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Wednesday, 07 February 2018 14:12

‘Winchester’ a half-cocked horrorshow

With a certain type of horror movie, one of the most unsettling parts happens right at the beginning. Before the film even really starts, in fact. It’s when you see the words “Inspired by true events” or some variation on that theme.

Published in Movies

Casual comedy fans – particularly those of a younger generation – may not be familiar with Doug Kenney. However, anyone who has any interest in the comedic craft has reaped the benefits of his groundbreaking work.

Kenney – who co-founded the subversive humor magazine The National Lampoon before branching out into stage, radio and film – was a weirdo shooting star in the comedy world, one who shone brightly and ultimately burned out too fast.

“A Futile and Stupid Gesture” – based on Josh Karp’s book of the same name – tells the story of Kenney’s rapid ascent and subsequent fall. Directed by David Wain, the film goes out of its way to paint its subject as a genius, a true icon, but despite its sprawling efforts – including a deep and talented cast - it never quite goes beyond a surface-level exploration of Kenney. The result is a serviceable biopic with a few flashes; not terrible, but not nearly what we might have hoped it to be.

Published in Movies

Film critic Richard Roeper’s globally syndicated daily column has been a fixture of the Chicago Sun-Times since 1987. The former co-host of “Ebert & Roeper” can be seen on a month-long movie event beginning February 1 and airing through March 4 on HDNet Movies.

“And The Oscar Goes To…Presented by Richard Roeper” will spotlight 75 Oscar-winning films, uncut and commercial free, and will include Roeper’s introductions, analysis and behind-the-scenes stories about the making of the movies.

I caught up with the critic and author for this interview, conducted just a few minutes after this year’s Oscar nominations were announced last week.  

Published in Buzz

It seems as though Hollywood’s recent fascination with adapting dystopian young adult fiction for the big screen is finally petering out. Despite the monster success of “The Hunger Games,” most of the follow-ups have fallen apart along the way (a la “Divergent”) or never really gotten off the ground in the first place (“I Am Number Four;” “The 5th Wave;” “The Mortal Instruments;” etc.).

And in the middle, we find the “Maze Runner” trilogy.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:42

‘Den of Thieves’ a humdrum heist

There’s a joy to watching heist movies that is tough to find in any other cinematic subgenre. They’re propulsive by nature, with an inherent structure that allows for a steady build to an elaborate and satisfying climax.

Well … hopefully satisfying, anyway.

See, while there’s a lot to love about good heist movies (and even bad ones, really), there are few things worse than a forgettable heist movie, a film that cobbles together a threadbare collection of influences from superior offerings into something that simply … is.

Published in Movies

There’s something polarizing about the work of Aaron Sorkin. His writing can come off as a bit overly effusive and self-congratulatory – in a word, show-offy. His trademark “walk and talk” – which rose to prominence in his time on “The West Wing” and became even more overwhelming in subsequent projects like “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Newsroom” – can be engaging as hell, but you can definitely have too much of a good thing.

But as prolific as he has been as a writer, both on television and in the movies, he had never before sat in the director’s chair before taking on “Molly’s Game.” The film – adapted from Molly Bloom’s book of the same name by Sorkin himself – tells the story of a woman’s rise to prominence and fall from grace as her facilitation of exclusive private high-stakes poker games leads first to wealth and then to her arrest and subsequent court battle with the U.S. government.

Published in Movies
Saturday, 13 January 2018 12:54

‘The Post’ delivers

If you were to go into a filmmaking laboratory with the sole task of creating a prestige movie, you’d probably wind up with something very much like “The Post.”

Published in Movies
Friday, 12 January 2018 12:04

'The Commuter' goes off the rails

It seems crazy that it has only been a decade since Liam Neeson, Pierre Morel and Luc Besson joined forces for “Taken,” the film that turned Neeson into a tough guy star and spawned an entire subgenre. And while many actors of a certain age have taken swings at their own old-guy-action movies, Neeson remains the king.

His latest is “The Commuter,” which puts Neeson’s now-typical “everyman-but-not-REALLY-an-everyman” character into yet another bizarrely contrived situation that only his particular set of skills (one of which, in this case, is riding the same train to work every day) can put right.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 14:27

‘Darkest Hour’ shines brightly

Playing a real person is always a tricky thing as an actor. Playing a real person of historical significance presents even more challenges.

Published in Movies

This year marks the 75th awarding of the Golden Globes, honoring the best in film and television as determined by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

It also marks the first time that I’ve attempted to predict them.

Despite having devoted considerable energies to Academy Awards previews over the past decade, I’d never undertaken to predict their earlier, often portentous peers. Sure, the Globes might not have the same gravitas as the Oscars, but they still warrant at least a little attention.

(Note: While the Golden Globes recognize television as well as film, my focus is on the cinematic side of things. So while I made picks in all categories, I only went in depth on the cinematic side of things.)

Let’s go to the Globes.

Published in Movies
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