Friday, June 23, 2017

Movie Review: "Wonder Woman" by Daniel Kilgallon


"Wonder Woman” follows the “Man of Steel”, “Batman v Superman”, and “Suicide Squad” as the fourth installment in the DC Extended Universe. While the same incarnation of the character made an appearance in “Batman v. Superman”, this marks the first full length film adaption for the quintessential female superhero. 
 
I have honestly enjoyed the first three movies in this DC franchise thus far, but most critics have not felt the same, to say the least. Because of that, “Wonder Woman” certainly had high expectations to keep this cinematic universe afloat, before they bring it all together when “Justice League” comes out in November.

Diana (Gal Gadot) is the princess of an Amazonian region called Themyscira, an island inhabited and protected by a society of female warriors. One day, an undercover American pilot named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash lands on their shores and is rescued by Diana. She soon informs her people that the rest of the planet is in the midst of the First World War. Diana quickly decides to leave her homeland and fight alongside Trevor in the hope of ending the global conflict. She assumes the identity of Diana Prince, as she discovers her true powers and uncovers her ultimate destiny - becoming Wonder Woman, a true goddess amongst men.

When Wonder Woman came to save the day in “Batman v. Superman”, I had no doubt about Gal Gadot’s ability to play this iconic character and she totally owned the role once again in this well-deserved standalone movie. Gadot added a whole new dynamic to her performance by portraying Wonder Woman’s courage and curiosity as she became integrated to the real world throughout the movie. This was a near perfect depiction of the character and I can’t wait to see what else Wonder Woman will bring to the screen in “Justice League.

The first act of “Wonder Woman” paints an excellent origin story and if anything, I wish that the film spent even more time in the paradise-esque setting of Themyscira. Luckily, it was just as entertaining to watch Wonder Woman dominate the battles during the breathtaking World War I fight sequences.
My only complaint with this movie is that it contains some issues with choppy storytelling and a last act that featured an average antagonist at best. That aside, “Wonder Woman” is an outstanding comic book film that holds up with the best of the genre in recent years. While this milestone movie will rightfully appeal to women all around the world, I think “Wonder Woman” can truly be enjoyed by all audiences.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Movie review of "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" by Daniel Kilgallon


Nearly fourteen years ago, a movie based on a Disney theme park attraction hit theaters and unexpectedly brought the concept of a summer blockbuster back to life. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” was an instant success and gave us one the most iconic film characters of the decade in Captain Jack Sparrow. It spawned an extremely profitable franchise and now, Johnny Depp is back for the fifth installment, “Dead Men Tell No Tales.
 
This time around, Captain Jack Sparrow embarks on a quest to find the magical trident of Poseidon, a tool with the power to control the entire sea. Along the way, he encounters an enemy from his past named Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem). Salazar leads a crew of undead sailors who intend to rid the ocean of pirates, with Sparrow as their number one target.

When “On Stranger Tides” came out in 2011, I was pretty disappointed by the film’s overall story and heavy reliance on recycled jokes from the three previous installments. I honestly had low expectations for the fifth chapter because of that, but still hoped that it could bring this diminishing franchise back to life again. 

“Dead Men Tell No Tales” is not a perfect movie, but it is definitely an improvement on its underwhelming predecessor. Johnny Depp yet again delivers a great performance, but surprisingly, this didn’t turn into the Captain Jack show as much as it has in the past few movies. This film offers enough supporting characters to supplement Depp’s performance and they all have truly interesting ties to the rest of the franchise. Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”, “Skyfall”) brings another awesome villain role to the big screen; and his character of Captain Salazar has motivation that is actually meaningful to the story. 

While “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is a satisfying chapter in the “Pirates” saga, it is not without its flaws. The film’s action scenes are all pretty exciting, but too over the top for its own good at times. There's also a lot going on at once; a few subplots definitely could have been eliminated to make the story flow better. However, I give this movie a lot of credit for improving on that forgettable film from six years ago. It seems like the franchise has set itself up for one more chance to end on a high note with a sixth and (hopefully) final installment; make sure you sit through the credits of this one.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Join Loon Echo Land Trust for a kayak tour and more


On Saturday, June 10 join Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) staff for a fascinating paddle along the shores of Hancock Pond in Denmark. This pristine lake lies near Loon Echo’s Bald Pate Preserve in Bridgton and the 1600 acre Perley Mills Community Forest, owned by the Towns of Denmark and Sebago.

Bring your kayak or canoe, a picnic lunch and meet at the public boat launch on Hancock Pond Road at 10 a.m.  While drifting about, Loon Echo Stewardship Manager, Jon Evans and Staff Biologist, Paul Miller, will touch on a number of topics including wildlife and habitat as well as land conservation and environmental protection of the region’s forests and watershed. This enjoyable 3-hour program is an easy to moderate activity level, free and open to the public. Registration is required by calling 207-647-4352 or emailing Jon Evans at stewardship@lelt.org

On Wednesday, June 21, celebrate the long awaited Summer Solstice on Loon Echo’s annual hike up Bald Pate Mountain at Bald Pate Preserve in Bridgton.  This annual trek has been a Loon Echo tradition for nearly 20 years and is a great way to welcome summer’s arrival. Bring your hiking boots or sneakers, water and plenty of snacks. This moderate hike will last approximately 2 hours. Hikers will meet at 3 p.m. at the Bald Pate Preserve parking area on Rt. 117, just south of Five Fields Farms Apple Orchard.

Loon Echo Land Trust's popular Acoustic Sunset Concert Series, on top of Hacker's Hill Preserve on Quaker Ridge Road in Casco, ME returns June 23 for its 6th season. This summer's opening concert will feature the vocals and guitar work of nationally renowned musician, Bruce Marshall.

A tireless performer with great originals, an expressive, soulful voice and accompanying guitar style on acoustic and steel dobro.  He’s earned a reputation as one of New England’s best. Accessible by car, the open, grassy fields of Hacker’s Hill’s beautiful land allow for comfortable seating and extraordinary sunset views of the Lakes Region and White Mountains acting as a backdrop to the performance. Bring a picnic dinner, a lawn chair or blanket and soak up the splendor of the sunset while listening to the music. 

The concert will run from 6 to 8 p.m. with a suggested donation of $10/Adults and $5/Child to benefit the ongoing stewardship efforts of Hacker's Hill. Hacker's Hill is car accessible. Parking is available by driving to the road into Hacker's Hill Preserve on Quaker Ridge Road in Casco, approximately one mile south of the Route 11 intersection and four miles from the Route 302 intersection. Parking at Hacker’s Hill is limited so carpooling is advised.  

For more information about upcoming events or ways you can support Loon Echo Land Trust, go to their website www.lelt.org or call 207-647-4352.   

Book Review of “Poor Your Soul”. Review by Jen Dupree of Windham Public Library


While I’m often a reluctant and infrequent memoir reader, Maine author Mira Ptacin’s memoir, “Poor Your Soul”, is one I would highly recommend. This is a deeply moving personal account of loss and triumph. At twenty-eight, Ptacin found herself unexpectedly pregnant. At first uncertain, she eventually embraces the pregnancy, her new marriage, her future. Sadly, an ultrasound at five months reveals that something is terribly wrong, and Ptacin and her husband must wrestle with choices that all feel unthinkable. 
 
Ptacin weaves her own turbulent story with her mother’s story of immigration from Poland and the tragic loss of her son, Ptacin’s brother. Ultimately, this is the story of two women finding strength in the face of tragedy. It is so intimately written, so well-crafted, that it feels like you’ve been invited to a family dinner at Ptacin’s and you get the pleasure of sitting back and listening while stories unfold around you.  

The stories of these two women come together seamlessly to create a cohesive narrative, but also to create a conversation between writer and reader--an exploration of questions that are sometimes just asked and never answered; a place to pause and reflect on feelings and on events that might be impossible to process in the moment. 

I sometimes find memoirs overly ambitious, too directive and too self-centered. “Poor Your Soul” is none of those things. Other memoirs I have loved include: “Townie” by Andre Dubus, “When We Were the Kennedys” by Monica Wood, and “The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age” by Joyce Carol Oates. These happen to be three of my favorite writers of fiction as well, so maybe good writing is just good writing.

Stop by the library to browse, or join us on Thursday, June 22nd from 10:15-10:45 for our first Calm as a Critter Yoga Class (for children ages five and up). The classes will run through August 17th. For more information, contact the Children’s Room at 892-1908.   

Friday, June 2, 2017

A variety of outdoor activities offered for free on National Trails Day


BRIDGTON, ME (May 24, 2017) – Loon Echo Land Trust is offering an exciting variety of free outdoor events for the public at their preserves this June. There is: hiking, trail work, paddling and even a hilltop concert; there is something for everyone.

 National Trails Day is being celebrated across the nation on Saturday, June 3, 2017, providing an opportunity to “give back” to your favorite hiking trails. Join Loon Echo staff as they celebrate this annual event by doing some fine-tuning on the Sue’s Way Trail at Pleasant Mountain Preserve.


Participants will meet at the Bald Peak parking area at 9 a.m. and wrap up the day around 2 p.m. The agenda for the work day includes: trail definition, branch clipping, and drainage clearing. Along the way, participants will also stop at the famous Needles Eye, a geological feature that has intrigued folks for many generations. Work boots and long pants are required for this event. Volunteers should also bring plenty of water, snacks and bug spray. 

This free program is appropriate for all skill levels, from beginner to expert. Tools and training will be provided, however, feel free to bring you own loppers, handsaws or garden hoe. 

The Bald Peak parking area is located on the right-hand side of Mountain Road, approximately one mile from its junction with Route 302 in Bridgton. To register call Loon Echo at 207-647-4352, send a Facebook message or email Jon Evans at stewardship@lelt.org

Enjoy an evening of music by local musicians at Riverside Hill Community Center


The Raymond Hill Community Center (RHCC) wishes to invite you to an Evening of Music at the newly restored Riverside Hall, 7 Raymond Hill Rd., Raymond, ME on Saturday, June 10 from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
 
The RHCC’s mission is to provide an open and welcoming space for people of all ages to come together, share thoughts, ideas and/or creative projects and to promote community connections.
Please join us for a night of good music, conversation and fun. Light snacks available.

The music includes, David Young and Friends. David is from Raymond, a Windham High School senior and winner of The Maine Academy of Modern Music Best High School Guitarist Award.
Music also includes, Mark Accousti and Friends. Mark is a Raymond resident and plays professionally from Florida to Maine. He is also founder and alumnus of the Raymond/Windham Summer of Love Festival.

Additionally there is Dos Canosos - comprised of Raymond residents, Raul Freyre, Gary Wittner and Rafael Freyre. Dos Canosos performs throughout Maine and Northern New England. Raul’s professional vocal and percussion music career began in Miami and Boston before coming to Maine’s music scene. Gary is an internationally known guitarist and recording artist and Kennedy Center Jazz Ambassador. Rafael completes the trio and provides “bottom” for many of Maine’s premier Latin and World Beat bands. 

All proceeds to benefit the Raymond Hill Community Center.
FMI: MaryAnn @ 310-3600 (655-7059) or maryannamrich@gmail.com

Kinderkonzerts performed for Windham and Raymond students By Nancy Cash Cobb



The Portland Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet played three Kinderkonzerts on Tuesday, May 30 for over 1000 Windham/Raymond K-3 students. 

The players also held trumpet and trombone master classes for Windham Middle School players. 
Thank you to the Windham PTA, WPS Cultural Arts and Windham Middle School for funding these concerts.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Schoolhouse Arts Center hires renowned flying company to train young actors for “Peter Pan” production this summer


Schoolhouse Arts Center, a local hub for the performing arts in Standish, Maine announced their summer production of “Peter Pan”, which will open on Thursday, July 13 and run until Sunday, July 30.  This is the second time that Schoolhouse has put on the classic family musical, but it is the first time they are partnering with the prestigious Flying by Foy, a flying training company based in Las Vegas, Nevada and Borehamwood, England.

This is particularly noteworthy, as Flying by Foy is the same company that coordinated the 1954 version of “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin on Broadway - the version that Schoolhouse selected for its summer production. Flying by Foy has been flying “Peter Pan” ever since then; having trained Sandy Duncan, Cathy Rigby, and most recently oversaw the flying for “Peter Pan” Live, which aired on NBC in 2014.

According to the Flying by Foy website, the company has also provided simulations of weightlessness for NASA during the Gemini and Apollo Space Programs, and flown Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Com─âneci over New York’s Time Square for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay.  

The young actors who will be trained to fly are: Kaylin Brown of Gorham (Peter Pan), Molly Lemont, also of Gorham (Peter Pan” understudy), Ashley McBreairty of Gorham (Wendy), Corinne Ulmer of Windham (Wendy understudy), Reese Madarasz of Brunswick (John) and Ella Tedeschi of York (Michael).

 Captain Hook will be played by Steve Koskinen of Portland, Smee will be played by Jeff McNally of Gorham and Tiger Lily will be played by Emily Thompson of New Gloucester and Elizabeth Olsen of Windham. 

 “Peter Pan” will be directed by Zachariah Stearn, originally from Augusta, now based in the New York City area. Zac studied theater at the University of Southern Maine and was once known as Maine’s youngest comedian. Zac has been performing since he was seven years old, singing, acting and performing stand-up comedy. In fact, Zac played the role of “Peter Pan” when he was a child.
 Zac became familiar with Schoolhouse last summer when he played Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast”. When he heard that the community theater was looking for a director for “Peter Pan”, he jumped at the chance despite the long commute from his home in Connecticut. “Not only does Schoolhouse feel like home to me, “Peter Pan” is a show that is very near and dear to my heart,” Zac says. “It was my first show and it is a very special show. When you are sitting in the audience, you will see that it is truly magical.” 

 Zac will be performing his comedy act, “Zac Stearn Live”, on one night only, on June 3, 2017 at Schoolhouse Arts Center, to help offset the cost of flying training, which will add substantially to the show’s budget. 

 For more information about “Zac Stearn Live” and “Peter Pan” the musical, please visit schoolhousearts.org

Friday, May 19, 2017

Movie Review of "Snatched" by Gayle Plummer


Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer have good chemistry and make their mother/daughter relationship believable. That’s the highlight of this movie. Amy plays Emily, the daughter, who has lost her job and her boyfriend at about the same time. Goldie, of course plays the mom, who will do anything to spend more time with her screw-up daughter. 
 
Emily had purchased non-refundable tickets for herself and the now estranged boyfriend, for a trip to Ecuador. Yes, of course mom gets to go instead. 

My feeling was that “Snatched” is a cross between a female version of “Indiana Jones” and “The Heat” (but not in a good way). I came out of the theater saying exactly that; not knowing at the time that, “The Heat” and “Snatched” have the same screenwriter (Katie Dippold).  

“The Heat”, I loved.  Not so much this one. This movie is rated R for its sexual content and language. I didn’t feel any of the language or nude scenes added a thing to the film. I felt like those factors were tossed in to help sell this thing. I couldn’t shake the feeling that Amy Schumer’s technique /style of acting are very much Melissa McCarthy-like. This is not a bad thing or a good thing. It is just my observation. 

We haven’t seen Goldie Hawn in a movie since 2002 when she starred in, “The Banger Sisters”. It is too bad this iconic, comedic actress chose this movie for her “come back”.  The up side to the movie is: The movie-goer can escape from real-life and literally have a chuckle or two with the girls. That is the best I can say. No real meat here, but of course, that was the intention. It does have it all: action, comedy and drama. The down side is: There are only tiny degrees of real quality to the action, comedy and drama. None of those qualities were consistently strong throughout the movie. Most of the actors either over-acted or under-acted; performances were not fantastic. 

Writing was not fantastic. In places I felt it was rather juvenile. You’ll know them when you see them. My favorite character and favorite performance was Ike Barinholtz, who played Schumer’s needy, nerdy brother, Jeffrey. Ike owned the character. I totally believed him in every one of his scenes. He made me forget I was watching a movie - during those scenes only. Which is how I basically judge movies: If I am lost in them and I am unaware that I’m watching a movie and I feel transported to another time or place - it’s awesome! If I’m constantly aware of the fact that I’m watching a movie and/or I am aware of the time during the movie, it’s not good. I was not transported and it felt longer than the 90 minutes. We have all experienced movies that were close to 3 hours long but flew by like an hour. This is not the case here. 

The strongest acting and most believable scenes for Hawn and Schumer were when they were interacting as mother and daughter. Overall it is a very light piece of entertainment that some folks may enjoy, for the sole purpose of getting away from real life and escaping for 90 minutes.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Movie Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy" by Stephen Signor



Run Time: 2hr. 17min.

It’s no secret I am not a fan of sequels but I waited with much anticipation when this second installment was announced at San Diego Comic-Con, just a week before the release date of the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014). It was well worth the wait. 

No time was wasted introducing this cast of misfit but resilient group of galactic warriors during the first 10 minutes of the film. Steeling the moment was of course Baby Groot, voiced again by Vin Diesel who incidentally, for the first time, also provided motion capture for his character. 

Set to the backdrop of “Awesome Mixtape #2”,' Marvel's “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” continues the team's adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. It is here they must fight to keep their newfound family together, while unraveling the mysteries of Peter Quill's true parentage.

That mystery becomes obvious when on Earth during 1980, Meredith Quill (Laura Haddock) is listening to the radio while riding in a car with her then boyfriend (Kurt Russell). Russell has appeared in many Disney films over the past fifty-one years and this will be the first in 12 years and a first for portraying a superhero, excluding “Sky High” (2005). Fast forward 34 years; the arrival of Ego in human form (Russell) solidifies the claim of being Quill’s father. 

Ego is always depicted in the comics as a living land mass that has the power to control his surroundings. It would only make sense for a massive amount of digital resources and work to go into creating his cinematic debut. Ego's planet, VFX is comprised of a trillion polygons, and is considered to be the biggest visual effect ever made. Impressive!

He is joined by a new character Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff (2017’s “Newness”). Her character added a new and refreshing element to the mystery of this well thought out and executed plot that has old foes becoming new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics, coming to our heroes' aid, as this Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.

The bottom line is that, once again the physical antics along with the dialog and over- the-top battle scenes, deliver success to this sequel. As for a third installment? The answer becomes clear while the ending credits are rolling. Do not leave the theater.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Movie Review: "The Circle" Reviewed by Stephen Signor


Run Time: 1hr. 50Min. 

It took me some time after seeing this motion picture to gather my thoughts on my perspective and what I thought did and did not work. Truthfully I am still doing this as I write. For starters, the plot summary is just about all there is to this film, which is based on the novel of the same name by Dave Eggers; whose name is also on the credits list for writing the screenplay.


This is his second novel to be adapted to the screen (“A Hologram for the King”) of which Tom Hanks also starred.  Then there is the direction of James Ponsoldt (2015’s “End of the Year”), which had me waiting for the end of the movie. In the plot, Mae Holland (Emma Watson) seizes the opportunity of a lifetime when she lands a job with the world's most powerful technology and social media company “The Circle” and consequently joins a groundbreaking experiment that pushes the boundaries of privacy, ethics and personal freedom. 

Watson, in what is reportedly her last film of 2017 is a brilliant actress, but in this film is out of her element. She is way too talented for this role, thus the character was less than believable. The company’s founder Eamon Bailey is played by Tom Hanks. 

I kept waiting for that moment he would offer up a signature expression or gesture. It never came. More talent wasted. Although the film’s length was nearly two hours, I felt the overall appearance of these iconic actors were no more impressive than a cameo would have been. Still looking for bright spots, I remain unable to dig deep enough to come up with anything noteworthy. Even when an ally named Kalden, played by British actor John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) encourages Holland to take action, the message he gives her is clear, but delivered without any real sense of urgency or impact. 

The first half hour of the movie was devoted to character recognition and introduction but that could have been accomplished in less time. Trust me, I looked at my watch. The rest was just one unimpressive moment after another. Thankfully when the end finally arrived, Watson did manage to save humanity from the impending doom. I only wish I was on that list.

Review of Neil Simon's “Plaza Suite” performed at Schoolhouse Arts Center


Ever check into a hotel and wonder who stayed there last night? Last month? Last year? Was it a single person? Married couple? Family? And just what occurred in that very same space you’re now occupying? 
 
Playwright Neil Simon provides some answers in his classic comedy “Plaza Suite”, now playing at Schoolhouse Arts in Standish. With Simon’s unique trademark style of situation humor, “Plaza Suite” offers an inside look at three parties who at one time or another stayed at NYC’s Plaza Hotel for very different reasons. It’s a snapshot in time of quirky characters with idiosyncratic personalities on zany, fragmented journeys that all intersect in Suite 719. 

Act One: Sam and Karen Nash are celebrating their “23rd or 24th” anniversary “today or tomorrow.” Despite Karen’s desire to rekindle the romance by revisiting their honeymoon suite, Sam’s desire is focused on work, work and work. Just when tensions are boiling, Jean McCormack, Sam’s young, skinny and attractive secretary, drops by with more work that compels Sam back to the office. Karen’s joking reference to an affair between Sam and Jean turns out to be true. 

Terri Plummer’s version of Karen and Chris Roberts’ version of Sam are wonderful to watch as they navigate all the emotional landmines through incessant roller-coaster rides of nice-talk and heated arguments. The strengths and weaknesses of their characters are manipulated perfectly by Plummer and Roberts, never letting up on the push-and-pull, up-and-down, yin-yang, internal conflicts. Crickett Cote’s brief portrayal of Jean McCormack is subtly well-played. 

Act Two: Hollywood Producer (and legendary ladies’ man) Jesse Kiplinger is in town and hopes to hook up with his old high school flame Muriel Tate after 17 years. Muriel, now married with children, is guilt-ridden but reluctantly accepts Jesse’s invitation to visit and promises she will not stay long. After a drink or two - or 10, Jesse reveals his inner feelings about his work, fame, past relationships and his love for Muriel, who admits to her unhappy marriage and by now has poured out her heart and soul on her way to passing out in bed. 

Gerald Davis, though perhaps a tad young for the role, is ultimately convincing as Jesse Kiplinger. He is strong as the self-absorbed purveyor of fame and fortune, knows how to display the precise amount of inner anger, and gently reveals his character’s vulnerability. Mia Perron is both fun and funny as Muriel Tate, aptly handling a wide range of emotion as she successfully transforms Muriel from a shy, demure, proper young lady into a wilder and willing partner. Together, the facial expressions and comedic timing are entertaining. 

Act Three: Sixty-eight guests and a bridegroom are anxiously waiting downstairs for Roy and Norma Hubley to escort Mimsey, their daughter and bride-to-be. Only problem is - Mimsey has locked herself in the bathroom. Hilarity ensues as the frantic parents, desperate and under pressure with each passing moment, try everything under the sun to get their daughter out. But out of blame, excuses and time, Mom and Dad, bruised and defeated, torn and tattered, have no choice but to tell the groom, Borden.


Review by Louis Philippe, Reindeer Entertainment Group