Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Quickie Review: Dark Phoenix

Dark Phoenix is like a low-calorie, less-filling Endgame. It’s designed to bring closure to the X-Men franchise as we’ve come to know it, before a possible reboot under new (Disney) management. I think I’ve seen nine of the 12 films that Fox has released under the X-Men umbrella since 2000. I won’t attempt to rank them, but I can say with some confidence that Dark Phoenix isn’t the best or the worst of the bunch. It’s a must-see for devoted X-Men fans, a doesn’t-hurt-to-see for MCU fans, and a no-need-to-see for most everyone else.

Quickie Review: Pavarotti (documentary)

Don’t get me wrong. My appreciation for Pavarotti does not mean I appreciate having been subjected as a kid to live radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera every Saturday afternoon. That was strictly my parents’ thing. Sure, I survived the likes of Madame Butterfly, Carmen and La bohème. But I didn’t have a clue what anyone was singing, and didn’t much care. So how do I know of Luciano Pavarotti? He was all over the place in my youth, opera’s ambassador to the world at large. He was on morning shows and late night television, the Muppets and Sesame Street, and featured in commercials for Shower to Shower and American Express. He had a larger than life personality, an infectious smile, and yes – a really big voice.

Review: Rocketman

This one took some serious rumination, because as much I would love to say I loved Rocketman, I can only say I liked it. I’m still thinking about it though, so it’s possible my verdict will change over time, much like my initial reaction toward Bohemian Rhapsody which impressed me more upon second viewing. It’s not fair to directly compare Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody however, because even though they share a director (sort of, in part) and touch on similar topics relating to music, addiction, sexuality, excess, friendship, family and betrayal – the movies themselves are quite different, narratively and stylistically.

Review: Always Be My Maybe

The Netflix film Always Be My Maybe unfurls like a pleasant enough romantic comedy of the Hallmark Channel variety – until Keanu Reeves (John Wick, Speed) shows up. He’s like a breath of fresh air injected into the cinematic wind of what might otherwise be dismissed as an utterly predictable and formulaic film. I can’t go into detail about Reeves’ cameo, but the trailer (see below) offers up a quick tease. Always Be My Maybe tells the story of two childhood sweethearts, Sasha Tran (actress/comedian Ali Wong) and Marcus Kim (Randall Park, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fresh Off the Boat) who reconnect after 15 years on the outs. She’s grown into an ambitious celebrity chef, always on the move; he’s grown into… well… the kind of guy who still lives at home, smokes weed, works for his dad, and plays in a local band that could be more successful if he just took a chance. See where this is going?

Review: MA

My oh Ma! What a departure for Octavia Spencer, playing a lonely, twisted woman in a teen horror flick. The Oscar-winning actress (The Help, Hidden Figures) commands the screen – and the scream – as Sue Ann, a veterinary assistant in a quiet Ohio town who befriends a group of teenagers on a beer run. She agrees to buy the kids alcohol and invites them to hang out in her large secluded basement so they can have a safe place to party. What could possibly go wrong?

Review: Booksmart

Ever dream of a high school do-over? Wonder what you might have done differently in those final years of anxious adolescence? Booksmart tackles the what-ifs in a smart and entertaining way as two best friends – both academic overachievers – suddenly realize they probably could have partied more and studied less, without jeopardizing their futures. Their epiphany comes on the eve of high school graduation, leaving the gal pals one last chance to experience all the fun and hijinx they’ve missed out on the past four years. This isn’t a stereotypical ‘teens transform from nerds into popular kids’ movie. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are self-confident and comfortable in who they are and plan to be. They approach their night of fun with the same commitment they applied to their studies, only to learn that book-smarts don’t always translate into street-smarts.

Review: Aladdin (2019)

I must confess I went into Disney’s live-action Aladdin with the lowest of expectations and a great deal of skepticism. I’m an ardent fan of the 1992 animated classic and couldn’t imagine anyone other than Robin Williams – in human or animated form – playing the big blue wisecracking “Genie.” I still think Williams set an unattainable bar for Will Smith – or anyone else who dares to step into Genie’s shoes. And yet… Aladdin 2.0 is quite good, especially if you’re into family-friendly movie musicals (Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Greatest Showman, etc.). It pays homage to the old while bringing something new to our “whole new world.”

Quickie Review: A Dog’s Journey

A Dog’s Journey is for dog/animal lovers. It’s a continuation of the heartwarming saga that got us all misty-eyed in the 2017 doggie drama A Dog’s Purpose. In this sequel, Bailey (internal monologue voiced by Josh Gad) is getting up there in years, as is his “boy” Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Ethan’s wife Hannah (now played by Marg Helgenberger). It’s getting to be that time for Bailey to move on – in body, not in spirit. Knowing that Bailey has a knack for reincarnation, Ethan asks the dog to find and protect his estranged granddaughter Clarity June (“CJ”). And thus begins Bailey’s newest set of lives and adventures. His name, breed and gender may change over the years. But the dog never loses sight of his primary purpose – to keep tabs on CJ (Kathryn Prescott). It’s a mission that evolves into helping CJ reconnect with her childhood best friend Trent (Henry Lau), mend fences with her selfish, alcoholic mother Gloria (Betty Gilpin) and potentially reunite with her grandparents.

Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is insanely violent yet wildly entertaining – if you can withstand a barrage of fight scenes rife with bullets, swords, fists, head-butts, horses, motorcycles, crackling bones, shards of glass, big guns, small guns, and lots and lots of knives. The prolonged violence was a bit over the top for my taste, but I can’t help but appreciate the totality of what the franchise has been able to deliver since Wick first came on the scene in 2014. Chapter after chapter, the heart of the story remains the same: Formerly retired super-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) just wants to live in peace with his dog and wallow in the memory of his late wife Helen. Good luck with that, John.

Quickie Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star is a fine though forgettable romantic drama for the YA crowd and possibly others who’ve read the best-selling novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon, the author of “Everything, Everything,” which was turned into a movie that included such a dreadful twist that I declined to post a review back in 2017. The Sun Is Also a Star has the same general vibe and target audience as Everything, Everything but is significantly better, better. It’s a meet-cute movie that delves into themes of love, chemistry, destiny, fate, immigration, deportation and assimilation. All in the span of a (rather slow) day.