Thursday, May 28, 2020

‘Dangerous Lies’ delivers an entertaining film

By Matt Pascarella

What would you do if you found $100,000 hidden in a trunk? Would you tell the police? Or not? Netflix’s original movie ‘Dangerous Lies’ tells the story of Katie (Camila Mendes) who is a caregiver for Leonard (Elliot Gould).

Katie and her husband Adam (Jessie T. Usher) come across cash hidden in a trunk after Leonard’s passing. From there, things get a bit tangled and it seems like Katie and Adam might be in danger.
At the start, Katie is working in a diner when she and her husband, Adam, witness a robbery, which Adam stops.

Roughly four months later, Katie becomes a caregiver for Leonard and Leonard trusts her and enjoys her company very much.

Katie and Adam are in a lot of debt. When she confides in Leonard, he offers to help out, but she turns him down. Meanwhile, a real estate agent (Cam Gigandet) stops by Leonard’s home and asks Katie if Leonard would be interested in selling. He explains he has a very motivated buyer. Katie assures him Leonard’s house is not for sale and never will be.

A short time later, Katie discovers Leonard has given her a check for $7,000. She thinks it’s a mistake, but she and Adam really need to pay their bills that day, so they decide to cash the check, pay their bills and pay Leonard back later – but they never get the chance. The next time Katie visits Leonard, he has died.

Adam finds a trunk with a hidden compartment and underneath is almost $100,000.

Later on, Adam goes looking for the money and is attacked. Adam and Katie decide to put this money in the bank to protect it from being stolen.

After Leonard’s cremation service, they meet Leonard’s attorney, Julia (Jamie Chung) who has some good news for the couple. Financially, the once struggling Katie and Adam are better off than they were. The attorney does warn Katie that there are big changes coming her way and she hopes she’s ready for them.

While all this is happening, the real estate agent continues to pressure Katie. And the detective who is investigating Adam’s attack and Leonard’s death, Detective Chesler (Sasha Alexander), keeps the pressure on Katie.

Adam believes someone is following him. Detective Chesler speaks to Katie’s boss, Mr. Calvern (Michael P. Northey) where a paper trail of payments made from Leonard to Katie is forming. A few other discoveries are made that make Katie and Adam question how they should handle their situation.

After an incident occurs, Detective Chesler thinks something is off about Katie and Adam’s story. She thinks Adam could be a suspect in Leonard’s death.

Did Adam kill, or at least plot to kill Leonard?

Is there someone else involved?

Am I leaving out crucial information?

This is a slow, slow burn. It isn’t until about halfway through the movie that things being to pick up. There are a few curveballs and twists and turns. 

Without giving anything away, the ending is slightly (very slightly) action packed. And it’s mildly predictable. 

While this thriller did not have me on the edge of my seat, it’s a decent, entertaining movie – maybe even a diamond in the rough. <

Friday, May 22, 2020

Ben Affleck gives moving performance in 'The Way Back'

By Matt Pascarella
Jack (Ben Affleck) is a former high school basketball star who, after suffering a personal tragedy is struggling and needs to find something that gives him purpose.
During Thanksgiving, his sister, Beth (Michaela Watkins) expresses concern about him and tells him his ex-wife, Angela (Janina Gavankar) has also expressed concern. This only puts Jack on the defensive.
Later on, Jack receives a call from Father Edward Devine (John Aylward) the priest of his former high school, Bishop Hayes, who tells him their current basketball coach won’t be able to coach this season and when it came to a replacement, Jack was the first person Father Devine thought of. The team is not doing well; they haven’t played well since Jack played, which was over a decade ago.
At first, Jack is not interested in coaching, but eventually accepts the position. He meets his assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal), who gives him a rundown of each of the players. The team needs work.
After one game in which Jack does a lot of cursing, the team chaplain (Jeremy Radin) speaks to him and tells him his actions and language have a tremendous effect on his team. This makes Jack rethink some of his daily habits, like going to the bar so much. After a lot of hard work and a somewhat bumpy start, the team begins adding some wins to their record. And they keep those wins going. During this time, Jack is also becoming a mentor to one of the players (Brandon Wilson) who is good but lacks confidence.
While attending a birthday party, we learn a little more about Jack’s personal life and past. And where a lot of his anger has come from. His anger gets the best of him one night and he is thrown out of a game. Dan has to fill in for him.
As the season progresses, Jack’s team is headed towards the playoffs. They need to win a big game against a tough team, that beat them earlier in the season, in order to make it.
Something happens to make Jack slip back into his old ways, where he begins drinking more and more. He shows up late to a practice and afterwards Dan approaches Father Devine who kicks Jack off the team for consuming alcohol on school grounds and showing up to practice inebriated.
What happens to Jack after he’s kicked off the team?
Will the team make the playoffs?
What does the future hold for the team without their head coach?
This has been on my ‘to-watch’ list for several weeks. It looked like a Hoosier-esque, feel good movie. And in spots, it is. But the spots are few and far between. There were several key moments that left me wanting more. And there were other moments that weren’t super clear to me. Is this movie worth renting? Maybe, if you really want to see it, but otherwise you could easily leave this one on the bench until it’s available to you. <

Friday, May 15, 2020

Movie Review: 23 Hours to Kill

By Matt Pascarella

Whether you’ve seen him talking to George Costanza or with one of his many comedic friends in a variety of cars while they drink coffee, Jerry Seinfeld delivers an entertaining, funny performance every time. Shot in New York City, ‘23 Hours to Kill’ is no exception. And given the current situation, a somewhat appropriate title. In previous specials, like ‘I’m Telling You for the Last Time’ (which I recommend), Seinfeld steers more toward general observations and less about himself. In this special, he lets the audience in, sharing details of his personal life.

After an impressive opening, Seinfeld walks on stage, unfazed, relaxed and ready to do what he does best.

His observations are relatable as he talks about the inconvenience of socializing and ‘going out.’ He even refers to his special as a ‘made up, bogus, unnecessary, special event.’ He goes on to talk about killing time. Seinfeld lets the audience and the viewers know, that to some extent, we know him, and he even knows us.

Seinfeld has a bit about things being great and not-so-great (he uses a different word) which is both funny and spot on. He says the the two are very close to each other. There is talk of food, especially breakfast, which made me remember the row of cereals in Jerry’s apartment from his show.

He says we have a dependence on phones and goes on about other technologies. Are we using our phones or are our phones using us? Seinfeld agrees texting is great. He has a great line about how being a comedian feels like an ol’ timey profession because he is actually talking to an audience. It would be quicker if he just texted his set and then everyone could leave.

Like many of his specials, a lot of Seinfeld’s material speaks to everyday situations. But in this one, he lets the audience peak behind the curtain and into his personal life – just for a moment. Since, Seinfeld is generally observational, it’s nice to hear him talk about being a dad and in doing so he describes the mission of babies. And how fathers dress.

Some of the routines I’d heard before, but it doesn’t matter. In my eyes, he’s one of the best, if not the best. And those eyes were watering from laughing while I was watching this special.  As I would expect, his bits are solid, clever and flow seamlessly into each other – if that’s what he wants them to do.
Seinfeld is definitely one of the faces on my Comedy Mount Rushmore. He has been consistently funny for over 20 years and each special only drives the point home that he is one of the greats. Highly recommended. Two Pop Tarts way up!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Movie Review: “Vivarium”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Gemma (Imogen Poots) and her boyfriend Tom (Jessie Eisenberg) are looking for a new home. While browsing one afternoon they meet Martin (Jonathan Aris) who assures them he has the perfect development. However, this house becomes “waaaaay” more than they were expecting.

Martin shows the two to Yonder; an idyllic development where every house looks exactly the same. As they begin to tour the house, #9, (they are only thinking of buying), they notice a few things that are off, like a welcome home gift already in the kitchen. Martin tells them this is not a starter house and that this house is forever. He then disappears. As Tom and Gemma try to leave, they keep getting turned around and end up back at house #9. Even on foot, they find themselves unable to find the exit.

After they realize they cannot escape, Tom sets fire to the house. This does not work; #9 is indestructible. From here on out things just get weirder and weirder. Tom and Gemma get – not have – a child. As time goes on, Tom and Gemma become overwhelmed and frustrated.  Tom makes a discovery while smoking one day and he begins digging a hole. The child does not make things easy and screams a lot. Tom has the idea of killing him, but Gemma prevents him from doing so. There are a lot of points in this movie where bizarre events occur.

We fast forward an indeterminant amount of time, where the child is maybe in his early to mid-twenties. That’s just a guess. Tom is still digging. Gemma now agrees that they should have tried to get rid of him all those years ago. Tom has slowly been getting sicker and sicker, and one day the child brings a package to Gemma that lets you know what Tom’s future is.
How does this end?

Do Gemma and Tom get to leave the development of Yonder?
What about the child? What happens to him?
And Martin? What happened to him?

I had no to low expectations for this movie and it was a rental. But I thought this was a fantastically disturbing thriller. There are a lot of twists and turns. For the most part, I did not find it all that predictable. I like that there were so many strange things about the child and that, from the start, it was obvious this isn’t a normal neighborhood, if you can call it that. The plot is fairly fast paced with minimal moments lagging. I wanted to know where the movie was going and when and how Tom and Gemma were going to escape Yonder. Find out if Yonder is right for you by renting this well-done thriller.

Spoiler: Yonder isn’t right for you, don’t move there – trust me.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Movie Review: “Stuber”

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Run time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Are you looking for a comedy where there is a lot of action and you get to see stuff blow up? If so, this is the movie for you.

Dave Batisa is Vic, a detective who lost his partner in a shootout while chasing Tedjo, a criminal he was unable to catch at the time – in part to the fact that during the shootout his glasses fell off. Six months later Vic gets corrective eye surgery and must wear special glasses until his vision returns. Shortly into the movie, he throws the glasses away. Then, for the rest of the movie he has trouble seeing.

Kumail Nanjiani is Stu, who works at a sporting goods store and is a dedicated Uber driver, obsessed with maintaining a five-star rating. Stu is in the process of becoming co-owners of a gym with Becca (Betty Gilpin), who Stu has a secret, but obvious, crush on.

Vic gets a call that there is an opportunity to get Tedjo. He can’t drive, so Vic calls Uber to get him there. Despite Stu’s protesting, Vic tells Stu if he helps him, he’ll give him five stars. Vic ends up dragging Stu to multiple locations in order to find Tedjo. While all this is going on, Stu has been talking with Becca after she broke up with her boyfriend and Becca really wants Stu to come over. As a result, Stu tries to hurry Vic along every chance he gets.

On Vic’s hunt for Tedjo, there are several shootouts where Stu has to get involved. He isn’t too keen on helping Vic, but reluctantly does so, usually resulting in somewhat hilarious results. At one point, Stu is held hostage, but gets away.

Despite the polar “opposite-ness” of Vic, who is a tough detective and Stu, who is kind of a wimpy guy not really cut out for shootouts and running after bad guys, a friendship slowly starts to form.
This is a comedy action-packed movie with a few funny lines. At one point, Vic needs supplies and Stu takes him to his sporting goods store where Vic says to open a tab and just begins grabbing stuff. Stu exclaims “Uber is not a general store in the old west!” And, later, Stu cries out (after his electric car explodes) “It was a lease! There’s no gasoline; how did it explode?!?”

There is a twist at the end, but in my opinion,it  is a weak one. Nanjiani and Batista are a fantastic comedic pair. The action keeps the viewer engaged and wanting to see what’s going to happen next. There is some sexual humor and a scene of nudity, plus a fair amount of blood. Parts of it I found too slapstick, with Batista’s poor vision, but they were still a little funny. The very end even tugs at your heart strings a little. I would definitely recommend this movie...five stars.