Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two

I had to re-read my review – from exactly one year ago – of Mockingjay – Part One to reaffirm what I already knew: Mockingjay, Part Two is definitely my least favorite of the four-movie franchise. Not surprising, considering “Mockingjay” was my least favorite of the best-selling “Hunger Games” trilogy by Suzanne Collins and never should have been split into two movies. It just doubled the disappointment. That’s not to say fans of the book and the movies shouldn’t see Mockingjay, Part Two. OF COURSE they should. You need the closure… that final cinematic salute to symbolic rebel leader Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), her rival love interests Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), and the whole nation of Panem. One last chance to declare, “May the odds be ever in your favor!”

The 33

Hard to believe it’s already been – and only been – five years since the internationally-televised live dramatic rescue of 33 miners outside Copiapó, Chile. It’s a story that was ready-made for Hollywood, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood jumped on having it made into a major motion picture (starring Antonio Banderas as the miners’ de facto leader, super ‘Mario’). The problem is, The 33 doesn’t quite rise to the level of major motion picture, despite the very real and captivating narrative and characters in play. It’s ultimately a feel-good, but fleeting account of what was happening above ground, and below, after a massive explosion at a 100-year-old gold and copper mine left 33 men trapped 20,000 feet below the surface. The ordeal lasted for 69 days. And rescue was never a sure thing.


Spectre is classic Bond. It’s got all the stuff you’ve come to expect from a 007 movie: the babes, the bad guys, the gadgets, the cool cars, the exotic locales, the fist fights, the gun fights and things that go boom, and of course, the martinis – shaken, not stirred. There’s a certain comfort in the familiarity, but also a bit of boredom in what’s come to be a ‘standard’ two-and-a-half-hour running time.

Two-fer review: Burnt and Our Brand Is Crisis

Burnt is a foodie flick. Brand is a political flick. Burnt stars the eminently watchable Bradley Cooper as a brilliant but temperamental chef struggling to make a comeback after battling addictions to women, drugs, and booze. Brand stars the eminently watchable Sandra Bullock as a brilliant political strategist struggling to make a comeback after some sort of mental breakdown and crisis of conscience. Neither movie is Oscar-worthy, despite having star-studded casts and interesting premises. But both are decent. If I had to pick one over the other, I’d go with Burnt. It’s definitely the more engaging and entertaining of the two… and watching Cooper speak French over a hot stove in London is just way cooler than watching Bullock attempting to speak Spanish to volunteers and voters in Bolivia.


I was ambivalent about entering Room, but I’m really glad I did. It’s a compelling drama with two stellar lead performances from Brie Larson and child actor Jacob Tremblay who should at least be considered for an Oscar nomination. The film opens with Tremblay’s character Jack celebrating his fifth birthday in “room”, a small enclosure that he and his Ma (Larson) have lived in his entire life. He knows nothing of the outside world beyond what he sees in a rectangular skylight way out of reach, and on a television that gets very poor reception. The sparse furnishings are his ‘friends’, and he and Ma keep themselves occupied during the day with books, games, and a hefty dose of imagination. It’s a solitary existence interrupted only by the nighttime visits by ‘Old Nick’ (Sean Bridgers) a creepy guy who apparently abducted Ma for use as his personal sex slave.

Steve Jobs

First, there was Jobs, a 2013 biopic about the Apple founder as portrayed (rather decently) by Jobs doppelgänger Ashton Kutcher. Then, there was Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a rather disappointing documentary from acclaimed director Alex Gibney. And now, there’s Steve Jobs, yet another take on the flawed genius who put iPads, iPhones and iMacs in the hands – and on the desktops – of the masses. This latest effort has three things going for it: a snappy script by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, The West Wing, etc.), the direction of Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), and the magnetic appeal of Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Inglorious Basterds). Put all of the above movies together, and you come away with one clear message: Jobs was a brilliant a-hole. (ummm, A is for apple?)

99 Homes

99 Homes is one of those indies that could easily slip through the cracks at the box office but deserves some word-of-mouth love – even from a ‘Mainstream Chick’. It’s a compelling, timely, and well-acted drama that will surely hit (too) close to home for anyone who lost their home – or came close– during the housing crisis. The film puts a human face on a national disaster that allowed certain individuals and institutions to profit off the misfortune of others who got in over their heads financially, largely due to the failure of banks and government agencies to provide proper guidance, intervention, or oversight.


I wouldn’t normally go out of my way to see this type of fantasy-adventure, “fun for the whole family” movie, but I was sort of roped into it, so here goes:

It’s a perfectly okay fantasy-adventure movie that is fine for the whole family and probably better than fine for kids aged 8-12. Any younger, and it’s rather dark, especially at the start. Any older, and it can’t compete with the likes of The Hunger Games.

For the adult tag-alongs, the real question is: Do we really need a prequel to Peter Pan??? Must we really know how an orphan named Peter came to be Peter Pan, or who exactly Hook was before he was ‘Captain’ Hook? No, we don’t. In fact, it all kind of muddles the classic nature of writer J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan mythology – a story that has stood the test of time and countless remakes on stage and screen.

For the kids, the questions raised above are probably moot. The movie has a flying pirate ship! It’s fantastical! It has kids running amuck! Evil nuns! Swordfights! Fairies! Hugh Jackman!! (okay, that last one was for me).

The Martian

Finally! A movie I can recommend to just about anyone. The Martian has soared to the top of my (extremely short) ‘what’s out there right now that you really should see on the big screen’ list. It’s smart, entertaining, uplifting and remarkably accessible to mainstream as well as geeky-fringe audiences. Seriously, this movie has it all: it’s visually immersive, the stakes are palpable, and despite the science-fiction nature of the plot, the characters are relatable and – certainly in the case of botanist-astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) – worth busting NASA’s budget to save!

The Intern

From the opening sequence, you know you’re watching a Nancy Meyers movie. The director of many chick flick gems including The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, and Baby Boom has a definite formula, and it works again here– to some degree. The intern is a pleasant enough movie that manages to shine a humorous and poignant light on some interesting themes, from aging to work-life balance, to friendship and loyalty. But the movie is not without its flaws. There are a couple of scenes that don’t really go anywhere, and a few character traits that don’t particularly track. And, it’s really hard not to draw comparisons to that ‘other’ Anne Hathaway star vehicle, The Devil Wears Prada, where Hathaway plays the embattled assistant to the demanding editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine (played by legendary actress Meryl Streep). In The Intern, Hathaway is the founder and chief executive of a start-up online fashion site that employs a “senior” intern named Ben Whittaker, played by legendary actor Robert De Niro. Why become an intern at 70? He’s a lonely and bored widower seeking new challenges in his retirement years. And he’s still got a lot to offer.