Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Spoiler-Free Review: Spider-Man: No Way Home

I’ve been extremely cautious about venturing back into theaters. But I decided to celebrate my COVID booster shot with a limited-capacity IMAX screening of Spider-Man: No Way Home. After myriad viewings in recent months of heavily-touted awards-season contenders, I needed a big ‘escape’ movie. And boy did I get it with Spider-Man: No Way Home. There is a lot going on in this movie, much of which I can’t — or won’t — reveal. Just know that if you’re a fan of the Marvel and Spiderman franchises, you’ve got to see it soon, before spoilers spoil the fun. Not that Spider-Man is all fun. It’s not. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be genuinely moved and genuinely entertained throughout the 2 1/2 hour run time that includes sitting through all the credits for THREE bonus scenes.

Review: West Side Story

If anyone can get away with doing a new film version of West Side Story— without really changing the story or the era it’s set in– it’s Steven Spielberg. Here, he delivers a solid adaptation/reimagining that feels fresh while also paying homage to the original 1961 award-winning classic. Lest you’ve forgotten, West Side Story is itself an adaptation– of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the tragic tale of star-crossed lovers whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding families. In West Side Story, the star-crossed lovers are Tony (Ansel Elgort) and Maria (Rachel Zegler), caught in a dispute between rival gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, in 1950s New York City.

Review: Tick, Tick…Boom!

Tick, Tick…Boom! Andrew Garfield is dynamite and so is this film–especially if you’re a musical theater geek. Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton) makes his feature directorial debut with Tick, Tick…Boom!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the creator of the hit musical Rent. Larson died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in 1996, just as previews for Rent were about to begin off-Broadway. The film is essentially a love letter to and by Larson.

Quickie Review: Mayor Pete (documentary)

Mayor Pete is a fairly conventional behind-the-scenes documentary that provides some insight into what makes Pete Buttigieg tick– but not much. The biggest mystery to me is why it is rated R. Yes, his senior communications advisor has the mouth of a sailor, but her F-bombs shouldn’t preclude political junkies (of any age) from learning just a bit more about the first openly gay presidential candidate and his foray into the very deep pool of democrats who sought to unseat Donald Trump in 2020. He didn’t make the final cut (spoiler alert!), but he did succeed in gaining substantial name recognition – even if that name is a challenge to pronounce.

Quickie review: Julia (documentary)

It’s impossible to watch a clip of legendary cook and teacher Julia Child doing her thing without recalling the brilliantly gross SNL skit (in 1978) that cemented her status as pop culture icon. What I love about the documentary Julia is that it provides context for that skit, confirms that Julia herself got a kick out of it, and imparts additional information and insight about Julia Child’s life, her passions, and her 12-year odyssey to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published in 1961. The revolutionary tome has sold more that 2.5 million copies, and it launched Child onto the public television stage, where she cooked up delectable dishes, paved the way for many of today’s “tv chefs”, and espoused the virtues of butter, butter and more butter! She inspired millions of Americans to conquer their fears around cooking, try new things, and embrace failure as a learning tool. If you love food, you’ll most definitely eat up everything about this documentary. Bon Appetit!

Review: Spencer

If ever there were an anti-Hallmark movie, a fairy tale in reverse, this might be it! From the very first frame, Spencer self-identifies as “a fable from a true tragedy,” and word of warning: you’ve got to have some knowledge of the royal marriage of “Charles and Diana” and its disastrous end to truly grasp what the film is trying to convey—a very depressed, lonely, free-spirited and bulimic Princess (Kristen Stewart) teetering on the brink. If not for her love and devotion to sons William and Harry, her royal highness Diana Princess of Wales (as she was known pre-divorce) would surely spiral out of control. It’s a royal shame.

Review: Finch

If you make it to the one-hour mark of Finch, you’ll probably make it through to the end none the worse for wear. But getting through the first half of this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama requires a lot of patience, and caffeine. Tom Hanks plays an ailing robotics engineer named Finch Weinberg who managed to survive a cataclysmic solar event that left most of the world a wasteland. For ten years, he’s lived in a bunker in St. Louis with his dog Goodyear. Finch knows that radiation poisoning is eventually going to kill him, so he builds a robot to protect and care for Goodyear when he’s gone. The robot, an entirely computer-generated character played effectively and affectively by Caleb Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; X-Men: First Class) names itself “Jeff.” When a deadly superstorm approaches the region, Finch, Goodyear and Jeff pile into an RV for a cross-country roadtrip into the unknown. Final destination: San Francisco, where the environs may be friendlier.

Review: Mass

While an epic adventure movie like Dune is probably best seen on the biggest screen you can find, Mass is the opposite. It’s best seen in the most intimate setting you can find. Perhaps a dark quiet room where you can become immersed in the quiet drama, where nobody will see the ugly cry that may seep out near the end of the film. Mass looks and feels more like a stage play than a film, and would probably be better served in that particular venue. The setting is sparse. The silences intense. The dialogue engrossing. The story tragic, yet ultimately cathartic. A difficult watch, made watchable by four incredibly strong and moving performances.

Review: The Last Duel

Historical epics are not my cup of tea, but I was drawn to The Last Duel by the all-star cast of Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck. They do not disappoint, nor does the female lead Jodie Comer whose character propels the 14th Century #MeToo narrative. The action is still too brutal and bloody for my taste, and the structure dictates we live through some uncomfortable scenes multiple times, but the fact that it is based on true events makes this centuries-old story a bit more accessible. It’s impossible not to view it through a modern lens and wonder how a similar scenario would play out today — you know, when duels to the death aren’t really a sanctioned thing.

Quickie Review: Justin Bieber: Our World

Calling all true Beliebers, this one’s for you! There’s not much more to say other than Justin Bieber: Our World will reaffirm his fans’ love for Justin– the man (when did that happen!?) and the artist– and it may impress those on the fence about the Grammy-winning pop star. The Biebs comes off quite sincere in this concert film that chronicles the run-up to, and the songs performed at a groundbreaking show that took place on New Year’s Eve 2020 on the rooftop of the Beverly Hilton hotel while adhering to a slew of strict COVID-19 protocols.