Wednesday, November 22, 2023

‘Elemental’ another home run for Pixar

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 47 minutes

Element City has many residents, air, earth, water, and fire. Ember, a fire element, immigrated to Element City with her parents Bernie and Cinder Lumen. Bernie runs a shop where he sells a variety of goods. He has promised his shop to Ember someday. When Ember damages a pipe in the shop’s basement, it causes a leak and city inspector Wade threatens to close them permanently.

Wade falls for Ember, but she is very focused on saving her father’s shop and is not interested in a relationship. The two band together to find a way to patch the leak and save Bernie’s shop. Along the way, Wade learns that Ember has other dreams that don’t include running her father’s shop. Will Ember tell her father how she really feels? Can Wade and Ember save the shop?

The new film “Elemental” stars Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Catherine O’Hara.

Bernie (Del Carmen) and Cinder (Ommi) arrive at Element City where they face xenophobia because elements aren’t supposed to mix. They are unable to find a place to stay. When they finally do, Cinder gives birth to Ember (Lewis).

Bernie runs a shop called “The Fireplace” which has been promised to Ember someday. Ember has a bit of temper when it comes to dealing with customers. Bernie tells her when dealing with a tough customer, take a breath and make a connection.

Bernie is sick and cannot run his shop forever. He tells Ember if she can manage a big sale the shop is having without losing her temper, the store is hers.

Ember cannot do this; she loses her temper and breaks a pipe in the basement. City Inspector Wade (Athie) stops by, notices this and writes Ember several citations which could close the shop forever.

Ember tells him if the shop gets shut down it would crush her father, who worked hard and sacrificed a lot to give her and her mother this life in Element City.

It’s too late; Wade already submitted the tickets. The two go to Wade’s boss Gale (McLendon-Covey) and try to strike a deal. Gale says if they can find the source of the leak and patch it, the citations will be forgiven.

Ember and Wade go looking for the source. Wade learns Ember might not want to take over her father’s store but is afraid to tell him. Ember is softening toward Wade. Ember finds a way to patch the leak, but it won’t hold forever.

Wade tries to convince Ember to tell her father.

“Embrace the light while it burns because you don’t have forever to say what you need to say,” said Wade.

Bernie announces his retirement, but Ember still doesn’t want to tell him.

Ember tells Wade it’s over ... but it might not be.

Pixar usually does a phenomenal job with movies appealing to kids and adults, and “Elemental” is no different. It deals with some heavier themes than a Pixar favorite like “Toy Story” did. And expect a lump or two in your throat.

This is a fantastic movie the whole family can watch together. It has a great message about following your heart and not being afraid to go after what you really want. It’s a nice love story, but not too lovey-dovey. While it took me in an unexpected direction, I would recommend it.

Two Vivisteria flowers up.

Available to rent and on Disney+ <

Friday, November 17, 2023

Watercolor Workshop on tap at Raymond Village Library

By Kendra Raymond

Located in the heart of town, the Raymond Village Library hosts a variety of events throughout the year and a watercolor workshop is in the queue for early December with more excitement expected for the new year.

The library staff at RVL are committed to providing educational and engaging gatherings for patrons of all ages.

Local artist Cathy Dodge will lead a watercolor painting session from 1 to 3 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 4 where you can create your own art to take home. This is a great opportunity to learn something new, hone your existing skills and maybe even create a meaningful holiday gift.

Dodge’s work has been featured during RVL art exhibits in the past. Trained in oils and watercolor, her work specializes in the still life of subjects such as flowers and seashells.

Librarian Rachel Holden says there is a limit of eight participants, so early registration is recommended by calling the library at 207-655-4283 for this 18-and-up event. Best of all, the workshop is free of charge and all materials are provided.

The Raymond Village Library shares its mission statement on its website as follows, “The Raymond Village Library is a community based informational, educational, and recreational facility dedicated to providing quality library services and resources in a welcoming atmosphere. The library will be responsive to the changing needs of the community, cooperate with other entities and strive to fulfill its role as a service oriented, dynamic library.”

RVL offers many regularly scheduled gatherings including Baby Storytime and Preschool Storytime where babies and tots can enjoy short stories, songs, and crafts. These one-hour gatherings foster an approachable appreciation of books for youngsters in a casual and fun setting.

Book Group meets on the last Monday of the month at 5 p.m. in person and by ZOOM, excluding December (because of the holiday season). Participants can expect some great titles, lively discussions, and plenty of access to the month’s book selection check out at the circulation desk.

Bridge Group is held every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon. Attendees can play bridge and occasionally mahjong, socialize, and utilize the library resources.

Holden says that attendance at weekly events is down a bit during winter months but should pick back up in summer.

For those less inclined to venture out to the library in person, the RVL website serves as a portal to several on-line services such as CL newsstand where you can access magazines, Kanopy, a movie streaming service, and LearningExpress, a career and educational program funded by the Maine State Library.

The RVL annual summer book sale has become an iconic event and is typically well-attended. Books are organized by genre at this outdoor sale. Donations are accepted year-round. A smaller selection of titles can be purchased during the on-going indoor sale as well.

Friends of the Raymond Village Library is a recently incorporated non-profit group. Their mission is to help support the library by sponsoring events, purchasing items, and raising awareness about the library’s offerings. Meetings are open to the public, and anyone with a RVL card can become a member.

A lesser-known resource offered by RVL is a discount opportunity to visit Maine museums and parks. Holden said, “(This program) offers a variety of discounts and/or free passes to parks, museums, and things like that. We are lucky to offer these resources.”

By simply calling or visiting the library, families can receive free admission to Coastal Maine Botanical Garden, Railway Village and Museum and Southworth Planetarium during summer months, and a discount at Maine Wildlife Park.

Families of up to four people can receive half price admission to the Children’s Museum and Theater in Portland year-round. A Maine State Parks pass is also available, via a pass which should be displayed in your vehicle’s windshield.

Raymond Village Library is located at 3 Meadow Road, just off Main Street in Raymond.

The library is open daily, excluding Thursday and Sunday. They will be closed Thanksgiving weekend, early on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. Check out the website for their hours, as they do vary.

Friends of the Raymond Village Library can be contacted via email: Donations and volunteering are encouraged. <

Friday, November 10, 2023

Windham High School presents musical comedy ‘Spamalot’

By Masha Yurkevich

It’s the season for Windham High School’s annual musical and this year, they have prepared for us Spamalot, a comedy and musical about King Arthur and his knights in the search for the Holy Grail and the problems they run into along the way.

Windham High School's production of the musical comedy
'Spamalot' based on the Tony Award-winning Best Musical
and the 1975 cult-classic film 'Monty Python and the 
Holy Grail' opens Friday at the Windham High
School Performing Arts Center. SUBMITTED PHOTO
The show will be held at the Windham Performing Arts Center at the high school and will run for two weekends: Friday Nov. 10 through Sunday Nov. 12 and Friday Nov. 17 through Sunday Nov. 19. The Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. and the Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors.

Director Rob Juergens says that Spamalot is uniquely British in its outlook and style of humor.

“It is a show that I have been wanting to do for years, because I love the movie it is based on, Monty Python and The Holy Grail,” he said.

Juergens role is to provide an overall vision and structure for the show. Important input also comes from the Musical Director, Dr. Richard Nickerson, and the Choreographer, Vanessa Beyland.

“The costumer and the set designer also have key roles, and it is my job to make sure all the elements coalesce to provide a consistent picture,” says Juergens. “In addition, I focus on the blocking and acting aspects of the musical.”

Ashlynn Cuthbert is a freshman and plays Sir Lancelot in Spamalot.

“I am relatively new to theater, this being my third show, but ever since I started, I have loved the feeling of performing live, as well as getting to be a person that you would not normally get to play,” says Cuthbert. “I decided to be part of this musical in particular this year because Spamalot is so very different from any other musical you will ever experience. The comedy is such that you will laugh either because it's a genuinely good joke, or because it's so ridiculous that you can't help but laugh. Plus, as an actor, it is such a great way to learn how to play different roles in different styles of theater.”

For Cuthbert, her favorite aspect of Sir Lancelot is the difference between the Lancelot people know outside of the show, and how he is portrayed in the show.

“I love trying to connect the two different sides of the character. It's also very fun to play with a sword and mess around with it on stage,” she said.

Molly Plati, a junior, plays Patsy and is also the Student Producer for the production.

“I have been involved with the musical since freshman year so naturally I was excited to audition,” says Plati. “When Spamalot was first announced I was not familiar with the show. However, my parents were thrilled. That night we watched Monty Python's version and instantly I was excited. The dry humor and overall hilarity of the show is what really drew me in.”

Plati’s favorite part about playing Patsy is the tap number I have at the beginning of the second act.

“Patsy is a full comedic role and has many silly moments,” Plati said. “I love playing the funny character because I love making people laugh.”

King Arthur is played by junior Stuart Gabaree who said that he has always felt that he gravitates toward humor when it comes to expressing himself.

“I had never watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail before auditioning, but I had heard of it. I got together with some friends and finally watched the film, and I feel like from that point forward I was sold on the show,” he says. “The humor was up my alley with the way some things barely make any sense at all. Weirdness and randomness has always been my thing.”

His favorite part about his role is how he is not allowed to hold back with it.

“The role calls for me to be the most stuck up, self-centered, egotistical, and dimwitted king there ever was,” he said. “I am able to ham it up and overact to a concerning degree. This might be my only chance to do such a thing, so I am going to take it.”

Senior Kaitlyn Farrin plays Sir Robin and is a Student Director.

She has been doing theater for the past eight years and has truly grown to love it.

“I decided to do Spamalot in particular because I love comedy and I was drawn to the crazy musical numbers,” said Farrin. “My favorite part of my role is how ridiculous and energetic it is. I've always preferred playing more comedic roles, and Robin is definitely one. I love being able to be goofy and make people laugh.”

Windham High School musicals have a strong reputation for high-quality productions.

“People should come to this show to support live, local theater,” says Juergens. “There is no doubt that this show will be an absolute blast.” <

‘Freelance’ film doesn’t quite deliver to full potential

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R
Runtime: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Mason Pettits has always wanted to help people. He became a lawyer but found that just wasn’t for him. So, he enlisted in the Army and became a special forces operative. He found his life now had purpose. Until, one day his helicopter was shot down and he injured his back. He went back to being a lawyer which is crushing his soul. When he lands a freelance gig to protect a journalist who is interviewing the man who shot down his helicopter, he is taken on an action-filled journey of modest proportions.

“Freelance” stars Alison Brie, John Cena, Alice Eve, Christian Slater, Marston Csokas, Juan Pablo Raba, and Molly McCann.

Mason Pettits (Cena) has returned to being a lawyer after being in the Army and having his helicopter shot down which injured his back. He’s not happy with being a lawyer. When Sebastian Earl (Slater) offers him a freelance job to protect journalist Claire Wellington (Brie) who will interview Paldonian President Venegas (Raba) Mason reluctantly accepts, although Venegas may have had something to do with his helicopter being shot down.

Mason and wife Jenny (Eve) are having problems. They separate. Mason heads to Paldonia with Claire. When a coup breaks out, their vehicles are attacked. Mason takes charge and saves Claire and Venegas. Mason wants to leave; Claire wants to stay and get the story of a lifetime.

A short time later, Mason and Claire split from Venegas. Claire says this is her chance for a Peabody Award. Mason says you can’t get a Peabody if you’re dead.

Claire gets separated from Mason. As Claire is about to be attacked, Mason interferes. They all meet back up with Venegas. They all learn more about each other and their situations. Claire interviews Venegas.

Claire and Mason kind of have a moment.

Mason finds out the real reason he was sent here. Jenny wants Mason to come home. Mason tells Claire they’re headed for the border. Claire is captured.

All along, Venegas’ nephew was trying to kill him. Mason and Venegas travel together; they need to save Claire.

The only expectation I had going into this movie was that it be half comedy, half action. It’s more action than comedy. I was looking for a light-hearted movie and, unfortunately, this isn’t it. However, it was better than I expected, and the story is relatively fast-moving with little drag time. No disrespect to John Cena – he may read this – but I felt like his character could be interchangeable with any big action star. 

You could easily put The Rock or Schwarzenegger in there and it would be almost exactly the same movie. Cena can be a very funny actor and I feel like his talents weren’t fully represented here. Alison Brie shows she is no longer na├»ve Annie from “Community.” As a heads up, this movie is pretty violent in parts with some language. It’s a decent action-adventure, but I don’t see any reason you need to see it on the big screen. If you do see it on the big screen, stick around through the credits for outtakes.

Two and a half out of five stars.

Now playing in theaters. <