Friday, December 31, 2021

Movie Review: What to watch as the new year approaches

By Matt Pascarella

2022 is mere hours away, and as you wait for the ball to drop you may be looking for a movie (or two) to pass the time. Here is an earlier favorite plus a couple others to close out 2021.

Happy New Year!

The Harder They Fall   Rated: R   Runtime: 2 hours, 19 min

I regret waiting so long to watch this; it’s a great western. When Nat Love (Johnathan Majors) was young, Rufus Buck (Idris Elba) killed his family. Now, years later, Buck is out for revenge. This movie grabs your attention from the start and offers a few surprises. When Rufus is released from prison, Nat Love rounds up a crew to go after Rufus. This movie has a great soundtrack and solid action. It is fairly violent with rough language – they are cowboys. Starring Zazie Beetz, RJ Cyler, Regina King, DeWanda Wise and LaKeith Stanfield; two six-shooters up. Available on Netflix.

Ron’s Gone Wrong   Rated: PG   Runtime: 1 hour, 51 min

Marc Wydell (Justice Smith) has created an algorithm for friendship with the world’s first Bubble Bot – your best friend out of the box. A B*Bot helps kids connect through social media; and everyone at Nonsuch Middle School has one, except Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer). Barney has trouble making friends and his dad (Ed Helms) is concerned. When Barney finally gets a B*Bot, Ron (Zach Galifianakis), it’s a little defective. Barney goes to return Ron but realizes he might not be as defective as originally thought. However, the Bubble company is aware of this defective bot and wants it back. This is a nice movie about friendship with lessons about the importance of not being glued to our devices. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” is an uplifting story to take you into the new year starring Olivia Coleman, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall and Ricardo Hurtado. Two robot shaped beanies up. Available on Disney+

Queenpins   Rated: R   Runtime: 1 hour, 51 min

Connie (Kristen Bell) and her friend JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) love couponing. They are always looking for new ways to save and make money. When Connie complains to a manufacturer about a stale box of Wheaties, she receives a coupon for a free box – which gives her an idea. An idea where she and JoJo sell coupons and make a boatload of cash. However, their efforts do not go unnoticed. Ken (Paul Walter Hauser) and Simon (Vince Vaughn) are tailing them. And aside from that, things spiral a little more for Connie and JoJo. Based on actual events. A funny, feel-good crime drama starring Lidia Porto, Joel McHale and Bebe Rexha. Two coupons up. Available on Paramount+, Showtime and to rent.

Ted Lasso   2 seasons

American Football coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) takes his knowledge of European soccer – which is nothing – to manage AFC Richmond, an English soccer team that could use a little help. The owner of the league Rebecca (Hannah Waddingham) hired Lasso to make the team worse in hopes of seeking revenge against her cheating ex-husband. However, Lasso and his assistant coach, Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt), might change her mind. “Ted Lasso” stars Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple and Nick Mohammed. An all-around winner. It is only available on Apple TV+, but I promise, “Ted Lasso” is well worth $4.99 a month. Two biscuits up. <

Friday, December 10, 2021

Movie Review: ‘8-bit Christmas’ reminds you what season is all about

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG

Runtime: 1 hour, 37 minutes

It’s Christmastime in the late 1980s and there is just one gift on every kid’s mind ... Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It was so awesome it wasn’t just a console; it was an entire system.

Jake takes his daughter Annie to visit her grandparents for the Christmas holiday. They arrive early and no one is home. Annie is bored and Jake seizes this opportunity to tell her how he got his Nintendo, which Annie says looks like Tupperware.

Like Jake, I didn’t have an NES growing up and it was something really special when I got to go to a friend’s house who had one.

Before Jake begins his story, he tells Annie it’s probably the most amazing, dangerous story of all time. Given what followed I don’t know about all time, but it certainly was a very good story that is filled with thrills, spills and chills.

This fun, family-friendly movie stars Neil Patrick Harris, Winslow Fegley, Steve Zahn, June Diane Raphael, Bellauna Resnick, Sophia Reid-Gantzert, Che Tafari, Santino Barnard, Max Malas, Chandler Dean and David Cross.

Annie (Reid-Gantzert) isn’t overly impressed when her dad, Jake (Harris) tells her he wanted a Nintendo even more than she wants a phone. She tells him that’s not possible. They begin to play, and you see some classic Nintendo setup techniques like blowing in the bottom of the cartridge to make it work.

It’s the late 1980s and the only kid in Batavia, Illinois with a Nintendo was anger-driven Timmy Keane (Dean). On Saturday mornings he would allow 10 kids into his home where they could be able to play this glorious machine, if Timmy let them.

Young Jake (Fegley) knows he needs his own system and will stop at nothing to get one. Since it is Christmastime, he asks his parents (Zahn and Raphael) who are a “no-go on the ‘Tendo.”

Young Jake enters a wreath selling contest through the Ranger Scouts where a flyer shows that first prize is a Nintendo. He does everything he can to make sure his list has the most wreath sales on it.

Every kid in town is working very hard to be the top wreath seller. Despite their efforts, something happens to alter the results.

Other plans are made between Young Jake and his friends. Do they work? We already know Jake eventually gets a Nintendo, but how did he get it?

Young Jake is very focused on this goal but is reminded what the season is all about by a scalper (Cross).

I think this is the perfect definition of a family Christmas movie. Adults might get nostalgic for this video game system they had when they were kids. And kids can learn what video games used to be like.

This is a very funny movie that, in all honesty, made me realize my age. At one point Jake is telling Annie something happened at a roller rink and Annie has no idea what that is. Why would she?

There is a sweet ending that will warm any Grinch’s heart and is wi – I should stop. Trust me, this is a good one.

Two NES controllers up!

Available on HBO Max. <

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Movie Review: Netflix’s ‘Red Notice’ an action-packed historical thrill ride

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes

In the movie Red Notice’s prologue, we learn there were three bejeweled eggs that Marc Antony gave to Cleopatra before their wedding. Two of those eggs were recovered outside of Cairo with the third only rumored to be in existence. No one has ever found it or is 100 percent sure it exists.

In Rome, one of the eggs is on display in the famous Castel Sant’Angelo Museum. There is word that someone may have already stolen the egg, despite it being on display in front of a large crowd. John Hartley proves this to be true. He and Inspector Das order the room be sealed off, but Hartley notices a man hurriedly escape through the closing doors as alarms blare from all over.

This is just the beginning of this gripping crime-comedy starring Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson, Ryan Reynolds, Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos and Ivan Mbakop. It’s a fun adventure right from the start.

Nolan Booth (Reynolds) is doing his best to try and escape from Hartley (Johnson) and Das (Arya). Booth claims he’s quite an art thief and will later say it usually works out pretty well for him.

56 hours later, we are in Bali, Indonesia and Booth returns home only to find Hartley waiting for him. Hartley says he works for the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). He’s been following Booth who is wanted in several countries.

A Red Notice is the highest level of arrest warrant issued by Interpol, reserved for the world’s most wanted criminals.

Hartley takes the stolen Cleopatra egg, puts it in a police van opposite the van Booth was loaded into and drives off.

Things don’t exactly go the way Hartley would have wanted. He finds himself in Russia with the most annoying – and familiar – cellmate.

Here, they meet The Bishop (Gadot), the best art thief in the world. The Bishop informs Hartley he has been framed.

Hartley and Booth devise a plan to take down The Bishop by crashing a party where they can steal the second known egg. Hartley wants to clear his name by arresting The Bishop and Booth just wants to become the No. 1 art thief again.

The second egg is in the possession of an international arms dealer Sotto Voce (Diamantopoulos). Hartley and Booth plan to crash an exclusive party Voce is throwing.

From here on out, so many crazy things happen. It’s a lot of fun and might keep you guessing about who works for whom.

When I saw the cast to this movie, I was pretty much sold. Gadot, Johnson, Reynolds. It’s a winning combination. This movie grabs your attention from second one and kept me interested until the very end. It has some unbelievably ridiculous stunts that are fun on the big or small screen. Reynolds has a Deadpool-esque demeanor, and he and Johnson are a very funny pair. Gadot’s performance as the ... well I better stop there, but suffice to say, she kicks butt.

Two stylish leather jackets up.

Playing in select theaters and streaming on Netflix. <

Friday, November 12, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Here Today’ a nice story of friendship

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 57 minutes

Rated PG-13

This movie is what I would consider a hidden gem. It hit harder than I was expecting. It’s both funny, but also emotional and heartbreaking.

When comedy writer Charlie Burnz is diagnosed with a form of dementia, he wants to get his thoughts about his late wife on paper while he still can. When he meets Emma, they form a friendship which becomes important to both of them.

Based on the short story, “The Prize” by Alan Zweibal, “Here Today” stars Billy Crystal, Tiffany Haddish, Penn Badgley, Laura Benanti, Louisa Krause, Alex Brightman, and Audrey Hsieh.

Charlie (Crystal) has been a comedy writer all his life and works on a Saturday Night Live-type show. One day, he has lunch with Emma (Haddish) a singer whose ex-boyfriend won a lunch with him from an auction, but she decided to go. Emma orders a bunch of seafood, which to her surprise, she is allergic to. It lands her in the hospital where Charlie has to pay a lot to get her out and healthy, but he saves her life.

Charlie is in the early stages of dementia and has flashbacks to a specific horrible event in his life. He also occasionally forgets people’s names or who they are.

When Emma stops by to pay Charlie back some of the money she owes him, she learns a little about his life. Emma and Charlie become friends. Charlie tells Emma about his dementia and that he wants to write a book for his wife; he has to finish before he runs out of words. Emma wants to help him. She does what she can to help him remember.

Charlie has a strained relationship with his children (Padgley and Benanti) because of the horrible incident.

Charlie’s dementia is getting worse. During a taping of the show, Charlie has an outburst, which receives a mixed reaction. The flashbacks are intensifying.

Charlie is angry. He’s told he can’t be alone anymore. Emma says she’ll stay with him. Their friendship grows.

At one point, Charlie’s granddaughter, Lindsay (Hsieh) runs away from her mom. Charlie and she take a trip but then Charlie ran away. Lindsay gets scared and calls her mom. What follows will make you smile.

I thought Haddish and Crystal are a good pair. This movie had a lot of heart. I thought there was some classic, Billy Crystal humor in this movie. Emma and Charlie are going to Lindsay’s Bat Mitzvah, and he tells he can’t dance and was the only person who ever had to take out Mambo insurance.

I thought the acting was very good – especially Crystal’s. Early on, both Emma and Charlie are unsure or indifferent about the other person, especially after Emma’s shellfish incident. The more they get to know each other, the more they like and begin to care about and for one another.

This movie might make you might shed a tear or two, but overall, I enjoyed it and would suggest anyone rent this. Two typewriters up.

Available to rent on most major streaming platforms. <

Friday, October 29, 2021

Movie Review: ‘The Night House’ might creep you out

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

How well do you really know the people you think you know? A disturbing thought. Beth returns home from her husband Owen’s funeral, after he committed suicide. In her grief, she notices a few unusual things happen in their house. Are these things real or is it something else? This movie caught me off guard in several places and was a good scare, especially with Halloween just days away.

“The Night House” starts in a very dark place but took me on an emotional ride where I wasn’t sure what to think or what was actually occurring. This movie stars Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigket, Stacy Martin, and Samantha Buck.

Beth (Hall) is understandably shaken up and despondent after the death of her husband. Once she returns home, she notices the gate to her dock is open; she closes it and later on notices it’s open, again.

Later that night, Beth has a weird dream … or was it a dream? It seems so real to her that she goes searching for clues in Owen’s (Jonigket) phone. What she finds only opens the door to more questions. Her friend, Claire (Goldberg) tells her everyone has secrets though Beth insists she and Owen did not.

More weird things happen. Beth searches into what she thinks may have been one of Owen’s secrets. She makes a discovery or two and things complicated.

One afternoon, Beth is walking in the woods and runs into her neighbor Mel (Curtis-Hall). He tells her she’s not in her right mind. I’m still not 100 percent sure if he was right. After she questions him intensely, Mel admits a few things to Beth. Here she finds out more about Owen’s alleged secrets.

Beth digs more and the situation only spirals. What was Owen up to?

Beth visits a bookstore where she meets Madelyne (Martin) who sheds more light on who Owen really was. Despite it taking a real toll on her mental state, Beth continues to look for more information, against Claire’s advice.

What she finds was confusing, exciting, mildly horrifying and satisfying all wrapped up into one.

I had zero expectations going in. I had seen several ads and it look like a decent thriller/horror movie. This movie has what I would call the rollercoaster effect; it’s a little slow to start. As I was climbing to the top, the first few events happen to Beth, before a sharp drop and a fast ride with my heart pumping and I felt nervous in several places along the way. I was creeped out in a couple spots. I also tried the entire time to figure out what was really happening but could not until the very end – and I’m still unsure if I was actually correct.

A minor spoiler alert: the ending left me with questions, but overall, I enjoyed this movie and would recommend it. Two stereo systems up.

Available to rent on most major streaming platforms. <

Friday, October 15, 2021

Movie Review: What to watch during the scariest time of year

By Matt Pascarella

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Halloween is coming right up. In the past I’ve recommended some of what I considered ‘the best of the best’ for scary movies. This year, I thought I’d take a different route and list some deeper cuts from a variety of streaming services to give you a fright, or a chuckle during this festive season.

The Seventh Day (Rated R) Netflix

After Father Peter (Guy Pearce) is part of an exorcism gone wrong, he tells his protégé Father Daniel (Vadhir Derbez) he has a score to settle. When the two go to a house where a boy murdered his family, it’s up to Father Daniel to handle this exorcism. Can he save this boy from demonic possession?

This has a strong start and keeps the story gripping until the end. It has many of the things you would expect from a movie about an exorcism: levitation, flickering lights and demonic voices. It is slightly gruesome in parts. Two thumbs up.

Ghosts (series) HBO Max

This is a series from the British Broadcasting Company. When Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inherits a mansion, Button House, she and her husband, Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) discover there are a variety of ghosts that have lived there for years. And only Alison can see them. There are many, but just a few ghosts include: a caveman, a scoutmaster and a politician.

This is a very funny show with three seasons currently available and an Americanized version currently airing on CBS. There’s no blood or guts or frightening scenes. Just goofy ghosts trying to interact and appeal to the living. Highly recommended.

Muppets Haunted Mansion (TV-PG) Disney+

When Gonzo gets the opportunity to spend the night in a haunted mansion on the 100th anniversary of the disappearance of magician The Great MacGuffin, he jumps at that chance. He brings his friend Pepe the Prawn along. This was funny from the start, and as Pepe would say has many “famous peoples” in it. Many of the Muppets in the mansion are trapped by fear and Gonzo must discover and then conquer his fear in order to escape – and make sure he has Pepe with him when he leaves.

I think kids and adults can enjoy this, though as the Muppets go, it’s a little darker with scarier Muppets and could be frightful to younger viewers. However, I found this to be a lot of fun. Two busts of Pat Sajak up!

The Manor (Not Rated) Amazon Prime

A lot of this movie might seem like a sad story of a woman being forced to live in a home against her will, but it’s more than that. It took me to a place I never saw coming.

When Judith (Barbara Hershey) moves into an assisted living facility, she expects something is up from the beginning. Her roommate asks her if she sees him; this is concerning. Judith keeps seeing a man, or figure, but is told – by the manor – this is because she has Parkinson’s Dementia. Things get even weirder, and Judith tries to convince her grandson (Nicholas Alexander) the staff is in on it. Just wait until the end.

Two black cats up. <

Friday, October 1, 2021

Disney+’s ‘Luca’ family fun for water and land

By Matt Pascarella

Disney/Pixar has done it again. “Luca” is an underwater adventure that takes you to the surface with two friends who discover that taking a chance is worth it in the long run. When sea monsters Luca and Alberto risk being discovered when they take a trip to Human Town, also known as Portorosso, they meet Giulia and the three show each other friendship comes in all shapes, sizes and species.

When Luca and Alberto are away from water, they become human – they only turn into sea monsters if they get wet. The three team up to win the Portorosso Race, a traditional Italian triathlon consisting of swimming, bike riding and eating pasta. Winning won’t be easy as Ercole Visconti has won six years in a row.

Available on Disney+ and stars Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Saverio Raimondo, Sandy Martin and Sasha Baron Cohen.

In the town of Portorosso on the Italian Riveria, many of its residents have heard lore of seas monsters inhabiting the water. Two fishermen sit in a boat, and one asks the other if they really need to fish near the island.

“What if the stories are true?” he says.

The other fisherman tells him those are just stories to keep them from getting a really good fishing spot. They throw their net and all of a sudden, they catch something. They see a fin and then a tail. There is a sea monster caught in the net. He breaks free, but many items from the boat fall to the bottom of the sea.

Luca (Tremblay) finds an alarm clock and a playing card. He fears land monsters (humans) when he sees the underside of a boat. Luca quickly daydreams of going above the water. Luca’s mother (Rudolph) has instilled quite a fear in him to stay away from land monsters.

“We do not talk, think, discuss or go anywhere near the surface,” she tells him.

Luca wonders what lies above the water’s edge.

His wonder overpowers his fear when he meets Alberto (Grazer) who shows Luca there is a lot of life above the surface. Alberto introduces him to the Vespa and Luca is instantly hooked to life on land.

When they travel to Portorosso and meet Giulia (Berman), the three decide to enter a triathlon and aim to beat town bully and reigning champ, Ercole (Raimondo).

Along the way, it gets harder and harder for Luca and Alberto to hide the fact that they are sea monsters.

Meanwhile, Luca’s parents have entered Portorosso to bring him back to live with his uncle (Cohen).

This movie is filled with optimism. Luca is very timid and afraid to try new things, and his friend Alberto tells him you can silence that voice in your head – a Bruno – that tells you you can’t do stuff by simply saying “silenzio Bruno!”

“Luca” stresses the themes of friendship, family, trust and conquering fear. Sometimes you just need a little push. A fin and a thumb up!

Available to watch on Disney+. <

Friday, September 17, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Relic’ could leave you with questions

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 29 minutes

Rated: R

Right off the bat, let me say this is a slow burn. It’s a burn that you might think fizzles a little toward the end. The ending did catch my attention, but ultimately left me with questions. Don’t let the pace of this movie discourage you from watching it; it’s pretty good.

When Kay finds out that her mother, Edna hasn’t been seen in a few days, she becomes worried. Kay and her daughter Sam look everywhere they think she could be. In searching for Edna, Kay and Sam discover that there might be more going on at Edna’s home than either of them was originally aware.

Kay and Sam notice Edna’s behavior to be erratic and there is no logical explanation for it. Has something happened to her? Or is it deeper than that? “Relic” stars Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer, Bella Heathcote, Steve Rodgers, Chris Bunton, and Catherine Glavicic.

Once it is noticed that Edna (Nevin) is missing, Kay (Mortimer) files a report with the police and goes on a hunt for her with her daughter, Sam (Heathcote). Once found, they realize Edna’s isn’t who she used to be. She stares off in one direction at times, seemingly absent from the actual world or makes cruel comments that come from nowhere.

At one point, Edna turns to Kay and tells her “It’s here.” She then asks Kay to look under her bed to make sure there is nothing there. Edna says she’ll lose everything at one point and is seen with black marks, possibly bruises, on her body.

You see shadows at various points in the movie, in the distance or under a doorframe. Edna hugs Kay part way through and there is blood around Edna’s fingernails.

Sam goes exploring in a series of rooms behind the walls of Edna’s house and finds Post-It notes with various reminders concerning Edna and her life. One of the Post-Its says ‘my name is Edna.’ When Sam gets lost exploring back rooms at Edna’s home, she comes to a harsh realization.

Kay notices the continuing black marks on Edna’s body and black in her blood as well. What does this mean for Edna and the family? Is there someone or something attacking Edna?

Like I said in the beginning, this is a slow burn. It did keep me engaged through Edna’s strange behavior. While the end isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, it’s decent. It may surprise you.

This movie will not have you jumping out of your seat in fright, but there are parts that might make you gasp. Pay attention to the backgrounds. The sharp and biting musical accompaniment can sometimes build to an unforeseen event, but sometimes it can be nothing. You’ll have to watch to find out. I’d say this is worth a viewing. One thumb up.

You can purchase this movie where available or watch on Showtime.  <


Friday, September 3, 2021

‘Ted Lasso’ an upbeat winner for Apple TV+

By Matt Pascarella

Two seasons

American football coach turned European football coach Ted Lasso is almost instantly likeable. This is a feel-good show worth your time.

From the outstanding cast of supporting characters to it’s funny and folksy dialogue from this Kansas coach who finds himself navigating a strange, new world; this is a great show.

Available only on Apple TV+, but I promise signing up for a month just to watch this is money well spent. It stars Jason Sudeikis, Hannah Waddingham, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Juno Temple, Brendan Hunt and Nick Mohammed.

After she discovers her husband has been cheating on her, co-owner of England’s AFC Richmond football team, Rebecca Welton (Waddingham) gets the team in her divorce. Her plan is to hire a terrible coach and tank the team as revenge against her ex-husband.

She hires Lasso (Sudeikis) who admits to not understanding anything about soccer.

He and his assistant coach, Coach Beard (Hunt) and equipment manager Nate Sullivan (Mohammed) aren’t met with the warmest welcome from fans. Despite his best efforts, he is viewed as a joke and members of the team are just counting the days until he goes back to America.

Coach Lasso makes it known early on he is up to this challenge. While he is instantly disliked by many from the start, Lasso has a way of winning them over, whether it be his persistence of getting to know cold owner Rebecca with his morning ‘biscuits with the boss’ or the way he deals with the players notably Jamie Tartt (Dunster) and Roy Kent (Goldstein).

Lasso quips many pearls of wisdom throughout the series that stuck in my head.

After a fight breaks out in the locker room, he tells the players,“I like my locker room like I like my mama’s bathing suits – in one piece.”

That’s just funny.

Part of Lasso’s likeability comes from the fact that he is very positive despite the odds kind of being against him. He really tries to make the best of things. This show highlights the power of positivity.

In a particularly excellent scene where he earns some points with Rebecca, he explains that he’s been underestimated his whole life and encourages those around him to ‘be curious, not judgmental.’

The relationships between the characters, like player Jamie Tartt and model Keeley Jones (Temple) show exceptional character development. Over the course of the series, Lasso affects all the characters in one way or another.

The future of AFC Richmond and those associated with it continues to develop in new, heartfelt ways. Will Lasso remain up to the challenge?

Currently in its second season, episodes are so layered with jokes, you have to wait to laugh sometimes, so you don’t miss the next joke. In juxtaposition with its charm, there is a quite a bit of swearing throughout the series.

The end of every episode always leaves me wanting more. I’d recommend this show; give it at least three episodes. I think “Ted Lasso” will hook you before then.

Two army men up.

New episodes every Friday on Apple TV+. <

Friday, August 20, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Jungle Cruise’ film a wild ride

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 2 hours, 38 minutes

Rated PG-13

This movie has everything: action, adventure, a bit of romance, more action, legends, curses, and it’s a lot of fun. Dr. Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt), her brother, MacGregor (Jack Whitehall) and skipper Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) go on an expedition in search of the Tears of the Moon, a tree with healing powers more important than originally presented. I really enjoyed this fun and funny movie the whole family can get on board for.

While you can rent this movie, seeing it in the theater gives it an effect your television just can’t provide. This action-packed comedy is best seen on the big, big screen.

Based on the ride at Walt Disney World, “Jungle Cruise” is currently in theaters and available on Disney+ and stars Dwayne Johnson, Emily Blunt, Jack Whitehall, Edgar Ramirez, Jesse Plemons and Paul Giamatti.

The Spanish conquistador, Aguirre (Ramierez) has been searching for the Tears of the Moon in order to cure his daughter, who was very sick in the 1500s. History says he failed; legend tells more. He was found by guardians and nursed back to life. Aguirre demanded the guardians give him the lifesaving arrowhead that would lead to the Tears of the Moon. However, legend says he was cursed and trapped.

It’s now 1916. Adventure-seeking Dr. Lily Houghton is in search of the Tears of the Moon which has petals that will benefit the scientific community. Her brother who’s less enthusiastic about adventure, MacGregor, is along for the ride. They prepare to go on an expedition in the Amazon where they will meet a dad-joke telling, somewhat shifty character and skipper, Frank, who will help them to look for the legendary Tears of the Moon.

MacGregor and Dr. Lily travel to Brazil where Dr. Lily shows Frank a map leading to the Tears of the Moon.

After a bit of arguing and a few close calls, one of which was dodging a torpedo, the three begin the journey.

Meanwhile, wealthy German aristocrat Prince Joachim (Plemons) is also looking for the arrowhead which would lead him to the Tears of the Moon. He wants it in order to help the Germans win World War I.  In his search he summons conquistador Aguirre.

After Lily finds a bunch of maps in Frank’s chambers and realizes Frank might also be searching for the Tears of the Moon, despite his insistence he has given up trying, the three are attacked by headhunters. Their search might be over.

During a fight with Aguirre, Frank gets stabbed – and this is just beginning of the story.

This is definitely a movie the whole family can watch. It has amazing special effects.

The chemistry between Johnson and Blunt is immediate. She tells him at one point “you are a lot of things that I don’t really care for” but goes on the expedition anyway.

The many hijinks and comedy this movie provided had me smiling ear to ear. The bad ‘dad jokes’ were one of my favorite parts. If you’re looking for more fun after you watch the movie, check out some of the post-movie interviews Johnson and Blunt did on YouTube; they’re very funny.

I enjoyed this adventure. This is a movie to be watched over and over again.

A fun ride altogether.

Two arrowheads way up! <

Friday, August 6, 2021

Movie Review: ‘The Woman in the Window’ keeps you guessing until very end

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 40 minutes

Rated: R

“The Woman in the Window” is based on a novel by A.J. Finn and had me going back and forth and back and forth asking myself “what’s really happening here?” I had put off seeing this for a while and wish I hadn’t because it was very good; I consider it a decent thriller. What’s real and what is fake? Is it all in Anna’s mind or is it something more?

This movie is very reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” but doesn’t go exactly the same way. This Netflix original movie stars Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Anthony Mackie, Fred Hechinger, Julianne Moore, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wyatt Russell, and Brian Tyree Henry.

Anna Fox (Adams) is separated from her husband for reasons unknown and has one child when we first meet her. She is agoraphobic – unable to go outside – and spends all her time in her home. She has very little human interaction, with the exception of her tenant, David (Russell).

To pass the time, she spies on the neighbors in the various buildings around her home; she even discusses them in a session with an in-home psychiatrist. When a new family moves in across the street, they seem friendly enough at first, when 15-year-old Ethan (Hechinger) brings a gift from his mom to Anna. Later on, Anna meets Ethan’s mom, Jane (Moore).

Here’s where the story begins to unravel. When Anna suspects that Jane is in trouble, she makes a few 911 calls in an attempt to save her. Alistair Russell (Oldman) even comes over to shout at Anna and tell her to stay away, but not before a scared Ethan tells Anna his father isn’t a bad man, he’s just stressed.

The further and further I got into this movie, the more I thought everyone might be a suspect for the incident in question. After a photo of her sleeping at 2 a.m. is emailed to Anna from an anonymous account, Anna is convinced someone has been in her home. However, she is trying out some new medication, so is her medicine messing with her reality? Or is it something else?

I wasn’t on the edge-of-my-seat for most of this movie, but I was very interested. What is up with Anna? What am I not being told? I was suspicious of Jane Russell and Alistair from the start. I felt I was led to believe Jane was more in danger than she might be. There seemed to be a lot of focus on her. As it turned out I was both right and wrong.

I found this to be a relatively fast-paced movie with the third act dragging only a little. I tried the entire movie to figure out what was happening and was pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

I thought this was a dark and gripping tale of possible mistaken identity, anxiety and confusion. If you are a fan of thrillers or suspense movies, this “Rear Window” -like story is definitely a solid movie I enjoyed.

Two cats up. <

Friday, July 23, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ updated version only okay

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 55 minutes

Rated PG

In 1996, the Tune Squad went head-to-head against the MonStars with the help of Michael Jordan, to give his friends their talents back. Now, twenty-five years later, the Tune Squad is back with the help of LeBron James. They hit the court against the Goon Squad to save James’ son from being trapped in the Warner Brothers Serververse and to save the Tunes from being deleted.

This version contains many elements of its predecessor, but while funny in some spots, doesn’t pack the same punch as the original. This movie is available in theaters and streaming on HBO Max starring LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Cedric Joe, Sonequa Martin-Green, Sue Bird, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson and Nneka Ogwumike.

We begin in 1998 in Akron, Ohio where a young James plays in a school basketball game. Afterwards, his coach tells him you cannot be great without putting in the work. Fast forward to James passing on that same lesson on to his kids. One of his sons, Dom (Joe) isn’t that interested in basketball. He’s more interested in videogames and even designed one of his own.

After a meeting with some Warner Brothers executives, James and Dom get trapped in the Warner Brothers Serververse by Al G. Rhythm (Cheadle). Rhythm sends James to the Tune World after making a deal with James that if he wins a basketball game, he and his son can leave the Serververse. If he loses, his son has to stay. Rhythm takes Dom and gives James 24 hours to assemble a team who are the Looney Tunes squad.

No disrespect to King James, but for large parts of the movie I was waiting for Michael Jordan to step in. There’s even a scene referencing that happening. A lot of the jokes, like anvils, fake tunnels, and dynamite, are very similar to what you would see in a Looney Tunes cartoon, or even in the first “Space Jam.”

I did like the game that took place in the Warner Brothers serververse, which was a multiverse featuring characters from a variety of Warner Brothers movies and television shows crowded around to watch the game. I spotted Gremlins, King Kong, Flintstones and “Game of Thrones” characters, just to name a few. I wish more of them could have interacted with the Tune Squad.

I had little to no expectations going into this and thought Lebron James was a good choice for a sequel. I did not think this was as good as the first. I think overall this was an okay movie with funny lines and lots of callbacks to the first one. To its credit, it does have a nice lesson of the importance of family and doing what you like, instead of trying to please others. There were some very cool special effects as well as one of my favorite things, cameos. I liked Don Cheadle as the bad guy; he did a great job. I would recommend you watch Jordan’s “Space Jam” in addition to this one. One basketball up.  <

Friday, July 16, 2021

Movie Review: ‘All Joking Aside’ better than expected

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 23 minutes

When I decided to review this movie, I thought it was going to focus more on comedy than it turned out to. About a third of the way through I realized this wasn’t just about jokes and becoming a stand-up comedian. It is about comedy, but there are layers. It’s also about pursuing your dreams, friendship along with a few deeper subjects like sexism. It’s very good; I wouldn’t say it’s laugh-out-loud-funny, but it is funny in places.

The movie is available on Amazon Prime Video and stars Raylene Harewood, Brian Markinson, Tanya Jade, Dave ‘Squatch’ Ward, Amanda Friesen, Katrina Reynolds, and Antony Joseph.

Charlene (Harewood), or Charlie as she likes to go by, is an aspiring stand-up comedian. Her very first time going on stage she is heckled by Bob (Markinson) who used to be a comedian but hasn’t performed in a while. Charlie doesn’t want to give up and goes to Bob for help. Bob isn’t the nicest of guys in the beginning and refuses to help her.

Charlie will not take ‘no’ for an answer. She continues to ask him until he finally agrees to help – for $250 a week. I thought the advice Bob gives Charlie was actually helpful. He encourages her to write and write, find the funny in the mundane and signs her up for several open mics as well as a comedy contest. There are a few problems that come up for both Bob and Charlie along the way.

As a fan of comedy, I found the advice given to Charlie to be similar to what I’ve heard other comedians give when you’re just starting out. If you want to be a comedian, you have to just do it. At one point, Charlie is talking with Bob about how she struggled on stage when another comedian talked about everything she had planned to talk about.

Bob tells her that writing is rewriting, and it may take 100 gigs to get the bit right, but that’s okay. Aside from the stand-up comedian parts of this movie, it also deals with more serious issues like health concerns and family problems. Bob is a real jerk at first who makes it pretty clear he only cares about himself, but after he and Charlie work together, that changes.

The two, though different, found common ground over a shared love of comedy. I felt like it was acted very well. There’s good character development.

This movie shows that if you work hard enough, you can accomplish your goals. It’s also okay to ask for help – even from an unlikely source of information; you never know what may develop. There’s a bit of sexism toward Charlie. A couple male comics tease her and accuse her of riding their coattails. Despite all this, Charlie moves forward and continues to pursue her dream.

I liked this movie. It’s heartfelt. Comedy is obviously a focal point, but there’s so the relationship between Bob and Charlie as well as some of the issues surrounding both of them like family problems, death, and their health.

Although comedy is a large part of the movie, I did not find this to be a really funny movie. It has funny lines and funny moments, but it would not categorize it as a ‘comedy.’ I would categorize it as a ‘feel-good’ movie, worth a watch.

Two microphones up. <

Friday, July 9, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ an action-packed rollercoaster

By Matt Pascarella

Run time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

One is King of the Monsters; the other is King of the Apes. What would happen if the two met? Could the world handle it? I wanted to see this movie for one reason and one reason alone: the fight scenes. In previous Kong movies, the King battled dinosaurs which was quite a special effects sight for the eyes.

In “Godzilla vs. Kong,” the special effects are detailed and incredible. There are several scenes where the two fight each other and I was not disappointed by their battle. The movie is available through streaming services and stars Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobbie Brown, Rebecca Hall, Eliza Gonzalez, Kaylee Hottle, Julian Dennison, Brian Tyree Henry, and Demian Bichir.

These two behemoths each have movie franchises that have been around for a while. Godzilla and Kong have even met before in the early 1960s. When I saw the two were meeting again in a modern-day movie, I was interested. It was kind of like seeing two heavyweight boxers go head-to-head in the ring, except this time the boxers are monsters, and they are each hundreds of feet tall. At one point Kong punches Godzilla and the monster hurdles through the water. Kong then leaps from a barge into the water. As the barge explodes, the beast and monster resume their battle. This is a fun movie.

Kong is somewhere on Skull Island where he is being contained. A deaf little girl, Jia (Hottle) is the only one with whom Kong will communicate. After Godzilla attacks technology company Apex Cybernetics, CEO Walter Simmons (Bichir) asks Dr. Nathan Lind (Skarsgard) to help figure out why Godzilla attacked. Kong is brought from Skull Island on a barge with Dr. Andrews (Hall), who has been looking after Kong. Lind tells Andrews they need to use Kong as an ally against Godzilla. It could save the world.

Is Apex Cybernetics hiding something? Can Godzilla be stopped? What happens to Kong?

I loved the action when these two went head-to-head. While I felt like this movie is probably meant to stand on its own, it might help if you’ve seen others – but is probably not 100 percent necessary. I don’t think I was rooting for one or the other; it was just fun to see their interactions.

I found this to be a relatively fast-paced movie. It did have a few slow spots but was well worth the rental. It had great detail in the special effects. The detail in Kong’s fur and nails almost makes you almost believe this is an actual giant ape. Godzilla has great detail in his face; when he screams or roars you see it shake. When Godzilla and Kong fight, individual pieces of glass fall from the shattered buildings they hit. These are great action sequences with a lot of explosions. It also has a soundtrack with some decent songs to accompany all the action.

An ape thumb and a monster claw up.

Available to rent on Google and Apple. <

Friday, July 2, 2021

Movie Review: ‘The Last Blockbuster’ might take you back, but that’s about it

By Matt Pascarella

Running time 86 minutes

I remember walking on the blue carpet through a sea of video tapes, trying to find the perfect one for my Friday or Saturday night. What’s a video tape? Good question. You hardly see them anymore unless you come across a stack in the basement or find a row or pile of unwanted movies at Goodwill.

There was a day when video tapes and Blockbuster were a real treat. You’d walk around for a while looking for a movie; you’d pick up some snacks and popcorn, order pizza or takeout and you had all the ingredients for a perfect night.

In 2018, there were only four operating Blockbusters in the country. Three of them were in Alaska and one in Oregon. In 2019, the three in Alaska closed. This is an interesting documentary, that did give me some nostalgia, but I don’t think I feel the same way about the movie renting process as Kevin Smith does.

You can do everything I just mentioned without getting off the couch. Now it is almost impossible to find an open Blockbuster anywhere. Unless you live in or around Bend, Oregon where Sandi Harding, the Blockbuster Mom, has been running the last remaining Blockbuster.

“The Last Blockbuster” is a trip down memory lane. Various individuals, some involved with the company, some who just enjoyed it and one individual who really dislikes it, talk about what Blockbuster meant to them growing up. The documentary explains how Blockbuster got started, gives an overview of the store at its prime, how it began to fall apart, what finally killed it and how Harding’s store remains open. Personalities reminisce about renting movies and go on about how much they like the video store experience.

In 1985, the first Blockbuster was opened in Dallas, Texas. It offered a bigger selection and longer hours. Over time, the mom-and-pop video stores became Blockbusters. It only grew from there. Until it didn’t.

When Harding started in 2004, there were roughly 9,000 Blockbuster stores and at the height of popularity, there was one opening every 17 hours.

In 2017, Blockbusters had dwindled down to only 12 stores. As of 2020, Bend, Oregon is the only one. Harding has been recognized and interviewed about her store from every press outlet you can think of.

“The Last Blockbuster” is available on Netflix and I’m aware of the irony in that. While I liked this documentary, I don’t miss Blockbuster. At one point, someone is describing how all Blockbusters have a certain smell – not that I remember.

It did bring back some memories, but that’s it. I like being able to order a movie from my couch. I like that there are no more late fees. I felt like the reactions to these anonymous VHS tapes were pretty drawn out and exaggerated. The information about the Bend’s Blockbuster is kind of cool, but I certainly don’t need to go there. I’m only giving this one VHS tape up.

Available on Netflix.<

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Movie Review: ‘Our Friend’ a story of courage and friendship

By Matt Pascarella

Nicole Teague had a husband, two children and a friend, Dane. In December of 2012, their lives would be changed forever when 34-year-old Nicole was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that quickly spread around her abdomen. This is not a story of gloom and doom, but of friendship and happiness, before Nicole began to get really sick.

The film stars Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck, Jason Segal, Isabella Kai, Violet McGraw, Denee Benton and Marielle Scott.

“Our Friend” is a true story based on an article written by Nicole’s husband, Matthew (played by Affleck). To help Matthew and Nicole (Johnson), their friend, Dane (Segal) moves in. What was supposed to maybe be a few weeks, turned into longer and by the end, it was more than helping. It was friendship that became family.

Matthew says to Dane toward the end, “thank you isn’t enough.”

What best sums up this movie is a line from the article written by Matthew: “One man’s collapse. And another man’s refusal to let it happen.”

There is a lot of struggles in this movie, but there is also a lot of triumph. I had no expectations going in, other than it would probably be a sad movie. It is sad in parts, but the theme of family and friendship ring louder than sadness in “Our Friend.” While the subject of cancer is integral to the story, it’s more a feel-good movie than you might think. I liked it.

Nicole is diagnosed. As her conditions worsens, Dane offers help. The movie juts back and forth to various points in time either before or after her diagnosis. You see how each family member reacts as Nicole begins to struggle more and more. At one point, Nicole announces she wants to compile a bucket list to accomplish a few key activities before she dies. Dane and Matthew work very hard to make as many of the items on that list come as true as possible. While Dane is there to make this experience easier on everyone, there is still struggle.

Parts of the movie are funny, like when Dane insists the oldest child, Molly (Kai), call him Grandma Dane and other parts are tougher to watch, like when Matthew tells his girls about Nicole or when Molly gets upset at her father who forgot to pick her up at school; she lashes out at him after realizing her mother will soon be gone.

The horrors of cancer and losing a loved one unexpectedly is something no one should ever have to experience. I put myself in Matthew’s shoes and can’t imagine what it must have felt like to lose the person you love, watching them weaken little by little each day.

Although it is a sad movie in parts, I’d recommend it. Have the Kleenex handy.

This movie is brilliantly cast, and Johnson, Affleck and Segal give Oscar-worthy performances. It illustrates the meaning of friendship and family. Two thumbs up.

Available to rent on various streaming services. <

Friday, June 18, 2021

Hulu’s ‘Croods: A New Age’ a great family movie

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes

It has been many moons since the mission began. “The Croods: A New Age” is a bit of a continuation of the first one. On their search for a place to call home, the world’s first family, the Croods, discover a more advanced family, the Bettermans.

They struggle with getting along with people who think differently than they do in an environment that’s not like what they’re used to. This movie is a fun family film that has a lesson or two in it. Starring: Nicholas Cage, Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage, Kelly Marie Tran and Kailey Crawford.

After a long journey, Guy (Reynolds) discovers the Bettermans (Dinklage and Mann) who are more like him, than the Croods, who he has been traveling with, are. He contemplates staying with the Bettermans, despite his teenage romance with Eep (Stone). Grug (Cage) struggles with how different everything is and is not okay with staying in this new world. Along the way, they all discover they may not be as different as they appear at first glance.

When the Bettermans try to trick the Croods into thinking Guy should stay with their family instead, tensions mount and problems erupt. Will they clash and go their separate ways or find common ground?

I found this movie relatable. I don’t understand the lives of cave people, so let me rephrase that – I found the themes in this movie relatable. It was a feel-good movie. We all can be a little hesitant of change at first, and the differences we each have can make us more similar than we think.

This is a funny movie. At one point, when the Croods stay in the Betterman’s home, there is a window, which son Thunk (Duke) likes to watch. Grug yells at him saying in his day, they fought birds instead of watched them. They also feel they need to limit Thunk’s screen time, which is just a window, of varying sizes. Dawn (Tran) and Eep form a fast friendship. Eep shows Dawn a little rule-breaking may not be such a bad thing.

Overall, this movie is definitely worth watching. I liked the humor and the lessons shown through the interactions of these families. It’s a nice mix of adventure, comedy and romance. Like many animated movies, I thought this worked on a multi-level for both kids and adults. It does have a few scarier points that might be too much for younger children. While this is a sequel, I don’t think it’s necessary to see the first one to understand the second one. This awesomely voice-acted movie is a good one. Two peanut toes up!

Available on Hulu. <

Friday, June 11, 2021

‘The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It’ only sub-par

By Matt Pascarella

Runtime: 1 hour 52 min

On July 18, 1981, paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called to document the exorcism of eight year old David Glatzel. Like the previous two “Conjuring” movies, the Warrens must investigate a paranormal disturbance within a family.

This installment is a little different from the other two in that there are murders surrounding the paranormal investigation. The exorcism of Glatzel was only the beginning and this film stars Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ruairi O’Connor, Sarah Catherine Hook, Julian Hilliard, John Noble and Shannon Kook.

I am a big fan of the first “Conjuring” movie and rate it up there as one of the best I’ve ever seen. The second one was decent, but not as good as the first. This third chapter in the series, began strong and was okay, but soon got a little convoluted and slowed down its pace. While it did pick up a little at the very end with some information I found interesting, the movie as a whole was kind of a bust.

Eight-year-old David Glatzel (Hilliard) is possessed by a demon and Ed and Lorraine Warren (Wilson and Farmiga) are performing an exorcism to get the demon out of him. It doesn’t go so well and the demon finds his way out of Glatzel and into Arne (O’Connor), the boyfriend of David’s sister, Debbie (Hook). From there things spiral out of control and every clue Ed and Lorraine find could lead them to a way to stop this demon or it could cost them everything and be their demise.

While I did not hate this third installment, the first two movies in this series are much better, so my expectations were high going into “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.”

This movie did not meet those expectations. In parts it resembled – or mimicked – 1973’s “The Exorcist,” but overall, the third movie of “The Conjuring” series isn’t very scary and drags a little toward the end.

The addition of a murder investigation to the plot I felt only complicated matters and I had trouble following how a particular murder that happened in another state related to the investigation and could help Arne.  

To its credit, there are several good jump scares. Without giving too much away, the beginning starts with shaking tables, flying objects, demonic voices and crazy contortions. This movie also featured several moments where you could feel a quiet tension building; you’re given the impression something might happen, but you’re not sure. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. The morgue and waterbed scenes are good examples of this.

This movie is based on a true story, which in doing a little digging, is a very interesting case. If you are a fan of any of the previous “Conjuring” movies, I’d recommend you see this third installment, but only if you liked the previous two; otherwise, I’d pass. One possessed artifact up and one flickering set of lights down. 

Available in theaters and on HBO Max. <

Friday, June 4, 2021

‘A Quiet Place Part II’ a must see

By Matt Pascarella

Running Time: 97 minutes

Make a noise and they might find you. If they find you, you’re in trouble. When we first met the Abbot family back in 2018, it was day 472 of a post-apocalyptic world in which fast-moving creatures are drawn to loud noises.

In this much-anticipated sequel, we are taken back to the start of this madness. We see the beginnings of a world in which sound is a luxury not to be taken lightly. After day one, the movie moves right back to where “A Quiet Place” left off. Some events have transpired, and the Abbot family must now make their way in this bizarre, not so new world. Starring: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe, Cillian Murphy and Djimon Hounsou.

Shelved for over a year because of the pandemic, I was very eager to see this. I’ll admit I wanted it to be available for home viewing; it’s not. I’m so glad I saw it in the theater though. It was worth the wait! It will get your heart racing and have you on the edge of your seat. It’s action-packed horror/adventure/thriller that I cannot recommend enough.

After the events of “A Quiet Place” the Abbot family must continue to survive. On day one, the family is attending a youth baseball game, before everything turns to chaos. This sequel quickly fast forwards to immediately following the end of the first movie. The members of the Abbot family are searching for something. They struggle a little and must hide themselves. Someone from their past (Murphy) is watching them. When one of the children, Regan (Simmonds) hears what she thinks might be a transmission signal she wants to go looking for it, but there are many obstacles in the way. And they may not be alone.

This movie had me nervous at times as I watched these characters navigate in an environment where sound might mean death. At one point, a member of the family gets a backpack caught on a loose piece of fence; when the backpack gets freed, the fence rattles. I waited. I might have been holding my breath. In another scene, Regan is cornered by a creature, and she has few options to escape while investigating an abandoned train car. I was nervous for her. I almost wanted to shout out to them. The opening music is creepy and very unsettling. It’s an almost groaning that kind of makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“A Quiet Place Part II” is an excellent continuation of its predecessor. After the Earth is inhabited by sound-seeking creatures, what happens to humanity? Can it still go on? In interviews, Krasinski said that this movie, which he wrote and directed with his wife, Blunt, was a love letter to his children. That seems weird at first, but the movie is about a family taking care of and protecting each other.

For this sequel to have its full effect, I think it’s important to see the original first. This is an edge-of-your-seat intense movie. I recommend seeing it in the theater. It will make this movie’s tense moments and jump scares that much better. As sequels go, it’s common that the second is never as good as the first; that doesn’t apply here. If you are a fan of sci-fi-ish horror or just good horror, you cannot go wrong with “A Quiet Place Part II.” Two portable radios up.

Now in theaters. <

Friday, May 28, 2021

‘Eat Wheaties’ will make you groan, then smile

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

As I looked through my choices of movies to review for this week, “Eat Wheaties” came up early in my search process. I passed over it but went back to it several times as I was interested to see what this movie was about. It centers around Sid Straw (Tony Hale) who can be kind of annoying. When he is invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion, he becomes overzealous in contacting alumna celebrity Elizabeth Banks. Also starring: Elisha Cuthbert, Danielle Brooks, David Walton, Alan Tudyk, Lamorne Morris, Sarah Chalke and Paul Walter Hauser.

This movie has cringe-worthy moments like when Sid gives a speech at his brother’s birthday full of inside jokes that barely include the people around him. At times, Sid doesn’t know when enough is enough. However, by the end you realize that Sid is a guy who just has trouble finding his footing in life, but he is trying. The end put a smile on my face.

Sid gets invited to the University of Pennsylvania reunion and is asked to be a volunteer co-chair. He claims he went to college with celebrity Elizabeth Banks and sends her dozens of messages over Facebook and becomes obsessed with telling her about his life. After being acused of online harassment, Sid’s life spirals out of control. He loses his job, his apartment and has to move back in with his parents.

I’m sure some of us have met someone like Sid; someone who tries too hard to impress everyone or just doesn’t know when to stop. He means well but can be too much. In the beginning I kept asking “can’t this guy see the reactions of the people around him?” Pump the brakes! Or just stop!

However, as the movie went on, I began to feel bad for him. Here’s a guy who simply can’t see that he’s going too far. At one point, he has a conversation with an African American co-worker Sam (Morris) in which Sid talks about his college improv group and how he used to say things that sounded racist but weren’t. Sam cuts this conversation short.

I did feel bad for Sid at points because some people kind of ignore him; even his sister-in-law, Janet (Cuthbert) is fairly short with him. There is a turning point in the movie where he and his brother (Walton) have a talk. From there, you begin to understand Sid a little better.

This is a funny movie. Sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes more of a cringing funny. It has a message that no matter your stage in life, there’s always room for improvement and even if you are an annoying person who some find unbearable, there are people out there who like you.

Despite Sid’s behavior early on in the movie, he does work toward improvement. He recognizes some things need to change and he works toward making that happen. I found the end uplifting and happy. For anyone who likes a good movie that will make you smile, this is it. Two Wheaties boxes up.

Available to rent. <

Friday, May 21, 2021

HBO MAX’s ‘Superintelligence’ enjoyable enough

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes

Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy) is an ordinary person with a relatively unexciting life. When an artificial intelligence takes over her devices and asks for her help, it wants to decide whether to save or destroy humanity. This puts Carol in a position she never wanted to be in, but both her and the superintelligence learn a thing or two in this moderately fun movie.

Carol is an average person. In the beginning, she goes on an unsuccessful, awkward job interview. Things don’t go her way. So, when a superintelligence (voiced by James Corden) enters the electronics in her apartment, her life gets a bit more compelling.

At first, she thinks she’s going out of her mind. She doesn’t believe the superintelligence is what it says it is. It explains it wants to observe her in order to figure out humanity. It is trying to decide if it wants to save, enslave or destroy the human race.

The superintelligence upgrades a few aspects of Carol’s life, like her bank account and her car.

Carol is still, understandably, freaked out by this and goes to her friend Dennis (Brian Tyree Henry), who works at Microsoft, to let him know what’s going on. No one there believes Carol at first, but they quickly realize she is telling the truth.

The National Security Administration has become aware of the superintelligence and is working to stop it.

When the superintelligence asks Carol what’s the one thing she would most like to do, if she knew the world might end, she answers reconcile with her ex-boyfriend, George (Bobby Cannavale).

The superintelligence wants to help Carol accomplish this. It arranges for her to run into George at the supermarket. She finds out he’s leaving for Ireland in three days.

Things with Carol and George are off to a good start, and only get better. Meanwhile, Microsoft along with Dennis and the NSA are trying to trap the superintelligence by shutting down electronic signals all around the world. The NSA convinces Carol the superintelligence will destroy the world. Things later get complicated between her and George.

The superintelligence announces to Carol that it will not destroy the world – but it’s not quite that simple. What does the superintelligence want? Can Carol help?

I’m lukewarm when it comes to this movie. While it is better than McCarthy’s “Thunder Force,” I can’t say I was really all that impressed by “Superintelligence.” The storyline does move along quickly and is an okay comedy that has its funny parts, along with mild action. It’s kind of a rom-com, but not really. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but also not the best. Despite all this, it could be fun for your next movie night. Only one coffee maker up. <

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Amazon Prime’s ‘The Vast of Night’ engrossing, but slow

By Matt Pascarella

Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

It is the late 1950s in Cayuga, New Mexico. A switchboard operator, Faye (Sierra McCormick) and a radio DJ, Everett (Jake Horowitz) hear a strange frequency over the airwaves. When a caller provides them with a possible answer to where and why this frequency is occurring, this mystery deepens. This movie is a little slow to start, and doesn’t gain a whole lot of speed, but I found I was captivated by the characters and what this frequency could be.

In the beginning of the movie, a “Twilight Zone” type show called “Paradox Theater” is shown on a TV screen that leads into the beginning of the movie where Everett is trying to help with the recording of a high school basketball game. He runs into Faye who has a new tape recorder and they go around testing it out. Everett pushes Faye to work on her interview skills.

Faye tells Everett she was reading a magazine that had an article about all the predicted advances that will come about in the future like electric cars, vacuum tube transportation and a phone with a TV screen that can fit in your pocket! A TV screen in your pocket!

When Faye returns to the switchboard, she gets a call from a woman who says there is a strange object. Then Faye hears static and a humming sound from her phone. Faye and Everett try to track the sound down by playing it on the radio and asking if anyone has heard this before.

They do get a caller, Billy (Bruce Davis) who has some information. Could this guy be talking about what I think he’s talking about? Billy begins revealing a lot of information and then the line goes dead.

Billy tells Faye and Everett there is a recording of that sound on a tape in the library. Suddenly, the lights in the town go out. Things get a little strange. Is there something in the sky?

Later, a woman, Mabel (Gail Cronauer) calls in and says she can expand on Bruce’s story. What does Mabel have to say? More weird stuff happens to Faye and Everett. Everett makes a discovery.

What’s his discovery? Does it relate to the weird frequency? What is going on?

I’ll admit, while I enjoyed this movie, it was slightly on the predictable side although it did leave me with questions. Like I said, it does start a little slow, but is pretty interesting once it gets going. Even if you think you have figured out what is going on, I’d still recommend watching this. You may – or may not – be right about how it ends. I give this two-radio microphones up.  <