Friday, September 29, 2023

‘The Nun II,’ a somewhat scary movie, which offers unexpected occurrences

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 50 minutes

It’s close enough to October, that it’s time for a scary movie – or two. As part of “The Conjuring” movie universe, “The Nun II” is the sequel to the 2018 movie. In France in 1956 a priest is mysteriously killed. Sister Irene returns in this movie and is told by the Cardinal that she is the only one who can stop the demon, Valak. The demon is responsible for a series of deaths across Europe. I enjoyed this movie on the big screen and although it’s not one of the scariest movies I’ve seen, it did have me jump in my seat a few times.

“The Nun II” stars Taissa Farmiga, Storm Reid, Bonnie Aarons, Jonas Bloquet, Katelyn Rose Downey, Anna Popplewell, Maxime Elias-Menet, Suzanne Bertish, and Peter Hudson.

It opens in France where an altar boy, Jacques (Menet), notices something peculiar in the shadows after serving in a mass. He quickly realizes there is an evil presence in the chapel. He witnesses Father Noiret being viciously killed.

After these events, Sister Irene (Farmiga) is told by the Cardinal she is the only one who can deal with the demon Valak because of her previous experience with the demon. She travels to Tarascon, France with Sister Deborah (Reid).

At the convent, where there is also a boarding school, a student makes a delivery and sees Valak possess handyman Maurice (Bloquet). Later bullies pick on and lock student Sophie (Downey) in the chapel. The girls told Sophie that the Devil is always there, you just have to look. Valak is in the chapel, but Maurice intervenes and helps Sophie escape.

Sister Irene is shown where Father Noiret was killed, and discovers she has a connection to Maurice. After looking for Jacques, and coming up short, she sees the presence of Valak at a magazine stand in a visually very cool scene. Valak appears to the headmistress after she encounters a possessed Maurice. It doesn’t end well for her.

Sister Irene and Sister Deborah meet with a librarian who tells them he thinks Valak is looking for a specific relic, a pair of eyes, and that is the key to getting rid of the demon.

Valak attacks Sister Irene and Deborah through Maurice. They tie up Maurice. Sophie, schoolteacher Kate (Popplewell), Sisters Irene and Deborah must now find the relic and stop Valak before it’s too late.

I want to be scared when I watch a horror movie and while I was startled, I didn’t find this that scary. While this movie is a bit gruesome and violent in parts, I found it over-the-top in some of the scarier parts, usually when Valak makes its presence known.

On the plus side, I thought this was quite suspenseful, with the creepy music often leading up to sometimes shocking events. It featured a few moments that really caught me off-guard. It had me jumping in my seat a few times and overall, I would recommend seeing this on the big screen for the maximum horror effect.

Two thumbs up; make sure you stay through the credits.

Now playing only in theaters. <

Friday, September 15, 2023

Review: ‘Champions’ more about team and less about wins

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 2 hours, 4 minutes

Marcus Marakovich is an assistant coach for the collegiate basketball Iowa Stallions. He has an incident where he pushes the head coach. He’s thrown off the team and spends a night in jail after driving drunk. The judge then imposes a sentence of 90 days of community service at a local recreation center where he will coach a team of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Can this big-time coach find a way to give back to this team? This comedy has a lot of heart while also being funny.

“Champions” stars Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Ernie Hudson, Matt Cook, Madison Tevlin, Joshua Felder, Kevin Iannucci, Ashton Gunning, Matthew Von Der Ahe, Tom Sinclair, James Day Keith, Alex Hintz, Casey Metcalfe, Bradley Edens and Cheech Marin.

Following an incident where Iowa Stallions coach Marcus Marakovich (Harrelson) pushes head coach Peretti (Hudson), Marcus hits a police car while driving drunk. After spending a night in jail, he is offered a deal by the judge instead of more jail time – 90 days coaching a recreational basketball team of adults with developmental disabilities. Marcus is not thrilled about this but accepts.

Coach Perretti tells Marcus he knows the game but needs to cultivate relationships. The recreational team is a good place to start.

When he meets the team, most of them are open to him, except Darius (Felder). Johnny (Iannucci) takes a liking to him and as it turns out, Marcus has already met Johnny’s sister, Alex (Olson).

Recreation Manager Julio (Marin) tells Marcus the team doesn’t have to be the Lakers, but they need to feel like a team.

Marcus finds out the previous coach quit partway through the season and it devastated the team.

The more time Marcus spends with the team, the more he realizes they are more capable than he originally thought. Despite this, he’s not the most encouraging to his players during games.

Over time, he begins to bond and connect with them. One such moment is when he convinces Johnny, who is afraid of water, to take a shower.

The team wants to make it to Regionals, so they cannot afford any forfeits.

When a pipe bursts in the gym, Marcus takes the practice outside to a local court where they challenge a group of players after being referred to in a derogatory way.

When Marcus’ 90 days are up, he stays with the team. They are one win away from the Regional Tournament. Marcus also has an offer from the NBA he plans to accept.

After Marcus talks to Darius, he agrees to play for them.

However, they don’t have the money needed to travel to the tournament. Marcus and Alex have an idea.

This is a funny, charming, awkward, emotional feel-good movie. It has a great message about teammates playing for each other and not to discount or overlook someone just because they have a disability. It has mild language and sexual situations, watch out for the sprained finger scene toward the end. “Champions” can be defined in many ways, not just by winning it all. This one is worth a stream.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Amazon Prime and to rent. <

Friday, September 1, 2023

‘You Hurt My Feelings’ a heartwarming drama-comedy

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 33 minutes

When novelist Beth overhears her husband vehemently saying how much he doesn’t like her current novel, it upsets her and makes her question what else he could have been lying about. This drama-comedy deals with the hard truth of being honest with one another, not just our significant others, with sometimes subtle, sometimes dark humor. Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives a solid performance in this sincere movie.

“You Hurt My Feelings” stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tobias Menzies, Michaela Watkins, Arian Moayed, Owen Teague, Amber Tamblyn, David Cross, and Jeannie Berlin.

Beth (Louis-Dreyfus) is a published author and teacher who has written a memoir and is working on her second book, a work of fiction. She is married to Don (Menzies) who is a therapist. Her agent doesn’t think her second book is as strong as her first.

When Beth and her sister Sarah (Watkins) overhear Don telling Sarah’s husband, Mark (Moayed), how much he really dislikes Beth’s second book, she is upset. She’s been working for two years and has given Don many drafts to read and every single time he says they are good. Beth says her hands are numb and she thinks Don probably doesn’t respect her or understand why she teaches. Beth says she needs Don’s approval.

Sarah admits to lying to her husband from time to time when he is part of something she doesn’t think is good.

When their son, Elliot’s (Teague) girlfriend breaks up with him, he visits them and brings up the topic of trust. Beth is very cold toward Don.

The fears of being not good enough are only reinforced when she discovers no one in her class has read her first book.

Beth finally confronts Don during a dinner with Sarah and Mark. She says she might stop writing altogether.

Don claims what she heard was taken out of context. Beth says she can never trust him again.

Each of the characters in this movie struggles with not feeling good enough; although Beth is the only one who overhears someone bashing her work.

While this drama-comedy was funny, it’s not like my sides hurt from laughing, but it may bring a tear to your eye. We all may have told a small lie to protect someone’s feelings. It’s a hard subject to broach. I found this movie relatable in that it’s an uncomfortable experience that may be pretty common. How do you tell someone you care about you may not like something they did?

Beth’s mother (Berlin) is a funny character and I related to adult children dealing with their older parents. I can’t say I felt like a solution to what Don did to Beth was reached, I think they just moved on. Julia Louis-Dreyfus gives a fantastic performance which in no way reminded me of her Seinfeld role as Elaine Benes. This is worth a rental, and I give it two thumbs up.

Available to rent on most major streaming platforms. <