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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
Friday, 03 May 2019 11:58

‘Long Shot’ pays off big

Lately, it might seem as though every single studio movie is either a nine-figure-budgeted franchise blockbuster or a low-overhead genre movie. And yes, there’s a lot of that kind of stuff out there. But those who have bemoaned the loss of the mid-budget studio film should take solace, for the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. Sure, we see FEWER of those movies, but they’re far from over.

“Long Shot” is a perfect example of just that kind of film. A high-concept hybrid of political comedy and juvenilia, it’s a rom-com that tries to be a lot of different things and is largely successful. It’s an unconventional execution of a movie-conventional pairing between Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, lending a surprising degree of nuance to the standard mixed-attractiveness comic screen pairing.

It’s also an attempt at political satire, an effort to poke fun at the current climate. Government operations and the media both take their share of hits, and while the effort doesn’t land as well as the relationship stuff, it still manages its share of laughs. It’s a movie that is smart and profane, putting forth cleverness and crassness in equal (and often hilarious) measure.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 17 April 2019 12:30

Too ‘Little,’ too late

It’s always fun when a filmmaker gives you a different take on a standard cinematic trope. There’s a reason that certain types of stories continually pop up on the big screen – they work.

That being said, I wasn’t necessarily expecting two different riffs on the classic Tom Hanks vehicle “Big” to come into wide release in back-to-back weeks, but here we are. We got the “‘Big’ but with superheroes” take with “Shazam!” last week, and this week, we get the “‘Big’ but in reverse” take with “Little.”

Yeah – “Little” takes a grown person and turns her into a 13-year-old again. That’s pretty much it. And it ALMOST lands. There are stretches where the film really cooks, but there are others where things don’t click the way they need to. It has some funny moments, but it gets bogged down by the multiple messages it seems to want to convey. It’s a pleasant enough time at the movies, but it just misses being something much better.

Published in Movies

BREWER – One of the region’s entertainment mainstays is turning 10.

Improv comedy troupe The Focus Group is marking its 10-year anniversary with a celebratory performance. “Our Big Dumb Decade” will take place on April 19 at the Next Generation Theatre in Brewer – the longtime home of the group. The show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets are $5.

The show will feature members of the group both past and present, as well as a number of special guests who have shared the stage with the Focus Group at various times over the past decade.

(Editor’s note: In the interest of full disclosure, the writer of this story – and this note – is a founding member of The Focus Group. He is also not even a little bit sorry to be taking advantage of his position to promote this auspicious anniversary.)

Published in Cover Story

BANGOR - As part of its 45th season, Penobscot Theatre Company presents “Ripcord,” a comedy written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by Bari Newport. The show runs through March 31 at the Bangor Opera House.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 20 February 2019 13:50

Love actually – ‘Isn’t It Romantic’

While the heyday of the romantic comedy has passed, there’s no disputing that the genre is still a significant part of the cinematic whole. Sure, there aren’t as many big-screen rom-coms as there once were, but the folks at Netflix have embraced them in a big way.

Suffice it to say, rom-coms aren’t going anywhere.

That’s why even though it might feel like a bit of a late arrival, “Isn’t It Romantic” still works. Yes, the sorts of films being targeted aren’t necessarily at the forefront of the cultural consciousness like they once were, but there’s no doubt that the tropes of the form still serve as prominent pop shorthand.

It doesn’t quite have the satiric bite that you might expect – largely because of a readily apparent affection for the source material. Basically, this movie tries to have it both ways, attempting to subvert conventions while at the same time embracing them. And while it isn’t wholly successful in that effort, the end result is still a solidly entertaining movie.

Published in Movies
Friday, 08 February 2019 13:04

Mind over matter – ‘What Men Want’

It seems like every other weekend sees another big-screen remake landing at the box office; while that’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. And the truth is that many if not most of those projects are cynical attempts to cash in on an audience’s fond memories. An equal number are creatively bankrupt as well. But this isn’t a binary, some sort of good/bad all or nothing. There’s ample gray area.

Not all remakes are created equal.

Take “What Men Want,” a remake of 2000’s Mel Gibson-fronted “What Women Want.” This new film – directed by Adam Shankman and starring Taraji P. Henson – reverses the gender roles but leaves everything else more or less the same. The end result is a movie that is a bit wobbly on its feet and more than a little uneven, but manages to engage the audience and pull off a couple of laughs.

Published in Movies
Friday, 28 December 2018 13:53

‘Holmes & Watson’ doesn’t have a clue

Saying that someone “makes it look easy” is a solid compliment. You’re implying that the person in question is so good at what they do that it looks effortless. It’s a nice thing to say.

Here’s the thing, though – oftentimes, a LOT of work goes into that perceived ease. And if that work doesn’t get done and done well, what once looked easy can quickly turn Sisyphean.

You could get “Holmes & Watson.”

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:34

‘The Curious Savage’ a satisfying surprise

ORONO – There are some curious goings-on currently afoot at the University of Maine.

UMaine’s School of Performing Arts is presenting John Patrick’s classic 1950 comedy “The Curious Savage.” The production, directed by Julie Arnold Lisnet, is taking place at Hauck Auditorium on the University of Maine campus; the show runs through November 18.

The show tells the story of a widowed woman whose deceased husband placed a lot of money in her care – money that her unpleasant stepchildren would like to get their hands on. They’re willing to go so far as to have her committed, but what they don’t count on is the strength and smarts of their stepmother – or the help she might find in unexpected places.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 31 October 2018 12:32

BCT keeps things hopping with ‘Harvey’

BANGOR – Local audiences can expect a hopping good time courtesy of Bangor Community Theatre.

BCT is presenting their production of Mary Chase’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic 1944 comedy “Harvey” at Bangor Grange Hall #372. The show – directed by Irene Dennis – runs through Nov. 4.

It’s the story of a man and his best friend - a friend who just happens to be a six-foot tall rabbit that only he can see. Despite that – or perhaps because of it – he is one of the most amiable, friendly fellows you could ever hope to meet. However, there are those around him who want to relieve him of his friend … and not all of them have his best interests at heart.

“Harvey” is a story about the difference between being grounded in reality and having your head in the clouds … and about whether it really matters as long as you manage to be a good person. If your fantasy isn’t hurting anyone, then what’s the harm? Not to mention – who’s to say what’s real, anyway?

Published in Style
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