Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

The Martian

Finally! A movie I can recommend to just about anyone. The Martian has soared to the top of my (extremely short) ‘what’s out there right now that you really should see on the big screen’ list. It’s smart, entertaining, uplifting and remarkably accessible to mainstream as well as geeky-fringe audiences. Seriously, this movie has it all: it’s visually immersive, the stakes are palpable, and despite the science-fiction nature of the plot, the characters are relatable and – certainly in the case of botanist-astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) – worth busting NASA’s budget to save!

The Intern

From the opening sequence, you know you’re watching a Nancy Meyers movie. The director of many chick flick gems including The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, It’s Complicated, and Baby Boom has a definite formula, and it works again here– to some degree. The intern is a pleasant enough movie that manages to shine a humorous and poignant light on some interesting themes, from aging to work-life balance, to friendship and loyalty. But the movie is not without its flaws. There are a couple of scenes that don’t really go anywhere, and a few character traits that don’t particularly track. And, it’s really hard not to draw comparisons to that ‘other’ Anne Hathaway star vehicle, The Devil Wears Prada, where Hathaway plays the embattled assistant to the demanding editor-in-chief of a high fashion magazine (played by legendary actress Meryl Streep). In The Intern, Hathaway is the founder and chief executive of a start-up online fashion site that employs a “senior” intern named Ben Whittaker, played by legendary actor Robert De Niro. Why become an intern at 70? He’s a lonely and bored widower seeking new challenges in his retirement years. And he’s still got a lot to offer.


The biggest star of Everest is the mountain itself. So if you plan to see the movie, you’ve got to spring for the IMAX 3D. Bring popcorn – and oxygen! In many ways, the movie is reminiscent of Gravity (which I liked visually, but disliked narratively), only this time, the action takes place on a mountain instead of deep space. It’s an immersive experience that offers a glimpse into what drives certain adventure-seekers to pay big money to forego hot showers, oxygen, and terra firma, in a potentially fatal effort to summit the world’s tallest peak. The movie is based on the true story of one deadly day on the mountain: May 10, 1996. Climbers from two expeditions got caught up in an unexpected, violent snowstorm while making their final ascent toward the summit.

Black Mass

There’s really only one reason to see Black Mass – and that is the performance of Johnny Depp as south Boston’s notorious Irish mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger. Depp has been hit or miss (okay, maybe just miss) in recent years, so it’s nice to see him in something that doesn’t suck, in a role that could very well get him an Oscar nomination. Black Mass isn’t a great movie – in fact, as a crime drama based on a rather fascinating true story, it’s not very dramatic or entertaining. But it does have some killer moments (pun intended) and solid performances by a supporting cast that includes: Joel Edgerton as FBI agent John Connolly, a childhood friend who protects Bulger by claiming him as an informant against the bigger, badder Italian Mafia; Benedict Cumberbatch as Whitey’s brother Billy, a powerful Massachusetts state senator who seems to be in constant denial of Whitey’s dark side; and Dakota Johnson (50 Shades) as Whitey’s girlfriend and mother of his child. Her role is small but she definitely makes the most of it.

A Walk in the Woods

Here’s what I liked about the adventure-comedy-drama A Walk in the Woods: Robert Redford and Nick Nolte; some really funny and smart one-liners; the notion that you’re never too old for new adventures; and lots of pretty scenery.

Here’s what I didn’t like about A Walk in the Woods: It’s a long walk, with too few ‘mile-marker moments’.


Grandma is a bare-bones indie that will likely appeal to those in the artier crowd who like a simple, dialogue-driven movie and the acerbic wit of Lily Tomlin. The veteran actress and comedian plays a lesbian Grandma named Elle Reid whose granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up on her doorstep requesting about $600 to have an abortion that is scheduled for later that day. Elle doesn’t have the cash — but she’s willing to help Sage get it. The two spend the next few hours cruising around town in Grandma’s vintage automobile in search of friends, and others, who may be willing to float them a loan or give them the money outright. Their unannounced visits rattle a few cages and stir up old memories, especially when they drop in on one of Grandma’s old male flames (Sam Elliott). Needless to say, there’s an interesting dynamic at play here – and it results in one of the more surprising moments the film has to offer.

American Ultra

I’m not sure what this movie was trying to be but it’s a hot mess. Here’s how it was pitched:

American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike [Jesse Eisenberg], a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe [Kristen Stewart], is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive.”

When I read the synopsis, I expected to see something along the lines of the fairly entertaining action-comedy-crime-stoner movie Pineapple Express. Ha! Joke was on me.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a thoroughly entertaining spy romp that feels like a throwback to 1960s-era television, which makes perfect sense considering the movie is based on the television series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which ran from 1964-1968 (starring Robert Vaughn and David “Ducky from NCIS!” McCallum). The question is, can a spy movie set against the backdrop of the Cold War compete at the box office with a modern, adrenaline-fueled spy movie like the latest installment of Mission Impossible? I doubt it. HOWEVER, U.N.C.L.E. does have a great deal of charm on its side, effused with great aplomb by Henry Cavill, who proves that he can wear a business suit (and a towel) as well, if not better, than the ‘suit’ he donned for Man of Steel (the 2013 Superman reboot that I quite liked despite its less-than-stellar reviews).

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is a thoroughly engaging and entertaining ride, providing just the right mix of drama, special effects, and story to satisfy the ‘summer movie’ crowd… even if you’re not a big Tom Cruise fan. Love him or hate him, or somewhere in between, there’s no denying the guy is aging extremely well and can still carry an action movie (bring on the Top Gun sequel!). In fact, I still think his action-adventure flick Edge of Tomorrow was one of the most under-appreciated movies of 2014. So consider that one for the Netflix queue. But back to MI and the fifth installment of the franchise about a covert ops team tasked with missions deemed impossible for anyone else in the intelligence community…


Judging from the trailer, and fond memories of the 1983 comedy-adventure classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, one might logically surmise that the new Vacation movie is a must-see for first-generation Griswold family followers and their offspring. But one would be very, very wrong. This movie tanks, in a horrifically comical way.

I laughed – a bit. I groaned – a lot. I checked my watch – often.