Admin

There’s something to be said for a story whose narrative can be explained with elevator-pitch brevity. While intricate plotting can be an engaging, thrilling part of a book or film, it can also be nice to enjoy the simplicity of getting the essence of the thing in a single sentence.

“Yesterday” – directed by Danny Boyle and written by Richard Curtis – is a magnificent example of the latter. “Singer-songwriter wakes up as the only person who remembers The Beatles.” That’s it. That’s what this movie is about. Simple.

Of course, that simplicity is deceptive. It’s a great hook, but what next? How do you take your admittedly-fascinating idea and build it into a story? It’s a dilemma that Boyle and Curtis struggle with a little more than one might have hoped, but the film still hangs together well thanks to Boyle’s strong-as-ever visual stylings, a top-notch lead performance and – of course – the music.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 16:18

‘Middlegame’ brings its A-game

The practice of alchemy is one of those things that most people are familiar with even if they don’t necessarily know that they possess that familiarity. Certain basic notions – turning lead into gold, the Philosopher’s Stone – have transcended their protoscientific origins and made their way into the common vernacular.

But what if alchemy worked? Really and truly worked? And what if its adherents still walked among us, operating at the behest of secret cabals devoted to both preserving and elevating the practice? What if the alchemists sought to rule not just the universe, but the very laws that governed it?

That’s the world we get with Seanan McGuire’s “Middlegame” (Tor, $29.99). But our entry into this world is not through alchemy writ large, but rather through its products and practitioners and (sometimes) both. It is a story of magic by way of science – or vice versa – but it is also the story of what it means to have gifts you don’t understand. It’s about living in a world where the possible is possible, but only to a scant few. It’s about being the sort of special that scares just about everyone who doesn’t share that kind of specialness.

It’s about the choices we make and the consequences, both near-term and far-reaching, of those choices.

Published in Buzz

The box office has grown increasingly stratified in recent years, with films fitting firmly into established pigeonholes with the expectation of appealing to this or that specific audience and making X number of dollars. Superhero movies and animated epics and action tentpoles and low-budget horror/thriller – that’s most of what we see at the theater these days.

So when a film like “The Kid Who Would Be King” comes around, it’s worth noting. This is a live-action, family-friendly movie, a movie for kids starring kids; we don’t see many of those anymore.

And here’s the thing: it’s good.

It is a charming, thoughtful throwback courtesy of writer/director Joe Cornish (in his first directorial since 2011’s excellent “Attack the Block”), capturing a 21st century version of what one might call the “Amblin vibe,” named after the Steven Spielberg production company that was responsible for many of the best family films. It’s well-made, with a story built around a retelling of Arthurian legend while ALSO being a wonderful tale of friendship … and it’s the most downright optimistic movie I’ve seen in a long time.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 19 December 2018 13:42

Fantasy fun with ‘More Fun and Games’

What would you do if your fantasy became your reality?

That’s the question being asked by local author Dave Barrett in his new book “More Fun and Games,” the sequel to 2016’s “It’s All Fun and Games.” It’s the continuing story of a group of high school friends whose weekend of role-playing winds up turning into a life lived in a world far beyond anything they ever thought possible.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 13:58

Into the ‘Breach’

There’s probably no subgenre in all of speculative fiction that I enjoy more than alternate history. For whatever reason, the notions of experiencing familiar events filtered through an unfamiliar lens and seeing different ideas of how the world might move if there were subtle – or not-so-subtle – alterations are endlessly fascinating to me.

That isn’t to say that every effort is a good one. There’s as much lazy, formulaic writing in alternate history as there is anywhere else in the realm of genre fiction; it all comes down to keeping eyes and mind open and hoping the next one you grab is a good one.

W. L. Goodwater’s “Breach” (Ace, $16) is a good one. The first in a proposed series, this alternate history takes a look at the Cold War in a world where magic is real, a tool that has been weaponized in the service of battle. It’s a time period that sometimes gets short shrift in alt-history circles, but Goodwater more than makes up for that with a taut tale that offers a rich sense of a world that, despite the presence of magic, is not that different than our own.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 12:27

‘The Labyrinth Index’ amazes

As a book reviewer, dealing with ongoing series can be tricky. Leaving aside the fact that you need to have started from the beginning – no mean feat when new books are constantly crossing your desk – you have to find ways to keep your own viewpoint fresh as an overarching narrative unfolds over six, eight, 10 books. So as a rule, I don’t usually wade into those waters.

But every rule has its exceptions. One of mine is Charles Stross and his Laundry Files.

Published in Style

As someone who spends a lot of time in movie theaters, I’ve seen a LOT of trailers. I don’t have a problem with that – I’ve always been a fan of previews. These days, my affinity is even greater because I know that odds are good that I’ll be seeing these movies, so it’s nice to know what’s coming.

However, every once in a while, I’ll see a trailer that simply mystifies me. It’s not that I think the movie will be good or bad (though it tends toward the latter) so much as I wonder how the film in question ever came to exist at all.

I got that feeling the first time I saw the trailer for Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Like – was this a gritty reboot of the classic holiday ballet? What’s the deal with the four realms? Why is Morgan Freeman here? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Alas, the answers I got were less than satisfying – superficially attractive, yes, but ultimately empty. It’s a beautifully wrapped gift with nothing inside, its connections to the supposed source material tenuous at best (you have to love a good “suggested by” caveat).

Published in Movies

I’m not sure when exactly “family-friendly” became code for “condescending and/or milquetoast,” but that’s pretty much where we are as far as Hollywood is concerned. The truth is that there are plenty of ways to make a movie for younger audiences that engages with them in a manner that treats them with respect – folks like Steven Spielberg did it all the time in the 1980s.

So when word of “The House with a Clock in its Walls” came out, I was cautiously optimistic. The original source material – a 1973 YA magic mystery by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey that was the first of a dozen in the series – had the requisite spookiness. Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment production company is prominently involved. The cast – led by Jack Black and Cate Blanchett – is strong.

But there were questions – and the biggest involved the man sitting in the director’s chair. Eli Roth built his career on brutal, bloody genre fare – the choice to hand what is essentially a movie for kids over to the dude who made “Hostel” is an odd one. It seemed like a jarring, unconventional marriage unlikely to succeed.

Instead, it turned out to be an ideal pairing, with Roth bringing his visceral sensibility to the PG-realm with nary a hiccup, resulting in a children’s movie that isn’t afraid to spend some time in the shadows and bring genuine scares to the screen.

Published in Movies

There’s truth in the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. However, I would argue that in some cases, you CAN judge a book by its title.

For instance, take Raymond A. Villareal’s new novel “A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising” (Mulholland, $27). That is one judgeable title – evocative and provocative at the same time, offering a tantalizing and crystal-clear description of what you’re about to experience.

This book is exactly what its title purports it to be – a complex and engaging sort of future history that follows the gradual appearance and assimilation of vampires into modern society. It follows a disparate cast of characters from both sides of the divide, offering first-person accounts from key players while also interspersing interview transcripts and news articles and other secondary and tertiary materials throughout.

What ultimately emerges is a thoughtful and finely-crafted work that reads as particularly insightful pop history – the title’s allusion to Howard Zinn’s seminal book isn’t an accident. It’s got a lot of Max Brooks’ “World War Z” in its DNA as well (though, it should be noted, not in a derivative way). It bears its influences proudly, but is very much its own beast.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 13 March 2018 14:17

‘A Wrinkle in Time’ not quite smooth

Film’s flawed storytelling offset by vivid aesthetic, ideas

Published in Movies
<< Start < Prev 1 2 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 2

Advertisements

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine