Admin
Monday, 25 October 2021 14:00

Fear is the mind-killer – ‘Dune’

Every once in a while, there is a movie experience that manages to transcend a lot of the traditional markers that define quality, however nebulously. Most films you watch, they’re relatively easy to parse – I liked it because X, I didn’t like it because Y, you know the drill. But occasionally, a film will come along that moves beyond those identifiers; your reasoning is still there, of course, but there’s also something fundamentally overwhelming about it.

“Dune” overwhelmed me.

The new film from director Denis Villeneuve – who also co-wrote the screenplay with Eric Roth and Jon Spaihts (adapted from Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 sci-fi novel of the same name – or the first half or so anyway) is a sprawling, sand-strewn epic. It is a movie that unabashedly embraces not just the letter but the spirit of its source material, resulting in a deliberately-paced and utterly gorgeous film that captures the sheer scale of galactic intrigue while also delving into the psychological and sociological underpinnings that come when nobility takes different approaches to maintaining their humanity.

It’s a space opera, for sure, with plenty of familiar tropes of the genre at play. But the combination of Hebert’s interplay of eco-consciousness and political dynamics matched with the auteur’s eye of Villeneuve transforms “Dune” into something far more. It is a literal feast for the eyes, one of the most strikingly compelling visual blockbusters we’ve seen in years, all in service to a dense plot involving everything from galaxy-spanning empires to mind-expanding traditions to colonialism to learning what it means to lead.

Yeah – overwhelming is the right way to put it. And this is just the first part!

Published in Movies
Friday, 01 October 2021 15:40

‘The Addams Family 2’ hits the road

You never know what will have pop cultural staying power. For every bit of creative content that maintains a place in the consciousness, hundreds upon hundreds more disappear into the scrap heap of zeitgeist detritus.

It seems unlikely that Charles Addams knew what he had birthed when the first images of his macabre “Addams Family” graced the pages of The New Yorker back in 1938. But those darkly humorous pieces led to a popular television show, which in turn led to a popular series of films, then to another TV show and a Broadway musical and now an animated film franchise.

The latest iteration of the creepy, kooky titular family is “The Addams Family 2,” a sequel to 2019’s “The Addams Family.” These animated films aim to strike the balance between kid-friendliness and staying true to the spirit of the source material. As to how successful they are, well … your mileage may vary.

There’s a lot to like here – the voice cast is outstanding and the character design nicely evokes the original cartoons without being derivative. That said, the script leaves something to be desired, with a relative dearth of narrative action padded by musical numbers that, while cute enough, feel kind of incongruous. Still, it has its charms – enough to make it worth your time.

Published in Movies

I’ve got a long-standing fascination with movies about gamblers and gambling. The combination of inherent insular tension and a tendency toward morally complex and ethically flexible characters results in films that hit me just right. Doesn’t matter if the story is meant to be redemptive or if we’re just spending time in this world or if we’re living somewhere in between – I’m here for it.

“The Card Counter,” the latest from auteur writer/director Paul Schrader, definitely exists in that nebulous middle ground. It’s a character study of a professional gambler who attempts to find some small degree of atonement for his past sins, only to wind up drawn back into darkness.

It’s also a throwback, evoking the spirit of ‘70s New Hollywood – unsurprising since that’s the era in which Schrader cut his screenwriting teeth. It is aesthetically distinctive and meticulously paced, telling the sort of small-scale yet sweeping story at which he excels. And by placing a talent as significant as Oscar Isaac at its center, Schrader ensures that the narrative is in supremely capable hands.

Published in Movies

This isn’t going to be my usual movie review.

As you undoubtedly know, “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” has landed in theaters, purporting to mark the end of the saga begun over 40 years ago. A saga that has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.

Seriously - the first movie I ever saw (or at least, the first movie of which I have any memory of seeing) is “The Empires Strikes Back.” We were at the drive-in on outer Hammond Street; I was four years old, curled up under the rear windshield, half-dozing due to the lateness of the hour, yet unwilling to allow my eyes to remain closed as this marvelous thing unfolded before my eyes.

In the decades since, I have devoted considerable energies to the consumption of “Star Wars.” I watched the films of the original trilogy countless times on VHS. I paid multiple visits to theaters when the remastered versions returned to the big screen. I saw the prequels and convinced myself they were good even when in my heart I knew. And I’ve experienced with delight the recent reintroduction of new films.

Years of my life, shared with these people and places. And I’m hardly alone – there are millions of us out there, each with our own very specific connection to the Star Wars saga. So many people, all with a deep-seated devotion to the story; our feelings might be similar, but all are unique.

The uniqueness of those individual connections are a big part of why the response to “The Rise of Skywalker” – and really, to all the post-prequel films to some extent – has been so scattered. The truth is that we all bring our own feelings to the table when it comes to “Star Wars.” There’s no way for a piece of popular art to elicit the desired response from all those who seek it – it’s simply impossible.

Published in Movies
Monday, 24 September 2018 12:53

This is bus - 'Life Itself'

There’s nothing wrong with a film trying to play on your emotions. Oftentimes, our whole purpose in going to the movies is to feel. The cinema is inherently manipulative, whether we’re talking visually, emotionally or what have you. I have no problem with a movie pushing my emotional buttons.

But that evocation needs to be earned. If it isn’t, you’re left with something shallow and unsatisfying. When we’re constantly aware of the buttons being pushed, it all begins to feel a bit cynical.

It begins to feel like Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself.”

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 05 September 2018 10:39

‘Operation Finale’ looks at real-life intrigue

We’ve talked before about the difficulties inherent to bringing stories from real life into the cinematic realm. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck; the raw truth isn’t always dramatically engaging, but you also want to do justice to events as they happened.

“Operation Finale,” directed by Chris Weitz from a screenplay by Matthew Orton, is particularly tricky, considering the heft of the story being told. It’s a recounting of the 1960 Israeli Mossad operation in Argentina to track down and capture the infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution.

While it is compelling enough, offering solid intrigue and a handful of quality performances, the film never quite rises to the level of its true-life inspiration. There’s an inconsistent energy to the proceedings that ultimately undercuts the tension and prevents the stakes from being as high as the narrative would seem to warrant. It’s quite good, but just misses being great.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 20 December 2017 13:54

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ far from least

There are few films as difficult to review as a “Star Wars” movie. There’s such a fine line that needs to be walked with regards to the narrative; no one wants to be responsible for spoiling any aspect of such an eagerly-anticipated cinematic experience. However, you also want to be able to convey your feelings about the movie in a manner that is both engaging and accurate.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 12:25

‘The Promise’ not quite kept

Historical drama falls short of lofty ambition

Published in Movies

Advertisements

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

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