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Allen Adams

Allen Adams

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BANGOR – Are you ready to get your geek on?

The Bangor Comic & Toy Convention is returning to the Queen City. Running October 1-3 in its new location at the Bangor Mall, the convention is bringing a number of iconic pop culture guests to town, as well as a multitude of artists, vendors and enthusiasts. No matter what your fandom, odds are you’ll find something here that fits the bill.

Tickets for the event are available at the convention’s website – www.bangorcomicandtoycon.com – where you can purchase single day tickets or weekend passes. There are also VIP tickets available, as well as family passes.

This is the fifth year for the convention, which allows pop culture lovers from the Bangor region and beyond the opportunity to come together in celebration of the things that they love. And thanks to the hard work of the festival organizers, it’s a chance for people to get up close and personal with some of the figures involved with the creation of those things.

Maybe you’re a comic book lover. Maybe you’re into sci-fi or fantasy. Maybe you’re into pop culture collectibles or cosplay. Perhaps your tastes trend more toward cult films or anime. Or maybe professional wrestling. And maybe – like so many of us – there’s an overlap, a wide swath of cultural ephemera that you’re into.

That’s the joy of a convention like this – there’s room for everyone. So what are we looking at here?

The headliners of this year’s con have to be Jason Mewes, Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson, stars of the cult classic comedy “Clerks” as well as a handful of other entries in filmmaker Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse. Actress Sherilynn Fenn – of “Twin Peaks” fame – will be here as well, as will iconic horror actor Bill Moseley and actress Judith Hoag (April O’Neill from the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” film). Professional wrestling legends Mick Foley and Mickie James will be in the building, along with some beloved anime voice actors and comic book creatives.

Oh, and if you’re like me, you’re going to be stoked to hear that actor Noah Hathaway – Atreyu from “The Neverending Story” – is expected to attend. And not just the convention; Hathaway is helping to kick off the festivities with a special early event on Sept. 29 – he’s co-hosting a kickoff during which the film will be screened. The event takes place at the Seasons Downunder Club; tickets are $25.

All that, plus a wonderful collection of vendors and a number of additional events scattered throughout the weekend. Like I said – there’s something for everyone here.

Thursday, 16 September 2021 09:54

Kibbles and Picks 2021 – Week 2

And we’re off to an underwhelming start.

It’ll probably come as no surprise to anyone who followed Week 1’s upset-riddled slate that neither Stella nor myself had a particularly good week. In fact, we had pretty much the same not particularly good week – we both managed to go 8-8.

So we’re back at it with a clean slate this week, both of us essentially starting from zero. Not that we’re likely to see a ton of separation after this coming week, because Stella and I are at odds on just five of this week’s contests.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021 12:18

A big sports Hall of Fame week

Cooperstown, Springfield play host to induction festivities

I’m a sucker for Hall of Fame inductions. As someone with a real affection for sports history, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of these places that serve as repositories for the greats of a particular game. It’s fun to look back on brilliance.

And as far as that goes, last week was REALLY fun.

Due to the scheduling shifts necessitated by the ongoing pandemic, the sports world found itself in a unique position – not one, but two different Halls of Fame would be inducting their newest members with a few days of one another.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021 12:15

Max Scherzer notches 3,000th strikeout

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer joined an exclusive club over the weekend.

Scherzer entered the game against the San Diego Padres with 2,994 Ks. The 3,000th came in the fifth inning against Eric Hosmer; he’d finish the game with nine Ks in eight innings, leaving his total (for the moment) at the delightfully-palindromic 3,003. He is the 19th pitcher in MLB history to cross that threshold.

What’s crazy is there was even more history to be made.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021 14:24

Celebrity Slam - MMA at the VMAs

One of the wonderful things about celebrity beef is that there are so many different flavors. You’ve got the long-simmering beef, where the players involved have been at it for years or even decades. You’ve got the fast-food beef, the conflicts that spring up and are almost immediately quashed – they burn hot, but briefly.

But then, you’ve got the surprise beef. It’s relatively rare, but this is the beef that pops up out of nowhere, between people that have no obvious connection to one another. Surprise beef is fun because it doesn’t always make sense. Often, crossover beef is surprise beef, when people celebrated in different spheres suddenly overlap in a Venn diagram of delightful idiocy.

This brings us to this past weekend, where Conor McGregor wound up in some kind of confrontation with Machine Gun Kelly while they were both on the red carpet for the MTV VMAs. We’re talking basically beef Mad Libs here; it’s like someone simply said two random famous names and suddenly they’re fighting.

We have a tendency to want to categorize writers, to pigeonhole them. We like to label them by way of their output: sci-fi writers and literary writers and mystery writers and horror writers and romance writers and on and on and on. It’s easy to do and generally accurate – even authors who diversify tend to be primarily identified by one label, so when we get writers that aren’t so readily tagged, we’re not entirely sure what to call them.

Colson Whitehead is an author who defies those sorts of labels. He’s written speculative fiction – sci-fi and horror. He’s written historical fiction. He’s written immersive participatory nonfiction and literary satire. Really, one of the few descriptors shared across his body of work is “excellent.” As far as previous books go, he’s eight-for-eight.

His latest is “Harlem Shuffle” (Doubleday, $28.95), a crime novel of sorts that offers a vivid look at the Harlem of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. It’s got potboiler DNA, packed with capers and unsavory elements, but all of it is informed by the narrative brilliance of the author. The result is a wild ride of a novel, one that focuses on one man’s inner struggle with his past and present, wherein he seeks to do right by his family while also being the man he wants to be.

Any book by Whitehead is an event – the guy’s last two novels each won the Pulitzer Prize (“The Underground Railroad” in 2017; “The Nickel Boys” in 2020) – but this one feels like something of a throwback. It’s plenty sophisticated and carries forward many of the themes Whitehead traditionally explores in his work, but “Harlem Shuffle” is a looser read, content to lean into the narrative and let the story be what it will be.

And what it will be is outstanding.

Monday, 13 September 2021 15:03

Welcome to the Rock – ‘Come From Away’

I’ve never been one to enjoy filmed versions of stage shows. Now, I’m not saying adaptations – those can be lovely. I’m talking pointing cameras at a stage where a show is going on. Most of the time, you lose the immediacy and energy that makes live performance great and you also lose the production values and delicacy that film provides. It’s literally a lose-lose.

And then you see things that remind you that every rule has its exceptions.

“Come From Away,” currently streaming on Apple TV+, is one of those exceptions. The musical, with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and which first hit Broadway five years ago, tells the story of a small town in Newfoundland that found itself playing host to thousands of unexpected visitors following the shutdown of U.S. airspace after the tragic events of September 11. It’s a tale of kindness and generosity, a story of love and loss and the myriad connections that can come from the unforeseen.

Now, this is very much a filmed play and not a movie. That said, it’s remarkable how well this show works in this context. There’s quality production work happening here, camera work and editing and the like coming together to find that very narrow sweet spot. “Come From Away” doesn’t suffer those losses of energy or delicacy; rather than be diminished by the overlapping of media, it is enhanced.

Of course, it helps that the ensemble is tight and talented and the songs absolutely slap.

We’re all familiar with the notion of coupons. Whether they’re bits of paper clipped from the weekend newspaper or codes procured from some website or another, coupons are a significant part of our consumer culture. Everyone recognizes that tiny thrill that comes with paying less.

But when couponing is pushed to its extremes, things can get a bit … strange. Shoppers developing methods to maximize savings, winding up with rooms filled with groceries and other goods, all in pursuit of that thrill.

And some people are willing to go even farther.

“Queenpins,” the new film by writer/director team Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, draws its inspiration from a real story of coupons run amok, an international scheme that made its masterminds millions of dollars, all from exploiting those seemingly innocuous slips of paper.

It’s a heist story, a caper story, yes – but it’s also a story about the lengths to which we will go in order to feel empowered, to feel as though we have some agency in the direction our lives take. It’s a charming and occasionally goofy story about female friendship wrapped in a pink-collar criminal enterprise, led by a dynamic and talented cast.

There are few directors who have had as thorough an impact on 21st century genre filmmaking as James Wan. While I personally run a bit hot-and-cold with Mr. Wan’s oeuvre, there’s no denying that he has played a big role in defining genre over the past couple of decades.

Horror’s the big one, obviously – this is the dude who directed the first “Saw” movie and helped shepherd the first couple of installments of both the “Insidious” and “Conjuring” film series. That trio alone would place him as one of the creative movers and shakers in the industry.

But then you take into account that he ALSO helmed “Aquaman” for the DCEU (and is also leading the sequel) and directed the seventh “Fast & Furious” movie and you’re looking at a guy with serious influence.

Wan’s latest film is “Malignant,” currently in theaters and streaming on HBO Max. It’s a return to his roots of sorts, the kind of visceral and gnarly blood-and-guts horror that isn’t overly concerned with laying the groundwork for future films or continuing the stories of past ones. Instead, we get a gory and weird horror tale that delights in its own strangeness, the kind of movie that engages in gleefully in-the-moment deconstruction of its influences.

That strangeness is amplified exponentially with an absolutely nutso third-act reveal that pushes us fully into the realm of Cronenbergian body horror, resulting in a movie that, while perhaps not traditionally scary, manages to evoke some emotional churn in its own gross, bizarre, kind of absurd way. All in all, this movie is bonkers.

BANGOR – There’s another great slate of shows gracing the stage of the Gracie Theatre this season.

The Gracie Theatre – located on the campus of Husson University – will be presenting a wide range of entertainment over the course of this season. Music and comedy and more will be offered up to arts lovers and cultural consumers of the region.

The Gracie has been a welcome part of the region’s creative scene for years now, one that has thrived over the past decade, bringing a wonderful and diverse crop of performers to their Bangor stage every season. This year’s slate is no exception, though of course the landscape remains changed due to the circumstances of the ongoing pandemic.

It’s a wide array of offerings, with something for every audience. Putting together a season right now comes with plenty of obstacles, but the team at the Gracie – and at Husson – looks to be ready to do whatever it takes to overcome them. 

“It’s a thrill to be re-opening our doors for our tenth season,” said Jeri Misler, managing director of the Gracie Theatre. “Together with season sponsor Bangor Savings Bank, The Gracie is ready to kick off our season. In February 2022, ‘L.A. Law’ stars Jill Eikenberry and Michael Tucker will be joining us to help celebrate Valentine’s Day with a performance of ‘Love Letters.’ And for those who love the music of Freddie Mercury, ‘Queen Flash,’ a fabulous six-piece Queen tribute band, will rock the house. It’s going to be an incredible season!”

Other acts booked for the coming year include another edition of “Late Nite Catechism,” folk music sensation “Le Vent du Nord,” a classical violin and guitar duo, comedian Karen Morgan, acclaimed off-Broadway hit “Cross that River: The Musical,” and the genre-defying “Take 3” in concert.

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