Admin

“Oh great,” you say. “Another adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Just what we all need.”

I get it. I do. Now, I’m not one to bemoan the ongoing efforts to tell and retell the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge – I love “A Christmas Carol” in just about all of its forms – but I understand if you’re over it. And admittedly, there have been A LOT of different takes on the tale.

But even if you’re a bit of a … well … a bit of a Scrooge about this sort of thing, I urge you to give “Spirited” a chance.

The new film – directed by Sean Anders from a script he co-wrote with John Morris – is a different take on the classic narrative, one that focuses on the mechanisms behind the scenes of the story we all know and love. With a top-tier central pairing, a delightful supporting cast and a frankly astonishing amount of high-energy production numbers (that’s right folks – it’s a musical, and a lavish one at that), it’s a very different take on “A Christmas Carol.”

Different – and delightful.

Published in Movies
Monday, 28 February 2022 15:52

Love letters – ‘Cyrano’

Love stories have long been a major part of our narrative experience. We as humans simply love talking about love. But there are all manner of different kinds of love about which we tell these tales. Passionate romances, slow-burn affairs and everything in between.

Of all these loves, however, the type that offers the widest range between joyfulness and sadness is unrequited love. Stories of one who loves without being loved in return – for whatever reason – are striking and heartmelting and utterly relatable to all of us.

While the history of love stories is riddled with examples, many would argue that the greatest of all such tales is that of Cyrano de Bergerac.

From the time that French playwright Edmond Rostand brought the fictionalized tale of the real-life figure to the stage with the eponymously-named “Cyrano de Bergerac” in 1897, the character has become a sort of cultural shortcut, a literary shorthand that fully embodies that sense of unrequited love.

We’ve seen many adaptations of the story over the years, with artists placing their own stamps onto what has proved to be a universal tale.

The latest iteration of this classic to hit the big screen is “Cyrano,” directed by Joe Wright from a screenplay by Erica Schmidt (said screenplay is adapted from Schmidt’s own 2018 stage musical of the same name). It is a charming mishmash, period-set but rife with moments of tonal anachronism; it’s a film that seeks to find new angles from which to approach the well-word tale.

Admittedly, there are some moments when the film’s reach seems to exceed its grasp, but I’m not going to fault Wright and company for an ambitious approach. And while it doesn’t always work, when “Cyrano” and its players get cooking, it can be a truly mesmerizing experience.

Published in Movies

BANGOR – There are few tasks more difficult for a performer to execute than holding a stage solo. To be up there under the lights all by yourself – it’s a staggering responsibility. It demands a combination of presence and willpower that requires massive effort to generate and even more effort to maintain. To do this for even a few minutes is an incredible and admirable feat.

Now imagine doing it for an entire show.

That’s what Brianne Beck is doing in “Tell Me on a Sunday,” the latest production from Penobscot Theatre Company. Directed and choreographed by Dominick Varney, this show – with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Don Black – is a one-woman tour de force, a story of ambition and disappointment, both personal and professional. The show runs through January 23 at the Bangor Opera House.

This one-act show is a non-stop musical experience, with Beck vocally carrying the story forward with the help of a three-piece band (one that includes musical director David Madore on keyboards). It’s a story both sweet and sad, one told beautifully through song.

Published in Style
Saturday, 11 December 2021 23:14

Loving is enough – ‘West Side Story’

It takes a special kind of chutzpah to revisit a masterpiece.

Even today, in a world where every other big-ticket film project is either part of a franchise or a remake of some preexisting IP, there are certain movies that you might consider to be beyond reproach. The idea of trying to recreate legitimate movie magic, to somehow improve upon Pantheon-level greatness … let’s just say that few would dare and far fewer would succeed.

And yet, here we are with “West Side Story.”

The 1961 original – based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name – was directed by Jerome Robbins (who helped originate the stage musical) and Robert Wise, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It would become one of the most acclaimed films in Hollywood history, winning 10 Oscars and becoming by all accounts the most successful movie musical of all time. So who would have the gall (and the balls) to remake such a consensus cinematic classic?

Steven Spielberg would. And I have to tell you – it’s really good.

Working from a screenplay adapted by the great Tony Kushner, Spielberg has somehow found a happy medium that I for one had doubts even existed. He has treated the original with the deep respect and adulation that such a masterful work warrants while also finding ways in which to place his own stamp on the proceedings. This is the filmmaker at his best, using every tool in his directorial belt to celebrate the brilliance of the original while also taking full advantage of the half-century of technological and aesthetic development since that first incredible film.

It doesn’t hurt that he is working with source material that is inarguably one of the greatest and most influential musicals ever, itself inspired by one of the greatest and most influential romances ever. This “West Side Story” is both subtle and spectacular, a film that takes full advantage of both the material and the medium to create that rarest of rarities – a new take on a classic that might well wind up considered a classic in its own right.

My guess is that most of the people reading this know “West Side Story” – or at least its inspiration “Romeo & Juliet” – so we won’t belabor the synopsizing.

Published in Movies

BANGOR – Holiday-style theatre magic has returned to the Bangor Opera House stage.

After 20 months of dormancy, Penobscot Theatre Company is back in action with their season opener “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play,” adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Broadcast by Lance Arthur Smith, with original songs and arrangements by Jon Lorenz. Directed by Jen Shepard with music direction by Larrance Fingerhut, the show runs through December 26.

It’s a retelling of the 1947 holiday classic film of the same name, a celebration of imagination and belief that truly embodies the spirit of the season with stylish delight. And don’t let the radio play designation fool you – there’s a LOT to look at here, with singing and dancing and memorable performances (including the best damned Kris Kringle you’ll ever see on an area stage).

It’s a familiar story, to be sure, but you’ve never experienced it quite like this.

Published in Style

As someone who studied theatre in the mid-1990s, I couldn’t help but be aware of the work of Jonathan Larson. Specifically, his musical “Rent” would be come an important part of my (and everyone that I knew) collegiate experience. It was the first musical with which I ever genuinely identified, capturing my attention – and my heart – in a way that no such work ever had before. Or has since, as far as that goes.

I didn’t come to experience Larson’s previous work, the semi-autobiographical one-man (more or less) musical monologue “Tick, Tick … Boom!” until years later. I was older, though no wiser – closer to the age that Larson was when he creatively exploded – and engaged with it in a more “mature” way.

A film version of “Tick, Tick … Boom!” wouldn’t have made a lot of sense to me at that time. How would you even do it? How would that work? Particularly when you take into account the tragic and abrupt end to Larson’s life.

Happily, Lin-Manuel Miranda had some ideas.

Miranda makes his feature film directorial debut with this screen adaptation of “Tick, Tick … Boom!” Adapted by Steven Levenson, it is an adoring and energetic love letter from one theatremaker to another – there’s a clear and obvious reverence at work here – that goes a long way toward capturing the kinetic and sonic excellence of Larson’s work.

It’s also a sincere appreciation for the difficulties that can come from devotion to the act of creation. The single-mindedness required for genuine brilliance often causes ripple effects throughout the rest of the creator’s life, impacting all aspects of their world in what too frequently turns out to be a negative way. That dichotomy – the rush of creation versus the struggles of reality – is front and center here, presented romantically, yes, but also with a touch of melancholy.

Published in Movies
Monday, 27 September 2021 15:11

Dear ‘Dear Evan Hansen’

Dear “Dear Evan Hansen,”

It turns out that this wasn’t an amazing movie after all. It isn’t going to be an amazing adaptation that will capture the imaginations of viewers, even those who adore the original stage musical version. Nor will it prove to be the financial windfall that is almost certainly its raison d’etre.

And why is that?

Oh, I know. Because there’s Ben Platt. Ben Platt, who won the Tony for originating the titular role back in the middle of the 2010s. Ben Platt, who absolutely should have known better, who should have had the self-awareness to recognize that an unmistakably adult man in his late 20s cannot plausibly play a high school student on screen. Maybe if I had a preexisting relationship with this musical, I could move past that, but since I don’t, all I see is a bordering-on-sociopathic narrative playing out with an energy that feels both maudlin and parodic.

I wish that this experience had been different. I wish that I could focus on the aspects of it that worked – for instance, the music is undeniably lovely – but instead, I am trapped in the uncanny valley of pretending Ben Platt is a teenager. I wish that director Stephen Chbosky had proven successful in his attempt to marry his own specific style of angsty teenage drama to the broad spectacle of musical theatre … but he did not. Instead, we got an obvious attempt to ground the story in some kind of realism, despite the fact that a) the narrative is too fundamentally broken to treat realistically, and b) dramatic intimacy is fundamentally undermined by the constant breaking into song.

Published in Movies
Monday, 13 September 2021 15:03

Welcome to the Rock – ‘Come From Away’

I’ve never been one to enjoy filmed versions of stage shows. Now, I’m not saying adaptations – those can be lovely. I’m talking pointing cameras at a stage where a show is going on. Most of the time, you lose the immediacy and energy that makes live performance great and you also lose the production values and delicacy that film provides. It’s literally a lose-lose.

And then you see things that remind you that every rule has its exceptions.

“Come From Away,” currently streaming on Apple TV+, is one of those exceptions. The musical, with book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein and which first hit Broadway five years ago, tells the story of a small town in Newfoundland that found itself playing host to thousands of unexpected visitors following the shutdown of U.S. airspace after the tragic events of September 11. It’s a tale of kindness and generosity, a story of love and loss and the myriad connections that can come from the unforeseen.

Now, this is very much a filmed play and not a movie. That said, it’s remarkable how well this show works in this context. There’s quality production work happening here, camera work and editing and the like coming together to find that very narrow sweet spot. “Come From Away” doesn’t suffer those losses of energy or delicacy; rather than be diminished by the overlapping of media, it is enhanced.

Of course, it helps that the ensemble is tight and talented and the songs absolutely slap.

Published in Style
Monday, 06 September 2021 13:58

‘Cinderella’ a musical misfire

Every time we see another remake/reboot/reimagining of a classic tale, it begs the question: is this necessary?

Look, I’m not naïve – I recognize the nature of the business, with the familiarity of IP ruling the day. Even so, you have to wonder whether what we’re getting is something that people actually want to watch. Are people clamoring to see some vague variation on a story they’ve seen a thousand times before?

The folks behind the new “Cinderella” – currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video – seem to think so. As to whether they’re right, well … I have my doubts.

This new version of the classic fairy tale is directed and adapted for the screen by Kay Cannon, best known as the writer of all three films in the “Pitch Perfect” series. Basically, it’s the story you know with a few feints at feminine empowerment and a whole bunch of pop songs that have been put through the musical theatre wringer. It’s OK for what it is, but the truth is that it’s basically a mediocre jukebox musical and not much else.

This is a story that feels polished to within an inch of its life, to where there’s almost nothing there, all style and no substance, despite its best efforts to have you believe otherwise. It’s like a gift, gloriously sparkly and beribboned, festooned with all manner of decorative accents, but when you open the box … there’s nothing inside.

Published in Movies

I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been writing about movies for well over a decade at this point, with a fairly well-rounded history of cinematic consumption before that. I have experienced a LOT of films – good, bad and mediocre.

One of the greatest joys that spring from watching movies is the simple fact that, until they start, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Oh, you might have some idea, whether it is from trailers or reviews or word of mouth, but YOUR experience, well – you don’t know until it happens. So I’m no stranger to being surprised by what I see on the screen.

But there’s a very real chance that I have NEVER been as surprised as I was by “Annette.”

The film, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video after a brief limited theatrical run, is one of the most enjoyably jarring movie experiences I’ve had in recent memory. “Annette” is directed by Leos Carax, making his first feature since 2012’s acclaimed “Holy Motors,” with a story by Ron and Russell Mael, the brothers behind indie pop darlings Sparks (the brothers also handle the film’s weird and exceptional music).

As a rule, I make an effort to keep my head clear going into a movie – the less I know, the better. Again – the joy of that leap into the unknown … and boy oh boy, was this the unknown.

Published in Movies
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 5

Advertisements

The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

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