Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: Shazam!

With Marvel’s highly-anticipated Avengers: Endgame still a few weeks out, DC Comics’ Shazam! swoops in like a tasty appetizer – just enough to satisfy, without spoiling your appetite for the main course. Shazam! is not as LOL funny and lighthearted as the trailer might suggest, but it’s still far lighter and easier to process than most DC Comic movies of recent memory (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, etc.), and it’s certainly much shorter and simpler than the forthcoming Avengers finale. Bottom line: Shazam! is a solid coming-of-age superhero flick that’s suitable for family viewing, assuming the kids are at least approaching teendom. The film is PG-13 and does have the occasional blast of violence (though relatively bloodless), sadness (family dysfunction and abandonment issues) and scary moments (don’t get lost at the fairgrounds or walk through strange doors!). But overall, it’s about personal strength (finding the superhero within), making the right choices, and learning what defines a family.

Quickie Review: Dumbo

There’s a reason we don’t review too many kids’ movies, even if we happen to see them: they aren’t really for us. A few weeks ago, I saw the animated adventure film Wonder Park but didn’t get around to a formal review (other than on the Cinema Clash podcast) because it was just okay. Fine for kids, tolerable for the adults who accompany them. Dumbo has the potential to appeal to a much larger audience of family filmgoers because it’s a live-action remake of a 1941 Disney animated classic, it’s directed by twisted fairy tale auteur Tim Burton, and it’s got some high-profile cast members including Danny DeVito, Colin Ferrell, Michael Keaton, Eva Green and Alan Arkin. But ultimately, much like Wonder Park, this new Dumbo is just okay and has some dark elements that could be scary for the wee ones.

Quickie Review: US

US is most definitely a thinking person’s horror movie. That means, it helps to be a fan of the horror genre, to mitigate the horrors of having to watch the movie multiple times in order to catch all the nuances and subtext that writer/director Jordan Peele surely intends us to mull over for years to come. Despite all the raves for US, it’s important to keep its potential place in cinematic history in check. While I was certainly horrified and entertained by US, I liked Peele’s breakout hit Get Out more, because it managed to be shocking, provocative and entertaining without fitting into the classic mold of a horror movie (a genre that rarely appeals to me). Like Get Out, however, US benefits from a crazy-good acting ensemble. Most notable among them: Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Black Panther) who may just see herself nominated in the best actress category if we’re still talking about US come November.

Quickie Review: The Hummingbird Project

If you’re looking for something thought-provoking, but less terrifying than US, The Hummingbird Project is the smart person’s financial thriller. That means, it helps to be somewhat of a geek to embrace what is surely meant to be a cautionary tale for our modern, digital world. The movie, from writer/director Kim Nguyen (War Witch) grew on me as it went along, even though the subject matter didn’t exactly thrill me and I didn’t particularly like the ending. Perhaps if it were based on a true story – which it seems like it would be, but isn’t – I’d have felt more invested in the characters and the plot, about two cousins who concoct a plan to build a fiber-optic cable line from Kansas to New Jersey to shave a millisecond from the transfer of stock information, thus enabling traders with access to the line to make millions. In case you’re wondering, one millisecond is the speed of a hummingbird’s wing-flap (at least, I think that part is true!).

Review: The Aftermath

I’m not normally one for period dramas but I was intrigued by the basic premise of The Aftermath: former enemies forced to reconnect on various levels of humanity in the immediate aftermath of World War Two. If that had indeed been the driving narrative, The Aftermath might have presented a fascinating exploration of a story rarely (if ever) told on the big screen. Alas, the movie merely claims a unique setting for a standard, superficial love story about two grieving strangers who find comfort in each other’s arms, sacrificing one relationship for another. It’s not a bad story; it just represents a missed opportunity to tell a better one.

Quickie Reviews: Gloria Bell; Yardie

What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.

Review: Five Feet Apart

Haven’t I seen this movie somewhere before? Yes, Five Feet Apart does indeed look a lot like the 2014 ailing-teen romantic drama tearjerker, The Fault in Our Stars. Only this time around, the affliction casting a shadow over budding romance is cystic fibrosis rather than cancer. The bottom line remains the same: chronic and terminal diseases suck. And while love can’t always conquer all, the battle is still worth fighting. Cue the melodramatic score and pass the tissues, please.

Quick Takes: Never Look Away; Transit; Woman at War

With Arty Chick off to parts unknown to direct a documentary, it’s possible her reviews will be fewer and farther between for a while. So I will try and highlight some of the artier films that I happen to see (and like). I’ll also note if they’ve been discussed on my weekly podcast, “The Cinema Clash” with Charlie Juhl, who tends to share Arty Chick’s passion for smaller, indie and foreign films. If we both a like a particular film, there’s a good chance you will too! Topping my list of recent forays into foreign-film land is the Oscar-nominated German film, Never Look Away. It’s part psychological drama, part war drama, part period romance. It takes place over the course of about 30 years, which helps explain the film’s three-hour running time.

Review: Captain Marvel

I’ll tread carefully here, though I don’t think there are many actual spoilers to worry about. That’s because Captain Marvel is an origin story meant to set the stage for future appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – most importantly, perhaps, in the highly-anticipated Avengers: Endgame. Suffice it to say, Captain Marvel (aka Carol Danvers aka Vers) is poised to become a worthy addition to a franchise that is generally dominated by super-dudes. She’s like a synthesis of Superman (I know, he’s DC Comics, but cut me some slack here) and two of my favorite Marvel Avengers, Iron Man and Captain America. She’s super-fast, super-strong and super-sassy, with an innate ability to absorb and shoot energy from the palms of her hands in a way that is likely to make Spider-Man quite jealous. So where did she come from?

Quickie Review: Apollo 11 (Documentary)

July 1969. I was barely two, so I don’t have any real memory of watching history unfold on television, as NASA attempted (and accomplished) its most daring mission ever: to put a man on the moon. Fast-forward fifty years, and I can almost believe I shared the moment in real-time with millions of other Earth-bound spectators. That’s what makes this new documentary so darned cool (especially in IMAX). It’s not just a rehash of the oft-seen grainy footage of astronauts in bulky suits skipping along dusty craters and planting the Stars and Stripes. Apollo 11 offers a much wider view, literally and figuratively, thanks to the discovery and restoration of a trove of 65mm wide format footage and more than 11,000 hours of previously-uncataloged audio recordings.