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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Thursday, 22 September 2022 19:23

Kibbles and Picks 2022 – Week 3

And so it begins.

With Stella’s correct call on the final game of Week 2 – Philadelphia over Minnesota – she ended the week with a 10-6 record, one better than my own 9-7. Hence, she is in the lead, a lead I don’t expect that she will relinquish for the rest of the season. It’s just a question of how deep the hole gets, you know?

Probably pretty deep, if history is any indicator.

That being said, there’s potential for a big week here – maybe even one of our biggest ever – because Stella and I are at odds on TEN of the week’s 16 contests. If I (unlikely) or she (much more plausible) should go on a big run, there’s a big lead that could be established. Sure, it’ll probably wind up being like 6-4 or whatever, but hey, if one of us goes 8-2 or 9-1, it’s going to be one hell of a hill to climb (apologies for the mixed metaphors – deep holes, tall hills, it’s chaos).

Wednesday, 21 September 2022 12:31

The complexity of connection – ‘Clarkston’

BANGOR – The power of connection – for good and for ill – is taking center stage at the Bangor Opera House.

“Clarkston,” by Samuel Hunter, opens the 49th season for Penobscot Theatre and runs through October 2. It also marks new artistic director Jonathan Berry’s directorial debut with the company. It’s a bold beginning, one that seems to speak directly to Berry’s tastes and passions as a theatre artist.

It’s an intimate piece, packed with emotional impact and driven by the relationships formed by family or fate and how our humanity is shaped by those relationships. It is a thoughtful, provocative and surprisingly funny play, with myriad juxtapositions and seeming contradictions brought forward by the complicated dynamic between the two young men at its heart.

Finding something meaningful and real between people is rare, a truth illustrated with heart, humor and hubris by the beautiful and challenging play currently gracing the Opera House boards.

It’s hard to make a good movie about the theatre.

You would think that it would be relatively easy, considering the considerable overlap between the two worlds. It’s all about people coming together to tell a story, right? And yet, films that revolve around the theatrical world rarely seem to fully click. Sure, making the stage-to-screen transition with a script is a long-honored and successful tradition, but successful movies set in the theatre? Those come along much more rarely.

But rarely is not never.

Take “See How They Run,” the new film from Tom George. Written by Mark Chappell, it’s a screwball deconstruction of the time-tested murder mystery genre, bringing together layers and metalayers to mine laughs from one of the theatre’s most beloved traditions – the whodunit.

Packed with winks and nods to those of a theatrical persuasion, “See How They Run” offers a shaggy combination of affection for and skewering of the conventions of the theatre. All of it refracted through a foundational lens of the Grand Dame of mystery herself, Agatha Christie. It’s a murder mystery within a murder mystery within a murder mystery – whodunits all the way down.

Monday, 19 September 2022 13:16

‘Do Revenge’ a smart, satiric dark comedy

I’ve long been a proponent of films set in high schools. I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories, so there is that, but I’ve also found that there’s a lot of malleability inherent to high school movies. They can exist on their own merits, yes, but they can also serve as wonderful palettes upon which to explore other genres, tropes and ideas.

Think of it as the “X, but in high school” categorization.

The new Netflix film “Do Revenge,” directed by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson from a script she co-wrote with Celeste Ballard, is a great example of this kind of movie. It’s almost a pastiche of its influences, pulling from classic dark teen comedy and elevated cinematic and genre fare alike. Imagine “Strangers on a Train” getting the same sort of treatment that “Cruel Intentions” gave “Dangerous Liaisons” – it’s kind of like that.

This story of wronged teenagers joining forces to exact revenge on those who wronged them is a blackly comic joy, bringing together standard teen fare with a shadowy sense of humor. The combination isn’t always a perfect fit, but thanks to some sharp writing and a pair of strong lead performances, it works far more often than it doesn’t. It’s tough to make a movie that feels both like a throwback and of its moment, but “Do Revenge” manages the feat.

Thursday, 15 September 2022 17:13

Kibbles and Picks 2022 – Week 2

Nothing like getting off to a lukewarm start, eh?

In a Week 1 packed with the unexpected, it probably shouldn’t be that surprising that both Stella and I struggled a little with our picks. We split the six games in which we were at odds, with the rest of the slate playing out in a similar fashion. The end result? Each of us finished about .500, but just barely – 8-7-1, thanks to the frankly ridiculous tie between the Colts and the Texans.

But hey – I’m not playing the scoreboard, I’m playing my opponent. And any week that doesn’t end with her having some kind of massive lead over me is a good week.

We’ve got a similar situation here in Week 2, but this time, we’re in disagreement on seven contests, which means that one way or another, one of us is almost certainly going to be in the lead come this time next week. And yes, I know that you have a strong suspicion about which one of us that will be – it’s the same suspicion I have … and it ain’t me.

Among the odder developments of the last decade or so of big-budget moviemaking is the Disney trend of making live-action versions of their beloved animated classics. The powers that be at Big Mouse saw the opportunity to commodify nostalgia to an even greater extent than they already had, resulting in a spate of films that turned cartoons into the third dimension (though in some respects, “live-action” is a bit of a misnomer – there’s still LOADS of computer animation at work in these films).

Of course, the ongoing success of these films – not always critically, but definitely commercially – meant that we would keep seeing largely unnecessary remakes being trotted out to be eagerly consumed by those looking for new ways to engage with old memories.

Which brings us to “Pinocchio,” the latest effort to reengage with a beloved classic. This one – directed by Robert Zemeckis, who also co-wrote the adapted screenplay alongside Chris Weitz – offers audiences a new look at the beloved tale of a marionette granted sentience and his quest to figure out how to become a real boy, with plenty of adventures along the way.

Unfortunately, this film suffers from the same big issue that many of its live-action remake brethren do – it simply feels unneeded. That isn’t to say that it’s terrible – it’s generally inoffensive, with a few interesting moments. It’s just that it’s hard to feel that strongly about a film that we have, in essence, seen before.

Monday, 12 September 2022 13:30

‘End of the Road’ a bumpy ride

Every so often, a movie comes along that answers a question that you didn’t even know you wanted to ask. Many times, that movie arrives courtesy of Netflix, because with the sheer volume of content they push out, there’s more than a little “infinite monkeys/infinite typewriters” energy there.

For example, take “End of the Road,” the new thriller from the streamer. Directed by Millicent Shelton from a script by Christopher J. Moore and David Loughery and starring Queen Latifah, it’s ostensibly an action thriller that follows a road-tripping family as they get pulled into a murderous web of criminals and ill-gotten cash. I say “ostensibly” because, while that is certainly technically correct, the film manages to raise one of those unanticipated questions.

To wit: just how many over-the-top tropes clichés can one film family endure before we move from the realm of the thriller into the theater of the absurd? The answer? Significantly fewer than get thrown at Queen Latifah and company in these 90 minutes of escalating nonsense.

Thursday, 08 September 2022 18:46

Kibbles and Picks 2022 – Week 1

Holy crap! It’s back! The world’s greatest man-versus-dog NFL picks feature is gracing your internet once more!

That’s right – Kibbles and Picks has returned for a (I can’t believe I’m even typing this) tenth season. When this season is done, I will have spent a full decade cheerfully getting humiliated by my dog’s uncanny football predicting acumen.

For those who are unfamiliar – welcome! Also, Kibbles and Picks is a weekly feature wherein I pick the winners of every NFL game on the slate. My adorable pooch Stella also picks the winners of each game. We do that for the length of the season and at the end, I am inevitably defeated.

For those who are too familiar – and keeping score – of the previous nine seasons, Stella has achieved victory in seven. Yep, you read that right. I have only managed to outpick my dog in two of nine seasons, and it’s worth noting that one of those was in just our second season. So if you want to say that I’ve only won one of the last seven, that would also be accurate. Hurtful, but accurate.

Why do I subject myself to this nigh-inevitable humiliation each year? Who can say? Hope springs eternal, I guess; it’s tough to walk away from such a lengthy ongoing experiment, even if the results are most assuredly in at this point. Stella, on the other hand, just enjoys the process, though it should be noted that neither her enjoyment nor her fundamental adorableness mean that she’s going to take it at all easy on me.

It's on.

Are you ready for some football?

By the time you read this, the 2022 NFL season may have already kicked off – the first game of this year’s slate is scheduled for September 8, with the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams hosting the Buffalo Bills, and I am a bit later than usual in putting this preview together – but with so much football ahead of us, there’s still plenty of time for making picks.

(And yes, before you ask, my very smart and very good dog Stella will be back for another season of Kibbles and Picks, the weekly feature wherein she proves to be much better than me at predicting the outcomes of regular season games. This year marks our tenth, and her victory last year means that she has come out on top in seven of the previous nine seasons. Will I be able to achieve some level of dignity here in year 10? Or will she continue her dominance? Those who have been following along likely already know the answer.)

I will be making my usual predictions regarding how I believe the season will play out. And as usual, I anticipate being wildly off-base with a significant percentage of these predictions. I have a long and storied history of middling picks, after all – why expect anything different this time around? Hell, I’m still getting used to the fact that there’s an extra regular season game, with the 17-game slate adding yet another variable of potential inaccuracy to my personal equation.

And so, here you have it, friends – my monkey-dart-throwing attempt at prognostication. Ladies and gentlemen, your sure-to-be-inaccurate 2022 Maine Edge NFL Season Preview.

(y = division winner; x = wild card)

Wednesday, 07 September 2022 11:01

Better, faster, stronger – ‘Upgrade’

What would you do if you woke up one day and were … better? Stronger, faster, smarter – every aspect of who you are improved. And what if that improvement wasn’t just a one-time bump, but a continuous evolution? If that one day became a week became a month became a year? And what if the cost was your humanity?

That’s the central event of Blake Crouch’s latest sci-fi thriller “Upgrade” (Ballantine, $28). Set in a world where well-meaning science nearly destroyed the world by trying to save it, it’s precisely the sort of book we’ve come to expect from Crouch – an action-packed thriller built on a thought-provoking science fictional foundation.

Extrapolating the potential ramifications of scientific discovery and then exploring the consequences is one of the blueprints to create exceptional sci-fi. Of course, one has to have the architecturally authorial talents to follow such intricate plans if one is to craft true excellence. Suffice it to say, Crouch has once again understood the assignment.

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