Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: Just Mercy

Just Mercy is an infuriating and inspiring legal drama based on the true story of a man who spent six years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit, and the young, Harvard-educated lawyer who worked feverishly to get him sprung. That lawyer – Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) – is not some long-dead legal eagle who won his case and faded into the sunset. He’s a champion of social justice who created the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative in Alabama, and continues his crusade to this day to help the disenfranchised.

Review: The Song of Names

I was going to make this more of a full-blown review but then decided not to bother, as the film itself is simply too unsatisfying to recommend. I wanted to like it. The premise seemed quite interesting. The first half was slow but engaging. The performances were solid. The music was hauntingly beautiful. And yet – the last half-hour destroyed whatever goodwill I was feeling toward the film by taking the final act in a direction that was awkward and annoying. Talk about ending on a sour note!

Mainstream Chick’s Top Movie Picks of 2019

2019 was a good year for movies. I liked a lot of what I saw, and I saw a lot. 200+ films. Blockbusters, documentaries, foreign films, indies. However, for the first time in several years, I don’t have any runaway favorites. No definitive number ones, twos or threes. It’s more like a 10-way tie for number five that could easily have been a 30-way tie. So take the list (and the order) with a grain of salt, knowing that I enjoyed all these films – and many more – for different reasons at different times depending on my mood and cinematic headspace.

Quickie Review: 1917

I’m not big on epic war dramas. They all tend to share the same brutal message: War is hell. But 1917 is surprisingly engaging, and best seen on the biggest screen possible. It’s an immersive, visceral film that relies on a gimmick of sorts to set it apart from classic war movies like Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, Dunkirk, etc. The film is designed to give the impression that it’s all shot in one continuous take. Gimmick or not, it works. 1917 follows the perilous journey of two young British soldiers sent across enemy lines at the height of the First World War to deliver a message that could potentially save 1600 men from walking into a deadly trap set by the Germans. It reeks of a suicide mission from the start. But one of the young men, Lance Corporal Blake (Game of Thrones’ Dean-Charles Chapman) has a very personal stake in getting the message across. His brother is among those heading into an ambush.

Review: CATS

Speaking of memories…

I still have my ticket stub from the July 27, 1983 performance of CATS at the Wintergarden Theatre on Broadway. It was a Wednesday matinee and my orchestra seat cost $35. Betty Buckley played Grizabella the Glamour Cat. She sang “Memory.” I was hooked. I will always be a fan of the music. I will continue to defend the songs, the dancing, and the whimsical appeal of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic stage production.

I can’t, however, defend the movie. It simply doesn’t work.

Spoiler-free Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Chances are, if you’re reading this review (and I use the term loosely), you’ve already seen The Rise of Skywalker (so now it’s okay to look), you couldn’t care less about the film and are looking for validation, you trust that I won’t give anything away because you’ve read enough of my stuff to know better, or, you’re somewhat curious if you should see the movie, at least eventually. To the first group I say, “Hope you enjoyed it. How ‘bout that ending?!” To the second group, I say, “You probably haven’t seen a Star Wars movie since 1977 (if at all) and that’s okay. No need to start with this one.” To the third group, “I couldn’t spoil it if I wanted to; I’m just a casual fan, familiar with the broad strokes of the epic saga but not obsessed with the minutiae; and to the fourth group, here’s the deal: “If you saw Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi then you should definitely see The Rise of Skywalker (aka Episode IX), for closure.

Reflections, Ruminations and Review: Richard Jewell

This movie hits close to home on so many levels. I was living in Atlanta in 1996, freelancing in news, and was even supposed to be volunteering as a pseudo security guard at Centennial Park on the night of the bombing. I still have the uniform, though I never “served” – opting instead for a paid gig with NBC NewsChannel, helping local affiliates cover the Olympics from a rooftop about a half-mile away from the park. I remember getting home from work after midnight, turning on the TV and a short time later, hearing about the bombing. I remember transitioning from NBC to CNN when the Games ended. I remember the media frenzy surrounding Richard Jewell, who lived with his mother in an apartment complex off Buford Highway, close to my favorite bowling alley. I don’t remember to what extent I believed or shared the details about Richard Jewell’s alleged role in the bombing. But I do recall having great faith in our sources at the FBI and ATF, and in the reporting of our hometown paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They all said he did it. He didn’t.

Oops doesn’t quite cut it.

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.