Currently browsing posts by Hannah Buchdahl.

Review: RESPECT

You gotta respect the artist and the music, even if the movie itself feels a bit stale. Jennifer Hudson sings it out of the park as the legendary ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin in the biopic RESPECT, which surely would have pleased Franklin who handpicked Hudson for the role. Yet the script does not compel Hudson to showcase the emotional range that earned her a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Dreamgirls in 2007. RESPECT is at its best when the music is playing, and when we see how “Re-Re” (as Aretha was known) can take a song, rearrange it, and make it her own. The film is at its worst when skimming through all the obstacles she had to overcome along the way, including physical, sexual and verbal abuse, the sudden death of her mother, a childhood pregnancy, a controlling father, a jealous hothead husband, alcoholism. However true, it’s presented as a mass of cliches familiar to a slew of biopics and documentaries, including recent explorations of the hard knocks endured by Tina Turner and Billie Holiday, and the role of faith and music in their respective journeys. 

Quickie Review: Annette

It’s been a couple of weeks since I watched Annette and frankly I’m still processing. I’d love to be able to recommend it because it’s got music! And Academy-Award nominee Adam Driver! And Academy-Award winner Marion Cotillard!

If only it made sense (at least to the average person). Alas, Annette is just too odd to put into words. Maybe if I broke out into song instead. Nah. My head might ‘splode. Or my cat may turn into a singing marionette. Valid concerns if you’ve seen Annette.

Review: CODA

CODA doesn’t have the dramatic heft of Children of a Lesser God (for which deaf actress Marlee Matlin won an Academy Award), or the grittier themes of Oscar nominee Sound of Metal, but I totally get why it won the Grand Jury Prize, Best Director, Ensemble Acting, and Audience Award at Sundance earlier this year. It’s a sweet and moving crowdpleaser that proves it’s not just possible, but powerful to cast deaf actors in lead roles – and be all the better for it.

Review: The Suicide Squad

What a difference a ‘The’ makes?! I was not a fan of 2016’s Suicide Squad and had my doubts about watching another group of warped DC Comic Universe villains being forced into another suicidal superheroic mission. So I approached the film with extreme caution, low expectations, and no idea if it was supposed to be a sequel, a reboot, or something else entirely. I’m still not sure about that last one. But The Suicide Squad does generally work as a standalone–even though some characters are back, some are not, and many don’t survive past the first 15 minutes.

Review: Nine Days

Nine Days is quite the contemplative film. It dabbles in some high-concept existentialism and evokes themes explored in both 1998’s observational psychological drama The Truman Show and this year’s Oscar-winning animated movie Soul.  Chew on that for a while. Then go check it out.

Review: Jungle Cruise

Is it safe to cruise again? Cinematically speaking, yes. Jungle Cruise is a fun ride, thanks in large part – okay, almost entirely – to the likability of its stars, Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt. The film is loosely based on a Disneyland theme park ride that takes travelers downriver, through a jungle filled with wild animals and supernatural stuff. I don’t recall ever taking the ride, but I’m pretty sure that’s where the similarities end. As a movie, Jungle Cruise skims across the water as a lightweight family-friendly comedy adventure in the vein of Pirates of the Caribbean (also a Disney ride), Indiana Jones, The Mummy and National Treasure. And if you like puns, as I do, you’re guaranteed a good chuckle at least every few minutes.

Review: Joe Bell

Mark Wahlberg (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, Patriots Day) is back at it as yet another flawed, working-class hero type based on a real guy. This time around, he’s Joe Bell, an Oregon dad who quit his job to walk across the country in search of redemption after his 15-year-old gay son Jadin killed himself in response to intense bullying at school. Joe decides to pay tribute to his son by walking to New York City where Jaden had hoped to live one day. Along the way, he speaks in schools, churches, bars–wherever he can get an audience– about the very real dangers and consequences of bullying. And he reflects on his own missed opportunities to connect and protect.

Review: Black Widow

It’s been a looooong time coming to get Russian spy-turned-Avenger Black Widow aka Natasha Romanov’s backstory onto the big screen. And now Marvel fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The combination origin story and fill-in-the-gap between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War is a satisfying, action-packed spy thriller with a dysfunctional family dynamic that is both toxic and amusing. If you lost me at ‘Avenger, ‘Black Widow’, ‘Captain America’, or ‘Infinity War’, then you probably haven’t been waiting on the edge of your post-vaccination seat to see this in theaters. And that’s okay. If you’re not into Marvel movies, move on. Black Widow requires a certain base knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to maximize the entertainment value and fully appreciate Natasha’s history – and potential legacy. (note: It’s not a spoiler to remind folks that Natasha met a tragic, self-sacrificing end in Avengers: Endgame.)

Quickie Review: The Tomorrow War

Hey, look – it’s Chris Pratt! In a sci-fi movie! With big mean monsters! How… familiar!

The biggest difference between The Tomorrow War and some of Pratt’s other big action dramas (Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World, Passengers) is that it’s not opening in theaters. It’s being released on Amazon Prime. That could be part of the reason I wasn’t exactly blown away. It’s possible my mere 42” TV screen diminished the film’s impact, though not its audio levels. It got very loud in my living room during battle sequences. Sorry neighbors!

Review: The Boss Baby: Family Business

“What happens on the playground stays on the playground.” Lines like this are what made the first Boss Baby a cute little hit in 2017, and what makes its sequel, The Boss Baby: Family Business easily watchable now for kids and adults. There is a caveat however. While Boss Baby 2 is entertaining enough for a family film night, it’s no Boss Baby 1. The magic is gone – largely because we already know the drill. And, there’s simply not enough (for my taste) of the bitterly sarcastic talking wizard alarm clock “Wizzy”!