Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Oh, where to begin… I’m somewhat conflicted writing this review because the movie is actually better than I expected. Yet I am extremely bothered by the fact that it’s been promoted so heavily – with such reckless abandon – that a whole bunch of teens want to see it. And they shouldn’t. It’s an adult movie. Granted, the first 45 minutes are quite tame as the twisted romance between virginal college senior Anastasia Steele and the hunky but tormented young billionaire Christian Grey starts to simmer. But when the relationship boils over into Christian Grey’s “play room” filled with assorted whips, chains and handcuffs, then whoa Nelly. This ‘R’ rated film sets sail for what should be considered ‘NC-17’ territory.

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending has a couple of hot leads in wide-eyed beauty Mila Kunis and the often-shirtless Channing Tatum (sporting too much eye-liner). But the movie itself is a hot mess, of inter-galactic proportions. Picture a confusing mish-mash of sci-fi and superhero flicks, with a bit of Princess Diaries thrown into the mix.

Song One

Song One feels like one of those low-budget indie flicks that a bunch of college friends got together to shoot in the middle of the night, with the theater class’s star pupil lending her talents to the endeavor. The narrative is (more than) a bit contrived, but you can’t help but root for the film and its characters. Song One is a romantic drama set against the backdrop of Brooklyn’s indie music scene, so it’s sort of like a less gritty, more contemporary Inside Llewyn Davis with a chick-flickier edge.

The Wedding Ringer

My biggest hang-up with this Bridesmaids-meets-Hangover-esque comedy is that it’s hard not to listen to its star, Josh Gad, and not picture the animated snowman Olaf from Frozen. The ‘characters’ may be different – but their voices are exactly the same. So it takes some getting used to! Do you wanna build a snowman…?

Is that all that’s wrong with The Wedding Ringer? No. But there’s plenty that’s right… including a story that is sweet and relatable at its core, and a cast of characters that generate plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. It’s basically a ‘buddy movie chick flick’ that offers up an entertaining escape from the somber awards-season fare.

Mainstream Chick’s Christmas Day cheat sheet

Apologies. I’ve been remiss in posting my reviews. So in the interest of time – and a quick read for those planning a Christmas holiday escape to the movies – here are some of my picks, and misses:

Selma – This is, hands down, one of my favorite movies of the year, though it’s only opening in limited release on Christmas (NY, DC, LA, Atlanta) before expanding nationwide on January 9th. If it’s playing at a theater near you, check it out. It’s about the 1965 MLK-led civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama that culminated in passage of the Voting Rights Act. Its message of civil disobedience and non-violence to enact change is relevant, timely and powerful.

Wild (and Tracks)

I wasn’t particularly wild about Wild. And I didn’t read the best-selling book, so I can’t really compare the two. But friends tell me the book is much stronger in terms of developing the peripheral characters who crossed the path of the real-life Cheryl Strayed. Reese Witherspoon portrays Strayed, a hiking novice who decides that a solo, thousand-mile trek across the Pacific Crest Trail could make her a better person. She’s been dealing with a lot – the dissolution of her marriage (to a good guy) after years of reckless, destructive behavior, and the death of her mother (played in flashbacks by a superb Laura Dern). It’s an ambitious and cathartic adventure that I can admire in theory, but certainly don’t envy or care to emulate. So more power to her! And to her ginormous backpack and bloodied toenails!

Beyond the Lights

Beyond the Lights is somewhat reminiscent of the classic Whitney Houston/Kevin Costner romantic drama The Bodyguard. It doesn’t reach the same heights in terms of story and tension (and Houston high notes), but it still makes for a solid chick flick, largely due to the performances of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker and Minnie Driver. Cool soundtrack too.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Hollywood can be so cruel. Splitting the third and final book of The Hunger Games trilogy into two movies feels so… unnecessary. Lucrative, in a “hey, Harry Potter and Twilight got away with it” kind of way. But still, totally unnecessary. Thus Mockingjay – Part 1 is a good movie that could have been great. It’s a means to an end – and that means fans of the franchise will (and should) see it despite my frustrations with a narrative cut short. Then – come next year – we will all surely see it again, as part of a movie marathon, when Mockingjay – Part 2 bows in theaters. Just in time for Thanksgiving 2015! May the odds of remembering what happened in the books – and the first three movies – be ever in our favor.

Mockingjay – Part 1 finds our reluctant heroine Katniss Everdeen (still played brilliantly by Jennifer Lawrence) waking up in the rebel safe haven of District 13 after having put a fork (okay, an arrow) into the craziness that was the Hunger Games – where kid ‘tributes’ from the districts of Panem had been forced to fight to the death as part of some annual penance devised by the autocratic Capitol. Why? It’s complicated. If you really care to know, read the books. See the movies.

Dumb and Dumber To

Dumb and Dumber To is truly stupid. If you have a problem with that, don’t go! However, if you’re a fan of the original Dumb and Dumber – and haven’t matured all that much since 1994 – then go, and embrace the stupidity. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles as blissfully dimwitted pals, Lloyd and Harry. They haven’t changed much in 20 years. No ‘character growth’ here. And that’s just the way they like it.

Interstellar

As an astute co-worker noted, ‘If Inception and Gravity had a baby, it would be Interstellar. It’s a mind-bender with an exceptional cast and a story that those of us who (intentionally) skipped Physics in grade school will surely fail to grasp. No spoilers here – ‘cause I’m not really sure what happened!

Anyway, fans of director Christopher Nolan’s 2010 brain-strainer Inception will surely appreciate this flick as well. And like last year’s Gravity, Interstellar needs to be seen on the big screen in all its IMAX glory. It’s experiential. Sometimes loud and pulsating (bring earplugs). Sometimes eerily silent.