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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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Wednesday, 14 November 2018 16:39

Kibbles and Picks 2018 - Week 11

Another week, another tie.

Stella and I both handled our business to the tune of 9-5 – a good record, to be sure, but let’s be clear: 9-5 isn’t going to cut it. Not when I’m eight games back. I need to start making real gains soon if I’m going to have any chance of keeping this a contest.

I’ve got a shot to make up some ground this week – even with six teams on bye and just 13 games on the schedule, we’re at odds in just shy of half of them. A big week out of me could close the gap considerably.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:59

‘The Grandmaster’ makes all the right moves

“Chess is everything: art, science and sport.” – Anatoly Karpov

The game of chess is one with an ancient history. The game has been played for hundreds of years by millions of people from all corners of the globe. It is buoyed by its universality and its basic meritocratic structure – the more skilled player almost always wins.

You would think such a game would have deep appeal to the American psyche. That isn’t the case, however – not since the too-brief domination of the world stage by Bobby Fischer back in the 1970s has the United States paid much attention to the game.

But when the World Chess Championship landed in New York City in 2016, Brin-Jonathan Butler was there for it. His chronicle of that battle between Norwegian wunderkind Magnus Carlsen and Russian Sergey Karjakin - the first WCC contested on American soil in two decades - is titled “The Grandmaster: Magnus Carlsen and the Match That Made Chess Great Again” (Simon & Schuster, $26).

It’s an insider’s look at a match that was considered almost a foregone conclusion at the onset before turning into a battle for the ages featuring one of the greatest finishes in chess history. It is also an examination of the history of the game as well as the state of chess today, both here and abroad.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:57

Excelsior! Saying goodbye to Stan Lee

When I was a kid, I wanted to be Spider-Man.

I honestly can’t say when exactly it started, this love affair with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, but it was as real as anything I experienced in the entirety of my adolescence. From my precocious youth through my awkward teen years, Spider-Man – and by extension the rest of the Marvel Comics family – was there alongside me.

I have Stan Lee to thank for that.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:44

‘The Grinch’ a ho-hum holiday hater

Let’s be honest – we probably didn’t need another movie about the Grinch.

There’s no disputing that the chartreuse Christmas-hater is one of the most memorable characters of the many created by Dr. Seuss. The book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” was instantly beloved upon its 1957 publication, of course. And the 1966 animated special of the same name – featuring the vocal talents of horror legend Boris Karloff as both the narrator and the Grinch – has been an iconic part of the holiday season for half a century. Even the inferior live-action version from 2000, directed by Ron Howard and starring Jim Carrey, has developed an inexplicably affectionate following.

And yet, with all of that, we’ve still gotten another one.

“The Grinch” is different in that it features 3D animation, embracing the house style of producing studio Illumination (home to the “Despicable Me” franchise, among others); it’s Illumination’s second Seussian go-round after 2012’s “The Lorax.” But that’s more or less ALL that’s different; the film treads familiar territory, following in the footsteps of the films that came before. It’s all pleasant enough – and will undoubtedly crush at the holiday box office – but it doesn’t bring anything to the table that justifies revisiting an already-cherished tale.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:42

The horrors of war – ‘Overlord’

Genre mash-ups are a tricky business. To be truly successful, they must stay true to the genres being addressed while also avoiding getting bogged down in tropes and clichés. Making something that is cohesive and entertaining requires a specific touch.

And when the genres you’re mashing up are horror and war, well … you’re swinging big.

“Overlord” takes just such a big swing. The J.J. Abrams-produced film – directed by Julius Avery from a screenplay by Billy Ray and Mark L. Smith – is a stoned dorm room bull session come to fruition, a preposterous elevator pitch brought to life. It’s a joking dare taken seriously.

And it is a gory, absurd delight.

You’ve probably never said to yourself “I sure do want to see a World War II movie where a group of soldiers on a mission behind enemy lines wind up encountering an experimental Nazi lab that makes zombies.” I know I never have. That doesn’t make it untrue. Because that’s the thing – you ABSOLUTELY want to see that movie. And now you can.

Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy” of crime novels – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” – are among the most popular books of the 21st century, selling tens of millions of copies.

The books were made into films by the Swedish production company Yellow Bird; with Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander (the titular Girl), they proved wildly popular. So popular that an American adaptation of the first book was made in 2011, directed by David Fincher and starring Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig.

However, plans for adaptations of the second and third books fell through. Instead, what we get it “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” based on the fourth book in the series, the first written by David Lagercrantz. This installment – directed by Fede Alvarez and starring Claire Foy as Salander – is an effort to continue the story set forth so brilliantly by Larsson.

Said effort is futile.

While there are moments where we’re reminded of the visceral power of Larsson’s story and Lisbeth’s character, too much nuance has been lost. Where once Salander was a relatable, complex person, this new narrative has rendered her largely inert, a collection of traumas dressed like a Hot Topic bargain bin and possessed of computer acumen indistinguishable from wizardry. There’s no reason to emotionally connect with her – even when the filmmakers unabashedly demand it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:34

‘The Curious Savage’ a satisfying surprise

ORONO – There are some curious goings-on currently afoot at the University of Maine.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting John Patrick’s classic 1950 comedy “The Curious Savage.” The production, directed by Julie Arnold Lisnet, is taking place at Hauck Auditorium on the University of Maine campus; the show runs through November 18.

The show tells the story of a widowed woman whose deceased husband placed a lot of money in her care – money that her unpleasant stepchildren would like to get their hands on. They’re willing to go so far as to have her committed, but what they don’t count on is the strength and smarts of their stepmother – or the help she might find in unexpected places.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:27

‘The Labyrinth Index’ amazes

As a book reviewer, dealing with ongoing series can be tricky. Leaving aside the fact that you need to have started from the beginning – no mean feat when new books are constantly crossing your desk – you have to find ways to keep your own viewpoint fresh as an overarching narrative unfolds over six, eight, 10 books. So as a rule, I don’t usually wade into those waters.

But every rule has its exceptions. One of mine is Charles Stross and his Laundry Files.

As we come to the end of another cinematic year, certain elements of the Hollywood machine are ramping up into high gear.

Obviously, we’re entering into prestige season, where studios have traditionally trotted out their awards contenders in order to ensure that they are fresh in the minds of voters when balloting takes place.

Granted, that has changed somewhat in recent years – the combination of an expanded Best Picture field and a willingness to recognize more mainstream and commercial fare has led to less specificity with regards to where a film lands on the calendar. Still, the lion’s share of Oscar bait rolls out close to the cutoff date.

On the flip side, this late part of the year has also become a sort of second summer in terms of blockbuster fare. Films expected to do massive box office are no longer just the purview of June and July – December has now become a perfectly acceptable spot to place your nine-figure franchise powerhouse.

What follows is a look at some of the upcoming films that are closing out 2018, divided into two categories – “Awards Bait” and “Blockbusters.” This should give you an idea of not only what films are coming our way, but what KINDS of films they might be. Take a look.

We spend a lot of time in this space laughing at the foibles of the famous. There are few things we love more than watching clueless celebrities snipe at each other over unimportant idiocy or pair up in ways that force us to combine their names in new and interesting ways. That’s no surprise – the name of the feature is Celebrity Slam. It’s what we do here.

However, that isn’t ALL we do. Sometimes, we like to take a step back and recognize that there are people out there who embrace the opportunity to use their fame to do something good. These are the people who give back because it’s the right thing to do, not because the optics are good or whatever. Sometimes, it’s nice to celebrate the good.

This week, as we near Thanksgiving and all that this time of year entails, we thought we might take a few minutes to toot the horns of some local celebrities who won’t necessarily do it themselves, a pair of delightful humans whose hearts have always been in the right place.

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