Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

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.

Laggies

Laggies is an easy breezy chick flick – good for a few laughs, a bit of drama, a somewhat relatable story, and solid performances from Keira Knightly, Chloë Grace Moretz, and (still) one of the most under-appreciated actors of our time, Sam Rockwell (case in point: The Way, Way Back). The film is ultimately about growing up, taking responsibility for your choices in life, and finding your path.

Nightcrawler

Movies like Nightcrawler pose a real challenge for me as a frequent film ‘opinionator’ because I simply didn’t like it nearly as much as I’m supposed to, especially considering my ‘day job’ in broadcast news. I guess I wasn’t in the mood for creepy and disturbing. And that’s exactly what Nightcrawler is – a crime thriller that left me feeling more distressed than entertained. I’m sure that’s what the filmmakers were going for. But who needs to PAY for that?

Yes, the performances are excellent. Jake Gyllenhaal got all gaunt and wild-eyed to play Lou Bloom, a smart but psychotic petty thief who stumbles upon a new career as a nightcrawler in Los Angeles – filming and selling grisly accident and crime scene footage to the highest bidder(s). And Rene Russo is chillingly good as Nina, an ethically-challenged news director determined to do whatever it takes to get her struggling TV station out of the ratings cellar.

Whiplash

Whiplash is intensely good, and about as far from formulaic and predictable as you can get from a movie these days. With any luck (and word of mouth), it will cross over from ‘indie’ and ‘arty’ to mainstream in a Juno sort of way, thanks in large part to the performance of the guy who played the dad in Juno – J.K. Simmons. Even if his name escapes you, his face and voice will surely ring a bell. He’s that character actor you’ve seen so many times in the movies and on TV – in The Closer, Spiderman, and those commercials for Farmer’s Insurance.

The Best of Me

If you’ve never seen a movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, then don’t start with this one. The Best of Me is not the worst of the bunch, but it’s not the best either.

Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John, The Last Song, Safe Haven

Love ‘em or leave ‘em. They are what they are. Sweet, formulaic, sappy, romantic, tragic… an uplifting downer with lots of water and a sweeping score that will let you know what you’re supposed to be feeling – or fearing – at any given moment. And, of course, attractive actors playing characters with names like ‘Dawson’ and ‘Amanda’.

The Judge

It’s got Robert Downey Jr.

Oh, you want to know more?

Okay, here goes. The Judge is riddled with clichés, runs about a half-hour too long, and doesn’t really offer up anything groundbreaking. But I still liked it, mostly because Robert Downey Jr. is so darn watchable – even more so when he’s not obscured by an Iron Man suit. The guy is aging – and acting – really well.