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Monday, 07 December 2020 16:53

Write hard, aim low – ‘Mank’

The term “movie magic” gets bandied about pretty regularly, even in these cynical times. It is intended to evoke the sense of awe and wonder that is often born of the cinematic arts, but it should also be noted that there’s a darkness that sometimes goes hand in hand with magic – a darkness rendered all the more deeply courtesy of film’s flickering light.

“Mank” is a film that is unafraid to delve into that darkness, exploring the bleak underside of the rapid rise of early Hollywood. Directed by David Fincher from a screenplay written by his late father Jack Fincher, “Mank” is ostensibly the story of Herman Mankiewicz, the writer (or co-writer, depending on how much stock you put into early-70s Pauline Kael) of the iconic “Citizen Kane,” but in many ways, that’s merely the tip of the iceberg.

“Mank” is an ode to old Hollywood, but not the sort of self-celebration we so often see from stories set in that time and place. Instead, we get a glimpse into the unseemly sleaziness that was so thoroughly shot through the industry at that time, with tyrannical studio heads and other assorted titans freely and unrelentingly taking advantage of those with even a modicum less power than they possessed. It is a story of one man’s journey from respectability to sellout to burnout to oddly noble flameout, all set against the backdrop of a time that has been cynically romanticized by an industry that loves nothing more than patting itself on the back.

Published in Movies

There are few tighter bindings than family ties. No matter how we might try to escape them, no matter how we might want and need to separate ourselves from them, for so many of us, they are unavoidable. But while these ties are ostensibly spun from love, there’s an undeniable toxicity inherent to many of them.

“Uncle Frank,” the new film from writer/director Alan Ball, offers an illustration of how deeply those toxic waters can flow, even as those who seek to escape prove unable to extract themselves from the unrelenting riptide of familial dynamics; it shows just how much of ourselves we’re willing to hide in order to find some sort of connection with the ones who raised us.

With a titular character living a double life – closeted with his South Carolina kin, out and proud in New York City – we see what happens when the oft-avoided cultural clash between those two worlds is no longer so easily dismissed, as well as when a naïve young member of the family inadvertently discovers the truth about her beloved uncle. It’s about small-town social mores in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, a snapshot of what it means to be true to yourself – including the consequences.

Published in Movies
Monday, 18 May 2020 14:21

‘Scoob!’ a doggone good time

Full disclosure: it is difficult for me to be objective with regards to Scooby Doo. I have had a deep-seated love for all things Hanna-Barbera since I was a kid; those characters are all beloved parts of my childhood pop culture consumption.

That being said, I was unsure how to feel about “Scoob!” The latest attempt to bring the character to the big screen – now available for rent or purchase via VOD – was an unabashed update, an origin story that I wasn’t at all sure that I needed or wanted. Of course, no IP is safe in the current cinematic landscape, so an update/reboot was all but assured.

Surprisingly, “Scoob!” is … not that bad. It’s an engaging enough take on the source material, making an effort to stay true to the spirit of the original. There’s a whiff of the formulaic here, but everything is executed with good faith effort. It’s certainly not going to alienate nostalgic fans, while also having a shot and bringing new ones into the fold.

Published in Movies

I love me a movie musical. My deep and abiding affection for the joy and wonder of the genre is well-documented. So it should come as no surprise that I was interested in checking out “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” the sequel to 2008’s blockbuster hit “Mamma Mia.”

But here’s the thing – I had never SEEN “Mamma Mia.” This despite not just the aforementioned movie musical love, but an actorly crush on Meryl Streep AND a long-standing affinity for the music of ABBA! It makes zero sense that I would not have seen that film. And so, I rectified that fact before taking in the sequel.

You don’t need me to tell you about the first film, but I can tell you that “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” stays largely true to the unabashedly dorky spirit of its predecessor, packed with impromptu musical numbers and hammy scenery chewing and the inarguably outstanding music of ABBA. It also makes the unusual choice of serving as both a sequel AND a prequel to the original, roughly splitting the story between the two timelines. It is campy, winking and just delightful.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 11:23

The Big Wedding' should be annulled

Romantic comedy neither loving nor funny

On paper, an all-star cast makes a lot of sense. It would stand to reason that when you bring a lot of diverse talents together in the same place, something good would happen. Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way.

Whether it's a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen, conflicting egos or a simple lack of real commitment from some (or all) of the cast, these collections of well-known film stars almost always fall a bit flat.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 02 January 2013 16:07

Dreaming the dream Les Miserables'

Musical adaptation doesn't quite connect

Adapting a beloved work into a new medium is always a tricky prospect. Maybe it's a great work of literature, maybe it's a comic book, maybe it's a stage play regardless, if a cinematic adaptation is being made, chances are that there is a fairly devoted fan base out there a fan base that will let you know on no uncertain terms if you screw up their baby.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 29 February 2012 12:49

Shouldn't have Gone'

Mediocre thriller has nothing to offer

Winter is a good time for a thriller. It's cold and dark outside, and we're maybe just a little more predisposed toward the danger by proxy of the genre. Well if it's a good one. If it's a bad one, the only thrill will come when the credits finally roll.

'Gone' resides firmly in the latter category.

Published in Movies

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