Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Quickie Reviews: The Glass Castle; Wind River; The Fencer; A Taxi Driver

I’m generally a fan of (or maybe a sucker for) movies based on real people and events, so that could be why I had a pretty good week at the movies with two mainstream dramas and two foreign films. First up: The Glass Castle, based on Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir about her unconventional upbringing and coming to terms with the complexities of her relationship with her dysfunctional parents and remarkably normal siblings. The film features a stellar cast that includes Brie Larson (Room), Chandler Head and Ella Anderson as Jeannette (through the years), Woody Harrelson as her fundamentally flawed but occasionally well-meaning father, and Naomi Watts as her eccentric artist mother. The parents are the types to define homelessness and squatting as a ‘lifestyle choice’. I haven’t read the book, but those around me who did seemed satisfied with the way the film played out. Others, however, (while still acknowledging the strong performances) criticized the movie for glamorizing or romanticizing what they saw as dangerous, irresponsible and often cruel parenting. I thought it walked the line fairly well, in much the same way as last year’s well-received indie Captain Fantastic.

Quickie Reviews: The Dark Tower; Brigsby Bear; Detroit; Step; An Inconvenient Sequel; Escapes

The Dark Tower. I’m not a Stephen King purist so I didn’t go into this movie with the same high expectations as those who’ve read the series of books that The Dark Tower is based on. Perhaps that’s why I liked it – not a lot, but enough to slot it into the “acceptable summer cinematic escape” category for the 12-and-up crowd. It’s an action adventure fantasy flick with a confounding plot that boils down to a physical and psychological battle between good (Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland) and evil (Matthew McConaughey as creepy Man in Black) across parallel universes.

Quickie Reviews: Atomic Blonde and Landline

Atomic Blonde is set against the backdrop of the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. As the Cold War appears to be nearing its end, the spy game is hot as ever. British MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to retrieve a stolen list that threatens to expose the identity of all Western spies. It’s a familiar plot line in espionage thrillers, and in this case, the convoluted plot is a mere vehicle for launching a tangled web of deceit among Broughton’s contacts (including James McAvoy as embedded station chief David Percival) and triggering a whole lot of extended fight scenes. Lorraine’s weapons of choice include anything she can get her hands on – from guns and knives, to keys and high heels – all swung with lethal force. The film is like a hyper-violent Jason Bourne or Bond movie with a lead that happens to be a badass chick.

Quickie Reviews: Girls Trip; Dunkirk; Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

This film is trippin’! It may not garner any Oscar nominations, but it’s definitely the most fun option of the week for anyone in the mood for a comedic escape. Girls Trip delivers what Rough Night failed to just a few weeks ago… and that’s a raunchy yet relatable female ensemble comedy in the spirit of the highly-successful Bridesmaids.

Quickie Reviews: Wish Upon; A Ghost Story; City of Ghosts; The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography

For those who don’t go bananas over blockbusters like War for the Planet of the Apes, there are some alternatives out there. But, be careful what you wish for.

Wish Upon This creepy horror movie from the director of Annabelle starts out with a fair amount of promise, but quickly deteriorates into a dud. It stars Joey King (White House Down) as Clare Shannon, a High School teen whose widower dad (Ryan Phillippe) gives her an old Chinese music box that he found while dumpster diving. She’s able to decipher enough of the Chinese lettering on the box to know that it will grant her seven wishes. But for some reason, she doesn’t clue into the second part of the message, which basically warns that for every wish, there’s a blood price to be paid. So she starts making the typical teen wishes (to get the shallow stud muffin to fall in love with her, to be rich, to be popular, etc.) and people die. Gruesome, twisted deaths. Oops.

Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Ever wonder what a ‘Generation Z’ Peter Parker would be like? If so, look no further than Spider-Man: Homecoming, the latest (reboot? reimagining? prequel? pseudo-origin story?) of your friendly neighborhood superhero (and Avenger in training). As introduced briefly in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, English actor Tom Holland is the newest, and youngest Spidey to don the suit in what is, in essence, Smallville: the Spider-Man edition (i.e. instead of Tom Welling as a young Clark Kent navigating the challenges of both High School and superheroism on TV, you get Tom Holland as a young Peter Parker navigating the challenges of both High School and superheroism on the big screen). The film certainly provides a fresh and interesting take on the iconic character and his place in the Marvel franchise; I just don’t feel like we needed it. But since we’ve got it anyway, here’s the bottom line: Spider-Man: Homecoming is perfectly entertaining for what it is (a superhero coming-of-age comedy drama action flick) and sets the stage for a Spider-Man for a new generation. Only time will tell if Holland has more web-slinging staying power than his predecessors Tobey Maguire (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3) and Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Young Spidey’s integration into the Avengers franchise could give him a solid advantage.

The Big Sick Review

The Big Sick is an offbeat romantic dramedy based on the real-life courtship between Pakistan-born actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his therapist-turned-writer/producer wife, Emily V. Gordon. The pair co-wrote the script that dramatizes – in a clever and witty way – the struggles they went through to overcome cultural differences, and a major health scare, to find their happily ever after. Kumail is played by Kumail Nanjiani (not necessarily the smartest casting decision) while Emily is played by Zoe Kazan, who has much stronger acting chops, even though she’s in a coma for half the movie. The film is bittersweet and also rather timely as a platform for showcasing misconceptions about Muslim culture.

Baby Driver Review

Wow, what a ride. Baby Driver is one of those movies that truly defies description and genre pigeonholing. It’s a pulsating, frenetic, stylish, clever, violent, romantic, heartbreaking, hopeful, tense, and witty action-drama-crime-heist movie with car chases, crashes, gunfights, double-crosses, stellar performances, and a soundtrack that is a character in and of itself. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baby Driver rev a few engines when the next awards-season rolls around – for editing, direction, cinematography, and possibly even for lead actor Ansel Elgort, best known among the YA crowd for his roles in The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series. Elgort nails it as Baby, an innocent-looking getaway driver eager to pay off a debt and get out of the crime business – especially after he meets his soulmate, Debora (Lily James, Downton Abbey, Cinderella) a waitress in the local diner where his mother used to work.

A Newlywed Reviews ‘Rough Night’

The Washington, DC screening of Rough Night coincided with the opening night screening and reception of the AFI Documentary Festival. Ironically, the free booze came with the latter. So while Arty Chick and I drank wine and schmoozed with documentary filmmakers at the Newseum, Guest Chick Maggie Mazzetti ventured down the road to watch Rough Night on our behalf. Maggie is a newlywed. So, really, who better to weigh in on a raucous comedy involving a bachelorette weekend than someone who recently engaged in prenuptial shenanigans (okay, hers were probably a bit more subdued and crime-free). Anyway, here’s Maggie’s take on Rough Night:

Review: Megan Leavey – A True(ish) Tale about a Marine and her Dog

Megan Leavey feels like a movie that started out as a pet project, gained momentum as a pet project, and made it to the big screen as a pet project, complete with some decent actors and, in the case of the screening I attended, a heartfelt introduction from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. His office was instrumental in helping real-life Marine corporal Megan Leavey adopt Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog that served alongside her in Iraq. If you’re a sucker for a tale about a woman and her dog, then Megan Leavey is there for ya. Hoorah.