Friday, May 26, 2023

Review: Apple TV+’s ‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ a triumph in face of adversity

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 Hour, 34 minutes

He was one of the biggest stars of his time. “Family Ties,” “Teen Wolf,” “Back to the Future,” “Doc Hollywood,” plus an abundance of others. At 29, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He hasn’t let this stop him and has turned this diagnosis into more of a positive, refusing to let this disease crush him or his spirit.

This documentary isn’t cut with friends, family and famous people talking about Fox, but rather an interviewer (who is never on camera) asking Fox questions while he tells his story in his own words along with actor portrayals or footage of Fox from various points in his life.

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” stars Michael J. Fox, Danny Irizarry, Hannah Galway, Sherry Klassen, Darren Zimmer, and Bradley Peters.

Florida, 1990. Fox awakens from a night of drinking with actor Woody Harrelson (Peters) to notice his pinky finger is auto animated. Fox struggles to recall the events of the previous night. Despite Fox’s popularity at this point in his life, he describes himself as being in an acid bath of fear and professional insecurity.

It’s now the present day. Fox gets out of bed, puts on slippers, and brushes his teeth. He sits down to be interviewed. Fox describes himself as a tough individual, who has stuff to do and won’t be slowed down by his disease.

Originally from Canada, Fox came to California to be an actor. He found success relatively quickly, but it was short-lived. By 1982, he was barely surviving; taking jam packets from IHOP restaurants to eat because he had no money – he was living beat to beat.

At 22, Fox got the TV show “Family Ties.” While producers weren’t excited about Fox initially, that would change. Once he found success on “Family Ties” more offers came in. He simultaneously shot “Back to the Future” while also shooting “Family Ties.”

As Fox tells his life story, you get glimpses of him dealing with Parkinson’s today. The disease causes him to fall a lot; and that’s something Fox works very hard to prevent.

“Gravity is real,” says Fox. “Even if you’re falling from my height.”

After the success of “Back to the Future,” Fox was everywhere. While filming “Family Ties,” he met his wife, Tracy Pollan, and they married in 1988.

When he was first diagnosed, he hid it from everyone but his family. He took pills to control the tremors. By not thinking about Parkinson’s, he thought he was hastening its arrival. He started drinking and ran into problems. The media suggested Fox’s popularity was over.

Fox was doing all he could to avoid the fact that he had Parkinson’s. He went back to television, but the stress of a weekly show only exacerbated his symptoms. There was no way out.

When talking about Michael J. Fox, my instinct can be to feel bad for him, but from everything about him that I’ve read and what he says in this documentary, he does not want pity. This documentary really illustrates how hard it can be for Fox to do simple tasks, like walking or brushing his teeth, and while it can be heartbreaking to watch, the fact that Fox continues on, shows how inspiring he truly is. While it’s one thing for Fox to talk about his struggles with Parkinson’s in his books, it’s another thing to physically let the public see his struggles on camera.

Aside from the fact that I’ve been a “Back to the Future” fan for many years, the more I learn about Fox, the more I appreciate him. His positivity is truly something to aspire to. This feel-good documentary might change the lens with which you look at life.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Apple TV+. <

Friday, May 12, 2023

‘Murder Mystery 2’ only a sub-par sequel

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Nick and Audrey Spitz are back. They are now in the detective business full-time and it’s not going so great. When the two get invited to a billionaire’s wedding on an island, they witness a murder. In the process of solving the case, they become suspects and must clear their names on top of solving the case. Or will they be outsmarted? This Netflix original movie seemed to promise a lot and ended up falling short.

“Murder Mystery 2” stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Mark Strong, Melanie Laurent, Jodi Turner-Smith, John Kani, Kuhoo Verma, Adeel Akhtar, Enrique Arce and Dany Boon.

Nick (Sandler) and Audrey (Aniston) Spitz have solved some of the most high-profile murders of the century. They’ve quit their jobs to become full-time detectives ... and it’s not going great. They need to become officially licensed to increase their business.

When the couple gets invited to an all-expenses-paid wedding of The Maharajah (Akhtar) on an island, they decide a break would be good – but murder follows them.

During the ceremony, The Maharajah is kidnapped, and a man is killed. Nick and Audrey begin collecting clues. Of the 400 people at the ceremony, it’s a select few that are isolated as persons of interest, (Laurent, Turner-Smith, Verma, Arce and Villanueva).

Nick is sure the killer is on their trail. As the two are trying to piece together who the killer might be, each of the persons of interest knock on their door with information.

The kidnapper(s) sends them a message saying if they contact authorities, The Maharajah dies.

An MI6 hostage negotiator, Miller (Strong) arrives at the island and has heard of Nick and Audrey, but he is not impressed by them.

The kidnapper(s) calls again and demand $50 million. Nick and Audrey’s antics increase that ransom to $70 million.

Miller, Nick, and Audrey head to Paris to drop off the money and rescue The Maharajah, but things don’t go as planned. At this point there is some very cool action with several explosions.

Audrey begins to suspect Miller may be in on this.

Nick points out that two bad guys never works out because one always double-crosses the other – it’s a cliché of the genre.

When Delacroix (Boon) helps the couple track a license plate, he says they are now suspects because their prints are on the murder weapon.

Things go from bad to worse.

I feel conflicted about this movie. It is fun with great action, and some mildly funny lines, but I wanted this sequel to be funnier and it just wasn’t. I did like it, but I went in with expectations a little too high. If you liked the first “Murder Mystery,” I say watch this one. It starts a little slow but does pick up and Sandler and Aniston are a good pair. This is not a boring movie; it just wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be.

One dinosaur leather suitcase up.

Available on Netflix. <