Review: The Two Popes

Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: Jumanji: The Next Level

This one’s easy. If you saw and liked the 2017 film, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (which I rented this week as a primer), then it’s totally worth taking a couple hours to play along, again. The Next Level is not as good as Welcome to the Jungle; it drags a bit in the second half as the narrative gets convoluted. But it’s still an entertaining ride that – like its predecessor – has plenty of family-friendly action, humor and heart.

Quickie Review: The Aeronauts

The Aeronauts is one of those movies that plenty of folks will like, but a lot of critics will wrestle with. It’s good, but it’s also disappointing. I saw The Aeronauts at the Middleburg Film Festival immediately following a screening of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and that may have clouded my foray into the clouds with Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. Mister Rogers is a tough act to follow! Redmayne and Jones (co-stars in The Theory of Everything) play a pair of adventurers trying to set a world record – and prove you can predict the weather – by sailing a hot-air balloon thousands of feet up into frigid skies in 1862. Oxygen deprivation is never a good thing. The Tom Harper-directed film, inspired by true events, has some great special effects and cinematography but overall drifts more than it soars.

Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood sticks with me today as much as it did a month ago when I pegged it as one of my favorites at the Middleburg Film Festival. Cheesy and sentimental as it may sound, there’s no denying the power of – and need for – the film’s inspirational and aspirational message that it only takes one person to inspire a world of kindness. It doesn’t hurt to have that message conveyed by Hollywood’s Mr. Nice Guy, Tom Hanks, channeling children’s television icon Mr. Fred Rogers.

Review: Frozen II (aka Frozen 2)

Oh c’mon, did you really expect Frozen 2 to be as good – or even better – than its predecessor, the highest-grossing animated film of all time in worldwide box office? Did you really expect, or even want, another “Let It Go”? If so, you’re in for a bit of a letdown with this perfectly safe and pleasing sequel to the 2013 mega-hit that introduced us to royal sisters Elsa and Anna and the picturesque, Norwegian-esque Kingdom of Arandelle.

Review: Charlie’s Angels

The new Charlie’s Angels movie is not quite a reboot. Or a sequel. Or even a reimagining of the classic franchise. It’s more of a continuation, expansion and rebranding of the female-driven crime drama that launched a thousand magazine covers and at least one iconic hairstyle when the detective series premiered in 1976 with Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett), Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson) and Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) employing a combination of beauty, brains, bikinis and athletic prowess to chase down bad guys. Angels came and went over the course of the series, which lasted five seasons and later spawned two harmless yet forgettable big-screen adaptations, Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) featuring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu, and directed by McG.

Charlie’s Angels (2019) pays homage to all that came before it, while modernizing and expanding the brand, and introducing a new group of angels for a new generation. It doesn’t suck; but no need to rush out and see it.

Review: Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari has all the key ingredients for an awards-season crowd-pleaser: two great actors (Matt Damon and Christian Bale) sharing top billing, a true story that many folks are probably not aware of, and an adrenaline rush that carries the film to the finish line. It’s a classic sports underdog story about two racing legends, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles, who helped the Ford Motor Company build and race a car that could hold its own against Italian racing icon Enzo Ferrari’s team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans Race in France. More importantly, it’s about the friendship between the two men, so you don’t have to be a motorsports fan to get on board.

Review: Last Christmas

Romantic comedies and dramas are few and far between these days, so when a decent one does come along, it’s generally worth celebrating, even if it’s just so-so. Such is the case with Last Christmas. Will it become an instant Christmas classic, ala Love Actually, Elf, or It’s a Wonderful Life? Extremely doubtful. Will it satisfy a minor craving for holiday heartache and cheer, with a splash of meet-cute? Absolutely. It’s a step above Hallmark and Lifetime (and straight-to-Netflix) fare, though not a giant leap.

Quickie Review: Motherless Brooklyn

Motherless Brooklyn is the type of film that evokes a general sense of post-viewing contentment, and a lingering feeling that it could have been more. Perhaps with a bit more drama, or a bit more emotional pull, it could have escaped the somewhat bland “yeah, it was good” category, i.e. perfectly fine for streaming or watching on an airplane or killing time if Terminator films are not your speed. Motherless Brooklyn operates at a slow, stylized pace. The story is interesting and relevant. The actors are all very good, and the noir production design and cinematography casually and convincingly immerses the viewer in 1950s New York. Motherless Brooklyn is a crime drama with a gumshoe aesthetic and a unique twist. The main character Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton, Birdman) is a private investigator with Tourette’s Syndrome, a disorder involving the nervous system that causes involuntary tics, sounds and movements. His condition results in some awkward situations as Lionel attempts to solve the murder of his boss, mentor and only friend Frank Minna (Bruce Willis).

Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

True confessions time. I’m more than a little late to the Terminator game. Until last week, my only exposure to the decades-old franchise revolved around random clips featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a menacing looking robot dude and pop-culture references to his signature line, “I’ll be back.”

Since I never ventured there to begin with, I couldn’t really go back. Or could I?

Seemed fitting to try, given the brand’s own penchant for messing with time. So thanks to Amazon Prime (free streaming of 1984’s The Terminator) and iTunes ($3.99 rental of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day), I got up to speed pretty quick, and got the baseline I truly needed for Terminator: Dark Fate.

Review: Jojo Rabbit

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be a new way to tell a World War II / Nazi story on film, along comes Jojo Rabbit, to serve as both a reminder of a twisted chapter in our not-so-distant past, and a contemporary cautionary tale. In some ways, there’s more to unpack here than in the controversial Joker, though I suspect way fewer people will see it or ‘get it’. Yes, Jojo Rabbit is a strange flick. But it’s also quite thought-provoking and weirdly entertaining, thanks to the direction of Taika Waititi (who pulls triple duty as screenwriter and actor) and a first-rate cast.