy gives Colt some clues as to where he might be able to find Tom. Colt makes a shocking discovery in his search for Tom and gets closer to Jody in the process.

Gail continues to encourage Colt to keep looking for Tom. If Tom doesn’t show up to production tomorrow, the studio will axe it.

Colt meets Alma (Hsu) in his search for Tom, but things don’t go smoothly – there is some stellar action here.

Jody is mad Colt left the set. He finds Tom’s phone and once he unlocks it, it reveals vital information, but finding Tom won’t be straightforward.

This is a fun, high-energy adventure from start to finish; don’t let the runtime fool you, it’s a fast-paced ride with a solid plot, twists, turns and great action that pays tribute to all the incredible things stuntmen do. It’s funny and somewhat of a romantic comedy, but a romantic comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It has great music. Blunt and Gosling are an amazing pair, who have on-screen chemistry. It’s a feel-good movie that will have you smiling by the end. It does have mild language and violence. Stick around through the credits for more stunts and behind the scenes stuff. This one is definitely worth seeing on the big screen – you won’t regret it.

Two spicy margaritas up!

Now playing in theaters. <

Friday, May 10, 2024

Windham Lions Club’s Touch A Truck event nearing

By Ed Pierce

The time is nearing to start revving up those big engines once more as the Windham Lions Club will offer a free “Touch A Truck” for children and local families in North Windham next weekend.

The 3rd annual Windham Lions Club Touch a 
Truck event runs from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday,
May 18 in the parking lot behind Reny's off
Route 302 in North Windham.
The 3rd annual Windham Lions Touch A Truck event runs from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 18 in the parking lot behind Reny’s off Route 302 in North Windham.

At this year’s ‘Touch A Truck,’ participants will be able to climb into the cab of a fire truck, see the inside of a police car, watch a police K-9 demonstration, explore land excavators, dump trucks and much more. There will be many large vehicles on hand from throughout the community for kids to inspect, climb into the driver’s seat, and honk the horn.

Although admission is free, donations will be greatly appreciated as proceeds benefit a variety of programs year-round in the Windham community.

Free water will be supplied by Poland Springs and snacks will be available. Ice cream treats will also be sold at the event and a special prize raffle will be conducted.

“As with all events we hold, all profits are returned to our Windham community, said Evelyn Brissette, Windham Lions Club president. “One of our local businesses started us off with a gift to raffle off and others joined in. This added feature will hopefully help us to raise more money. Our intentions have always been that our Touch A Truck add enjoyment to the children and their families that come to our event. However, the raffle could help us raise more funds as we try to help as many families as possible through our Adopt-A-Family program during the holidays as well as other activities throughout the year.”

Brissette said members of the Windham Lions Club are grateful for the participation of Windham agencies and local businesses that have helped make this event possible.

“The Touch A Truck event provides a hands-on educational community event to see and touch the trucks and machinery used in the community and to meet the men and women who operate these machines,” Brissette said. “Participating vehicles will be displayed in a safe, supervised environment and it’s the perfect venue for exploring the machinery while learning about the people who build, protect and serve Windham.”

The idea for hosting ‘Touch A Truck’ staged by the Windham Lions Club came from an idea Brissette had a few years ago.

“I had done some research online and it seemed like ‘Touch A Truck’ would be a fun way to interact with kids and people in our community,” she said. “We also want our community to be aware that the Windham Lions Club does exist and with everyone’s help we can make life a lot brighter for those less fortunate.”

Brissette said that the Windham Lions Club staged its first ‘Touch A Truck’ in 2022 and it has exceeded expectations in terms of participation and the Windham community’s willingness to help others.

She said the Windham Lions Club works throughout the year to uplift the community, such as providing Christmas gifts for local students and families in need and contributing donations for worthwhile school activities such as Odyssey of the Mind.

Brissette said that she believes when Windham residents take an interest in their own community, and work together for a cause, they can make a significant difference.

All proceeds from this year’s Touch A Truck event, coupled with the annual Windham Lions Club’s Craft Fair in October, and money donated at the club’s annual “Stuff-the-Bus” event in November will go a long ways to helping those in need in Windham, Brissette said.

Since its inception, the Windham Lions Club has played a significant charitable role in the community, supporting a variety of causes and issues affecting the lives of residents.

Some of those include purchasing and manning Windham’s first rescue van in 1968; donations to the Windham Public Library; helping with expenses related to eye exams and eyeglass when they meet the Lions Club criteria; assisting with expenses related to hearing tests and hearing aids when they meet the Lions Club criteria; conducting RSU 14 eye screening with more than 5,000 students screened so far; sponsoring the “Student of the Month” program in local schools; Breakfast with Santa; Stuff-the-Bus with more than 10,000 pounds of food collected for those in need; supporting the Windham Veteran’s Center; and collecting used eye glasses and hearing aids. <

Friday, May 3, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Dream Scenario’ a good premise weirdly executed

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Paul Matthews is a professor at Osler University and a pretty ordinary guy. He has a wife and kids and kind of a mundane personality; some might say he’s a little on the boring side. All this changes when he begins being recognized by strangers. Not because they’ve met Paul, but because he’s appeared in their dreams.

At first, he’s not doing anything; the person may be having a chaotic or bizarre dream and he’s just there in the background. However, over time, the dream-version of Paul begins to harm people while they sleep. This leads to him being ostracized from society, people no longer feel comfortable with him around even though the real-life Paul is very nice and taken aback by this newfound infamy.

Things only get worse for Paul as these dreams affect his family. This is a good premise but it fell apart in the third act although a majority of the movie is decent.

“Dream Scenario” stars Nicolas Cage, Julianne Nicholson, Lily Bird, Jessica Clement, Tim Meadows, Dylan Baker, Noah Lamanna, Paula Boudreau, and Marnie McPhail.

College professor and average guy Paul Matthews (Cage) begins getting weird looks from the students in his class one day. After seeing a show at a theater with wife Janet (Nicholson), Paul runs into an old girlfriend (McPhail) who tells him he’s been appearing in her dreams, but not in a sexual way, just in the background.

Paul finds out more people are seeing him in their dreams – a lot of people. Paul makes it on the news and scientists begin trying to explain why this is happening. Paul goes viral and becomes a bit of a celebrity. This makes him very popular with his students.

He meets with an ad agency, but tells them he doesn’t care about fame. He’s more interested in trying to get a book he’s been wanting to write published.

One of the women who works at the agency tells Paul about her dream and at this point, the movie does have a bit of sexual content, but no nudity.

At times “Dream Scenario” blurs the line between dreams and reality where you don’t know which version of Paul you might be seeing.

When dream-version Paul begins harming people and in reality students and people become afraid of him, it leads to a waitress asking the real-life Paul to leave a diner as he sits there quietly reading a book.

It begins to affect his family when his wife is removed from a project at work and his kids are teased at school. All this makes Paul unravel a bit as he has become a pariah. He makes an apology video to appeal to the masses, but it may be too late.

The first act of this movie was really good. Aside from Freddy Krueger, I’ve never seen a movie about a man being present in people’s dreams before; it’s a solid premise. When things began to unravel for Paul in the second act, I was still interested. By the third act, it seemed unrealistic; that people wouldn’t be able to distinguish who they saw in a dream from a person barely paying attention to them. Despite this, I felt bad for Paul as it seemed like the world and his family were turning on him.

The ending of this movie was not great. On the plus side, Cage gives a strong performance as a man who has infamy put upon him; unlike what I normally associate him with being which is an over-actor looking for the Declaration of Independence. Seeing a toned-down Cage was nice – he played this character well. This was only an ok movie, but I can’t say I strongly recommend it. If you decide to watch it, go in with low expectations.

2 ½ stars out of five.

Available to rent and streaming on Max. <

Friday, April 19, 2024

Review: Netflix’s ‘Is It Cake?’ not your typical cooking show

By Matt Pascarella

Three seasons
Average episode time: 40 minutes

I’m not a fan of television cooking shows, but this one is a bit different. The purpose of this Netflix series is to identify which items are cake. A variety of bakers compete to advance in the competition with the three best bakers making it to the season finale and competing for $50,000. Many of the bakers have a cake business or are known for their cake decorating and designs.

The goal of each episode is to fool judges and then win money identifying cash from cake in a segment called “cake or cash.” The host can be more than a bit obnoxious, and parts are obviously scripted, but it’s still a fun show and it’s cool to see what people can create and how realistic some of their cakes are.

“Is it Cake?” is hosted by Mikey Day and guest judges feature a variety of TV actors and writers along with “Saturday Night Live” cast members from past and present.

Episodes begin with contests having to find the cake in a scene or setting, such as a living room or beach display. The competition starts out with nine bakers who must find the cake in a particular setting or group of items. The three or four bakers who find the cake the fastest get to bake cakes of their own based on a theme, usually associated with the initial setting or scene, while the other contestants watch from the gallery and ask obviously scripted questions, like “What flavor will your cake be?” or “How’s it going?”

Once finished, each baker gets their cakes displayed for the judges – along with three decoys. The judges must identify which one from the items that are displayed is the baker’s cake. The judges then get to taste the cakes and determine a winner; the baker with the least popular cake, for lack of better terminology, is eliminated from the competition. This leads up to the season finale, where the three best bakers compete for $50,000.

During the baking portion of the episodes, viewers get backstory into the bakers as they reveal a bit about themselves and how they got into baking and making cakes.

These bakers are very talented and during the portion where the judges must identify which item is cake, the camera gives the viewer ample time to see all four items. Sometimes it can be really hard to determine which one is cake because they’re so well made.

Whether they make it to the final round or not, these seasons feature crazy-talented bakers who make realistic cakes that really resemble burgers, shoes, or even a block-like cell phones from a bygone era. This is a family-friendly show that is OK for all ages to watch. My only caution is the annoying host. While the contestants are competing against each other, they also help each other out and ask each other for advice, which is a nice touch – it’s not an aggressive competition.

Two cake pans up!

Available to stream on Netflix. <

Friday, April 12, 2024

Cumberland County to stage second annual Touch A Truck event in Windham

Cumberland County’s 911 Regional Communications Center is preparing to host the second Annual Touch A Truck on Saturday, April 20 in Windham.

Cumberland County's 911 Regional Communications
Center will host the second Annual Touch A Truck 
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20 at 
22 High St. in Windham. The free event for
children and adults will be held rain or shine.
The county’s 911 Regional Communications Center is at 22 High St., Windham.

The free event will be held rain or shine, and this is the second time that the popular Touch A Truck event for children will be hosted by Cumberland County 911 Communications. Touch a Truck Activities will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and everyone is welcome to attend and participate.

This family friendly event will include:

** Fire Trucks

** K-9 Demonstrations

** "Sparky" the Dog

** Smokey Bear

** A Bounce House

** Food trucks

** Safety tips

** Vendors

** 9-1-1 Dispatch tours

The Cumberland County Regional Communications Center is a public safety emergency communications center. It provides emergency and non-emergency dispatching service for many public safety agencies within Cumberland County and serves as the Public Safety Answering Point for 19 of the 28 communities within the county.

As the Public Safety Answering Point for those communities, the 911 Regional Communications Center receives all 9-1-1 emergency phone calls for those areas within Cumberland County. <

Friday, April 5, 2024

Review: ‘Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire’ a good time at the movies

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes

When the discovery of an old artifact could bring another ice age to all of New York City, the Spengler family returns to the firehouse that started it all. While this family has what it takes to ghost bust some mean spirits, they’ll need the help of some of the original crew to take on a new and evil god, Garraka, before it’s too late. Whether you are a diehard fan or just a regular fan of the previous Ghostbuster movies, seeing this one on the big screen was decent and worthwhile.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” has a star-studded cast of Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, Dan Ackroyd, Annie Potts, William Atherton, Paul Rudd, Carrie Coon, Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, Kumail Nanjiani, Patton Oswalt, Celeste O’Connor, and Emily Alyn Lind.

In 1904 New York City, chaos sweeps the city and leaves it frozen; the only survivor is a woman found clutching a mysterious orb.

Gary Grooberson (Rudd) and the Spengler family (Coon, Wolfhard and Grace) are on a job speeding through New York City. This is a very action-packed opening with a supped-up Ecto-1. Grooberson’s driving causes an accident and upsets Mayor Peck (Atherton) who says he will not rest until the firehouse is demolished.

Ray Stantz (Ackroyd) hosts a ghost-detecting show where people bring in items from their departed and he helps them to make contact – maybe.

After the incident with the mayor, Phoebe Spengler (Grace) is told she’s too young to bust ghosts and has to stop immediately. This upsets her.

Nadeem Razmaadi (Nanjiani) visits Stantz with a whole box of stuff from his grandmother’s place. Inside this box is the orb from 1904. They are unaware of what tampering with it will do.

While staying in the firehouse while everyone is out ghostbusting, Phoebe discovers a ghost, Melody (Lind) and befriends her.

At the firehouse there is a problem with the ghost containment unit, after 40 years, it’s full. When asked if anyone saw this coming, Janine Melnitz (Potts) said,

“It was the 80s, no one was worried about the future.”

Winston Zeddemore (Hudson) has already built a new unit at another location. There, they’ve trapped and studied many ghosts.

Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) tests Nadeem and senses there is something up with him.

Doctor Hubert Wartzki (Oswalt) takes several Ghostbusters down to a special level of the library where he explains about the demon god Garraka’s intentions to raise the dead.

After the mayor orders the Ghostbusters out of the firehouse, it is revealed Melody is not who she was originally thought to be.

Phoebe’s in trouble and the orb is shattered with much of New York City freezing like in 1904. Garraka is coming for the containment unit.

I am not the biggest Ghostbusters fan. I don’t dislike the franchise, it’s just not my favorite. However, this movie brought back nostalgia, is funny, had cool special effects and it was nice to see most of the original cast in with some big names who brought new meaning to this installment.

“Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” isn’t as good as the original, but it’s a nice compendium to the series. Although it centers around ghosts, I did not find it all that scary, but it might be for younger viewers. It has mild language and violence. It has a nice message about family woven in. I enjoyed the updated equipment like the drone-operated ghost trap. I think you can see this as a stand-alone movie, though it helps if you know a little bit of the old and new backstory.

I give this three out of five Proton Packs.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, March 22, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Barbie’ not cutesy and carries a message

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes

For Barbie, every day in Barbie Land is perfect. She has parties, hangs out with friends (who are also named Barbie mostly) and just enjoys being Barbie ... until one day she has a thought of death and from there on, everything changes. Barbie needs to go to the Real World and find the girl who is having these thoughts. And then there’s Ken, who accompanies Barbie to the Real World. Can Barbie figure out what’s wrong and make things go back to normal, or is everything forever changed?

“Barbie stars Margot Robbie, Helen Mirren, Issa Rae, Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp, Emma Mackey, Hari Nef, Sharon Rooney, Ana Cruz Kayne, Dua Lipa, Ryan Gosling, Simu Liu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Scott Evans, John Cena, Michael Cera, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, Ariana Greenblatt, and Rhea Pearlman.

Dolls have been around for a long, long, time. However, these were baby dolls and only gave girls the opportunity to play mothers – until Barbie. Barbie changed everything twice. There are many different types of Barbies and Barbie can be anything she wants; women can be anything they want. As far as Barbie knows, all problems of feminism and equal rights have been solved.

In Barbie Land, Barbie (Robbie) has a perfect day every day. Ken’s (Gosling) good days only exist if Barbie looks at him. It’s obvious that Ken has machismo.

Barbie’s perfect day is brought to a screeching halt when she asks the other Barbies if they ever think of dying. When Barbie’s heels touch the ground, it’s apparent this Stereotypical Barbie is malfunctioning. She has to visit Weird Barbie (McKinnon) who tells her there’s a rip in the membrane between Barbie Land and the Real World. Whoever is playing with Barbie must be sad, and Barbie has to help her to help herself.

Don’t blame Weird Barbie, it’s Mattel who makes the rules.

Barbie agrees to go to the Real World, and Ken sneaks in the back of her car.

In the Real World, Barbie is objectified, and Ken is celebrated (in his mind). Ken learns about patriarchy and gets a little too into it.

Ken sees a male-dominated world and Barbie sees the life of the girl who used to play with her and despair.

When Barbie goes looking for the girl playing with her, she is chastised by Sasha (Greenblatt) who tells her she’s been making women feel bad about themselves since she was invented. Barbie wants girls to feel powerful.

The FBI alerts Mattel that two of their dolls have escaped and this sends the executives, including Mattel CEO (Ferrell) into a panic.

Mattel finds her and has a plan for everything to go back to normal, but she escapes with the help of Ruth Handler (Pearlman).

Barbie learns it’s a woman, Gloria (Ferrara) who’s been feeling sad. This explains Barbie’s existential crisis. However, it still needs to be fixed.

Nominated for eight Academy Awards and winning for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures for Bille Eilish and Finneas O’Connell’s “What Was I Made For?” plus a slew of other awards, the “Barbie” movie has definitely made its mark on the world. This was certainly not what I was expecting, in a good way; I think I was expecting a cutesy story about Barbie. It’s poignant and deals with adult themes, like misogyny, objectification, feminism, equal rights, patriarchy, empowerment, toxic masculinity, existentialism, self-identity, depression, anxiety and others I’m sure I missed. “Barbie” opens up several good talking points to have discussions about real world situations with kids of all ages. It’s funny, well-written, well-acted and cast.

Two thumbs up.

Now streaming on Max and available to rent. <