Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: The Last Full Measure

I really wish I could bestow high critical honors on The Last Full Measure because I totally support what it aims to do: share the story of a true American war hero and the decades-long effort to have his sacrifice acknowledged with a Congressional Medal of Honor. However… while the movie is inspired by actual events, it leans too heavily on character composites, over-dramatization, creative license, and one righteous speech after another by a cast of heavy-hitters. Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Ladd, the late Peter Fonda. Each delivers passionate dialogue that feels like something you’d see on a Memorial Day tribute to the nation’s fallen. Or a star-studded made for television movie. It feels exactly like what it is: a passion project that finally made it to the big screen as a low-budget indie. The key takeaway: U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper William H. “Pits” Pitsenbarger risked – and gave – his life to save dozens of men caught in an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam on April 11, 1966. He deserved a Congressional Medal of Honor, and his parents finally got to accept one on his behalf 34 years later. A very rare honor for an enlisted Airman.

Review: The Gentlemen

The Gentlemen is a stylish crime caper with writer/director Guy Ritchie’s fingerprints all over it. It’s very much a “Guy” movie – and a “guy movie”, with a splash of estrogen provided by Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey) in some lethal-looking Christian Louboutin stilettos. She’s surrounded by an A-list cast of chaps including Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell and Hugh Grant winding their way through a witty and wily narrative about drug syndicates, blackmail, bribery, murder and all-around mischievousness. The plot thickens, and thins, simmers and boils over to yield a dish that’s a bit messy, but still tastes good.

Review: Bad Boys For Life

“Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do…?” Gonna make a movie and a sequel or two.

It all began in 1995, with Bad Boys, starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as two Miami narcotics detectives who live by the motto, “Ride together. Die together.” Then came Bad Boys II in 2003, with more of the same. And now, there’s Bad Boys For Life, more of the same – again – with a slightly twistier twist than its immediate predecessor. In other words, you know what you’re in for with this franchise: Two longtime friends who drive each other crazy also have each others’ backs through a barrage of violence, comedy, drama, car chases, motorcycle chases, helicopter chases, bloodshed, bromance, and collateral damage.

Quickie Review: Dolittle

I often skip the “kids movies” since my nieces and nephews have aged out of them. But I will generally make an exception for animation, musicals and anything with Robert Downey Jr. Dolittle has the latter. After years of playing Iron Man, Sherlock Holmes, and other PG-13 and R-rated characters, Downey wanted to make something his younger kids could see. Thus, we have Dolittle – a sweet, harmless, sometimes goofy film reminiscent of the family-friendly comedy adventure films of my youth. It won’t displace the 1967 Rex Harrison version (with music!), or Eddie Murphy’s 1998 take on the classic tale; but for a new generation, this re-imagining of the doctor who can communicate with animals is superficially satisfactory. It’s got enough heart and animal shenanigans to entertain the kids and placate most of the adults in tow.

Review: Underwater

The most shocking thing to me about Underwater is that some critics are actually calling it entertaining and fast-moving. That may be true for the first half-hour of the 95-minute subterranean Alien-ripoff. But after that… it sinks into a murky morass devoid of any real plot, character development or geographic orientation. The film opens with electrical engineer Norah (Kristen Stewart, Charlie’s Angels, Twilight) brushing her teeth in the communal bathroom of an underwater laboratory and waxing poetic via voiceover about her angsty, cynical existence. Then something rocks the lab. It appears to be an earthquake (but we never find out for sure). Whatever the cause, it forces Norah to run for safety as water starts to infiltrate the lab, compromising the infrastructure. If there’s one thing you’ll learn off the bat, it’s that skimpy underwear may seem like a poor choice during an earthquake, but it comes in handy if you need to slip into a bulky pressurized suit to trek across the ocean floor.

Review: Just Mercy

Just Mercy is an infuriating and inspiring legal drama based on the true story of a man who spent six years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, and the young, Harvard-educated lawyer who worked feverishly to get him sprung. That lawyer – Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) – is not some long-dead legal eagle who won his case and faded into the sunset. He’s a champion of social justice who created the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, and continues his crusade to this day to help the disenfranchised.

Review: The Song of Names

I was going to make this more of a full-blown review but then decided not to bother, as the film itself is simply too unsatisfying to recommend. I wanted to like it. The premise seemed quite interesting. The first half was slow but engaging. The performances were solid. The music was hauntingly beautiful. And yet – the last half-hour destroyed whatever goodwill I was feeling toward the film by taking the final act in a direction that was awkward and annoying. Talk about ending on a sour note!

Mainstream Chick’s Top Movie Picks of 2019

2019 was a good year for movies. I liked a lot of what I saw, and I saw a lot. 200+ films. Blockbusters, documentaries, foreign films, indies. However, for the first time in several years, I don’t have any runaway favorites. No definitive number ones, twos or threes. It’s more like a 10-way tie for number five that could easily have been a 30-way tie. So take the list (and the order) with a grain of salt, knowing that I enjoyed all these films – and many more – for different reasons at different times depending on my mood and cinematic headspace.

Quickie Review: 1917

I’m not big on epic war dramas. They all tend to share the same brutal message: War is hell. But 1917 is surprisingly engaging, and best seen on the biggest screen possible. It’s an immersive, visceral film that relies on a gimmick of sorts to set it apart from classic war movies like Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, etc. The film is designed to give the impression that it’s all shot in one continuous take. Gimmick or not, it works. 1917 follows the perilous journey of two young British soldiers sent across enemy lines at the height of the First World War to deliver a message that could potentially save 1600 men from walking into a deadly trap set by the Germans. It reeks of a suicide mission from the start. But one of the young men, Lance Corporal Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) has a very personal stake in getting the message across. His brother is among those heading into an ambush.

Review: CATS

Speaking of memories…

I still have my ticket stub from the July 27, 1983 performance of CATS at the Wintergarden Theatre on Broadway. It was a Wednesday matinee and my orchestra seat cost $35. Betty Buckley played Grizabella the Glamour Cat. She sang “Memory.” I was hooked. I will always be a fan of the music. I will continue to defend the songs, the dancing, and the whimsical appeal of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic stage production.

I can’t, however, defend the movie. It simply doesn’t work.