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Tuesday, 19 November 2019 11:55

‘Charlie’s Angels’ get their wings

Did we really need another “Charlie’s Angels” movie?

It’s not surprising, really; the basic concept is certainly ripe for revisiting in this current era of IP-driven franchise-building. And in case you’re wondering, yes – this new film is intended as a sequel of sorts to the two “Charlie’s Angels” films from 15 years ago, rather than a reboot.

But the question remains: why?

That said, the actual result is better than it has any right to be. Not great, but OK. It’s probably safe to assume that much of the credit for that has to go to Elizabeth Banks, who not only directed the film but also makes her feature debut as a screenwriter. Oh, and she’s in it as well. So yeah – this is very much an Elizabeth Banks joint.

Published in Movies

BANGOR – There’s no business like show business. And when you have a show about show business? Well – the show must go on. And on. And on…

Bangor Community Theatre is presenting “Moon Over Buffalo,” a comedy by Ken Ludwig, on their home stage at the Bangor Grange Hall. The show – directed by Irene Dennis – runs through Nov. 24.

It’s the story of two aging actors, touring the hinterlands with a pair of classic stage plays in the 1950s. However, when an unexpected opportunity presents the possibility of a return to glory, the pair will do whatever it takes to make it happen – no matter what.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 12 November 2019 12:42

‘Playing with Fire’ a lukewarm family film

Let’s be clear from the start: John Cena is not The Rock. Nor will he ever be The Rock, no matter how hard he, WWE and/or Hollywood try to make it be so.

And that’s OK. Cena has his own (admittedly limited) charms, both in terms of personality and performance acumen. He’s never going to be the entertainment force that is Dwayne Johnson.

Movies like “Playing with Fire” are an excellent illustration of that truth. While The Rock had his share of kid-friendly outings early in his film career, it was clear even at the time that something larger was looming. Cena simply doesn’t have the same sort of raw charisma.

This isn’t a criticism, really – though it may sound like one. Cena’s performative talents may lag behind his fellow wrestler-turned-actor, but he also has plenty to offer in his own right. He’s got a gift for using his imposing physicality to his benefit, as well as a legitimately good sense of comedic timing and a genuine earnestness – all of which work well in a movie like this one.

Published in Movies

BREWER – Some of the best improvisational comedy groups from all over the state of Maine are descending on the Next Generation Theatre in Brewer this weekend.

On Nov. 8 and 9, local improv troupe The Focus Group will once again be playing host to the Improv ME Festival. Sessions will take place at 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 and at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Now in its fifth year, Improv ME is the largest annual assemblage of improv talent in the state of Maine. With three sessions over two days featuring seven different groups, audiences will get the chance to experience some of the best improv that Maine has to offer. The producing sponsor of the Improv ME Festival is Geaghan Brothers Brewing Company, a role they have filled since the festival's inception. The media sponsor is The Maine Edge.

Joining The Focus Group will be: Bar Harbor’s ImprovAcadia, Farmington’s Teachers Lounge Mafia, Orono’s Improv In Sanity, Camden’s The Cool Kids’ Table, Bangor’s Queen City Improv and southern Maine’s You Should Smile More.

In addition to the groups listed, the festival will close out with an improv surprise featuring players from a variety of different troupes; expect the unexpected even more than usual from Improv ME’s final set.

Published in Cover Story
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 13:33

‘Rumors’ a farce to be reckoned with

ORONO – There are a whole lot of doors being slammed and stories being spun on the University of Maine campus, courtesy of a classic Neil Simon farce.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting Simon’s “Rumors” at the Cyrus Memorial Pavilion Theater on the Orono campus. Directed by Julie Lisnet, the show runs through Oct. 27.

It seems as though the region has Neil Simon on the brain these days – Ten Bucks Theatre just closed their production of the playwright’s “The Sunshine Boys” – but there’s a reason for that: he’s funny. His work is charming and clever and accessible, a perfect fit for just about any company. “Rumors” is a great example of that; it’s not top-tier in terms of Simon’s most well-known work, but it’s just a tick below.

And again – it’s VERY funny.

Published in Style

The pop culture zeitgeist is in constant flux. What’s popular and exciting changes with ever-increasing rapidity; today’s hot commodity is tomorrow’s passé cliché.

Ten years ago, zombies were hot. There were all manner of properties devoted to the horror subgenre; comic books and movies, TV shows and novels – the works. Into that world was delivered “Zombieland,” a zom-com with a dynamite cast that embraced the inherent humor while also leaning into the more visceral and graphic aspects of zombie tales. Basically, it was funny and gross and a hell of a good time. It was also a significant financial success, more than quadrupling its budget at the box office. So it stands to reason that the powers that be would want a sequel.

Only it took a little longer than anticipated.

Now, a full decade later, we’re finally getting that sequel. Titled “Zombieland: Double Tap,” this movie lands in a much different pop culture landscape than its predecessor. It’s tough to argue against a degree of zombie fatigue when it comes to our entertainment; the saturation point was passed long ago.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 20:43

Let ‘The Sunshine Boys’ in

BANGOR – Vaudeville is alive and well (well … sort of) on a local stage.

Ten Bucks Theatre Company is offering up their production of the Neil Simon comedy “The Sunshine Boys” at their theater space in the Bangor Mall. Directed by Ben Layman, the show runs through Oct. 20.

It’s a tale of a friendship gone sour, featuring a pair of stubborn men whose once-intimate connection is long in the past, courtesy of a number of slights both real and perceived. It’s about what a monumental task it can be to forgive (even if age has made it a little easier to forget). A love of show business can run deep, but deeper than a friendship?

Depends on the friend.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 09:18

Don’t hustle these ‘Hustlers’

Here’s a reminder for those of you who may have forgotten: Jennifer Lopez is legitimately good at everything. She is a talented pop singer, an excellent dancer and a gifted actress. She is a savvy businesswoman and a social media savant. She is smart as hell and still hungry after more than two decades in the spotlight.

She puts those skills on full display in her new film “Hustlers,” directed by Lorene Scafaria from a screenplay she adapted herself from a magazine article written by Jessica Pressler. It’s a movie that is equal parts heist story and female friendship narrative. Lopez unleashes the full force of her talents (not to mention her pure unbridled charisma), putting forward a performance that is nuanced and raw and serves as an absolutely magnetic foundation for what ultimately proves to be a damned good movie.

It’s an unapologetic look at what it takes to get ahead in a world where the deck is stacked against you, a story that refuses to condemn its characters for embracing the same tactics that the men of the world get rich employing. It’s a story about people who, instead of playing the hand that they were dealt, choose to change the rules to which they are expected to adhere.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 09:10

Fun run – ‘Brittany Runs a Marathon’

Movies don’t often surprise us anymore. That’s by design – we live in a world of massive marketing budgets and huge publicity pushes, when every major release receives multiple trailers and press junkets and the whole nine yards.

Then again, there are different kinds of surprises. There are the indie darlings that turn out to be dark horse awards contenders. There are the presumed anointed that wind up falling flat both critically and commercially. And then there are movies that surprise on a more individual level.

“Brittany Runs a Marathon” falls into that third category. Specifically, it features a lead performer – in this case, Jillian Bell – known primarily for comedic work taking the turn into something with a bit more substance. That’s not to say that comedy is somehow insubstantial, only that it’s interesting to see comedic performers taking dramatic risks.

This movie is that risk for Bell, a gifted comedian who displays a degree of emotional vulnerability and honesty that is a significant departure from the work we’re accustomed to seeing from her. The comedy isn’t gone – she’s as funny as ever – but it’s coming from a genuine place, informed by real feeling. It’s a smart, sharp story that manages to balance a comedic coarseness with an underlying message that is legitimately inspirational.

Published in Movies

BANGOR – A pair of comedy legends will be landing at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor.

Steve Martin and Martin Short are bringing their touring show – titled “Now You See Them, Soon You Won’t” – to town on Sept. 14; the show is presented by Waterfront Concerts and the CIC. The throwback variety team-up has been through a number of iterations – including a 2018 Netflix special titled “An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life” that was nominated for four Emmy Awards.

The show will feature comedic sketches and conversations with the duo, as well as plenty of music; Grammy-award winning bluegrass performers (and frequent Steve Martin collaborators) Steep Canyon Rangers will be in the house, as will pianist Jeff Babko, the longtime arranger and house band member for “Jimmy Kimmel Live” who got his start in TV on Martin Short’s talk show.

Anyone with any knowledge of comedy likely knows who these two are.

With Steve Martin, perhaps you’re familiar with his iconic, game-changing standup work in the 1970s. Or his iconic guest turns on “Saturday Night Live.” Maybe you’re a fan of his film work – everything from the lunatic absurdity of “The Jerk” or “The Man with Two Brains” to more mainstream fare like “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” or “Parenthood.” He’s also an accomplished musician, novelist and playwright, because of course he is.

With Martin Short, you might have first encountered him on the paradigm-shifting Canadian sketch show “SCTV.” He did a turn on “SNL” as well, which in turn led to films like “Innerspace” and “Three Fugitives” and “Mars Attacks!” He created the iconic character Jiminy Glick and brought him to a wide variety of stages and screens. He also hosted an eponymous syndicated talk show and, oh yeah, has a Tony.

As someone with a deep love of comedy that was formed in large part when these two were in their heyday, I have a heartfelt admiration for them both. Each of them helped shape my comedic sensibility in a very real way. While a decade-plus in this business has largely inured me to feeling starstruck, there are still occasional exceptions. This interview was one of those exceptions.

Seriously – I was talking to two of the “Three Amigos.” It’s a miracle that I was able to keep it together. But I did manage to avoid completely fanboying out. Well … mostly avoid. Judge for yourselves.

Published in Cover Story
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