Friday, July 31, 2020

Movie Review: SCOOB! introduces Shaggy and his friends to a new generation

By Matt Pascarella

It’s an origin story, kind of. One with a modern twist. A new generation of fans are introduced to Scooby and the gang and will love their goofy humor and hijinks in this sweet and funny movie.

We meet the talking pooch while he’s being chased by the police after stealing a large block of liverwurst. A sad, lonely, young Shaggy (not his actual name) is listening to a podcast when it tells him he needs friends and should put himself out there. Moments after hearing this he meets an unnamed dog with a lot of liverwurst. When the police catch up to the two, he asks if the dog is Shaggy’s and what his name is. Shaggy names him there on the spot and a lifelong friendship is made.

It’s Halloween. Scooby and Shaggy go trick or treating. Bullies grab Shaggy’s candy and toss it in the old haunted Rigby house. Just as Shaggy and Scooby feel all is lost, they meet younger versions of the rest of the gang: Velma, Fred and Daphne. The group decide to go after the candy, but things don’t go as planned. The end of this particular scene brings back a well-known line uttered by bad guys.

Fast forward several years and the group sits around a diner table and discusses ways to expand their mystery solving business, ‘Mystery Inc.’ Shaggy and Scooby break off from the group and go bowling. It’s here that things get weird; and then they get weirder. Shaggy and Scooby get recruited by Shaggy’s childhood hero, the Blue Falcon and are asked to join the Blue Falcon’s mission.

To Velma, Daphne and Fred, this looks like Shaggy and Scooby were kidnapped. The three put their heads together to try and figure out where the pair could be. They meet bad guy Dick Dastardly and his group of robotic minions. Dastardly is after Scooby because Scooby is the last descendent of Peritas, Alexander the Great’s dog and only Scooby can open the door to a room of riches.

The Blue Falcon befriends Scooby and they go to fight Dastardly together which leads to Shaggy feeling left out. Velma eventually hacks into the Blue Falcon and the two groups meet. Fred warns Shaggy that Dastardly is on his way. But Dastardly is closer than they think.

What happens to Scooby? And Shaggy?

Can these meddling kids save the day and defeat Dastardly?

Or is there a twist here?

I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest Scooby Doo fan, but I liked this movie. It was a nice re-introduction of the classic characters from the original series and movies. With an all-star cast, it does have a similar feel to the Scooby Doo cartoons from the past. 

There are famous lines, similar sound effects and the classic hijinks any Scooby Doo fan, including the smaller ones, have come to love. Even the classic explanation “jinkies!” It features a nice message about friendship and being a hero. 

I recommend it whether you’re a big fan of Scooby Doo or just kind of a fan. One Scooby Snack u–wait ... let’s make it two, because Scooby could never have just one. <




Friday, July 24, 2020

TV Review: Little Fires Everywhere Will Draw You In

By Matt Pascarella

Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel, this Hulu mini-series is set in Shaker Heights, Ohio in the 1990s, but has a familiar feel to current day.

The series follows Elena Richardson (Reese Witherspoon) and Mia Warren (Kerry Washington). Elena is an affluent, controlling mother of four who works part-time for the local newspaper. Mia is a single mother and artist who works multiple jobs and travels from town to town as she looks for inspiration for her art. The series follows the lives of these women and their children as well as a custody battle for a baby that was left at a fire station by Bebe Chow (Lu Huang) a friend of Mia’s; the couple who adopted the child and are friends with Elena. This causes a lot of the tension between Mia and Elena.

Episode one begins with a fire. Elena stands and watches her home become completely engulfed in flames. A look of absolute sadness permeates her face. The cause and reason for the fire will present itself at the end of the season – it’s an interesting twist. Elena and Mia meet because Elena sees Mia and her daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood) sleeping in their car and calls the police. Elena then rents Mia an apartment.

Throughout the series you learn the backstories of many of the characters and there is teenage drama, sex, and one daughter who makes a difficult life choice. There is a lot of interaction between the Pearl and Elena’s kids and everyone harbors their own secrets and lies. I was easily drawn into the character’s storylines and problems and felt the acting was well done and kept me captivated.

Race and privilege play a part in this series. Elena and Mia are from two different worlds and have completely different experiences. Early in the series, Elena tells her children that she and their father worked hard to have their kids avoid hardship. And later in the series, Elena’s husband Bill (Joshua Jackson), tells their youngest Isabelle (Megan Stott) she has no idea what they’ve had to do to live this life. Early on, Elena seems ignorant because see she doesn’t think about the things Mia thinks about. But later on, you see real malice in Elena’s mindset.

I also saw class struggle. A tale of the ‘have’ and ‘have nots.’ Mia and Elena butt heads a lot; for various reasons, and at one point Mia turns to Elena and tells her “you didn’t make good choices – you had good choices.” That comment was eye opening. I never saw it like that.

Kerry Washington is fantastic and made me see things from a different perspective. Reese Witherspoon also does a terrific job. I grew to really dislike her character toward the end.

Both actresses deliver emotional, sometimes anger-filled, performances that enhance the plot.

This was a powerful series that had me interested from episode one. I highly recommend it; very entertaining and well done.<

Friday, July 17, 2020

HBO Max’s ‘Ready or Not’ offers a surprise or two

By Matt Pascarella

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of ‘A Quiet Place Part II,’ so I was looking for a thriller that would keep me guessing and in some suspense. This was – well, I’ll get to that.

Grace (Samara Weaving) has just married Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien), part of the Le Domas Gaming Dominion. But before she is accepted into the family, at midnight, the night of the wedding, she and the other family members must play a game. This seems simple enough. As she sits around the table, some of the other spouses recount what games they played and they’re board games, nothing too complex. However, when Grace draws the ‘Hide and Seek’ card, it’s clear this isn’t going to be a simple as a game of checkers.

After Alex’s wedding ceremony, the Le Domas family is fairly unwelcoming right from the start. It’s very important to the father, Tony, (Henry Czerny) that the gaming tradition be kept going as the family is more than a little superstitious. They believe terrible things will happen if they don’t keep up this ritual.

After Grace draws her card, she asks Tony if there is any way she can win. He says, ‘stay hidden until dawn.’ It’s obvious this is not a friendly game of hide and seek. Alex does not play and does what he can to help Grace outsmart his relatives.

Right off the bat some unexpected things happen that I definitely did not see coming.

Grace does all she can to survive. And not everyone in the family is out to get her. She gets discovered several times, but each time is able to escape. She even steals a car at one point. Not to give too much away, but eventually Grace is captured. And here, a twist or two occurs. It gets gorier toward the end – kind of to excess. But maybe that was the point.

What happens to Grace and Alex?

What about the game of hide and seek?

Are the superstitions valid?

I’ll admit I was a little confused by the ending. I feel there are two possible routes that would have explained why what happened did happen. I had high hopes for this movie as the trailer made it look like a decent thriller. 

The first act is very good – I was drawn in by this weird ritual and this strange, cold family. But by the second and third act it dragged a little and I found it less captivating. 

The conclusion, while ok, isn’t as satisfying as I would have hoped for. A warning to the viewer: this is for some reason billed as a comedy/horror/mystery (on but I did not find it overly funny, aside from a few offhanded actions or comments. It is more violent and gruesome, with quite a bit of blood. 

There were a couple parts that were hard to watch. There’s also language and drug use. If you’re looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, I didn’t think this was it.

But try it for yourself, what do you have to lose? <

Friday, July 10, 2020

Amazon’s ‘My Spy’ fun for entire family

By Matt Pascarella

It’s been done; more than twice. A big guy has to, for whatever reason, look after a kid or kids and their tough disposition has to adjust to a softer one. Whether it was Vin Diesel in ‘The Pacifier,’ Dwayne Johnson in ‘The Game Plan,’ or even as far back as Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’ the premise is not new. However, despite this being recycled I found a perfect blend of action and comedy in the Amazon Prime original movie ‘My Spy’ about a CIA agent, JJ, (Dave Bautista) who’s sent on surveillance to protect a mother and daughter and soon realizes this is no ordinary nine year old.

JJ meets a Russian general in the beginning. As soon as negoiations begin to go off the rails, the CIA team monitoring him become concerned. JJ even admits out loud that ‘being a soldier came naturally, but this is weird.’ He says he is good at one thing and proceeds to demonstrate what that one thing is. This action-packed scene has some great explosions.

Despite what, at first glance might be regarded as a success, JJ’s boss (Ken Jeong) isn’t pleased with JJ’s work and says he might not be cut out for work at the CIA. JJ is given a surveillance assignment with IT woman (and JJ’s #1 fan), Bobbi (Kristen Schaal). They are sent to protect Sophie (Chloe Coleman) and her mom, Kate (Parisa Fits-Henley) from Sophie’s uncle Marquez (Greg Bryk). Sophie recently moved to the United States from Paris and is having trouble making friends.

Bobbi and JJ set up shop in Sophie’s apartment building and install cameras in her home – creepy, I know. After finding one of the cameras, Sophie catches JJ and Bobbi and uses that information to blackmail JJ into having him take her to an ice skating party. According to JJ, this will be a one-time deal. Later, thinking her daughter is in danger, Kate attacks JJ, but Sophie sticks up for him. He joins the two for dinner.
Their one-time deal turns into more, when Sophie needs to take someone to ‘Special Friends Day’ at school and takes JJ. Sophie and JJ grow closer and do nice things for each other like when she tells him she wants to walk all cool-like away from a big explosion he lights a bunch of sparklers, so she can see what that might be like. This presents itself again at the end of the movie. All the while she is also trying to set JJ up with her mom; some attempts are more successful than others.

Bobbi gets upset with JJ for getting so close. Meanwhile, the mission to catch Sophie’s uncle has ended and the boss fires JJ and Bobbi. Although, the mission may not be completely over...

Where is Marquez?

What happens to JJ, Sophie and Kate?

Whether or not you think the the tough guy-kid genre is overdone I’d recommend ‘My Spy.’ It was fun from start to finish. Bautista and Coleman are an excellent pair. The music isn’t bad either. There is mild language and violence, but it’s also emotional in spots. The end will have your heart racing but will also make you smile. I give this: two blue betta fish up. <

Friday, July 3, 2020

Nexflix’s ‘The Night Clerk’ will leave you unsettled

By Matt Pascarella

Bart (Tye Sheridan) is an intelligent young man with Aspergers who works at a hotel as the night clerk. He lives with his mom (Helen Hunt) after his father has died. Bart has trouble with social interactions and cues, so he watches guests in the hotel to learn more about how to socially interact.

Late one night, a woman checks in. Bart begins to watch her through his monitors, even after his shift has ended. When trouble arises, Bart returns to the hotel to find her dead. He enters her room and begins tampering with multiple devices. Another employee of the hotel finds him in her room, which makes Bart the prime suspect. Detective Espada (John Leguizamo) tries questioning Bart but doesn’t make much progress.

A few nights later, Andrea Rivera (Ana de Armas) checks in and Bart becomes taken with her. They begin talking and Andrea tells Bart that her brother had Aspergers. Bart does admit to her he watches people to work on learning social interaction, but he’s not fully truthful about where he does this.
Meanwhile, Detective Espada continues his investigation.

Bart watches Andrea in her room and they later spend time together by the pool, getting to know each other and even share a kiss. Here, you learn a little more about Andrea. Afterwards, Bart goes out and buys new clothes, gets a new haircut and buys a car to attract Andrea’s attention, but when he shows up and calls her room, she is with another man.

Later on, the police raid Bart’s home, taking his computers and hard drives. This makes his mom very upset and worried. Detective Espada continues to pressure Bart. And Bart continues to spy on Andrea. Andrea stops by Bart’s home looking for him and apologizes to him. What for?

Bart notices a man attacking Andrea and goes down to stop it. It’s here that Bart comes clean about his voyeurism. However, Andrea has a secret, too.

What will Detective Espada find?

Will happens to Bart? Did he have anything to do with that woman’s murder?
And what about Andrea?

When this was added to Netflix, I jumped at the chance to watch it because it looked interesting. This was an unsettling movie for many reasons. The idea that someone could be watching you in your hotel room is very real; that could easily happen and probably has happened. Even if the reasoning is innocent, it’s still unsettling. This movie starts out fairly well-paced but drags a little in the middle. And the end, for me, was a back and forth of ‘what? Did what I think happen, really happen?’ I wanted more from the ending – a lot more. There were questions I wanted answered. I would still recommend it, it’s just not the best thriller/crime mystery I’ve seen. <