Friday, September 25, 2020

Halloween movies to make you laugh or scream

By Matt Pascarella

Halloween is a little over a month away and if you like it as much as I do, you might be thinking about what to watch as the holiday approaches.


The Exorcist

I’ve seen a lot of scary movies and I still remember the first time I saw this one. I was legitimately scared and had to turn it off. A little girl shows signs of being sick. As it turns out she’s slowly becoming possessed by a demon and her mother turns to the church to perform an exorcism, but it’s not that easy. Nine out 10 shaking beds. Available on HBO MAX.


Definitely one of my top five best horror movies. A family takes a vacation to a summer home where they are terrorized by their doppelgängers. Can the family escape? What do their doppelgängers want? Edge of your seat excitement. 10 out of 10 pairs of scissors. Available to rent.


Also, in my top five best horror movies. After her mother dies, Annie and daughter Charlie follow an unsettling path of secrets and terror that lead to their own bloodline. With jump scares, an overall disturbing tone, and many cringe-worthy moments, this is a great addition to Halloween viewing. Eight out of 10 birds – you’ll see why. Available on Amazon Prime.

The Strangers

A creep out rating of 10 out of 10 skulls. A couple comes home from a romantic evening that turned out to be not so romantic. When a woman knocks on the door asking if Tamara is home, the couple becomes concerned. And things go wrong. And get worse. Available to rent.

Not Scary

Hocus Pocus

This is one of my favorite Halloween movies and a must-watch every year. Max and sister Dani have just moved to Salem, Massachusetts where every Halloween the town becomes consumed with the legend of the Sanderson sisters who were hung during the Salem Witch Trials. When Max, Dani and Max’s crush, Allison bring the Sanderson sisters back from the dead, trouble and hilarity ensue. 10 out of 10 witches brooms. Available on Disney+.

The Nightmare before Christmas

It is debatable whether this is a Christmas or Halloween movie, but it can be both. Jack Skellington is king of Halloweentown and has become bored with their routine of frightening. When he discovers a portal to Christmastown, he becomes very excited and wants to become king of Christmastown too. He comes up with a plan. The clay animation is amazing by 1993-standards. This does have some scarier/frightening parts. Eight out of 10 spooky ghosts. Available on Disney+.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Technically, not a movie, but still a Halloween favorite of mine. Every year, Linus waits for the Great Pumpkin to rise out of the pumpkin patch and bring toys to all the children of the world. While everyone else goes for ‘tricks or treats,’ he convinces Sally to join him as they wait for the Great Pumpkin’s arrival. Will this be the year the Great Pumpkin finally shows up? Eight out of 10 pumpkins. Available on YouTube and to rent. <

Friday, September 18, 2020

Review: Netflix’s ‘Love, Guaranteed’ an enchanting date-night film

By Matt Pascarella

Can a dating website guarantee a user will find love? That’s the question to be answered by lawyer Susan Whitaker (Rachael Leigh Cook) for her client, Nick Evans (Damon Wayans Jr.) in Netflix’s ‘Love Guaranteed.’

Nick is suing the dating website ‘Love, Guaranteed’ because when he signed up, in the fine print it promised after 1,000 dates love was guaranteed. He’s documented every date and refers to them like episodes of the TV show “Friends” (the one who talked about cats, the one who brought her parents, etc.) He claims the website is profiting off lonely souls.

At first, Susan is skeptical of Nick and thinks he might be scamming. She calls him an opportunist. 

In the beginning of the movie, it looks like Susan might be a little lonely. She lives next to her sister. Susan is a workaholic for her own law practice which is struggling financially.

She finds out that ‘Love, Guaranteed’ will be represented by Tamara Taylor (Heather Graham) who is an extremely rich mogul. Whitaker tells her staff they need an airtight case.  As she is about to prepare for the case, she admits she’s never been on a dating website and is talked into joining one - for research purposes only. She goes on no more than three dates and is exhausted. She’s also interviewing Nick’s dates to make sure he just wasn’t working his way to 1,000 dates.

As Susan and Nick begin to spend more time together, they hit it off. Early on, they both make preconceived judgments about one another that they later realize were hasty.

They both meet with Tamara and her group of lawyers where they turn down an offer for $100,000. At this point, Susan and Nick are getting along more and more. Susan realizes it might be a conflict of interest and will give Tamara ammunition for her defense.

Susan also speaks with Nick’s ex-fiancé, Arianna (Kandyse McClure) who will take the stand at the trial.

One of Tamara’s lawyers, Bill Jones (Jed Rees) gets wind of the time Nick and Susan have spent together and what might be happening and uses a loophole to figure out a way they can win the case. Bill Jones gives Susan and Nick one more chance to take the $100,000 deal. They turn it down again and Susan tells Nick they shouldn’t see each other.

How does the trial go? Does Nick win? What happens to him and Susan?

I would recommend this movie. It’s funny, slightly predictable in parts and has a solid ending that also features a twist I didn’t see coming. Yes, it’s pretty cheesy from time to time; not sickeningly cheesy though. Just a sprinkle of cheesiness. It only dragged a little in the middle.

If you’re looking for a ‘date night’ movie, this is it. Two Tiffany (the singer) cassette tapes stuck in a car’s cassette player up. <

Friday, September 11, 2020

Movie Review: ‘The Rental’ an uneasy, heart-pounding thriller

By Matt Pascarella

Two couples book a picturesque house on the edge of a cliff for a weekend getaway and that’s the start of ‘The Rental,’ a new film available for streaming from VUDU. As the weekend progresses, a few unsettling discoveries makes it apparent this rental isn’t as charming as it initially appeared to be.

Couple Charlie (Dan Stevens) and Michelle (Alison Brie) book a vacation house for a weekend with couple Mina (Sheila Vand) and Josh (Jeremy Allen White). Charlie and Mina work together, and Josh and Charlie are brothers.

The house is amazing. However, once they meet the owner/renter Taylor (Toby Huss), he’s weird from the start. He says things like “why would you need a telescope in the city? Are you guys like peeping toms?” when Michelle expresses disappointment because she forgot her telescope. He’s also bigoted towards Mina. But that strange and inappropriate behavior is just the beginning.

As they are checking out the property when they first arrive, Josh finds a door under the deck with an electronic lock on it. Unusual? Only time will tell.

Later that night, Mina and Charlie kiss, which ends up turning into more.

The next day, when they are all supposed to go on a hike and Charlie and Mina stay behind; the two agree that what happened the previous night can never happen again. Meanwhile, while Michelle and Josh are on a hike, some secrets come out about Charlie that upset Michelle.

Mina makes a very alarming discovery in the bathroom that makes Taylor even creepier than he may have originally appeared. This angers both Charlie and Mina who need their secret night not to get out.

When the hot tub breaks, Michelle calls Taylor to have him fix it; unaware of Charlie and Mina’s irritation with him. Taylor comes over and is confronted by Josh. Tensions only continue to rise from there, turning into an altercation when Mina confronts Taylor about what she found in the bathroom. From there, things go from bad to worse.

Everyone begins to freak out a little and Michelle is so distraught, she takes their only car and leaves after she makes a discovery of her own. She doesn’t get far though.

Is Taylor or someone else following the four of them?

Why? What happens to the group?  

I was expecting a decent thriller and that’s exactly what I got. The well-paced plot sets the scene for something to obviously go wrong with this picture-perfect, Airbnb-type rental. While some parts of the movie are predictable, there were other parts where the plot didn’t go where I thought it would. There is some drug use, language and sex and a few gruesome scenes.

The plot is plausible and particularly unsettling, because renting a house for a weekend is not an uncommon occurrence. As this perfect weekend begins to unravel, I wanted to know how the characters were going to deal with everything and what was going to happen next.

‘The Rental’ is worth a rental. Five stars. <

Friday, September 4, 2020

Netflix’s ‘Project Power’ leaves viewers with questions

By Matt Pascarella

If there was a pill that would give you a superpower for five minutes, would you take it? Even if the effects could be detrimental? What if you could use those powers to help people? Would you take it then?

Biggie (Rodrigo Santoro) addresses a group of young ‘entrepreneurs’ and makes them an offer in the beginning of the movie. He will give them a product, a pill called Power and they sell it on the streets of New Orleans. A gentleman called Newt (Colton Baker) has some questions and says this sounds too good to be true.

Six weeks later Power is on the streets of New Orleans and teenager Robin (Dominique Fishback) is attacked by three guys who are looking for it. Detective Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shows up just at the right moment. He and Robin work together to catch guys who are trying to buy Power.

Robin has been saving the money she makes from working with Frank to help her mom (Andrene Ward-Hammond), who has diabetes.

We meet Art (Jamie Foxx), whose daughter, Tracy (Kyanna Simone Simpson) is missing, as he is walking along an apartment complex looking for Newt. Art wants to know who is supplying Power. Art breaks into Newt’s place. Newt takes Power and his body turns into fire. Art and Newt fight which leads to Art having a flashback about losing his daughter. Power is wreaking havoc on the streets of New Orleans. Biggie is also looking to expand his market.

In his search for answers about his daughter, Art kidnaps Robin. After a shootout between Art and some distributors of Power, Robin manages to escape. Despite their weird ‘meeting,’ Robin wants to help Art find his daughter, for a price.

Robin and Art find Biggie and where he is hiding. Frank catches up with Robin. Art, Biggie and Biggie’s crew have a shootout. Frank helps Art escape and arrests him. As Frank brings Art in, Robin follows them. Frank realizes he and Art have similar goals. They all head to a tanker where Biggie is planning to leave that night for a new city. Robin, Art and Frank all end up on the tanker. Later Robin finds Tracy.

Will Tracy see her dad again?  Can they stop Biggie? Will they all make it off alive?

I thought this was an interesting concept, though it’s a bit of a knockoff of 2011’s ‘Limitless’ where a pill enables the user to have 100 percent of their brain’s abilities. Instead of brain abilities, Power offers the user superpowers, like invisibility, becoming fire, super speed, super strength, the ability to become gigantic or it can also cause death. Some scenes are gruesome and bloody. There is a quite a bit of violence; a lot of gunfire and explosions. There is also language and drug use.

This movie had a slow start and only picked up a little as it went on. The special effects are cool. This was an action-packed movie, just not one that kept me on the edge of my seat or wondering what was going to happen next. The end left me with questions about Tracy and the fate of Biggie and his crew. It’s not a bad movie, just one that wasn’t for me. Five out of 10 explosions. <