Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

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

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…

Vacation

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.

Ant-Man

Ant-Man is Iron Man light. Right down to the teeny tiny suit. And since I’m a huge fan of Iron Man (due mostly to Robert Downey Jr.), I couldn’t help but like Ant-Man. It’s rather weak on the grand scale of Marvel comic superhero movies (i.e. those featuring the various “Avengers” including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, etc.) but Paul Rudd is still fun to watch as Scott Lang, a smart, sarcastic and kind-hearted master thief looking for redemption.

Trainwreck

Trainwreck cruises along at a raunchy but entertaining clip for a solid hour or so. Then – about two-thirds of the way through – it veers off track. Not catastrophically. But enough to derail what might otherwise be a more enthusiastic review. Fans of the suddenly-everywhere Amy Schumer will likely get a kick out of her first foray into leading actress territory. After all, she wrote the movie. So it’s pure Schumer shtick, guided by the direction of Judd Apatow, known for movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, This is 40, and Pineapple Express. If those titles don’t ring a bell – or ring the wrong one – then you should probably skip Trainwreck. If you’re in the mood for a bawdy romantic dramedy that reverses the conventional gender roles but is otherwise quite formulaic, then punch your ticket for Trainwreck. Or wait for the rental. It doesn’t really need to be seen on the big screen.

Minions

Within the context of the Despicable Me movies, minions are a breath of fresh air – entertaining, silly, musical misfits. But give them a movie of their own, and the yellow thingamajigs obsessed with ‘bananas’ simply lose much of their appeal. Kids will still be moderately entertained by the gibberish-speaking blobs, but older kids and adults may find the Minions movie a bit of a bore.

Magic Mike XXL

In brief… so to speak… Magic Mike XXL is pure guy candy – a sort of Hangover with male strippers. Unlike the 2012 surprise hit, the sequel doesn’t take a dark turn. It stays fairly fun throughout – despite having virtually zero plot, and dialogue so cheesy you may need to stock up on Lactaid. But c’mon, what did you expect? Have you SEEN the trailer?! (Scroll down. You’re welcome.)

XXL picks up the story three years after stripper extraordinaire Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) leaves his beefy ‘Kings of Tampa’ stage buddies to pursue his true passion – making furniture. Life isn’t going quite according to plan. Business is slow. His girlfriend has bolted (for some inexplicable reason). And Mike is feeling kinda sorry for himself. And then: his buddies show up to lure Mike back in the fold for one last hurrah at a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. And off they go! They make a few stops along the way, learn some new moves, shake off some demons, get involved in various mishaps, and um, dance – a lot – for an interesting array of women.