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Hollywood has long been fascinated with soldiers’ stories. Movies about soldiers, whether they’re on the battlefield or off it, have been part of the cinema since the beginnings of the medium. In the early days, those films tended toward the celebratory and/or laudatory, but more recent fare has leaned into deconstructing the physical and psychological impact of men going to war.

“Cherry,” the new film from Joe and Anthony Russo, is the latest in a long line of films exploring what happens to those who are broken by war and then dropped back into their old lives without anyone helping them to repair themselves. Adapted by Angela Russo-Otstot and Jessica Goldberg from Nico Walker’s acclaimed 2018 novel of the same name and currently available via Apple TV+, it’s a story of one man’s struggles to deal with the aftermath of his choices – an aftermath that leads him into a seedy and unsafe world of addiction and crime.

It’s an intense and unwavering film, one that seeks to paint an unvarnished portrait of the pain of a young man left behind by the system that used him up. It is also a film not without issues, a story whose pacing is bumpy and whose character motivations are sometimes murky. All in all, an uneven but still worthwhile viewing experience.

Published in Movies

I’m a huge admirer of triple threats – that is, performers with the ability to sing, dance and act at a high level. It’s a term most often foisted upon stage actors, specifically Broadway types, but it can be applied to a number of stage and screen talents.

Here’s the thing, though: Something has to be third. No one is EQUALLY gifted at singing, dancing and acting. Yes, you can be good, even great, at all three, but there has to be one that comes in last.

This brings us to Justin Timberlake, a performer of immense ability across the spectrum – a legitimate triple threat. However, I feel very comfortable saying that for JT, acting definitely comes in third.

And yet, when I watch him in “Palmer,” his new film currently streaming on Apple TV+, I wonder. Not enough to change my mind, of course, but that’s more because his singing/dancing talents are so extreme rather than any acting shortcoming. We haven’t seen Timberlake take on any kind of a serious role in years (and never anything like this one), so it’s easy to forget.

This movie – directed by Fisher Stevens from a screenplay by Cheryl Guerriero – pushes the pop star toward a darkness that is vastly unlike any of his previous efforts. It’s a heartfelt story of redemption and acceptance, one that goes to some morally murky places and is unafraid to venture into unpleasant territory. It’s about responsibility, about protecting those who need protection and how that protective instinct can grow into something more. And it’s about what happens when someone who has lost everything sees a chance to regain some of what he no longer has.

Published in Movies

The relationships between parents and children have long been fertile fodder for filmmaking. These are easily recognizable dynamics in the macro sense that can nevertheless run the gamut in terms of specifics. That combination of universality and flexibility allows a lot of room for interesting storytelling.

Perhaps its no surprise that writer-director Sofia Coppola would make a movie that explores that dynamic – specifically, that which exists between fathers and daughters. One imagines that her relationship with her own father – the legendary director Francis Ford Coppola – might be fraught, particularly when you consider that she made her way into the family business.

“On the Rocks” is her latest film, currently available on Apple TV+. It’s a story of one woman’s attempts to take a closer look at her life and her relationship, exploring her own feelings of stagnation while also trying to figure out where her husband stands. Her enthusiastic and somewhat misguided ally for these efforts is her wealthy, wayward father, a man who has his own very particular ideas about marriage and relationships.

This is a movie that takes great pleasure in deconstructing the upwardly-mobile marriage at its center, digging into the feelings that can spring up when parenthood and other factors are clamoring for your attention. It also does a great job in shifting and sharing different perspectives regarding what it means to have a successful relationship – or if such a thing is even really possible. And with a dynamite pairing of talents driving the action, the end result is a film packed with heart and humor.

Published in Style
Sunday, 12 July 2020 16:28

‘Greyhound’ wages war on the water

Many of our greatest stories have revolved around warfare. From the great epics of the ancient Greeks thousands of years ago to the continued proliferation of war movies today, the tragedies and triumphs of the battlefield have been major subjects of our storytelling since we first began telling them.

We’ve already seen one strong entry into the war movie canon this year with Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods,” but we can add another to the list courtesy of “Greyhound,” currently available on Apple TV+. The film – directed by Aaron Schneider from a screenplay adapted by Tom Hanks (who also stars) from the C.S. Forester novel “The Good Shepherd” – is a throwback of sorts, an ode to the WWII films of the past, telling the tale of the men tasked with protecting trans-Atlantic convoys in the empty stretches too far from shore for air support.

It’s a sharply-paced, engaging war movie, one that finds interesting ways to juxtapose the vast and harsh expanse of the ocean with the nigh-claustrophobic confines within a warship. It also captures the pressures that land on the shoulders of those in command, pressures that are exponentially heightened by the simple fact that the enemy is often invisible. That air of dread and anticipation – and the heroism that it takes to stand strong and fight anyway – permeates the film.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 01 October 2019 15:48

New to view 2019: A fall TV preview

Fall TV premiere season is upon us!

Granted, the whole concept of the “new fall lineup” has increasingly become less of a thing with the proliferation of streaming services willing to drop entire seasons in one go and networks becoming more and more flexible with regards to when a series can and should debut, but whether it is by design or simply through inertia, we still see a whole lot of new material hit the airwaves in the autumn.

As per usual, this preview addresses only those shows entering their debut seasons. This isn’t about all the exceptional television that is returning for a second or third or fifth or tenth season – this is about stuff we haven’t seen before. It’s a chance to look ahead at what’s coming and think about what content – if any – we might be willing to invest our limited leisure time into.

It’s a mixed bag for sure. We’ve got broadcast and we’ve got streaming and you’d better believe we’ve got HBO. We’ve got comedy and drama. We’ve got prestige fare and we’ve got mass appeal. We’ve got highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow – all the brows you could ever desire.

Will all of these shows be good? Absolutely not. Should you watch them all? Also – no. And this is far from everything. But if there’s even one or two gems among the flotsam, that’s a big win. And honestly, it looks like there might be a couple of winners here.

Or maybe it’s all just poorly-conceived adequately-executed entertainment detritus. Who can say?

Let’s have a look at a few of 2019’s fall TV premieres.

Published in Cover Story

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