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Tuesday, 13 February 2018 17:54

Bunny buffoonery - ‘Peter Rabbit’

Written by Allen Adams

Bringing beloved characters to life is a tricky business. You have to balance respect for the source material with the necessity of new energy. You can’t tell the same old story, but you also bear a certain modicum of responsibility to that story.

The works of Beatrix Potter have been beloved by generations of children. Her books have delighted kids for decades, creating characters that inspire fond memories in young and old alike.

So if you’re going to make a movie about Peter Rabbit, well … be careful.

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 14:36

‘The Shape of Water’ beautiful and bizarre

Written by Allen Adams

It’s a rare thing for a filmmaker to be able to bring together diverse sensibilities in the service of furthering their own particular voice. Finding the balance between craftsmanship and commercialism is never an easy thing to do.

And when I say commercialism, I’m not necessarily referring to box office success (although that’s part of it). What I mean is the art of making commercial fare – a very different skill set than that used in the making of more indie-minded films.

Guillermo del Toro is as good at walking that line as any filmmaker in his generation. He’s probably the best we’ve seen since the heyday of Spielberg. And “The Shape of Water” is the culmination of that journey, precisely filling the Venn diagram overlap between those styles – equal parts “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy.”

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 14:12

‘Winchester’ a half-cocked horrorshow

Written by Allen Adams

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.

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.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018 13:35

‘Maze Runner: The Death Cure’ limps to the finish

Written by Allen Adams

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.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018 17:42

‘Den of Thieves’ a humdrum heist

Written by Allen Adams

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.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018 13:38

Know when to fold ‘em – ‘Molly’s Game’

Written by Allen Adams

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.

Saturday, 13 January 2018 12:54

‘The Post’ delivers

Written by Allen Adams

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.”

Friday, 12 January 2018 12:04

'The Commuter' goes off the rails

Written by Allen Adams

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.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018 14:27

‘Darkest Hour’ shines brightly

Written by Allen Adams

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

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