Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: The High Note

Drama? Check. Music? Check. Romance? Check.

The High Note delivers all the required elements for a satisfying, mainstream-friendly chick flick, though it could have scored higher if not for a few flaws: there’s a twist you’ll see coming a mile away; it could use more music, drama and romance; and the character development is a bit on the shallow side. But it’s still an entertaining watch in, or out of, quarantine. The movie is reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada except that it’s set in the LA music scene rather than the NY fashion scene, and it features the overworked personal assistant to a notorious pop diva, rather than the overworked personal assistant to a notorious magazine editor.

Quickie Review: The LoveBirds

Oh, LoveBirds, how cruel you are! Setting us up to believe we’re in for a fun, engaging romantic comedy, then plunging us into the depths of stupidity for a solid hour before ending with a formulaic flourish. If you took only the very worst parts of Issa Rae’s recent romantic drama The Photograph and Kumail Nanjiani’s recent action crime comedy Stuber, then you’d have the bulk of The LoveBirds. The movie takes the likeable pair and puts them in the middle of a painfully absurd murder mystery that even by Netflix romcom standards is a major disappointment.

Review: Military Wives

Military Wives is a fairly straightforward feel-good film that offers up a bittersweet salute to military families and their sacrifice, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend. It’s a dramedy that takes place primarily on a British Army base and focuses on a diverse group of women whose partners are deployed to war-torn Afghanistan for six months. To help pass the time, and keep themselves distracted from the daily stresses of juggling family and fear, the women form a singing group that leapfrogs from a small practice room on base to the glaring spotlight of a globally-televised event at London’s iconic Royal Albert Hall. The film is inspired by true events surrounding the formation of the very first Military Wives choir that started a decade ago and led to a popular BBC docuseries and dozens of other Military Wives choirs around the world. The characters and much of the story is fictionalized – which likely accounts for the formulaic rhythm of conflict, humor, tragedy and triumph – but the spirit of the film is authentic, and a lot of real military families were used as extras in an emotional send-off scene that sets the stage for the drama to unfold.

Quickie Review: The Wrong Missy

File this one under “lame escapism.” I’ve taken to watching new films that are trending on Netflix since that’s about as close as we can get right now to what’s new at the box office. If I’d gone to see The Wrong Missy in a theater, I’d probably want a refund. But as quarantine entertainment, The Wrong Missy gets a wide berth. It’s a formulaic, sometimes raunchy, sometimes absurd, occasionally funny adult romantic comedy starring an unlikely pair of romantic leads in comedic actors David Spade and Lauren Lapkus. It’s not suitable for family viewing: There’s significant over-use of the F-word; a lot of sexual content (albeit clothed); and some situational gags that clearly scream “don’t try this at home.”

Cinema Clash Podcast: Pandemic Edition 2

Sometimes it’s easier to talk about a movie than write about it, especially during a pandemic. My motivation to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) takes a hit with every long day at the computer doing ‘day job’ stuff. So in part out of laziness, and in part out of a desire to keep Chickflix fans ‘tuned in’ to what I’ve seen, I’ll periodically share the latest edition of The Cinema Clash podcast that I co-host with Charlie Juhl of CharlieJuhl.com. His tastes in film are generally more aligned with Arty Chick’s than with mine, thus the obvious potential for a ‘clash’ over particular viewing options. After a six-week hiatus, Charlie and I are back on the air with the podcast, and catching up on what we’ve seen in the interim. The podcast is also available on iTunes and other platforms, so feel free to subscribe and binge listen. On this second “Pandemic Edition” of The Cinema Clash, we talk about the teen-focused dramas Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Selah and the Spades, and How to Build a Girl; the British RomCom Love, Wedding, Repeat; the oddly entertaining French black comedy Deerskin; and the Chris Hemsworth action distraction Extraction. Plus, quick takes on The Half of It, Butt Boy, and the documentaries Becoming (which I screwed up the title on during the chat – my bad), Never Surrender, and Spaceship Earth.

Review: Extraction

It appears quite likely that battered and bloody mercenary-with-a-conscience Tyler Rake will live to see another day, and facilitate another extraction, amidst a barrage of gunfire, RPGs, exploding helicopters and myriad villains. If you’ve already watched Extraction, fast becoming Netflix’s most-watched feature film ever, then it’s possible you weren’t quite sure if the epilogue was designed to leave the door open for Rake’s return. Ka-ching. Wonder no more. Screenwriter Joe Russo has already agreed to pen another installment of the action thriller based on the 2014 graphic novel “Ciudad” by Ande Parks. But let’s be real. I didn’t watch Extraction for Russo or director Sam Hargrave’s footprint (embossed on several Avengers movies). I watched it for Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Rush). The Aussie doesn’t disappoint, even if the film itself does come off as a John Wick wanna-be. With John Wick: Chapter Four pushed way back to a post-pandemic (hopefully) May 2022 release date, Extraction serves as a serviceable placeholder.

Review: Love Wedding Repeat

My “Cinema Clash” podcast partner Charlie asked if I had watched Love Wedding Repeat on Netflix yet, suggesting it was a “Hannah movie.” In theory, he was right. It’s a chick flick, a romantic comedy with a potentially engaging premise, and British actor Sam Claflin (Me Before You, Adrift, Journey’s End) channeling the RomCom sensibilities of Hugh Grant. Given the dearth of new releases during the current pandemic, I figured it was worth checking out. Sadly, I was the one checking out mentally as the 100-minute movie meandered along at a surprisingly slow pace. I kept waiting for the plot to kick in. Or the romance. Or the comedy. Love Wedding Repeat is short on all three. Claflin’s chops – and charm – are sorely wasted. Even the film’s backdrop – Italy! – is wasted, as most of the “action” takes place during an indoor wedding reception.

Review: Selah and the Spades

Selah and the Spades is a bit like Mean Girls meets Goodfellas. At Hogwarts. Without the magic. The story takes place at an elite boarding school in Pennsylvania where the student body is run by five factions, dominated by Selah and the Spades – the group responsible for supplying students with a coveted stash of alcohol and drugs. Seventeen-year-old Selah Summers is the Queen Bee. She’s a take-charge kind of gal who knows how to manipulate the system – and people – to get things done without getting her own hands dirty. But behind the strong facade is an insecure teen struggling with the prospect of relinquishing control upon graduation and living up to the high academic standards set by her ‘Tiger Mom’ parents.

Review: Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things

Ella Fitzgerald: Just One of Those Things is the latest in a slew of solid if not particularly groundbreaking music documentaries celebrating the life and legacy of a pioneering artist. The film highlights Fitzgerald’s challenging childhood, her personal and professional struggles and triumphs, and the vocal talents that made her an international star during some turbulent times in American history. But it only soars when Ella sings. Jazz, swing, blues, scat, broadway theater music. It’s easy to understand how she came to be known as “The First Lady of Song” aka “The Queen of Jazz” aka “Lady Ella.”

Review: Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that I would surely endorse watching if and when there’s talk again of overturning Roe v. Wade or further eroding abortion rights. But right now, when our focus is squarely on the Coronavirus and escaping the dread of the Coronavirus, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is a film that even ardent supporters may want to relegate to the back burner. Unless, that is, you’re psychologically inclined to indulge in some at-home viewing that is reserved and grim and poignant and raw, providing an authentic take on one teen’s intensely personal journey to abort an unintended and unwanted pregnancy.