The Brand New Testament

Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

The Founder

The Founder is the antithesis of a feel-good movie. It’ll leave you with a bitter aftertaste, not to mention second thoughts about grabbing a burger at McDonald’s. On the surface, the movie has a similar vibe to The Social Network (about the founder of Facebook) and Steve Jobs (about the co-founder of Apple). All three focus on the origin stories of iconic companies and the people who got trampled – or simply left behind – as the brands took off. But The Founder (about the “founder” of McDonald’s) is missing a few key ingredients – namely drama, tension, and the development of characters that you may want to care about. The cast is good. The movie is weak.

Hidden Figures

How did we not know about this story before now?! That’s the biggest question I had after watching Hidden Figures, what I venture to call the best feel-good movie to hit theaters in recent weeks, months, or possibly even years. It’s based on the fascinating, true story of three African-American women who were part of a segregated ‘human computer’ division at NASA that ‘did the math’ that helped send astronaut John Glenn into orbit at the height of the space race in the early 1960s. Talk about the right stuff. These women had it.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

Passengers

Passengers is basically Castaway in space – with a bit of Gravity and The Martian thrown into the mix. Only it’s not as good as the aforementioned titles, mostly because it lacks tension and drama. Even the sexual tension between the attractive main characters is dispensed of rather quickly, if ya know what I mean.

Sing

I’m a big fan of The Voice. I watched American Idol. I love musicals. The trailer for Sing looked awesome. And then I saw the movie. And I was bummed. The elements were all there for greatness (or at least very goodness), but it doesn’t come close to reaching its potential. In fact, I was bored for a big chunk of Sing, especially when the menagerie of animated pop-star wannabes weren’t singing. That’s not to say it won’t do (extremely) well at the box office. It will. It’s like The Secret Life of Pets (from the same studio, Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment). Pets wasn’t very good, but I’m convinced that kids and adults had psyched themselves up to like it – no matter what — based on the cute trailer and premise. The same will be true with Sing. Enough people will see it – and sing its praises – to put me in the minority. So go ahead. See it, and weigh in! I’m listening!

Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty is a bittersweet drama that could be either a tough watch, or cathartic, for anyone feeling the pain of loss during the holiday season. If I had to pick a target demographic, I’d go with fans of A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, or (to allude to something more current) the television drama This Is Us. It’s about finding the good – the collateral beauty – when life hurls a few ugly curveballs.

La La Land

Believe the buzz. La La Land IS the best movie of 2016. It’s certainly my top pick for top honors in the Oscar pool. But here’s the twist. I had to see it twice to fully appreciate the story and the spectacle. The first time I saw it was at the Middleburg Film Festival in October, in cramped seats in a hotel ballroom. About a month later, I saw it again – on a big screen, in a real theater, with a good sound system. And I was hooked. It doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre. It’s part musical, part drama, part comedy, part fantasy, part romance… all packaged together in a unique, thought-provoking, entertaining and bittersweet film about dreams, relationships, and the paths taken – or not taken – in life.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

It’s got that sweeping, familiar-sounding score. And on-screen text that instantly takes you back a long time ago, to a galaxy far, far away. And it’s got battleships, space creatures, men and women ready to sacrifice themselves for a cause, and of course, that Darth Vader guy and some references to the Force. In other words, Rogue One delivers exactly what the subtitle promises: A Star Wars Story. And Star Wars fans will eat it up, especially if they’re well versed in all the characters and chronologies that span decades of Lucas filmmaking. As far as I can tell, Rogue One is the first in an Anthology Series that is not to be confused with the Sequel Trilogy that began with last year’s The Force Awakens, or the Original Trilogy (Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) that began in 1977 and spawned a Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith) that I somehow managed to miss between 1999 and 2005. Now that we’ve got out of the way… here’s the gist of Rogue One:

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Office Christmas Party; Miss Sloane; Jackie; Lion

Comedy. Drama. Suspense. History. Politics. Lots to choose from at the box office this weekend. And it’s all pretty good, even awards-worthy. Except for Office Christmas Party. That one’s just for fun!

Office Christmas Party is not destined to become a holiday classic. But it’s still plenty of fun in the moment, thanks to a Santastic bundle of comedic talent. Too many sub-plots clutter up the nativity scene a bit, but here’s the gist: The uptight CEO (Jennifer Aniston) of a tech company cancels all holiday parties and threatens to close the Chicago branch run by her dufus brother Clay (T.J. Miller) unless he can seal a lucrative deal with a potential client (Courtney B. Vance) by year’s end. With the help of his Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) and a talented techie (Olivia Munn), Clay throws caution (and his sister’s orders) to the wind and throws an epic office party designed to impress the client, boost morale, and save everyone’s jobs. Let’s just say the party – which the head of HR (Kate McKinnon) insists on calling a “non-denominational holiday mixer” — goes off the rails big-time, devolving into a drug and alcohol-fueled physical comedy extravaganza.

Manchester by the Sea

Thanksgiving may not seem like the best time to see a movie about grief, but Manchester by the Sea is so much more. It’s a family drama that tackles issues of loss, healing, and hurt in a smart, poignant, and often humorous way. And it puts Casey Affleck firmly in the running for a best actor nomination, and possibly even the win. Affleck plays Lee Chandler, a man haunted by his past, who returns to his hometown of Manchester, Massachusetts to take care of family business after his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies somewhat suddenly of a heart ailment. Lee never expected that the ‘family business’ would include guardianship of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). But it does.