Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur revisited is the best movie for the faith-based crowd since Gods of Egypt, and I say that with tongue firmly in cheek. Both are really weak. Like the 1959 original starring Charlton Heston, the 2016 remake tells the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, Messala Severus, an officer in the Roman army. After years enslaved in the galley of a ship, Judah returns to Jerusalem seeking revenge (and a reunion with his wife), but after an epic 3D chariot race against Messala, Judah finds redemption instead.

War Dogs

War Dogs joins the ranks of ‘good but ultimately forgettable’ movies of the summer. Based on a true story, the film stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller as Ephraim Divoroli and David Packouz, a pair of twenty-something Miami dudes who exploited a little-known government initiative that allows small businesses to bid on federal contracts. The initiative was meant to restore some balance to the fundamentally flawed defense-contractor universe after the Cheney-Halliburton debacle, but instead it opened the door for chumps like Packouz and Divoroli to exploit the system and rake in millions of your tax dollars during the Iraq War.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Pete’s Dragon; Florence Foster Jenkins; Hell or High Water

Good news, mainstream movie fans: There really is something for just about everyone at the Box Office this weekend. First, however, I must confess that I missed the screening of Sausage Party and doubt I’ll get around to watching it anytime soon, unless someone wants to send me a Sausage link. Regardless, I suspect the movie is filled with enough raunchy adult animation and humor to entertain a certain demographic. I’ll just leave it at that (for now), and move on to Pete’s Dragon, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Hell or High Water

The best new family film option is Pete’s Dragon, a live-action reimagining of a 1977 Disney flick that I don’t recall watching as a kid, even though it featured music and singing (i.e. how did I miss that one!?) I’m not exactly the target demo anymore for this type of movie, so I borrowed 12-year-old Aaron, 8-year-old Marisa, and their parents for an honest, independent evaluation of this Tarzan-esque meets dragon story. The general consensus: They liked it!

Suicide Squad

I’m a pretty big fan of superhero movies. I even liked Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. So I went into Suicide Squad with an open mind, despite the fact that I wasn’t familiar with the ‘Squad’ until the pop culture explosion of the past few months, and I’d never read the DC Comics that introduced this bizarre group of anti-heroes to the world. Unfortunately, an open mind wasn’t enough. I didn’t hate the movie. But I also didn’t like it. I was surprisingly bored and more than a tad confused about the motivations of the characters, and the plot. On top of that, I just don’t see the purpose of diluting an already over-saturated market of superhero movies with a flick that features characters that you’re sort of supposed to root for, even though they’ve done some really bad things, because they go into battle against people (or creatures) who’ve done much worse things. It’s like the “Axis of Evil” being called upon to fight ISIL. When you’ve got Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or even Deadpool, why in the world would you put the fate of the world in the hands of a bunch of killers who’ve been offered clemency in exchange for their “cooperation” in covert government ops?

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Jason Bourne; Bad Moms; Nerve

Jason Bourne – This was my least favorite of the Matt Damon Bourne movies. Granted, I can never remember the plot from installment to installment (much like Jason Bourne himself), but I do recall liking them well enough. This Bourne, however, is brutal to watch. Damon is in fine physical form, returning to his iconic role as a former lethal CIA operative/assassin with memory issues. And director Paul Greengrass is back to deliver his usual frenetic-paced editing and adrenaline-fueled car chases. But the movie lacks the fun, suspense and entertainment factor that made The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum cool action flicks that left you caring about the characters and their relationships to one another. This feels like more of a re-tread set in present-day global hot spots, yet re-asking the same questions of old and new characters. Julia Stiles is back, however briefly, as an operative with a conscience who wants to help Bourne fill in the blanks of his past and expose evil-doers within the intelligence community. There’s a menacing-looking assassin who has a personal vendetta against Bourne. Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander joins the cast in a role that basically amounts to a reboot of Stiles’ character. There’s a CIA black ops guy played by Tommy Lee Jones who looks a lot like an aging version of Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black, The Fugitive, and the like. There’s also a Julian Assange-type character with a pro-Wiki-Leaks agenda, and a Steve Jobs software genius type who is in cahoots with the government to violate personal privacy – in the name of national security and a hefty pay day. Jason Bourne is certainly a visceral experience. It moves. It just doesn’t go anywhere. I’m bummed, ‘cause I really like Matt Damon and have appreciated his Bourne identity. Now excuse me while I go cleanse my palate with a re-watching of The Martian.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters is an okay reboot of a comedy classic. It has funny moments, but falls far short of hilarious – and that would have been the case regardless of the gender of the leads. The dominance of estrogen over testosterone in this “Ghostbusters for a new generation” has everything to do with what makes the movie entertaining, and nothing to do with what makes the narrative fall flat. These talented ladies deserved better material from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), but that said, they make the most of what they got.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Secret Life of Pets; Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates; Life, Animated; Zero Days

The Secret Life of Pets is one of those movies that is probably critic-proof because the trailer is so darn cute and promising that kids (and many adults too) will be eager to see it, no matter what. Still, I would be remiss to give it a glowing endorsement when I was, in fact, disappointed. I loved the first 15 minutes and the last 10 minutes of this movie. But everything in between dragged for me as the tone of the movie turned rather dark. The premise is awesome — what kind of lives are our pets leading when we leave them home alone for hours at a time? They party! They get together for walks! They watch telenovellas! The characters (dogs, cats, bunnies, snakes, etc.) are all well-drawn, and well-voiced by the likes of Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Bobby Moynihan, Hannibal Buress, and Albert Brooks. My issue is with the shift in tone from fun animal adventure to animated crime saga. The Secret Life of Pets is certainly way better than recent duds Ratchet and Clank, Norm of the North, and Angry Birds… but not nearly as good as Finding Dory and Zootopia. Oh well. I may not have loved The Secret Life of Pets, but I do predict the movie will boost attendance at theaters, animal shelters, pet stores, and dog parks! There’s also a cute short before The SLOP that features the Minions of Despicable Me fame.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: The Legend of Tarzan; The BFG; Hunt for the Wilderpeople

The Legend of Tarzan – Does the world need another Tarzan (movie)? No. But at least it’s way better than I – and most everyone around me – expected it to be. The Legend of Tarzan offers a new take on an old tale, with a healthy dose of eye candy. Swedish actor Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood) plays John Clayton III aka Lord Greystoke aka Tarzan. John has traded in the jungles of Africa for a gentrified life in London with his sassy and beautiful wife Jane (Margot Robbie). He’s perfectly content to be free of the Jungle (“It’s hot there”), but he is roped into accepting an invitation to return to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he’s being set up by a nasty Belgian dude (Christopher Waltz in his usual creepy, sneering role) who plans to turn Tarzan over to an African chief bent on revenge. The movie has elements of a lot of genres – there’s romance, drama, action, (CGI) animals, comic relief (from Samuel L. Jackson as an American, George Washington Williams, looking to expose an illegal slavery and mining operation) — but it all hangs together surprisingly well. The Legend of Tarzan feels a lot like a standard superhero flick, which makes it perfectly fine summer fare for the older kid/adult crowd.

Central Intelligence

Yes – Central Intelligence is kinda stupid. But in a week dominated by one tragic news story after another, I was happy to take the levity wherever I could find it. And I did get a few decent laughs out of this twisted buddy comedy with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Kevin “perennial sidekick” Hart. It’s the tale of two guys reunited (via Facebook friend request) on the eve of their 20-year high school reunion: Bob Stone, the oft-bullied overweight geek formerly known as Robbie Wierdicht who grew into a lethal CIA agent (Johnson), and Calvin “Golden Jet” Joyner, the popular jock/most-likely-to-succeed prom king who became a mild-mannered accountant leading a stable but staid existence devoid of excitement and drama. See where this is going?

Finding Dory

#JustKeepSwimming I don’t know why I’m suddenly obsessed with that Dory-inspired hashtag, but it’s my new favorite motto. Finding Dory is a worthy sequel to the 2003 Academy-Award winning animation blockbuster, Finding Nemo, about a neurotic clownfish named Marlin who traveled across the ocean to find his son Nemo, who’d gotten trapped in a dentist’s fish tank. In case you didn’t know – all’s well that ended well, with Marlin and Nemo reuniting, with the help of a host of creatures including a blue tang named Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss. Fast-forward a year (in movie time), and Dory, Nemo and Marlin are like family – living comfortably in their underwater corner of the world, respecting the boundaries of the open ocean to avoid becoming fish bait. It’s all going swimmingly until Dory suddenly remembers that she has a biological family – a mother and father, and a home that she’d forgotten about, but now must find. And so another cross-ocean adventure begins.