Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Quickie Review: Dear Santa

If ‘tis the season for a sweet documentary about the gift of giving, then Dear Santa fits the bill, or perhaps the envelope. It shines a light on the 100-year-old “Operation Santa” Program of the United States Postal Service. Yes, it’s a real thing that appears to have survived and thrived despite the ups and downs of the USPS itself. The program allows the public to safely adopt letters to Santa that arrive at Post Offices around the country. Hundreds of thousands of letters, mostly from kids – presumably more nice than naughty – revealing their Christmas wishes for everything from toy cars, dolls and puppies, to the gift of love and acceptance. Aw shucks. I’ll take a stack of those. It’s like a universal make-a-wish program for the holiday season, no matter your religion.

Quickie Review: Half Brothers

Half Brothers is okay for about half its 96-minute running time. The other half is really lame, bro. The movie begins with a lot of promise: a father and son are out in a field in Mexico flying a remote model plane. They are best buds. Life is good. Then the Mexican economy tanks and dad leaves for greener pastures in America, tearfully vowing to return to his family as soon as possible. He never comes back.

Review: Sound of Metal

At first, Sound of Metal reminded me of Whiplash. Then, A Quiet Place. And then, Children of a Lesser God. That’s quite a unique blend; and Sound of Metal is quite a unique film. It’s about a punk-metal drummer named Ruben (Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler) who loses his hearing, and with it, his sense of self. As a recovering heroin addict, four years clean, the experience threatens to send Ruben back down that dark path, so his girlfriend/bandmate Lou (Olivia Cooke, Me and Early and the Dying Girl) encourages him to check into a secluded rehab facility for deaf addicts. There, he meets Joe (Paul Racie), the program director and rules czar who assigns a scared and skeptical Ruben one job: to learn how to be deaf.

Netflix Picks: The Life Ahead for a good cry; Other stuff for escapist fluff

I helped myself to a triple serving of Netflix this week and I got it all – a healthy protein, (The Life Ahead), a tasty side dish filled with empty calories (The Princess Switch: Switched Again) and a  dessert (Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey) that was good, if not particularly memorable. The Italian drama The Life Ahead is the strongest of the three – by far. But each has its place, depending on your mood. In a nutshell, The Princess Switch sequel is for everyone who saw the 2018 Christmas romcom starring Vanessa Hudgens in a dual role. This time around, she plays three lookalike characters. It’s easy breezy fluff. Jingle Jangle has a bit more heft as a family-friendly Christmas musical fantasy film with a congenial cast and fantastical set and wardrobe. And The Life Ahead has legendary actress Sophia Loren in her first feature film role in a decade. At 86, she’s still got it.

Review: The Last Vermeer

The Last Vermeer is part arty and part mainstream, with familiar elements of both a post-WWII period drama and a courtroom drama. I liked it okay, but couldn’t help feeling like I’d seen it all before. I’d certainly seen the film’s lead actor, Claes Bang, immersed in the art world before – three months ago in The Burnt Orange Heresy, and in 2017’s Palme D’Or winner, The Square. Bang always does a bang-up job in these roles, but c’mon, there are many more worlds to explore!

Cinema Clash Podcast: The Climb, Come Away

I wasn’t blown away by Come Away. But I was somewhat entertained by The Climb. To find out why, tune in to this edition of the Cinema Clash podcast!

Charlie and I hash over the mash-up of two childhood classics (Come Away), find common ground on a wry dramedy about friendship and betrayal (The Climb), and chat about other new releases, his kid’s introduction to ParaNorman, a look ahead to Dune, and the possible return of the Has Fallen franchise.

Review: Come Away

I’m conflicted about Come Away. It presents an intriguing concept and has some visual appeal and a solid cast, but I just don’t think we need another spin on one classic, let alone two, that  has already been imagined and reimagined a gazillion times over the years. Plus, it’s tinged with such sadness throughout that I simply felt bummed out watching. Magical escapism as a survival mechanism failed to lift my spirits. 

Review: Operation Christmas Drop

Operation Christmas Drop had me rethinking my somewhat harsh rebuke of Holidate which seems to be doing just fine on Netflix without my endorsement. At least Holidate evoked a reaction. Operation Christmas Drop just… is what it is. A “feel good” holiday romcom devoid of “feels.” There’s nothing particularly terrible about it; it’s simply flat and unaffecting, and the two leads lack the kind of chemistry or cheesy sap that ropes millions into marathon viewings of Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies this time of year. There are literally dozens of new offerings coming down the pike, so you may want to wait for those.

Review: Let Him Go

Let Him Go is a slow burn. That takes a turn. That’ll make you squirm. Perhaps if you’ve read the 2013 novel “Let Him Go” by Larry Watson, the shocking moments won’t be quite as shocking. But for the rest of us, it’s enough to go… YIKES. Forewarned is forearmed, so brace yourself for a rough ride, especially toward the end.

The film’s lead actors Kevin Costner and Diane Lane have worked together before – in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, playing Superman’s adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. In Let Him Go, they are, once again, a loving long-married couple living on a ranch (Montana, not Kansas) with a son who is the apple of their eye. But Let Him Go is no PG-13 superhero flick. It’s a character-based adult thriller set in the American West in the early 1960s. The landscape is beautiful and Costner and Lane share an easy on-screen chemistry, which could lull you into a false sense of cinematic security as the story begins to unfold.

Cinema Clash Podcast Reviews: Holidate, Come Play, The True Adventures of Wolfboy

Happy Halloween and Pre-Election Day Weekend! On this quaranstream edition of the Cinema Clash, I chat about Holidate, the bawdy holiday romcom now on Netflix, Charlie talks about the horror movie Come Play (which I opted to skip ’cause it’s really not my genre of choice), and we both weigh in on a quirky coming of age indie called The True Adventures of Wolfboy.  Tune in!