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BANGOR – Clothes make the woman in the latest production from Bangor Community Theatre.

For their latest offering, BCT presents “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” adapted for the stage by Nora and Delia Ephron from the Ilene Beckerman book of the same name. Directed by Irene Dennis, the show – a mediation on the lives of women as reflected through their relationships with their wardrobes – runs through Oct. 24 at Bangor Grange #372 on Ohio Street in Bangor.

All ticketing for the show is in advance. It is also available for on-demand viewing via the BCT website and Broadway World – visit www.bangorcommunitytheatre.org for more details.

Published in Style

We’re all familiar with the notion of coupons. Whether they’re bits of paper clipped from the weekend newspaper or codes procured from some website or another, coupons are a significant part of our consumer culture. Everyone recognizes that tiny thrill that comes with paying less.

But when couponing is pushed to its extremes, things can get a bit … strange. Shoppers developing methods to maximize savings, winding up with rooms filled with groceries and other goods, all in pursuit of that thrill.

And some people are willing to go even farther.

“Queenpins,” the new film by writer/director team Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, draws its inspiration from a real story of coupons run amok, an international scheme that made its masterminds millions of dollars, all from exploiting those seemingly innocuous slips of paper.

It’s a heist story, a caper story, yes – but it’s also a story about the lengths to which we will go in order to feel empowered, to feel as though we have some agency in the direction our lives take. It’s a charming and occasionally goofy story about female friendship wrapped in a pink-collar criminal enterprise, led by a dynamic and talented cast.

Published in Movies

There are a surprising number of movies out there that are built on the premise of someone dying, only to return from the Great Beyond to right various wrongs. Technically, these are ghost stories, though a lot of them are somewhat inexplicably played for laughs.

On the relatively rare occasion that the conceit works, you get a movie that is heartfelt and funny and that fully earns whatever emotional payoff it seeks. These are the films that manage to be both funny and poignant, deriving genuine humor and pathos from the narrative circumstances.

When it doesn’t work, well … that’s when you get “Afterlife of the Party.”

The Netflix streamer – directed by Stephen Herek from a script by Carrie Freedle – is a derivative clunker of a film, seemingly assembled from vague recollections of far better movies. It’s the sort of movie that attempts to elicit laughs through broad comedy and tears through fraught emotionality, only to succeed on neither front, resulting in a vapid and unsatisfying movie experience.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 01 September 2021 11:43

‘Only Murders in the Building’ one killer show

Few pop culture phenomena have been as pervasive in recent years as true crime podcasts. Even if you don’t listen to them yourself, odds are that you know at least one person who listens obsessively to one or more. “Serial,” “My Favorite Murder,” “Dirty John, “Dr. Death” – the list goes on and on. Hell, the latter two pushed so fully into the zeitgeist that they got TV adaptations.

But while some of these programs have made the leap across media, a new Hulu show has a different idea about how to bring true crime podcasts to the small screen.

“Only Murders in the Building” is a 10-episode series on the streaming service; the first three episodes dropped on Aug. 31, with subsequent episodes landing every Tuesday from September 7 through October 5. The show was created by Steve Martin and Dan Fogelman; it stars Martin alongside Martin Short and Selena Gomez.

The fundamental question is simple – what if true crime enthusiasts were presented with an opportunity to go in-depth on a murder of their own? The result – thanks to great performances, strong writing and a genuine affection for the genre – is a show that is funny, smart and sincere, managing to parody this very specific world while also crafting a great example of that world.

(Note: Eight episodes of the show were made available for critics.)

Published in Style

Sometimes, we sit down in hopes of being challenged. We seek out art that causes us to ask questions and engage with larger ideas. We watch or we listen or we read in hopes of learning something new, or at least a new way of looking at something we already understand (or think we do). These are powerful artistic experiences, addressing something at our core.

Other times, we just want to escape. Maybe you want to laugh, maybe you want to be frightened, maybe you want a bunch of explosions. You’re not here for fundamental truths. You’re here for fart jokes and fistfights and jump scares.

Both experiences have real value. We want what we want when we want it – and that’s OK.

“Vacation Friends,” newly streaming on Hulu, is very much the latter sort of film. Directed by Clay Tarver from a screenplay Tarver co-wrote with Tom & Tim Mullen, Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the comedy is a coarse trifle, a movie built solely around outrageous situations – getting into them, getting out of them, you know the drill.

There are a handful of charming moments here where things threaten to develop some sort of meaningful underpinning – bits where deeper themes of adult friendship and loyalty and the like bob briefly to the surface – but those are quickly drowned out by the nonsense.

It’s fun. Dumb fun. Unchallenging fun. But fun. And sometimes, that’s all you’re looking for.

Published in Movies

There’s a universality to certain stories that ensures that every generation gets its own versions of them. These fundamental narratives can be adapted and shaped to the time in which they are told; the evolve as the culture around them does.

George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” has become one of those universal stories in the century-plus since it first landed in 1913. The tale of one upper-class person shaping another, lower-class person to fit appropriately into the former’s world is one that has been told again and again. The former (almost always a man) brings the latter (almost always a woman) into their own social stratum – often at the expense of the latter’s dignity and/or personal identity.

1999’s “She’s All That” was the high school rom-com version of that tale for late 20th century moviegoers, a film that landed in the midst of a spate of teen-oriented cinematic fare. The BMOC takes a wager in which he is to turn the school’s lowliest of the social low into the prom queen and hijinks ensue.

Now imagine that, only gender-flipped.

Published in Movies

When it comes to movies, we all have our biases. Even those of us who try to maintain objectivity are subject to expectation, the ebb and flow of personal taste. Those biases can come into play even before we see a film; often, we’re steered in one direction or another through early marketing or criticism or what have you.

But when those expectations are subverted, well – let’s just say that it can be nice to be surprised.

Which brings me to “Free Guy,” the new Ryan Reynolds-led video game-inspired action movie. Conceptually, I had doubts. The trailers I had seen seemed fine, just OK. And the truth is that while I sometimes enjoy the winking meta-energy of Reynolds, I don’t always … and this one felt like a “don’t always.”

Man, was I wrong.

The film – directed by Shawn Levy from a screenplay by Matt Lieberman and Zakk Penn – is a clever and funny action-adventure. The high concept is handled deftly and the majority of the jokes land. It is winkingly self-aware without being smug. The action sequences are suitably bonkers. And Reynolds himself manages to convey a level of sincerity that feels both genuine and just a touch subversive. It’s smarter than it looks, with a surprisingly sharp edge at times. Just a great time at the movies.

Published in Movies

A major key to the ongoing success of Netflix is their ability to find and exploit market inefficiencies, an ability that applies to both the business side of the operation AND the production side.

Take romantic comedies, for instance. Rom-coms once ruled the box office, but have largely fallen off in the face of an increased reliance upon IP-based CGI-driven franchise fare. However, plenty of rom-com aficionados (I count myself among their number) are still out there. Netflix, seeing that underserved audience, set loose their algorithms and whatnot and began churning out romantic comedies. Not all of them were good and a lot of them were bad, but they still scratched that itch.

A more recent trend has been the notion of somehow deconstructing the rom-com, making different sorts of films using that genre as a template. And again – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

“Good on Paper,” the latest Netflix rom-com, is the streamer’s latest effort at that sort of spin. Directed by Kimmy Gatewood from a script written by comedian Iliza Schlesinger (who also stars), it’s ostensibly based on true events from Schlesinger’s life. It’s a clear effort to find a darker angle on the traditional romantic comedy.

A clear effort, but not a successful one.

The film suffers from an inability to settle on precisely what kind of movie it wants to be, which is really too bad; if “Good on Paper” committed more fully to going in either direction – either more thoroughly embracing the shadows or going in a more traditional rom-com direction – it would have been far better. Instead, it’s a clumsy and intermittently watchable film, one that squanders a great deal of potential.

Published in Movies

There’s no accounting for taste – especially in Hollywood. Concepts like “good” and “bad” are mere abstracts at the highest levels of the movie business. The quality of the product itself is secondary; all that matters is the money. And when a movie makes a lot of money, there’s a good chance we’re going to get a sequel. Even if the movie in question is kind of terrible.

Hence, “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.”

This awkwardly-titled sequel to 2017’s mediocre-at-best action-comedy “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” can’t even rise to the level of the rather low bar set by its predecessor. This new offering features Samuel L. Jackson and Ryan Reynolds reprising their roles as the titular hitman and bodyguard, respectively; Salma Hayek is back as well (she’s the wife). A collection of new faces appears as well, including a handful of folks who definitely should have known better.

Gotta tell you - it’s not good, folks.

That first film managed to get by on the energy of its two leads and the chemistry between them, occasionally reaching the level of store-brand “Midnight Run,” but even that sense of fun is long gone in this new entry. Instead, we get a tonally inconsistent combination of smug mugging and bloody violence that isn’t nearly as funny as it seems to think it is, presented to us alongside a confusing and borderline nonsensical plot and a bunch of rote, repetitive and generally uninteresting action sequences.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 01 June 2021 09:58

‘Plan B’ gets an A

Despite the fact that my teen years are a distant memory, I still have a soft spot in my heart for teen comedies. In particular, I love a good buddy comedy; give me all the curse words and gross outs and what have you, but as long as we have engaging relationships at the center, I’m in.

Now, the majority of these films are male-driven, though that tendency is gradually changing – we’ve seen a handful of really good teen comedies centered around female friendship in recent years and we can only hope that the trend continues.

“Plan B,” a film marking the directorial debut of Natalie Morales and currently streaming on Hulu, certainly does its part to explore the potential hilarity and heart that comes with pairing teen girls and sending them on an up-all-night adventure.

Featuring plenty of foul language and outlandish situations – not to mention an absolutely dynamite central pairing – “Plan B” takes the standard teen romp formula and injects it with some real stakes. This isn’t about getting drunk or high (though they do that) or finding the right party (though they do that too) or hooking up (yep – you guessed it); it’s about what it means to deal with the consequences of our actions without much help from anyone except your always-game best friend.

Published in Movies
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