Live Action (Short Subject) Nominees

Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us is a hot mess of a sci-fi drama about a boy who was born on Mars after his astronaut mother, Sarah, apparently failed to take an Early Pregnancy Test before setting off on a super-long shuttle mission to colonize the Red Planet. In a sad twist of events, Sarah discovers shortly after take-off that she’s pregnant, and then dies from complications during childbirth. That’s not a spoiler. It’s in the trailer, and sets up the rest of the story about the life and times of Gardner Elliott, an extremely bright but socially-awkward kid who grows weary of life in a Martian bubble. As puberty hits, Gardner gets rebellious and decides to visit his home planet Earth – to meet a cool girl he’s met online, and maybe even find his mysterious, unidentified father. (Sadly, it’s not Matt “The Martian” Damon.)

A Dog’s Purpose

From the opening notes of the cinematic score (think: Nicolas Sparks movie) to the first frame of video, A Dog’s Purpose is designed to tug at the heartstrings and manipulate emotions. And for the most part, it succeeds. Puppies!!! Awwwwwwwww. I mean, c’mon, who can resist a movie that literally gives voice (Josh Gad, Frozen’s Olaf) to the innermost thoughts of man’s – and woman’s – best friend? Here’s the gist of the sweet and sappy tale: A dog is reincarnated several times and discovers new purpose with each new life and owner, beginning with a kid named Ethan. The boy and his dog (Bailey) share a bond that can’t be broken, like, ever. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say this movie could easily pass for a very special episode of Touched By an Angel (Dog) or the TV Movie of the Week on Disney Channel, Hallmark or Lifetime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Those movies have a purpose too (pun intended) and a target demographic. A Dog’s Purpose will surely resonate with dog lovers everywhere. Not a dog person? Then skip it.

Cinema Clash: Split; xXx: Return of Xander Cage; The Founder

Mainstream Chick faces off with her cinematic nemesis Charlie over: M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy psychological thriller Split starring James McAvoy as a guy with 24 alternate personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls; xXx: Return of Xander Cage, an action movie starring Vin Diesel in the second sequel of a franchise I’d never heard of. It’s pure camp. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!; and The Founder, a not-so-feel-good biopic starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc.

The Founder

The Founder is the antithesis of a feel-good movie. It’ll leave you with a bitter aftertaste, not to mention second thoughts about grabbing a burger at McDonald’s. On the surface, the movie has a similar vibe to The Social Network (about the founder of Facebook) and Steve Jobs (about the co-founder of Apple). All three focus on the origin stories of iconic companies and the people who got trampled – or simply left behind – as the brands took off. But The Founder (about the “founder” of McDonald’s) is missing a few key ingredients – namely drama, tension, and the development of characters that you may want to care about. The cast is good. The movie is weak.

Hidden Figures

How did we not know about this story before now?! That’s the biggest question I had after watching Hidden Figures, what I venture to call the best feel-good movie to hit theaters in recent weeks, months, or possibly even years. It’s based on the fascinating, true story of three African-American women who were part of a segregated ‘human computer’ division at NASA that ‘did the math’ that helped send astronaut John Glenn into orbit at the height of the space race in the early 1960s. Talk about the right stuff. These women had it.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2016

It’s that time of year – when friends, family, and strangers in the elevator ask, “Hey, Did you see [fill in the blank]? Is it any good? What’s your favorite movie of 2016?” Well, here I attempt to answer those questions as succinctly as possible — with a countdown of my top ten movies of the year (12 if you count the ties), as well as a bunch of honorable mentions. They are films that resonated for one (positive) reason or another and represent a broad range of genres. Check ’em out!

Passengers

Passengers is basically Castaway in space – with a bit of Gravity and The Martian thrown into the mix. Only it’s not as good as the aforementioned titles, mostly because it lacks tension and drama. Even the sexual tension between the attractive main characters is dispensed of rather quickly, if ya know what I mean.

Sing

I’m a big fan of The Voice. I watched American Idol. I love musicals. The trailer for Sing looked awesome. And then I saw the movie. And I was bummed. The elements were all there for greatness (or at least very goodness), but it doesn’t come close to reaching its potential. In fact, I was bored for a big chunk of Sing, especially when the menagerie of animated pop-star wannabes weren’t singing. That’s not to say it won’t do (extremely) well at the box office. It will. It’s like The Secret Life of Pets (from the same studio, Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment). Pets wasn’t very good, but I’m convinced that kids and adults had psyched themselves up to like it – no matter what — based on the cute trailer and premise. The same will be true with Sing. Enough people will see it – and sing its praises – to put me in the minority. So go ahead. See it, and weigh in! I’m listening!

Collateral Beauty

Collateral Beauty is a bittersweet drama that could be either a tough watch, or cathartic, for anyone feeling the pain of loss during the holiday season. If I had to pick a target demographic, I’d go with fans of A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, or (to allude to something more current) the television drama This Is Us. It’s about finding the good – the collateral beauty – when life hurls a few ugly curveballs.

La La Land

Believe the buzz. La La Land IS the best movie of 2016. It’s certainly my top pick for top honors in the Oscar pool. But here’s the twist. I had to see it twice to fully appreciate the story and the spectacle. The first time I saw it was at the Middleburg Film Festival in October, in cramped seats in a hotel ballroom. About a month later, I saw it again – on a big screen, in a real theater, with a good sound system. And I was hooked. It doesn’t fit neatly into any particular genre. It’s part musical, part drama, part comedy, part fantasy, part romance… all packaged together in a unique, thought-provoking, entertaining and bittersweet film about dreams, relationships, and the paths taken – or not taken – in life.