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. <