Love and Friendship

Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters is an okay reboot of a comedy classic. It has funny moments, but falls far short of hilarious – and that would have been the case regardless of the gender of the leads. The dominance of estrogen over testosterone in this “Ghostbusters for a new generation” has everything to do with what makes the movie entertaining, and nothing to do with what makes the narrative fall flat. These talented ladies deserved better material from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), but that said, they make the most of what they got.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Secret Life of Pets; Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates; Life, Animated; Zero Days

The Secret Life of Pets is one of those movies that is probably critic-proof because the trailer is so darn cute and promising that kids (and many adults too) will be eager to see it, no matter what. Still, I would be remiss to give it a glowing endorsement when I was, in fact, disappointed. I loved the first 15 minutes and the last 10 minutes of this movie. But everything in between dragged for me as the tone of the movie turned rather dark. The premise is awesome — what kind of lives are our pets leading when we leave them home alone for hours at a time? They party! They get together for walks! They watch telenovellas! The characters (dogs, cats, bunnies, snakes, etc.) are all well-drawn, and well-voiced by the likes of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress, and Albert Brooks. My issue is with the shift in tone from fun animal adventure to animated crime saga. The Secret Life of Pets is certainly way better than recent duds Ratchet and Clank, Norm of the North, and Angry Birds… but not nearly as good as Finding Dory and Zootopia. Oh well. I may not have loved The Secret Life of Pets, but I do predict the movie will boost attendance at theaters, animal shelters, pet stores, and dog parks! There’s also a cute short before The SLOP that features the Minions of Despicable Me fame.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Legend of Tarzan; The BFG; Hunt for the Wilderpeople

The Legend of Tarzan – Does the world need another Tarzan (movie)? No. But at least it’s way better than I – and most everyone around me – expected it to be. The Legend of Tarzan offers a new take on an old tale, with a healthy dose of eye candy. Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) plays John Clayton III aka Lord Greystoke aka Tarzan. John has traded in the jungles of Africa for a gentrified life in London with his sassy and beautiful wife Jane (Margot Robbie). He’s perfectly content to be free of the Jungle (“It’s hot there”), but he is roped into accepting an invitation to return to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he’s being set up by a nasty Belgian dude (Christopher Waltz in his usual creepy, sneering role) who plans to turn Tarzan over to an African chief bent on revenge. The movie has elements of a lot of genres – there’s romance, drama, action, (CGI) animals, comic relief (from Samuel L. Jackson as an American, George Washington Williams, looking to expose an illegal slavery and mining operation) — but it all hangs together surprisingly well. The Legend of Tarzan feels a lot like a standard superhero flick, which makes it perfectly fine summer fare for the older kid/adult crowd.

Central Intelligence

Yes – Central Intelligence is kinda stupid. But in a week dominated by one tragic news story after another, I was happy to take the levity wherever I could find it. And I did get a few decent laughs out of this twisted buddy comedy with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin “perennial sidekick” Hart. It’s the tale of two guys reunited (via Facebook friend request) on the eve of their 20-year high school reunion: Bob Stone, the oft-bullied overweight geek formerly known as Robbie Wierdicht who grew into a lethal CIA agent (Johnson), and Calvin “Golden Jet” Joyner, the popular jock/most-likely-to-succeed prom king who became a mild-mannered accountant leading a stable but staid existence devoid of excitement and drama. See where this is going?

Finding Dory

#JustKeepSwimming I don’t know why I’m suddenly obsessed with that Dory-inspired hashtag, but it’s my new favorite motto. Finding Dory is a worthy sequel to the 2003 Academy-Award winning animation blockbuster, Finding Nemo, about a neurotic clownfish named Marlin who traveled across the ocean to find his son Nemo, who’d gotten trapped in a dentist’s fish tank. In case you didn’t know – all’s well that ended well, with Marlin and Nemo reuniting, with the help of a host of creatures including a blue tang named Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss. Fast-forward a year (in movie time), and Dory, Nemo and Marlin are like family – living comfortably in their underwater corner of the world, respecting the boundaries of the open ocean to avoid becoming fish bait. It’s all going swimmingly until Dory suddenly remembers that she has a biological family – a mother and father, and a home that she’d forgotten about, but now must find. And so another cross-ocean adventure begins.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping; Me Before You; Presenting Princess Shaw

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – This movie is surprisingly entertaining in a Behind the Music meets Spinal Tap sort of way. It smartly, and sometimes kinda grossly, mocks all those big-screen documentaries we’ve seen in recent years featuring the music and behind-the-scenes drama of stars like Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Michael Jackson. The comedy explores the musical journey of singer/rapper Conner4Real (Adam Sandberg), a former boy band member who faces a crisis of popularity after his sophomore album flops. The movie includes a host of amazing cameos from music and comedy superstars, and a spot-on spoof of TMZ (CMZ). It’s just plain fun.

The Conjuring 2

Everything I said and felt about the under-appreciated The Conjuring in July 2013 holds true for The Conjuring 2 – it’s GOOD and scary. Trust me, even if you “don’t like horror movies” (one of my mantras), these merit an exception, thanks largely to a combination of intriguing true story, creepy suspense, and top-notch acting.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Alice Through the Looking Glass; Maggie’s Plan; A Monster with a Thousand Heads

Alice Through the Looking Glass – I didn’t see Tim Burton’s 2010 re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland, but did read up on it a bit before heading into this sequel from director James Bobin (Muppets Most Wanted) featuring the colorful characters created by British author Lewis Carroll. I might otherwise have been quite confused. As with its cinematic predecessor, Alice Through the Looking Glass is not an instant classic by any stretch, but it’s a fine family film that is visually quite stunning and features a strong female lead in Alice, played by the extremely versatile Mia Wasikowska. Mia has a knack for making mediocre movies better than they might otherwise be. In this case, she plays a sassy and headstrong ship’s captain (in 1874 London) struggling to make it in a man’s world. With the fate of her personal and professional life in flux, Alice stumbles across a magical mirror (as opposed to a rabbit hole) that takes her back to the fantastical realm of Underland, where she discovers that her friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is literally dying of sadness because he thinks his long-lost family may still be alive, but nobody believes him. Alice is skeptical, but in an effort to save her friend, she steals a device from ‘Time’ (embodied by Sasha Baron Cohen) and heads to the past to see what became of Hatter’s clan. It’s an ill-conceived plot, a bit heavy-handed with the morals (It’s about time—making every second count; you can’t change the past, but you can learn from it; the only thing worth doing is what we do for others; the only way to achieve the impossible is to believe it’s possible…), but in the end, it’s kind of sweet and sappy in a weird, eccentric, whimsical sort of way.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Angry Birds Movie; The Nice Guys; Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising; Love & Friendship; Sunset Song

The Angry Birds Movie – As one adult commented after watching this flick, “It was lamer than I expected. Awful. Though my 6-year-old daughter thought it was great.” There you have it in a nutshell. The Angry Birds Movie is the “origin story” of the birds that are propelled into all sorts of stuff in the once-popular Angry Birds mobile app, including the pigs, bombs, TNT, slingshots, etc. that appear in the addictive game that became a mindless timesuck for millions of smartphone users. The animated ‘action’ takes place on an island populated almost entirely by happy, flightless birds. One exception is the angry outcast Red (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) who becomes sort of an accidental hero when he uncovers a nefarious plot by visiting green pigs who aim to steal all the birds’ eggs. The movie has some clever lines and puns and plenty of decent vocal talent. But the story doesn’t add up to much and is likely to bore most anyone over the age of eight. Regardless, the 90-minute, 3D, PG-rated Birds far out-flew the competition at the box office in its opening weekend. So if the kids rule the roost where movies are concerned, don’t be angry if they demand (or ask nicely) to see it.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Money Monster; A Bigger Splash; High-Rise

Money Monster is a satisfying crowd-pleaser that definitely benefits from the established rapport between lead actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts and the solid direction of Jodie Foster. Clooney plays an outlandish, self-centered, Jim-Cramer-Mad-Money-type financial TV host named Lee Gates who shares stock tips with what he thinks is an adoring public. Roberts plays his producer/director Patty. She’s the one who keeps Gates and the show on track from her seat in the Control Room. Their usual routine is disrupted on live television when a disgruntled investor named Kyle (British actor Jack O’Connell looking and sounding as American as apple pie) gets into the studio, straps an explosive vest on Lee, and demands to know the source of a so-called ‘glitch’ that caused a particular stock – and his investment- to implode. The result is a tense conspiracy thriller with enough light moments peppered throughout (including some funky dance moves from Clooney) to boost the overall entertainment factor. Money Monster doesn’t really need to be seen on the big screen, but it’s the best of the week’s new offerings for anyone just looking for a solid, well-paced drama with star power.