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Monday, 22 February 2021 14:14

‘Blithe Spirit’ a spirited adaptation

There’s a certain amount of pressure that comes with reimagining a beloved classic. Not only are you expected to do right by the extant fans of the work, but you must also find a way to update and accelerate the work so that it might find purchase with those who have no connection to the source material.

It’s a highwire act that many filmmakers have tried to navigate. Many have tried … and many have failed. Of particular note is the attempt to revisit a work that has already engaged in a shift from stage to screen. At that point, you’re dealing not just with a play that needs to be adapted, but a preexisting film version as well – doubly difficult.

It’s a difficulty that crops up from time to time in “Blithe Spirit,” the latest attempt to bring that classic Noel Coward play to life on the big screen. It’s directed by Edward Hall, with three credited screenwriters on the adaptation in Nick Moorcraft, Meg Leonard and Piers Ashworth, and features a star-studded cast that includes the likes of Dan Stevens, Isla Fisher, Leslie Mann and the immortal Judi Dench.

It’s a perfectly fine film. Better than I expected actually, though ultimately, it doesn’t live up to its pedigree either in terms of source material or of ensemble. Some of the subtler aspects are lost in the transition to film, but it must be said that the story benefits greatly from the ability to more fully utilize the setting (or settings). Not as great as it could have been, but maybe not as bad as some would have you believe, either.

Published in Style
Monday, 15 June 2020 14:38

‘Artemis Fowl’ is, well … foul

There’s big money to be made in franchise filmmaking. With hundreds of millions of dollars potentially on the table, it’s no wonder that studios are constantly on the lookout for intellectual property that can be translated to the big screen for big bucks.

On paper, the “Artemis Fowl” series of books by Eoin Colfer looks like a solid bet. It’s got a high-concept hook revolving around a secret world of fairies, a kid protagonist and eight novels worth of narrative to be mined. The project has been in the works at various stages with various studios for almost two decades. And now, finally, with the Disney monolith behind it, the first film in the erstwhile franchise has arrived.

Don’t be surprised if it’s also the last.

“Artemis Fowl” – currently streaming on Disney+ and inexplicably directed by Kenneth Branagh – is wildly unsuccessful on just about every conceivable level. It is a jumbled mess that borders on incoherent, a scattershot attempt at world-building that basically throws a lot of stuff at the wall, only nothing really sticks. The tone is inconsistent and the plot is nonsensical. The 95-minute runtime is not nearly enough to provide the required context, though that is offset by the feeling of audience relief at its brevity.

While I can’t say for certain, since I haven’t read them, I have to assume that the books are better than this candy-colored lunacy. They’d have to be. They probably have an actual story, for instance, rather than a series of barely-connected events that may or may not have some bearing on the overall narrative. It has all the worst parts of an origin story without conveying much about, you know, the origin. All in all, a misfire of truly epic proportions.

Published in Movies
Monday, 23 December 2019 22:25

Who let the ‘Cats’ out?

Sometimes, you see a trailer for a movie that captures your attention for all the wrong reasons. You find yourself questioning what possible series of increasingly poor decisions would lead to a world in which this movie came to be. You’re asking fundamental questions like “How?” and – perhaps more importantly – “Why?”

Those are the feelings that bubbled up from deep inside most reasonable people upon first viewing the trailer for “Cats,” director Tom Hooper’s star-studded adaptation of the (somewhat bewilderingly) beloved Broadway musical. Watching CGI-blended cat/human monstrosities gambol and cavort across the screen for just those few moments raised far more questions than any piece of art could ever answer.

Here’s the thing – that ain’t even the half of it.

“Cats” is a tortured fever dream of a film, the sort of nightmarish cinematic experience that feels like the unholy offspring of a coked-up studio executive notes session and a dark ritual intended to summon forth the Elder Gods. I walked out of this movie expecting my phone to ring, with a voice on the other end speak-singing a semi-melodic song informing me that I would die in seven days.

We are all cursed. We are all damned. We are all Cats.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 22:46

The evolution of a spy Skyfall'

Newest Bond film reinvigorates the franchise

It's hard to fathom, but the James Bond film franchise is celebrating its 50th year. That's half a century of a single iconic character evolving right alongside our culture. Starting with Sean Connery first gracing the screen as Bond in 1962's 'Dr. No,' there have now been 23 cinematic outings featuring the now-archetypal superspy.

(And yes, I'm aware that there are a handful of 'other' Bond movies; we're just talking about the projects from Eon Productions.)

Published in Movies

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