Friday, October 30, 2020

Netflix series ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ a slow burn that will surprise you many times

By Matt Pascarella

I’ll admit I had not planned on reviewing this nine episode Netflix series, but after watching several of the episodes, it’s too good not to review, especially with Halloween coming up. This season stands alone, but with small connections, to its 2018 first season “The Haunting of Hill House.”

“The Haunting of Bly Manor” follows Dani (Victoria Pedretti) as she arrives at Bly Manor to be an au pair to children Flora (Amelie Bea Smith) and Miles (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). While the series jumps back and forth in time, I believe a majority of it takes place in 1987. At Bly Manor there is housekeeper, Hannah Grose (T’Nia Miller), chef Owen (Rahul Kohli) and gardener Jamie (Amelia Eve).

The series begins with a woman telling several guests at a wedding a ghost story. The story initially focuses on Dani and her time at the manor, but also gives a bit of backstory regarding some of the previous events that happened at the manor, how it may have affected the children and who may have been responsible. The more I watched, each episode would drop a bombshell or reveal a crazy cliffhanger that kept me wanting more.

Dani arrives at Bly Manor, from the states, and is excited to have secured a new job as an au pair. While she seems relatively carefree at first, she has a few secrets. Dani has been hired by Henry Wingrave (Henry Thomas) to care for orphaned Flora and Miles. As the series progresses, you meet Henry’s business partner Peter (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who was involved with the previous au pair Miss Jessel (Tahirah Sharif) and could be responsible for her whereabouts ... or lack thereof.

While this is a series in the ‘horror/thriller’ category, it’s not gory; there are several jump scares along with mild language and some violence.

Each episode will have you asking questions and questioning what is real and what might not be. As you get further into the series, you’ll discover secrets, twists, turns, you’ll learn about dream hoping, they’ll be creepy children and startling revelations. There’s even a romance.

I loved this show. I was a fan of the first season, at Hill House, which I’d also recommend. This season at Bly Manor was just as good, if not better. My only complaint is the series can be hard to follow at times with several storylines and a lot going on.

Parts of the series can be a little slow, but even the slower parts are leading up to a sometimes, jaw-dropping moment, so stick with it. At the end I felt like all questions were answered and enjoyed the wedding connection. This is a series worth a watch; but maybe keep the lights on. <

Friday, October 23, 2020

VUDU’s ‘Save Yourselves’ starts strong, but ultimately fizzles

By Matt Pascarella

In the film “Save Yourselves” a couple, Su (Sunita Mani) and Jack (John Reynolds), are rarely off the grid. Like many, theses millennials use some sort of device several times throughout their day. When the two decide to go device-free for the week at a friend’s cabin, they picked the wrong week to do so. Is there a right week to do anything, when aliens attack?

Su and Jack attend a wedding where Jack’s friend Raph (Ben Sinclair) offers the two his cabin for a week. Su and Jack make a pact to go device-free for the week, in an effort to become more authentic.

They begin their week by going on a hike where they hear gunshots in the distance and don’t give it much thought. Later that night, after Jack is unable to start a fire, they see what they think are shooting stars lighting up the night sky. Are these really shooting stars?

“The urge to take out my phone is really strong,” says Su.

One of these shooting stars hits the Earth. And there may or may not be chaos slowly happening all around them, but Su and Jack are so tuned into being authentic they do not notice.

What they do notice is a pouffe, a round hairy something, like a hairy soccer ball in the cabin. They later notice the pouffe can move.

Su and Jack trying to be authentic leads to some arguing and a truthful discussion where Jack admits he doesn’t know how to do ‘manly things,’ like gut a fish. Afterward, Su breaks their pact and checks her phone where she has many voicemails and text messages informing her that these pouffes have begun taking over. Su and Jack decide it’s time to turn their phones back on.

From the information in the texts and voicemails the two have received, these pouffes or possible aliens, are attracted to ethanol. This makes Su and Jack’s car a paperweight. The two freak out but develop a plan. They find a working car in Raph’s shed.

From here things really begin to unravel and get very strange. On their way away from the cabin, they see a pouffe kill two people. As Su and Jack are driving by, they realize this couple had a baby in their vehicle and Su and Jack decide they need to try and save him.

While saving the baby and trying to escape these pouffes, a pouffe attacks Jack.

Will he survive? Do they both escape? What is going on?

This is billed as a comedy and it is mildly funny; let me stress mildy. The first two acts are relatively strong and actually pretty good. It’s the third act where this movie lost me. It just gets too weird, with too many strange turns that didn’t seems to add to the overall plot of the story.

I rented this movie and while it wasn’t a total bust, I would save yourself from “Save Yourselves.” <

Friday, October 16, 2020

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Hubie Halloween’ delivers laughs, frights and a familiar feel

By Matt Pascarella

The character of Hubie Dubois may be new to the screen, but in Adam Sandler’s ‘Hubie Halloween’ Sandler, who plays Hubie, brings a very familiar feel from his past movies, like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore”, to this new character’s story. Several big names, and a few surprise cameos, round out the cast of this relatively new, hilariously spooky Netflix film.

It begins with orderly Hal L. discovering someone has escaped from the psych ward in Salem, Massachusetts.

It’s the day before Halloween and Hubie (Sandler) is preparing for the big day. Hubie is a laughing stock around town. Everyone, kids included, constantly tease and are mean to him.

Hubie meets Walter Lambert (Steve Buscemi) who has moved in next door to Hubie and seems very nice, but Hubie soon notices something is off about Lambert.

Hubie lives with his mother (June Squibb) who tells him he needs to stick up for himself more. The only person who doesn’t tease him is Violet Valentine (Julie Bowen) who he has had a crush on for many years.

The big day is here – Halloween. The movie’s scenery provides a very, what I would call, classic Halloween feel. Salem is preparing for their annual parade. As daylight is fading fast, where is the escaped psych ward patient?

Every year, Hubie dubs himself the Halloween monitor and goes around monitoring the streets to make sure people are being safe.

He hears noise coming from Mr. Lambert’s home and goes to check it out, only to make an odd discovery.

While policing the streets, all of Salem teases Hubie; it’s even said that “messing with Hubie is a Salem tradition.”

Soon, some kids go missing. Then several adults. Now there is a mystery on Salem’s hands and Hubie is on the case. He even gets accused of making these people disappear.

Was Hubie responsible for the disappearances? What about the escaped psych ward patient? Will the lost people be found...alive? And what about Violet and Hubie? What does their future hold?

I am generally a fan of Sandler’s movie’s, though my two favorites, without question, are “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore.” I only mention these two because this movie had a very similar comedy feel to those Sandler movies of the mid 1990s. 

This movie is very slapstick, with potty humor and several call-back jokes to the above mentioned movies; can you spot the references? It does have some language and a fair amount of sexual humor in the form of several risqué t-shirts, worn by Hubie’s mom. I wasn’t a fan of the voice Sandler gave Hubie and I felt the stupidity was a little over-the-top at times, but still enjoyed this movie and would recommend it. It has great music and great cameos.

Two retractable thermoses up – or is that out? Sideways maybe? <

Friday, October 9, 2020

‘The Addams Family’ shows the lighter side of macabre

By Matt Pascarella

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re all together ooky, The Addams family. The macabre family and their wacky antics are brought to life for a new generation. The movie features a star-studded cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Martin Short, Bette Midler, Catherine O’Hara, Tituss Burgess and Snoop Dogg – yes, Snoop Dogg!

What started as a comic strip in the 1930s, a TV series in the 1960s and later multiple movies and multiple animated series in the 1990s, is now a computer animated movie with jokes both kids and adults can enjoy.

The movie begins with Morticia (Theron) and Gomez (Isaac) getting married and the entire Addamses family is at the ceremony when it is interrupted by angry townspeople calling them monsters and saying the Addams family isn’t welcome in their town. They are soon under attack.

The funny gags appear right from the start. As Morticia and Gomez try to escape, they cut the pants of the torch-carrying villagers, revealing an assortment of underwear. The two eventually escape the angry villagers.

Morticia and Gomez later meet Lurch, a servant of theirs, and the three moved into an abandoned insane asylum. 13 years later, they have two children, Wednesday (Mortez) and Pugsley (Finn Wolfhard). 

We meet Wednesday as she awakens for the day, wearing her noose earrings (a nice touch), and seemingly bored of the same routine. Pugsley is playing with a rocket, when he should be practicing for his Mazurka, ‘the most important day in an Addams’ life’ his father tells him. Family members from all over will be coming to watch Pugsley. Wednesday has never left her home and is curious what is beyond the family gate. The family visits a nearby town.

Here, Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) cracks jokes, while the movie conveys a message about conformity. The family meets Margaux Needler (Allison Janey), a home renovator who offers to give the Addams’ home a makeover. Margaux seems innocent enough at first but may have an ulterior motive. Morticia is not interested and turns her down.

Wednesday makes a friend with Margaux’s daughter Parker (Elsie Fisher). In an effort to break her perceived monotony, Wednesday goes to junior high. Meanwhile, Gomez is worried Pugsley will do poorly during his Mazurka.

Margaux leads a charge to get rid of the Addams family.

Will the Addams family be driven out of town? What happens to Wednesday? How will Pugsley do at his Mazurka?

I was never a fan of the 1960s TV show or the 1990s movies and animated series. This was a good movie though. It had a decent storyline that works for kids and adults. It had a nice message about being different told through Wednesday’s and Parker’s storyline. There are a few scary voices or what could be considered frightening scenes, but overall, I found it relatively tame. Available on Hulu or to rent.

‘Thing’ gives it one thumb up! <

Friday, October 2, 2020

Netflix’s ‘Enola Holmes’ a tale of empowerment and mystery

By Matt Pascarella

There is a mystery afoot. On the morning of her 16th birthday, Eudoria Holmes (Helena Bonham Carter) went missing. Eudoria is mother to Enola (Millie Bobby Brown). Enola’s father died when she was very young and her brothers, Mycroft (Sam Clafin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill) (yes, that Sherlock) moved away soon after.

Her brothers have come home to help find their mother. The relationship between the three is strained. They haven’t seen each other in so long, it’s almost as if they are meeting for the first time.

When the brothers first arrived, they seem more interested in making sure Enola is on the correct path she should be on, rather than finding their mother.

However, Enola has no interest in going to “Miss Harrison’s (Fiona Shaw) Finishing School for Young Ladies” and takes it upon herself to begin looking for her mother. She quickly realizes her mother has left her clues. The clues take her on quite a journey. While on a train to London, she meets Viscount Tewkesbury, Marquess of Basilwether (Louis Partridge) who is being chased by a man (Burn Gorman).

We later learn this man is related to Tewkesbury. Enola saves Tewkesbury from this man and the two part ways when they reach London.

When Enola arrives in London, she knows she must stay hidden from her brothers, who will be searching for her. In order to do so she must become unexpected. As she travels from place to place, spot to spot, I wondered, what has Eudoria planned? Where is she? What are her motives for doing this?

Sherlock is on Enola’s trail; though she still remains out of his grasp. Enola is now on the trail to find Tewkesbury, who is in danger. Enola finds his treehouse and meets his grandmother, who seems nice enough – at first.

Enola and Tewkesbury find each other again. She tells him she is searching for her mother.

Enola is caught by her brother Mycroft who sends her back to finishing school where she does not enjoy it. She and Sherlock discuss where their mother might be.

“Perhaps she wants to change the world,” says Sherlock. “Perhaps it’s a world that needs changing,” says Enola.

Tewkesbury has another run-in with that disgruntled family member and once again, needs saving.

Another family member appears claiming the future of the country is at stake. This statement is made in response to a reform vote that Tewkesbury could alter.

Where is Eudoria? What will become of Enola and Tewkesbury? Will Enola ever find her mother?

While this is a good movie, it’s slow burn. It has a central theme of making a difference and finding your own path. You have to make some noise if you want to be heard. It also has an underlying political thread.

This is a mystery with a decent amount of action. I found the end satisfying and unexpected, though the reasoning is slightly complex. It’s a fun movie I would recommend. Two sticks of dynamite up – that’s how you make the noise. <