Cinema Clash podcast: Radioactive; Yes, God, Yes; The Rental

Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: The Secret: Dare to Dream

I vaguely remember getting caught up in “The Secret” craze circa 2006. One of my more spiritual-minded friends passed along a copy of the popular self-help book by Rhonda Byrne. Visualize your goals and dreams, it implored (ever so gently), and – voila! – they will surely come true. No comment.

Cynical and jaded as I may be, I do understand ‘The Secret’ appeal – especially in these crazy times. And that’s why the rather lame movie, The Secret: Dare to Dream, gets a ‘kumbaya’ pass. Embrace what it’s going for; forgive the rest.

Cinema Clash podcast: Radioactive; Yes, God, Yes; The Rental

I thought about writing up a quick review for Yes, God, Yes. But then I thought, no, God, no. It was awkward enough talking about it with my podcast partner Charlie. The film is a coming-of-age dramedy about a Catholic school teenager who goes off to a religious retreat (aka “Jesus Camp”) for a few days to purify her soul after stumbling upon a racy AOL chatroom, and getting caught up in a scandalous rumor involving a classmate – and salad.

Review: Radioactive

Who coined the term “radioactivity”? Who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize? Who was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes? What husband and wife duo shared a Nobel Prize in chemistry? Who are the first mother and daughter Nobel Laureates? The answers have one common denominator: Marie Curie.

Review: The Old Guard

In the mood for a superhero action movie? Historical fiction? A supernatural flick? A war drama? Sci-fi/fantasy? A message movie? A hint of romance? A high-octane, double-dose of girl power? The Old Guard is all of the above. It stars Charlize Theron as Andy (aka Andromache of Scythia), the leader of a small army of immortal, centuries-old mercenaries who land in the present-day crosshairs of an ex-CIA operative and a cartoonishly evil big pharma CEO motivated by profits.

Review: Hamilton

Let’s be real. Hamilton is critic-proof. Everyone I know who desperately wanted to see it has, by now, seen the filmed version of the hit Broadway musical at least once since its debut on Disney+ in the wee hours of the morning on July third. A slew of others have seen it too, out of sheer curiosity or pop culture public shaming. And some – declaring their independence from peer pressure, or harboring an inexplicable disdain for musical theater – will simply take a pass. That’s okay. You are excused. This show will go on.

Review: John Lewis: Good Trouble

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just — say something, do something…” Make trouble. Good trouble. Necessary trouble. That’s the message from civil rights icon, and longtime U.S. Congressman from Georgia, John Lewis. He’s been talking the talk – and walking the walk – since the 1960s: The 1961 Freedom Rides from DC to New Orleans? Lewis was on them; The historic 1963 March on Washington with MLK? Lewis helped organize it; The treacherous walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on what became known as “Bloody Sunday” in 1965? Lewis was there – and badly beaten.

Review: The Outpost

The Outpost is a war movie. War movies are hard to watch. They’re especially hard to watch when you can’t tell the characters apart – even with on-screen “lower thirds” peppered throughout to try and alert you to who’s who, and where. But hey- this is war. It’s ugly. And loud. And bloody. And, as with most war movies, it pays tribute to soldiers lost, heroes made, and survivors burdened with the memory of what they’ve been through… in this case, a deadly attack by the Taliban on an “indefensible” Outpost in eastern Afghanistan in 2009. The Outpost is based on the 2012 New York Times best-seller “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor” by CNN’s Jake Tapper. Everything about this film screams low-budget labor of love. So while I found the acting and dialogue inconsistent at best, I can appreciate what it’s trying to do. And, it’s a story that gains extra resonance in light of recent intelligence reports that Russia has been offering Taliban-linked militants money to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan. If nothing else, this type of film reminds us there is still (for all intents and purposes) a war going on – and American troops are still dying over there – a full decade after the battle depicted in The Outpost.

Quickie Review: My Spy

My Spy happened to be the last screening I went to in early March, before the coronavirus upended all our lives and, consequently, Hollywood’s theatrical release schedule. In retrospect, My Spy was just what the doctor may have ordered: relatively mindless escapist fun in advance of toilet paper hoarding, sanitizer sticker shock, and mandated #SocialDistancing. My Spy follows the story of a big and burly CIA operative (Dave Bautista, Guardians of the Galaxy) who finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl (Chloe Coleman, “Big Little Lies”) who threatens to blow his cover unless he teaches her the tricks of his trade. Picture just about any action comedy with the likes of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, John Cena or Arnold Schwarzenegger paired with a clever kid, and you’ll know what you’re in for with My Spy. A porous plot held together with sweet, corny, funny and poignant moments, infused with a solid dose of mayhem perpetrated by kids and adults.

Review: Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

It had me at Pierce Brosnan and ABBA. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it is – a campy slice of goofy escapism that pays tribute to a worldwide phenomenon that the U.S. has been remarkably slow to embrace. Long before “American Idol” or “[whatever country’s] Got Talent” or “The Voice,” there was the Eurovision Song Contest, the world’s biggest song competition. It’s been around since 1956, spans more than 40 countries (not just European), and launched the careers of ABBA in 1974 and Celine Dion in 1988. How did I not know this? Anyway, I do now, thanks to Will Ferrell, who got hooked watching Eurovision during summer trips to his wife’s home country of Sweden. Who better than Ferrell (Elf, Talladega Nights, Anchorman) to craft a starring role for himself in a film that celebrates and mocks a global event that features an eclectic mix of talent?

Review: Irresistible

Irresistible is far more easy to resist than one might hope, despite a strong cast, timely premise and the indelible imprint of former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart as the film’s writer and director. In a nutshell, Irresistible is a scathing rebuke of our campaign finance system, issued through the lens of political satire. Steve Carell plays Gary Zimmer, a democratic political strategist based in DC who travels out to the small Wisconsin town of Deerlaken to help a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) run for Mayor, touting the somewhat reluctant candidate as “a redder kind of blue.” The race draws national attention and Deerlaken takes on a political circus atmosphere, replete with media punditry and the arrival of Gary’s republican nemesis Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne) to bolster the campaign of the incumbent.