Friday, January 26, 2024

Review: Expectations for ‘Wonka’ fall short

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 hour, 56 minutes

Wonka is a man who simply wants to make people happy by giving them chocolate. And only a select few have a problem with it. After quickly spending his savings, he is conned to stay at Mrs. Scrubbit’s boardinghouse despite being warned by an orphan, Noodle, to read the fine print, of which there is a lot.

In order to pay off his debt he sells “Hoverchocs,” a chocolate that enables people to fly. Crooked rival chocolatiers, one of whom is Mr. Slugworth, try to put him away. He befriends Noodle and promises to help her escape the clutches of Mrs. Scrubbit.

“Wonka” stars Timothee Chalamet, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Matilda Tucker, Olivia Coleman, Calah Lane, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas, Matthew Bayton, Freya Parker and Keegan-Michael Key and Hugh Grant.

Willy Wonka (Chalamet) wants to show the world his chocolate. He has nothing to offer but chocolate and a hatful of dreams. He has big plans to make a fortune when he arrives in Victorian England.

However, these plans fall through when he runs out of money and is swindled when trying to stay at a boardinghouse by Mrs. Scrubbit (Coleman) for not reading the fine print of a very lengthy clause. He is warned to do so by Noodle (Lane), an orphan working at the boardinghouse. It is later discovered that Wonka is illiterate; Noodle begins to teach him how to read.

When Wonka arrives at the Gallery Gourmet, he hands out magic chocolates called “Hoverchocs,” which make a person fly after being consumed.

Police call Wonka a disturbance and feel threatened by him; so, they decide to get rid of him.

When Wonka was younger, he wanted to be a magician. It was his mother (Tucker) who made chocolate, but died before she could see him follow in her footsteps. He never found the secret to his mother’s chocolate.

A chocolate cartel, made of rival chocolatiers, including Mr. Slugworth (Holdbrook-Smith) force Wonka to leave town, but he bands together with Noodle and offers her the deal of a lifetime of chocolate. They plan to escape when Wonka discovers his chocolate was stolen by an Oompa Loompa (Grant).

Wonka learns of a secret chocolate stash and gets everyone working off debt from Mrs. Scrubbit’s boardinghouse to help him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Slugworth is doing everything he can to make Wonka go away.

Going into this movie, it’s hard not to naturally compare it to the 1971 “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder; and I think the less said about Johnny Depp’s version, the better. I guess when I think of Willy Wonka I think of an older man, and that is not the portion of the story being told here. Oh, and I should warn up front this is a musical, and while most of the songs are somewhat catchy, I wanted more story and less singing. Chalamet’s portrayal of the chocolate-obsessed visionary who wants to bring happiness to a very chocolate-obsessed town is good ... but not great. I can’t quite put my finger on what is missing. I enjoyed the backstory of why he wanted to become a chocolatier and I thought the ending was a sweet one (no pun intended).

I am not a fan of Hugh Grant, but did enjoy him as a single Oompa Loompa, who is not imprisoned by Wonka, but rather a nuisance to him because he steals his chocolate. As a whole, the movie is a little on the weak side and I thought it dragged a bit in the middle. Unless you are a fan, there’s no reason to see this in the theater.

Three-quarters of a chocolate bar up.

Now playing in select theaters. <

Friday, January 19, 2024

Little Free Libraries provide great community resources

By Kendra Raymond

Have you noticed random decorated boxes on lawns around town? Maybe you are already a “Little Free Library” patron? Whether a newbie or seasoned consumer, everyone can reap the rewards of this free book opportunity right in our community.

A Little Free Library is shown in a Raymond
neighborhood. The concept is growing in
popularity across the Lakes Region because
of its simplicity and resident interest in
A Little Free Library is a permanent structure, located at a home or in a public area. Each is filled with books that have been donated. The premise is that you can take a book and leave a book. However, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to this book resource. So, if you need books, or have extras, it is all perfectly acceptable.

The Little Free Library website explains their purpose as a mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Library book-exchange boxes.

“Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader. We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege. This is accomplished by providing book access 24/7, encouraging new libraries to open especially in high need areas, supporting diverse books, and engaging community partnerships,” a website statement reads.

Former Raymond resident Cinda Roy started the Hawthorne House Little Free Library in Raymond back in 2018 which includes a separate library for children’s books. Roy has since moved away, so several other residents have stepped up to keep an eye on it.

Hawthorne House Trustee Ed Kranich built the original structure.

“The library is maintained by me and a few other Hawthorne House trustees,” Kranich said. “There is not much involved with maintaining it. I check it periodically and if there are not many books I put some more in there.”

How do I find one?

The first step is to visit the LFL website, or better yet download the App. It is easy to enter the town you’d like to search for using the magnifying glass icon at the top of the page. The system will show a map of the area, with pins pointing to each library, including the address. At present, there are three listed in Raymond and Casco and several located in the Windham area. It is also possible to come across a LFL that has not been registered in the system. Don’t forget that there are Little Free Libraries everywhere. When travelling, it can be fun to explore what LFLs in other towns may have to offer.

Do I need to share a book?

Nope, it is completely acceptable to simply select the books you want and take them. Kranich says that some people who take books from the library replace them, but it isn’t mandatory. However, a good LFL patron should be responsible and replenish libraries when you are able. Most everyone has a few books lying around collecting dust that could be moved along for someone else to enjoy. Kranich said that one of the tenets of the Little Free Library is “take a book, leave a book,” so that’s a good mantra to keep in mind.

What types of books?

The books you will find in a LFL can vary quite a bit. While some locations have themes, most include a variety of selections. Oftentimes, you will see fiction, non-fiction, biographies, cookbooks, or children’s books – the possibilities are endless. LFL believes in the importance of offering diverse books as well to grow our understanding and empathy.

What if I’m interested in starting one?

It is a fairly simple process. Begin by choosing a safe and legal location that is easy to access. Next build or purchase a library enclosure. You will need to register your Little Free Library and purchase an official charter sign. Then, by setting up your steward account, the library will be up and running and located on the map. Now spread the word.

“I think it’s been a good thing,” Kranich said. “Encouraging people to read more books is a good thing.”

Here’s some great resources as you get started:

Little Free Library website:

Download the Little Free Library mobile app:

Check out LFL on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. <


Friday, January 12, 2024

‘The Family Plan’ a family friendly comedy, with action

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 hour, 58 minutes

Dan Morgan is a used car salesman with a family and wife, living in Buffalo, New York. He’s gotten into a bit of a routine, which he’s become comfortable with, but his wife Jessica wants something to shake things up. Little does she know, Dan has a secret. 

When he realizes he’s being followed and a couple of people try to attack him, Dan takes his family on a cross-country trip to Las Vegas where he plans to reveal who he is really is ... or was. This action-filled comedy is a fast-moving adventure that I enjoyed.

“The Family Plan” stars Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, Zoe Colletti, Van Crosby, Iliana Norris, Vienna Norris, Maggie Q, Ciaran Hinds and Said Taghmaoui.

Used car salesman, Dan (Wahlberg) has a less-than-excited family of three kids and wife, Jessica (Monaghan). Dan and Jessica are celebrating their 18th anniversary.

Jessica tells Dan he is a creature of habit and wishes the family was more spontaneous and traveled more. She feels trapped and wishes their lives were bigger.

When Dan backs down from a confrontation, he later feels bad about it.

While at the grocery store, Dan gets in another confrontation, but this time he doesn’t back down.

As it turns out, Dan is not who he says he is. He doesn’t want to let his family in on his true identity. He gets a call from past-associate Augie (Taghmaoui) and Dan tells him to meet him in Las Vegas in three days.

As it turns out, Dan’s kids, Nina and Kyle (Colletti and Crosby) aren’t doing what they say they are.

Dan is being followed again but outsmarts them.

He frees his family from the shackles of technology with the flick of his wrist.

Back at his home, someone is looking for him.

Despite all the people following Dan, this trip slowly brings the family together.

Nina gets revenge on a cheating boyfriend. A laser tag game between Dan and Kyle helps them learn about each other.

“You conned me; you’re a laser tag savant,” said Kyle.

“No, I was a kid in the 80s,” said Dan.

Despite this, Dan still hasn’t told his family his secret. He tries to at dinner, but struggles.

Dan and Jessica are attacked in a Las Vegas hotel room, and now Dan has to come clean.

Dan tells them they cannot go back to Buffalo. The family gets upset.

Jessica will take the kids and is leaving first thing in the morning. Jessica meets Dan’s ex-girlfriend who holds the family captive.

More secrets are revealed, and decisions need to be made.

This movie is action-packed, but not bloody. It’s fast paced and has twists and turns at many corners. It’s very fun and sincere. One of my favorite things about this movie were baby Max’s reactions and facial expressions, especially during the supermarket scene. It carries the message that regardless of how lame you think they might be, family is important and will be there to support you. It reminded me that if you feel you’re stuck in a rut, it’s never too late to do what you want and be who you want. This one is a winner, Marky Mark.

Two disposable cameras up.

Available on Apple TV+. <

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Oldies Dance Group raises $10,416 for Ronald McDonald House

By Ed Pierce

YORK COUNTY – Rock n’ roll music is as popular as ever and as evidence of that, the Oldies Dance Group raised more than $10,000 during its latest dance to support the Ronald McDonald House of Portland.

Members of the Oldies Dance Group Committee present a 
check for $10,416 to Ronald McDonald House of Portland.
From left are Helen Vadnais; Ray Gagnon; Katherine Russo;
Bruce Martin; Wendy Twitchell; Elvis Presley; Ian Tovell,
Development & Marketing Director for the Ronald
MacDonald House of Portland; Diane Dubois; Janet 
Sparkowich; Gail Cole; and Debora Berry.
The organization’s 22nd dance in 15 years on Oct. 7 at the Eagle’s Hall in Biddeford sold 355 tickets in just four days and earned $10,416, pushing the total amount that the Oldies Dance Group has raised through its dances for the Ronald McDonald House to $110,416. The Ronald McDonald House provides comfort for the families of pediatric patients in Maine and supports programs that directly improve the health and well-being of children and enables family centered care to ensure that family members are fully supported and actively involved in their child’s care.

“It’s very gratifying that the public keeps coming back time after time to our dances and we can’t thank them and all of the businesses and individuals who continue to make this the largest community fundraiser for the Ronald McDonald House of Portland,” said Bruce Martin, Oldies Dance Group organizer. “It truly shows their care about others and a strong commitment to assisting sick children in Maine and their families.”

According to Martin, the rock n’ roll dances hosted by the Oldies Dance Group twice a year remain wildly popular, and the generosity shown by the community to support the fundraising mission of the Oldies Dance Group is exceptional.

“For those who question if people still love rock n’ roll music and a night out of dancing, the fact that we continue to sell out each dance demonstrates they haven’t forgotten this great music and sure love getting out on the dance floor,” Martin said.

The next Rock n’ Roll Oldies Benefit Dance will be the 23rd dance hosted by the Oldies Dance Group and will be held from 7 p.m. to midnight April 13, 2024, at the Eagle’s Hall, 57 Birch St., Biddeford. Tickets are just $10 and sell out quickly as seating is limited.

Martin said that rock n’ roll music links generations in the community and that the dance playlist includes songs that everybody knows, loves and is familiar with.

“These dances really are just a great night out to have fun, socialize with friends, listen to great music and dance to your favorite songs,” Martin said. “It’s heartwarming to be a part of something that supports such a worthy cause.”

For additional information, to purchase tickets or to volunteer, call Bruce Martin at 207-284-4692. <