Review: 12 Strong

Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: Love, Simon

There’s plenty to love about Love, Simon. It’s a charming romantic dramedy about a cool high school senior who has an awesome family, a great circle of friends, and one big secret: he’s gay. This isn’t some small indie drama that weighs heavy on the soul. It’s a sweet, lighthearted, relatable coming-of-age and coming-out story that plays a lot like a typical John Hughes teen ensemble movie updated for the times, where snapchat, texting and online forums are a primary means of communication. It’s backed by a major studio (20th Century Fox) so it actually has a fighting chance to reach a wide, mainstream audience – as it should.

Review: A Wrinkle in Time

I sooo wanted to like this movie. Really, I did. But despite its star power both in front of the camera (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, etc.) and behind it (director Ava DuVernay), A Wrinkle in Time is a bit of a hot mess. It’s colorful, visually stunning in parts, and spreads a heartfelt message about familial bonds, embracing your faults, finding strength in your individuality and all that good stuff. But in the end, the narrative gets lost in the spectacle – and Oprah’s larger-than-life, eye-glittered presence is more of a distraction than a serviceable plot device. The story just doesn’t add up. I don’t recall that being the case with Madeline L’Engle’s classic novel, first published in 1962. I read it in the 1970s (when I actually devoured more books than movies – probably because I couldn’t drive) and have fond recollections of protagonist Meg Murry’s travels through time and space in search of her scientist father who went missing while studying the universe.

Quickie Review: Death Wish

Talk about bad timing. I’m not sure I would have liked this movie on any particular day in any particular year, but this week especially, it feels so… wrong. It’s a brutal remake of the 1974 brutal action crime drama Death Wish, with Bruce Willis taking on the role made famous by Charles Bronson. Heaven forbid there was hope to reignite the franchise. That would be a disaster. Please, Bruce, just stick to Die Hard(s) – or how about a Moonlighting reboot? I’m sure the NRA and vigilante groups will love this movie. That’s exactly why I hate it.

Quickie Reviews: Annihilation; Game Night; The Party

Annihilation is interesting and weird, slow and methodical, and dare I say, bordering on boring. Hyper-sensitive fans of the film may ream me for not fully grasping or appreciating the deeper meaning, the metaphors, the beauty in the bizarre, yadda yadda yadda. But that’s okay. I didn’t love Arrival either. Annihilation is a cerebral sci-fi horror flick from Alex Garland (Ex Machina) based on the “Southern Reach Trilogy” by Jeff VanderMeer. If you’ve read the books, you’re probably ahead of the game and more likely than most to love this movie. Here’s the gist: Natalie Portman plays Lena, an Army veteran and cellular biologist whose husband Kane (Oscar Isaac) was believed killed in action during a secret military mission. He reappears a year later, extremely ill, with no memory of what happened. Government agents nab the newly-reunited couple and take them to “Area X”, an unspecified locale that borders a mysterious “Shimmer” that’s been expanding along the U.S. coastline.

Review: Black Panther

Yes, it is very good. But you still have to like the genre. Black Panther works as both a standalone action drama sci-fi superhero movie, and as a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’m a big fan of Marvel Studios’ Avengers franchise (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, etc.) so I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more of T’Challa/Black Panther in the near and distant future. He’s one cool dude surrounded and protected by a bunch of kickass cool women.

Review: Fifty Shades Freed

Seven years hence the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, it’s time to close the book on the movie franchise that the popular and controversial novel helped procreate. If you’ve read the full trilogy – “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Fifty Shades Darker” and “Fifty Shades Freed” – and/or seen the first two installments of the erotic fairy tale – then it’s still worth seeing the final chapters unfold on the big screen, even if the ‘climax’ is a bit of a letdown.

Review: 12 Strong

It’s Thor! As a soldier! On a horse! That got my attention. And it helped hold my attention while 12 Strong delivered some fairly standard war drama stuff. It’s a middle of the road war movie with a western vibe that draws its strength from the fact that it’s based on a wild declassified true story revealed in the 2009 book, “Horse Soldiers” by Doug Stanton.

Quickie ‘Guest Chick’ Review: Maze Runner: The Death Cure

Full disclosure: I don’t know a Glader from a Wader. I’ve never read the books and somehow missed the first two installments of the young adult dystopian sci-fi Maze Runner movie franchise. So I wasn’t about to play hookie from my day job to catch a mid-afternoon screening of Maze Runner: The Death Cure, aka Maze Runner 3, the “epic finale” of the Maze Runner saga. I’m told the story has something to do with a group of escaped Gladers breaking into the legendary Last City, a dangerous and deadly labyrinth. Will they find closure – and a way out? Do they have Waze? I dispatched someone other than me (and younger than me) to find out!

Quickie Reviews: Paddington 2; The Commuter

Paddington 2 “If you’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” If only it were that simple. In Paddington’s world, it is. That’s why kids and adults could benefit from a return visit. Paddington 2 is a charming follow-up to the 2015 movie based on the popular children’s books by Michael Bond. As the story unfolds, Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) has settled into life in London with his adopted family, the Browns. He’s become a popular member of the community – spreading joy, mischief, and marmalade wherever he goes. But a series of mishaps land him in prison, accused of stealing a pop-up book of London that he intended to buy for his dear Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. On the human front, Hugh Grant steals the show as a washed-up actor with a nefarious agenda that involves the pop-up book and a hidden treasure.

Review: Phantom Thread

Imagine a special episode of Project Runway co-produced by the BBC and Investigation Discovery, featuring Oscar-winner Daniel Day-Lewis as a meticulous and obsessive designer who takes Tim Gunn’s “make it work” mantra to a whole new level. Set it in 1950s London. Throw in a bit of dry British humor, a strong-willed muse and some creepy family dynamics. And you’ve got Phantom Thread, the eighth movie from director Paul Thomas Anderson, and his second with Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood). Anderson movies are a bit of an acquired taste that I have yet to… well, acquire. So I’m not all that surprised that Phantom Thread failed to win me over despite its strong performances and killer wardrobe.