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If you want to argue that too many of today’s blockbusters spring from blown-out franchises and IP cinematic universes, I’m not going to stop you. It’s clear that big-budget moviemaking has become almost exclusively a realm of CGI and superheroes and the like. Everything is loud and overlarge. It’s a fair point.

Counterpoint: Sometimes you just want to see giant monsters fight.

“Godzilla vs. Kong” is the fourth entry in the Warner Brothers self-styled MonsterVerse (it’s also the 36th Godzilla movie and the 12th King Kong movie, if you’re into that sort of thing), bringing together these heavyweights of giant monster cinema. Directed by Adam Wingard and currently available both in theaters and via HBO Max, it’s the sort of lumpy tentpole sequel that slots nicely into the overall development of the franchise. It’s big and a little convoluted and quite fun, albeit maybe just a little stingy with the aforementioned monster fighting.

It’s a big swing at progressing the overall universe even as it gives audiences the showdown they want. Whether those efforts at expansion prove fruitful remains to be seen – things get a little muddy and tough to follow in spots – but it’s a valiant attempt. And while some of the narrative subplots don’t work as well as others, the overall payoff is worth it.

Published in Movies

The end of the world has always been a subject of fascination for storytellers. The visceral nature of apocalyptic thinking makes for high stakes that bring out the very best and very worst of humanity. Some of these endings are loud and others are quiet, but all of them show us reflections of ourselves.

“The Midnight Sky” – directed by George Clooney, who also stars – is one of the quiet ones, a film that views the end of the world from a pair of very different perspectives. Adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s excellent 2016 novel “Good Morning, Midnight,” it’s a story of isolation and desperation, a tale not of saving the world, but of accepting the fact that it cannot be saved.

Yet it also manages to be a hopeful story, one in which we see people doing what they believe to be best even as they accept the truth that their actions likely won’t matter in the end. Featuring some stylish visuals and compelling performances, “The Midnight Sky” shows us the different ways in which mankind chooses to escape the trappings of Earth by turning its gaze to the stars.

Published in Movies

There’s something joyful about giant monster movies. They inspire a kind of glee, a sense of childlike wonder in the viewer. Sometimes, it can be nice to go to the movies and get swept away by sheer, unwavering bigness. Even when it is dorky and/or shoddy and/or low-rent, the sense of scale is always there.

Godzilla movies and their ilk have been the foundation of that particular niche. And in this current climate of cinematic universes, it’s no surprise that Hollywood has decided to shoehorn everyone’s favorite gigantic radioactive lizard into a franchise of his own.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” is a follow-up to 2014’s “Godzilla.” Those movies – along with 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island” – are the beginnings of what I’m going to go ahead and call the BAMCU (Big-Ass Monster Cinematic Universe). This latest installment is the one where the multi-film world-building begins in earnest, the one that strives to develop the connective tissue necessary to tie these blockbusters together.

But while “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” offers up a fair amount of monster-on-monster action and updated versions of some classic Toho creatures, it can’t quite deliver on the connectivity side of things. Balancing the stakes – skyscraper-sized reptiles shooting lasers at each other versus human beings trying to save both their families and the world – was always going to be a tricky task … and it’s a task that director Michael Dougherty and his team never quite manage.

Published in Movies

There are some stories that should be told over and over again. These are the stories that are a part of the fabric of who we are as a society, stories that represent the pinnacle of human capability in a tangible, visceral way.

The story of the moon landing is one such story. No matter how often the story is told and retold, no matter how many times it is referenced directly or obliquely in popular culture, it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. It’s a story we should keep telling with every increase in our capability to tell it.

“First Man” – directed by Damien Chazelle and adapted by Josh Singer from James R. Hansen’s “First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong” – stars Ryan Gosling as that titular astronaut and relates his story as he walks the path that inexorably draws him toward space. It’s a portrait of the quiet aptitude and stoic readiness that made Neil Armstrong an ideal candidate for this leap into the unknown; it also examines the impacts of this journey (positive and negative alike) on those around him – particularly his family and his NASA compatriots.

Published in Movies
Tuesday, 27 February 2018 17:00

‘Game Night’ a big winner

One could argue that the state of cinematic comedy – at least in terms of mainstream wide-release offerings – has been at a bit of an ebb recently. Sure, there have been a few standouts, but for the most part, we’ve been seeing films that are willing to rely on crassness and/or rapid-fire references as crutches rather than concentrate on storytelling or character or, you know – being funny.

That’s what makes “Game Night” – co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein from a script by Mark Perez – so refreshing. It’s smart and funny, driven by talented actors bringing something real to the table. It has its crass moments and is packed with referential nods, sure, but it’s all in service to driving the narrative and making actual jokes. Dark laughs, surprisingly engaging set pieces and sharp plot twists – all the pieces fit.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 December 2016 11:27

The magnificent ‘Manchester by the Sea’

There are plenty of ways in which a movie can be great. It can feature a great aesthetic or offer great performances or tell a great story. It can be funny or sad or emotionally charged or simply beautiful. It can transport you while you’re watching and leave you thinking while it follows you home. Any one of these qualities can make for a great movie, but it’s a rare film that can do most or all of these things.

Published in Movies

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