Admin
Monday, 26 October 2020 14:45

‘The Witches’ somewhat lacking in magic

Written by Allen Adams

The works of author Roald Dahl have long been prime fodder for the leap from page to screen. The unabashed weirdness and genuinely frightful nature of his work – not to mention the wildly inventive and colorful characters and narratives that he constructs – make these books ideal subjects for translation to visual media. They are fun, bizarre experiences whether you’re reading them or seeing them.

However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing … particularly when a story is revisited for the big screen treatment.

To wit: HBO Max is currently streaming their version of “The Witches,” directed by Robert Zemeckis. It’s an adaptation of Dahl’s 1983 novel of the same name – a novel that already received a VERY successful remake in 1990. It’s a bold choice, remaking a film that, while 30 years old, still maintains a place of high regard in the memories of many moviegoers. A bold choice … and a somewhat misguided one.

Don’t get me wrong – this new version isn’t bad. It just doesn’t land with the same spirited resonance as its predecessor. Much like Tim Burton’s stab at “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory,” this new take on “The Witches” simply feels unnecessary. It’s no one’s fault, really – everyone involved seems to be operating in good faith and really giving it their all. It’s just that there probably shouldn’t have been a project for which to give said all.

It’s always interesting when a years-later sequel pops up. The results have certainly been mixed, with the unqualified success rate for these sorts of projects being fairly low. We’ve seen some that had some moments, but for the most part, dusting off old films – particularly comedies – to try and revisit their stories hasn’t really worked.

This brings us to “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Deliver of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” – henceforth to be called simply “Borat 2” – the new project from comedic auteur Sacha Baron Cohen, currently streaming via Amazon Prime Video. The sequel to 2006’s “Borat,” this new film came to be in a vastly different American environment than its predecessor, but Cohen’s incisive and bizarre wit still plays, albeit with a different energy than before.

While it’s more successful than many other years-late sequels, it also can’t quite reach the bar of satiric absurdity set by that first film. Not that there’s any shame in that – “Borat” is a top-tier piece of social satire and transgressive comedy. The fact that this new offering even gets close is plenty impressive. Cohen holds up a mirror to American culture, but the warped reflection we see is simply an accurate depiction of who and what we are in this moment. It’s not a funhouse mirror, folks. We’re the funhouse.

Monday, 26 October 2020 12:49

‘Rebecca’ offers stylish gothic thrills

Written by Allen Adams

It takes a lot of chutzpah to remake Alfred Hitchcock.

There are a handful of acknowledged masters in the cinematic realm that pretty much everyone can agree on, filmmakers who are universally acclaimed as the very best at what they do … and Hitchcock is on that list. No one has demonstrated such mastery of the psychological thriller. Even now, nearly 50 years after his last film, he’s the maestro.

His 1940 “Rebecca” – based on Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 novel of the same name – was his first American project, a film that landed 11 Academy Award nominations and won two, including Hitchcock’s only Best Picture win.

So to tackle a movie that remakes not just any Hitchcock, but one of his best, well … like I said. Chutzpah.

Yet here we are, with Netflix producing a remake of the classic, directed by Ben Wheatley from a screenplay adaptation by Jane Goldman, Joe Shrapnel and Anna Waterhouse. And it’s a pretty solid effort, with a talented cast and a suitably sumptuous aesthetic. The biggest strike against it – and it is a big one – is that it was preceded by a legitimate masterpiece.

The story of a young woman who marries into a situation far more complex and shadowy than she ever could have imagined, “Rebecca” is a gothic thriller set against the lush English countryside in the heady days preceding World War II. It is a tale of the darkness within – and the fact that even those closest to us may be keeping secrets.

Friday, 23 October 2020 15:09

Dinner with friends – ‘Friendsgiving’

Written by Allen Adams

Thanksgiving has always been a bit of a forgotten holiday when it comes to movies. Halloween’s got the horror genre on lockdown – not to mention its own named franchise – and Christmas, well … you don’t need to tell me that there are a lot of Christmas movies out there. But Thanksgiving has always been a bit adrift in terms of cinema – for whatever reason, it just doesn’t have the wider cultural relevance of its bookending holidays.

That doesn’t mean we don’t still see some Thanksgiving films, though. The latest entry into the genre is “Friendsgiving,” an indie comedy by first-time feature writer-director Nicol Paone. Featuring a star-studded cast, the film takes a look at two friends struggling to deal with the changes in their lives, dealing with their new realities in very different – and equally unhealthy – ways.

It’s also a very funny look at how the holidays have very different impacts on different people, as well as how our blood relations aren’t necessarily as close to us as the chosen families we assemble from our nearest and dearest friends. It’s goofy and light and occasionally poignant – all in service of the spirit of togetherness that is, at its core, the whole point of Thanksgiving.

Friday, 23 October 2020 11:55

A brief mystery of time – ‘Synchronic’

Written by Allen Adams

Who doesn’t love a good filmmaking duo?

Yes, the individual auteur tends to get most of the attention – the singular visionary driving all aspects of a film – but there’s something special about a good collaborative team. The best of them are complementary pieces, individuals whose talents mesh in such a way as to elevate one another, resulting in work that is deep and rich, rendered all the more engaging through the combined viewpoints.

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead might not have reached that top tier just yet, but give them time – they’re just getting started. And if their latest offering is any indication, they’re going to reach that level sooner rather than later.

“Synchronic” – co-directed by the two, with a script by Benson and cinematography by Moorhead – is a wonderful piece of well-constructed storytelling. It’s smart, taut science fiction, using the trappings of genre to craft a tale of love, loss and the deep and abiding power of friendship.

As someone who is fascinated by both mid-20th century American history and the work of Aaron Sorkin, you can imagine my excitement upon learning that those two fascinations were being brought together by the folks at Netflix. It’s relatively rare that a film comes along that is so squarely in the center of a Venn diagram formed by such generally incongruous interests, so rest assured – I was pumped.

Happily, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” – written and directed by Sorkin – largely lived up to my admittedly lofty expectations. It tells the story of a tumultuous time in American history through a specific event – the trial of a group of counterculture figures indicted for conspiracy to allegedly incite violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, a trial that has come to be viewed by history as a travesty of justice, an effort to make an example of those who would protest the actions of their government.

It also features an absolutely stellar cast, an ensemble running deep with top-tier talent. It’s an opportunity for Sorkin to flash his own particular brand of progressive politics, all while utilizing every trick and trope in his bag to construct a compelling story. As he often does when venturing into the real world, Sorkin takes some liberties with the facts, but for the most part, the larger picture remains connected to the larger truth.

Producer Jason Blum has long been a champion of rising filmmakers. Through his Blumhouse production company, he has built a reputation for low-cost high-reward genre filmmaking that allows budding writers and directors to gain access to a larger audience.

His latest project is “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” an anthology film series developed in partnership with Amazon. All told, this series will consist of eight feature-length films, with four being released this October and the other four released sometime in 2021.

The first two in the series – “Black Box” and “The Lie” – dropped on October 6. One week later, on October 13, we got two more: “Evil Eye,” directed by Elan and Rajeev Dassani from a screenplay by Madhuri Shekar (based on her own Audible original), and “Nocturne,” written and directed by Zu Quirke. Much like the previous two offerings, these films aren’t necessarily the sort of straightforward horror offerings that audiences might expect from Blumhouse, there’s still plenty here worth seeing.

Again, these movies may not be quite ready to work as standalone offerings, but as part of the grander picture under the anthology umbrella, they’re certainly sufficient. Each has its flaws, to be sure, but they also put the considerable talents of their respective makers on full display, which is a big part of the point. Yes, if you’re here for “Paranormal Activity” and the like, you might be left wanting, but there’s a lot more to Jason Blum’s shop. And like the first two films, these latest works are worth checking out.

Monday, 19 October 2020 14:07

‘S#!%house’ happens

Written by Allen Adams

Full disclosure: I love coming of age movies. I loved them when I was a kid. I loved them as a young man. And I love them still as I wander into middle age.

There’s a universality to the crossing of that particular Rubicon that I find appealing, a recognition of shared experience wherein the specifics might not be the same, but the big picture more or less is. A look at what it means to grow up, to start becoming the person we’re ultimately meant to be. I particularly enjoy those stories set in academic settings – the parallel educations that take place in those places.

Which brings us to … “S#!%house.” Yep – that’s the name. “S#!%house.”

But here’s the thing – the movie is as good as that name is terrible. This is a movie that won the top Jury Prize in the Narrative Feature section of SXSW this year. Virtual festival or no, that’s a big deal. It is a heartfelt and biting look at what it means to be a young person lost in a world they don’t fully understand and trying to figure out what happens next. Smart and sad and honest in the way of all top-tier indie filmmaking.

Oh, and it just happens to be the realization of an auteur’s vision – the film is written, directed and edited by Cooper Raiff, a first-time feature director at the ripe old age of 23. Oh – and he stars in it too.

Every moviegoer is different. We all have our own personal tastes. We have likes and dislikes specific to ourselves. Also – and this is important to note – we can like things that are “bad” and dislike things that are “good.” Again – taste.

This brings us to Adam Sandler.

As someone who came of age in the early 1990s, I experienced the beginnings of Sandler’s cinematic output at PRECISELY the right age. “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” “The Waterboy” – those movies were squarely in my juvenile-humored wheelhouse. So even as I grew up and my tastes became (somewhat) more sophisticated, I maintained a real affection for Sandler and his work.

Objectively, I can look at his output and recognize its many, MANY flaws. I can watch these films and acknowledge how “bad” they are. That doesn’t change the fact that part of me still enjoys watching them. Even the REALLY bad ones.

Happily, his new film “Hubie Halloween” – the latest installment under his megadeal with Netflix – isn’t one of the outright terrible ones. It isn’t, you know, good or anything, but it’s not as awful as some of what he’s churned out in recent years. Directed by longtime collaborator Steve Brill from a script co-written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy, it’s fairly typical, the standard goofy-voiced man-child boilerplate packed with dumb jokes and stupid gags, all delivered by the usual assemblage of Sandler buddies and relatives.

It’s shaggy and sloppy in the usual ways, but there’s also a low-key cheerfulness at the heart of the movie that elevates it somewhat. It’s far from the top of the Sandlerian canon, but it’s even farther from the bottom. These days, that’s a win.

Producer Jason Blum has long been a champion of rising filmmakers. Through his Blumhouse production company, he has built a reputation for low-cost high-reward genre filmmaking that allows budding writers and directors to gain access to a larger audience.

His latest project is “Welcome to the Blumhouse,” an anthology film series developed in partnership with Amazon. All told, this series will consist of eight feature-length films, with four being released this October and the other four released sometime in 2021.

The first two in the series dropped on October 6. Leading off, we have “Black Box,” directed by Emmanuel Osei-Jouffer from a screenplay Osei-Jouffer co-wrote with Stephen Herman, and “The Lie,” directed by Veena Sud, who also wrote the script, an adaptation of the German film “Wir Monster.” While the films aren’t necessarily the sort of straightforward horror offerings that audiences might expect from Blumhouse, there’s still plenty here worth seeing.

The truth is that these films might not be quite ready to work as standalone offerings, but as part of the grander picture under the anthology umbrella, they’re more than sufficient. Each film has its flaws, to be sure, but they also put the considerable talents of their respective makers on full display, which is a big part of the point. Again, if you’re here for “Paranormal Activity” and the like, you might be left wanting, but there’s a lot more to Jason Blum’s shop. Why not give it a try?

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 62

Advertisements

The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine