Saturday, September 29, 2018

Review of Netflix Series “Atypical” by Lorraine Glowczak

Not Rated

I am one of the many who has cut the cable and now rely upon Netflix for my lazy rainy afternoon movie fix – or Netflix series binge watch

The most recent series that has me hooked is “Atypical”, a story about 18-year old Sam (Keir Gilchrist), who is on the autistic spectrum. Each show in the first season follows Sam as he searches for love, trying to fit in and to be “normal”.

Sam is certain that he loves his therapist, Julia (Amy Okuda), but upon realizing he can’t share his love with her, decides to have a “practice girlfriend” with fellow high school student Paige (Jenna Boyd). Paige, who may be on the spectrum herself, sees past Sam’s quirks and really seems to like him.

Sam lives with his mother, Elsa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is overprotective, ultra-organized and also seems to display behaviors from the spectrum. Sam also lives with his father, Doug (Michael Rapaport) who does his best to be a good father, trying to make up for the time he left Sam, his mother and younger sister, Casey (Brigette Lundy-Paine.) Casey toggles back and forth between being gruff with her older sibling or being a loving and protective sister.

Sam and his family are each dealing with their own demons and changes, proving that there really isn’t any such thing as being normal.

Although I have worked with children on the autistic spectrum, I often wonder if the show accurately portrays the life and behaviors of those on the spectrum.

According to a review by a mother with a child on the autistic spectrum, she had this to say about “Atypical”

“The makers of the new Netflix series Atypical, including creator Robia Rashid clearly want to help the world understand what it’s like for those on the autistic spectrum, and to deliver that lesson with comedy and warmth. Deeply well-meant and probably incredibly illuminating for those who don’t know much about the condition, the show is unequivocally a good thing in and of itself, and it’s hard not to applaud both the intention and the effort. That’s me speaking as the mother of a pre-pubescent boy on the autistic spectrum. As a critic of films and sometimes TV, I wish I could applaud “Atypical’s” result more.”

With that being said, know that the two-season series may fall flat for those who know the ins and outs of living with autism, it does offer a bit of humor and reveals, if only slightly, the life of those touched by autism.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Netflix series review of "Disenchantment". Reviewed by Colby Willis

Rating (for mature audiences only)

Recently, I sat down to watch the first three episodes of show runner Matt Groening's newly released Netflix series “Disenchantment”. This marks his third outing as lead creator of an adult focused cartoon -  his first two, the highly acclaimed “Futurama” and the legendary “The Simpsons”.

Groening and his team once again bring crude humor and a cast of unique and out there characters to the screen to make audiences laugh, while providing some subtle social commentary. The show follows the princess Bean who lives in the fantasy kingdom of Dreamland. The rebellious youth is compelled constantly to go on misadventures by the prankster demon Luci, and the meek, affable Elfo the elf. The three have to contend with a cruel king, a self-absorbed prince, and many other fairy tale tropes that aren't given a twist to suit the comedic nature of the show.

I had high hopes going into the series. As a massive fan of Futurama, the shows similar art style seemed like a return to form. There were some growing pains, however.

The pilot episode was awkward and many of the jokes fell flat. As it went on though, the chemistry of the cast began to mesh far more naturally. Even characters I initially did not like ( the prince was a standout) were quick to turn about and become charming, even in their obvious arrogance. By the end of episode three I could see that the potential in this Netflix original was quite apparent, and I am eager to dig in for more.

I would suggest this show to any fan of Groening's first two shows, as well as teens and up that enjoy crude, yet lighthearted adventures.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Movie Review of “The Nun” by Matt Pascarella

Rated R for its horror content

As a fan of “The Conjuring” movies, when I saw there was another prequel, I was ready for a similar, scary movie experience. “The Nun” tells the story of a priest (Demian Bichir) and a nun (Taissa Farmiga) who hasn’t taken her vow. They are sent by the Vatican to investigate a suicide at a convent in Romania. They must confront an evil demon who is posing as a nun.

The opening of the movie foreshadows an evil spirit who has taken over a convent. The camera passes over a sign that reads ‘God ends here’ in Latin.

Ominous music and a dark, low lit atmosphere set the tone for this horror movie. You hear a nun say, “evil needs a vessel to escape.” After which she jumps out a window hanging herself. Shortly after, a man known as Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), comes across the hanged body. He puts it in a mausoleum out of respect.

Father Burke is addressed by members of the Vatican to investigate this death. He is told to take Sister Irene to aid in the investigation. Frenchie is the one who brings them to the haunted convent. One of the characters says, “I think being here is a mistake.”

Sister Irene tells Father Burke of how, as a child, she had visions involving the demonic nun. Later on, Sister Irene is told by other nuns in the convent the only way to combat the demonic nun is to pray. She enters a chapel where nuns are praying and suddenly, one of the nuns is killed. Sister Irene looks around and notices all the nuns in the chapel are laying dead on the floor.

 “This place is no longer holy,” states Sister Irene. The demonic nun attacks Father Burke and Frenchie saves his life. The three must defeat the demonic nun and seal up the evil portal that has been open inside the convent for too long. Will they be able to defeat the demonic nun and prevent her return?

I found this movie entertaining, but not as good as “The Conjuring” or even some of the other movies in the franchise. “The Nun” has some predictability. There are several scenes that will make you jump, along with some plot twists. Creepiness is all over this movie: Sister Irene is followed by a shadow, Father Burke is buried alive, the demonic nun makes a few appearances including one in which she carries a noose (taunting Frenchie of the suicide) – good for a movie scare when you see these parts.

The music is ominous; chanting, loud pounding and suspenseful which add to this movie’s eerie tone. The dark and foggy setting of a haunted convent is an ideal setting. Without giving too much away, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) make an appearance.

If you are a big fan of “The Conjuring” and its other films and don’t want to wait for the DVD release, I would recommend you see this in theaters. It’s a decent horror movie, more jumpy than scary. Is it absolutely necessary to see this in the theater? No. You’ll jump just as much when you watch it on DVD.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Movie Review: “Christopher Robin” by Lorraine Glowczak

Rated: PG

I have studied the Tao de Ching, a sacred text written during the third century B.C. by Chinese philosopher, Lao-tzu. But I have never read, “The Tao of Pooh” by Pooh, himself. I suspect now it is a must read after watching the latest film that follows Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the gang in “Christopher Robin” where simple, yet profound, life philosophies are sprinkled throughout the movie.

The film opens with the final scene of “The House at Pooh Corner,” in which Pooh (Jim Cummings) and the rest of the cast that includes: Tigger (Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Owl (Toby Jones), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), and Roo (Sara Sheen) host a farewell dinner for 9-year-old Christopher Robin who is bound for boarding school. As they spend their last moments together, Pooh offers this piece of advice to Christopher after he admits he enjoys doing nothing in 100 acre wood with his pals; “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.”

Then, life happens. Christopher (Ewan McGregor) grows up, gets married to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and has a child named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Although he loves his family very much, he is a dedicated employee, putting in long hours for a high-end luggage manufacturer in 1940s London.

The economy, as a result of WWII, has declined and the wealthy have stopped traveling as much – and thus the luggage business declines. Christopher’s boss (Mark Gatiss) insists that they cut production costs or cut the staff.

To save jobs, and – at the same time, provide the good life for Evelyn and Madeline, Christopher works day and night, giving to the company 100%.  He's not only forgotten his animal pals of long ago, but it might seem he’s also dismissed his family in his attempt to do well. Until, that is, Pooh surprises him in a park near his home and the old adventures begin.

This is truly a heartwarming, family-friendly story that is perfect for the young family who has read AA Milne’s Pooh stories at bedtime. There's a strong theme of being grateful for your life and for those you love. Compassion, teamwork, play, friendship and imagination also weave themselves throughout the film.

But don’t let the sentimental family themes fool you. My husband, who is drawn to shoot ‘em up, high action, fantasy movies, found this film to be one of his new favorites. We both recommend Christopher Robin – whether you are a young family who loves the stories of Winnie the Pooh or you wish to enjoy a little philosophical whimsy, “Christopher Robin” is for you.