Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

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.

Gone Girl

Gone Girl is very good. And, I suspect, it’s probably even better if you haven’t read the best-selling book by Gillian Flynn (which I did, about two years ago). It’s just a solid, well-cast thriller that has enough twists and turns to keep things interesting, even if it does feel a tad too long.

I won’t say much about the plot, because the less you know going in, the more you’ll get out of it. But here’s the gist: Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) arrives home on his fifth anniversary to find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing. A media circus ensues as questions arise about Nick and Amy, the state of their marriage, and Nick’s potential involvement in his wife’s disappearance and possibly, her death. The clues – literal and figurative – stack up as the movie flashes back on the couple’s path from instant attraction and romance to marital dysfunction.

This Is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You starts off strong, then loses its way, despite having an A-List cast with the chops to achieve something far greater. Perhaps it was the script. Or the over-abundance of family dysfunction that seemed to loom larger than the fake boobs proudly (and often) exhibited by Jane Fonda’s matriarch character.

Here’s the gist: When their father passes away, the four grown Altman siblings are forced to return home and live under the same roof for a week with their over-sharing therapist mother (Fonda) who used her kids as fodder for a bunch of best-selling books on family dysfunction. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The siblings spend the week confronting their past, present and future, with an array of spouses, exes, significant others, kids, friends and foes added to the mix- for occasional comedic and dramatic effect.