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Monday, 26 October 2020 14:45

‘The Witches’ somewhat lacking in magic

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.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 10 December 2019 12:01

‘Dark Waters’ a low-key legal drama

People often call films “difficult to watch,” but that term can mean different things to different people. Usually, it’s applied to movies that too graphic, whether it be in terms of violence or language or what have you, but sometimes, you get a movie that is difficult to watch because it forces you to learn or remember an unpleasant truth.

That’s the case with “Dark Waters,” the latest film from director Todd Haynes. It’s adapted from a 2016 magazine article by Nathanial Rich titled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare,” the story of one man’s tireless crusade to hold industry accountable when its actions are harmful to the public at large.

The story being told is one of malfeasance writ large and the years-long effort to right the wrongs that have been done. It’s also about the harm that obsession – no matter how righteous or just – can have on someone and the people around them. It is about corporate willingness to fight tooth and nail against anything that may stand in the way of almighty profit … and just how much it takes to stand strong in the face of “progress.”

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:30

‘The Hustle’ doesn’t quite flow

One of the interesting trends in mainstream cinema over the past few years is the gender-swapped remake. We’ve seen a number of these films recently, movies that exchange men for women and vice versa in primary roles. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. And most often … kind of both.

That’s the case with “The Hustle,” the new film starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. A remake of the Michael Caine/Steve Martin-led 1988 comedy “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (itself a remake of 1964’s “Bedtime Story,” a Marlon Brando/David Niven film), “The Hustle” is the story of a pair of con artists caught up in a competition with one another as they ply their trade in a small town on the French Riviera.

It’s a tough sell in some ways – the 1988 film is beloved and the story is highly demanding of the people in the leads. Hathaway and Wilson are both talented enough to make a lot of this stuff work, the truth is that there’s not that much there. There are some solid jokes and a couple of good slapstick set pieces, but it’s not enough. The fairly pedestrian script never reaches the manic comedic energy of its predecessor; Hathaway and Wilson are good, but not quite good enough to help this movie transcend a general sense of formulaicness.

Published in Movies
Monday, 28 January 2019 15:19

Fish out of water – ‘Serenity’

Usually, our feelings about movies are fairly easy to work out. We liked it or we didn’t like it. We got it or we didn’t get it. And we’re usually able to see why someone else might like or dislike a film even if our own feelings are opposing. Obviously, there’s plenty of gray area, but for the majority of movies, it’s a binary situation – “good” or “bad.”

But every once in a while, you get a movie that is so inexplicable, so bizarrely conceived, so bats—t crazy that the binary is out the window. It isn’t “good,” it isn’t “bad,” it’s “what in God’s name did I just watch?”

“Serenity” very much falls into that third category.

At this point, you might be saying to yourself “Really? I saw the trailer for that movie and it looked pretty straightforward to me.” And you’d be right, as far as that goes. The trailer DOES make it all look pretty straightforward. But rest assured – it is not. At all.

For its first half, “Serenity” is nothing special, a sort of beach noir thriller. The pieces are a little ill-fitting, but it’s all fairly conventional. Meanwhile, the second half of the movie hinges on a Shyamalan-on-acid twist, one of the weirdest narrative turns I’ve seen in a mainstream movie in years. Maybe ever.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 12 June 2018 16:06

‘Ocean’s 8’ is more than enough

Anyone who digs a good heist/caper movie carries a fondness for the “Ocean’s” series of movies. 2001’s “Ocean’s Eleven,” 2004’s “Ocean’s Twelve” and 2007’s “Ocean’s Thirteen” were a stylized delight, reinvigorating the genre via the directorial talents of Steven Soderbergh and the tremendous cast, anchored by the movie star triumvirate of George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon atop some phenomenal ensemble casts.

It’s such a wonderful trilogy, in fact, that one can certainly understand the skepticism felt my moviegoers upon hearing the announcement of a new, female-led installment in the series. However, “Ocean’s 8” largely puts that skepticism to rest; while the film doesn’t necessarily reach the heights of the initial films, it’s got a powerhouse cast of its own telling a story that – while a bit implausible – is still a heck of a lot of fun.

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

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