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It seems as though we don’t get the same kinds of breakout comedies in the summer that we once did. The season has become overrun with blockbusters, and while I love superheroes and explosions as much as anyone and more than most, it’s nice to change it up once in a while. And occasionally, a comedy will achieve significant summertime success. A lot of factors have to line up for it to happen – timeliness, star power, subject matter, broad appeal and more – for a comedy to be that movie.

“Life of the Party” is not that movie.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 08 May 2018 14:39

Mother’s milk – ‘Tully’

One of the downsides to the bounteous excess of summer blockbuster season is the fact that it’s extremely difficult for a smaller film to gain any real traction. More thoughtful fare can be drowned out by a wave of superheroes, sequels and CGI explosions.

In the case of “Tully,” the latest product of the director/writer partnership of Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody, that would be a real shame. This weird little funny/sad film is a lovely piece of storytelling that deserves to be seen, a meditation on motherhood that is genuine and bizarre and driven by an outstanding performance from Charlize Theron (who previously teamed with Reitman and Cody on 2011’s “Young Adult”).

Published in Movies

Hollywood’s recent reliance on remakes and reboots has become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy as of late – people see them because that’s what available and the studios make more of them because people are going to see them and on and on. We’re in chicken/egg territory, only we’ve stopped caring which actually came first.

That line of thinking inevitably results in something like “Overboard.”

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 01 May 2018 16:02

Summer movies: 18 for 2018

We begin this annual tradition as we always do, which is with the caveat that it seems a bit silly to be writing a summer movie preview so far in advance of summer.

Still, Hollywood has extended the season, turning the beginning of May into our summer starting point, so if we’re going to catalog the blockbusters, then it has to be from here.

Although if we’re going to be real about it, the biggest movie of the year has already happened – “Avengers: Infinity War” just had the biggest box office opening since, well … ever. And hey – you can check out my review right in this very edition.

But while the biggest may have already landed, there’s still plenty to be excited about.

2018 has plenty of what we’ve come to expect from blockbuster season -  a bunch of sequels and a handful of remake/reboot-type offerings and some superheroes, along with some animated fare and a smattering of comedies. It’s not like we don’t know how it works.

Honestly, there’s a LOT of what we’ve seen before. But hey – familiarity isn’t always a bad thing. Let’s have a look at what the summer of 2018 has to offer.

(Please note: this not a list of the 18 best films, but rather an attempt at a representative sample of what’s coming. There are movies that I expect to love that aren’t here and movies I expect to loathe that are. Still, it looks like there’s something for everyone.)

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 24 April 2018 16:13

‘Super Troopers 2’ far from super

Today’s Hollywood is built on sequels. It’s no longer enough to make one movie that achieves box office success – you need to make a movie that will beget another movie that will beget still another movie and so on down the line. Some are designed to be ongoing – think the Marvel Cinematic Universe; others evolve into continuing concerns – the “Fast and Furious” franchise springs to mind.

But what about those sequels that simply shouldn’t be? The ones that are too late and/or too lame to effectively capitalize on what made the original special?

What about “Super Troopers 2”?

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 10 April 2018 14:33

What a girl wants – ‘Blockers’

Few have shaped the film comedy world in recent years like Judd Apatow. Even if not directly involved, his fingerprints are all over most of the more successful comedic outings of the past decade-plus.

For example, he is not involved in “Blockers,” the new comedy directed by Kay Cannon and written by Brian and Jim Kehoe. However, the film is produced by - among others – Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who definitely cut their teeth beneath the Apatovian umbrella. It’s not a Judd Apatow movie, but it has some of that DNA.

But don’t take that to mean that this is some tossed-off knockoff. “Blockers” is a sharp, funny and surprisingly thoughtful movie, featuring a well-balanced blend of raunchiness and sentimentality, with all of it executed by a talented cast.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 04 April 2018 12:37

‘How to American’ humorous and heartfelt

The United States is a nation of immigrants. And every single one of those immigrants has a different and unique American experience.

Comedian Jimmy O. Yang is probably best known for his role as Jian Yang on HBO’s “Silicon Valley.” He’s also an immigrant; he came to this country as a teenager, moving from Hong Kong to Los Angeles with his family at the age of 13. As you can imagine, it was culture shock of a high order.

Yang’s new book “How to American: An Immigrant’s Guide to Disappointing Your Parents” (Da Capo, $27) relates his experience and how he assimilated – sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much – into this strange new home.

Published in Buzz

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for a coming-of-age story. I love narratives that allow me to follow young people as they stumble through the assorted obstacles that growing up can scatter in our paths. And when you add in a little first love action, well … I’m all in.

But there’s a certain kind of coming-of-age story – and a certain kind of first love – that’s never really been explored in a mainstream studio film.

“Love, Simon” – based on the novel “Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli and directed by Greg Berlanti - is the story of a high school student who is navigating the waters of adolescence and trying to become the person he wants to be – all while hiding his true self. See, Simon is gay and in the closet. He’s struggling to find the courage to follow his heart, but despite having seemingly every advantage – a loving family, close friends, a relatively progressive school – it’s still not easy.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 17:00

‘Game Night’ a big winner

One could argue that the state of cinematic comedy – at least in terms of mainstream wide-release offerings – has been at a bit of an ebb recently. Sure, there have been a few standouts, but for the most part, we’ve been seeing films that are willing to rely on crassness and/or rapid-fire references as crutches rather than concentrate on storytelling or character or, you know – being funny.

That’s what makes “Game Night” – co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein from a script by Mark Perez – so refreshing. It’s smart and funny, driven by talented actors bringing something real to the table. It has its crass moments and is packed with referential nods, sure, but it’s all in service to driving the narrative and making actual jokes. Dark laughs, surprisingly engaging set pieces and sharp plot twists – all the pieces fit.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 14:25

Holy Wha! ‘Escanaba In Da Moonlight’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BANGOR – Many theatre patrons probably don’t associate Jeff Daniels with the stage. You might think of his Emmy-winning turn in HBO’s “The Newsroom,” one of his various Golden Globe-nominated roles or appearances in notable films - yes, even “Dumb and Dumber.”

But he’s also recently received a Tony nomination for Broadway’s “Blackbird,” and in his home state of Michigan, he’s known as the founder of the Purple Rose Theatre Company, where he wrote and produced “Escanaba in da Moonlight.” 

Published in Style
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