Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.

Review: The Independents

There are no big stars in this musical dramedy. It’s a total indie flick. And it’s a lot of fun. It tells the tale of three singer/songwriters all struggling to find a way forward, who bump into one another by chance and team up for one last stab at making it in the music world. It’s no A Star is Born take though. It’s a heart-felt buddy movie with some fine three part harmonies and well-drawn characters.

Review: La Llorona

This political horror film takes its title from a Meso-American folkloric legend about the ghost of a woman who roams waterfront areas mourning her drowned children. La Llorona comes into the lives of a powerful family as they’re sequestered in their house and slowing pulls the patriarch’s very dark past to the surface. Set in Guatemala, the film centers on Enrique (Julio Diaz), a retired general who has been tried and convicted for the genocide of the country’s Mayan-Ixil population during the civil war there. Just after his conviction though, a higher court overturns the it, but the public is up in arms. And Enrique and his family become prisoners in their own home. All the indigenous servants except one quit, fearing for their safety. And then a young woman shows up at the door, the new maid. But who is she really?

Quickie Review: 17 Blocks

I saw this one at AFI DOCS in 2019, back when we could still go to festivals. And it’s just now coming into theaters virtually. 17 Blocks is a sad and personal gun violence tale. Shot over two decades by a family in Washington, DC, you see kids growing up in a single parent house. Mom is a junkie, though she does try to keep it together. Her three kids do their best.  But there is one kid who is the star, Emmanuel – good grades, nice girlfriend, plans for the future. He lives with his older brother Smurf who he idolizes and sister Denice. And then there is a tragic shooting.

Quickie Reviews: Glitch in the Matrix, Bliss

There is a lot of talk these days in the scientific world about the scary possibility that we are all living in a computer simulation and aren’t actually real. I have a hard time wrapping my head around that. But I’m not the only one thinking about it. Documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher’s new film Glitch in the Matrix takes on the question using avatar clad interviewees alongside a famous speech by science fiction author extraordinaire Philip K Dick. Director Mike Cahill fictionalizes the question in his sci-fi flick Bliss. Neither of them really answers the existential question. But Glitch in the Matrix is at least somewhat entertaining. Bliss, not so much.

Quickie Review: The World To Come

Dreary. That’s the life of the people who inhabit this film. It’s 1859, somewhere in upstate New York, and a farmer and his wife, Abigail (Katherine Waterston, Fantastic Beasts, Steve Jobs) and Dyer (Casey Affleck, Our Friend, Manchester By the Sea) are still coming to terms with the lost of their only child, when another couple comes into their lives. The wife Tallie (Vanessa Kirby, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw) is a welcomed distraction from sad Abigail’s drudgery. Her own marriage to Finney (Christopher Abbott) is claustrophobic, as he has a very limited view of a wife’s role. So the two women immediately click. And before you know it, they have moved from bosom buddies to lesbian lovers. And for a brief period they’re happy. But it can’t last.

Review: The Mauritanian

This drama based on Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s NY Times best-selling memoir “Guantánamo Diary” tells the story of a man swept up in the US government’s post-9/11 frenzy to find the perpetrators. Slahi was renditioned into Guantánamo and suspected of recruiting for al Qaeda. He spent years there without being charged or tried, in a horrible limbo. And he’d still be there if not for gutsy defense attorney Nancy Hollander who took on his case. Jodie Foster plays Hollander. But the one that keeps you watching is Tahar Rahim who plays Slahi. Rahim burst on the scene in 2009 in the French film The Prophet where he also played a prisoner. But here he plays a much more nuanced character, fighting for his life against seemingly insurmountable odds. He’s the reason to see this somewhat familiar legal thriller.

Review: French Exit

If this film does one good thing, it’s that it reminds us what a wonderful screen presence Michelle Pfeiffer is. She stars as Frances, a New York socialite who, following her husband’s death, somehow spends all the money left to her and in her social embarrassment, runs away to Paris where a friend has offered her an apartment she isn’t using. (Why don’t I have a friend like that?) She takes along her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), snatching him out of school and away from his girlfriend and they board an ocean liner where he meets and beds Madeleine (Danielle Macdonald, Dumplin’), a fortune teller. Frances also takes her cat Little Frank (perhaps a reincarnation of the dead husband Frank) along, sneaking him aboard. Once they get to Paris and the small apartment (small by a rich New Yorker’s standards, that is) they meet a series of quirky people and have a series of peculiar encounters. The movie has a Woody Allen meets Wes Anderson vibe, though it doesn’t rise to either of their levels. It’s one of those flicks without much of a plot that depends on you wanting to spend some time with its characters. I’m not sure I did.

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 9

Week Nine of films that I remember fondly. It’s amazing how many great films come to mind when I go down my cinematic memory lane. A lot of this week’s picks are from the 80s. The oldest is from 1979. And the newest from 2003. So it’s a fairly modern bunch. No black and white. No foreign films this time. We’ve got comedy, war, feminism, even a Western in the mix. Big films and indies. But all of them are highly recommended.

 

The films are: Crimes and Misdemeanors, The Thin Red Line, Silverado, Broadcast News, Ordinary People, The Station Agent, My Brilliant Career

 

Review: The Dig

I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea where Sutton Hoo was or that it was the site of one of the great archeological finds of the 20th century. But watching The Dig certainly placed it in my lexicon. Cary Mulligan stars in this “based on a true story” period drama. She’s Edith Pretty, a young widow with a young son who lives on an estate near a village called Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, England. It’s 1939 and Britain is just being drawn into the war when she hires Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter, The Grand Budapest Hotel) to excavate some ancient burial mounds on her property. He’s a local man, self-taught, but very knowledgable about archeology. He thinks the mounds could be Anglo-Saxon, but the local museum experts laugh at the idea. They don’t laugh for long.

Review: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela

This immersive documentary was seven years in the making. It takes place in Congo Mirador, a small village bordering Lake Maracaibo in northern Venezuela. At one time it was a thriving little town, but sedimentation and pollution from the country’s oil drilling industry have killing the fishing industry and people are either starving or moving away. Against this backdrop two women are in a personal political fight. Mrs. Tamara is a die-hard Chávista, and so backs Chávez’s successor Maduro and sings the government’s praises, despite how clearly it is not working for Congo Mirador. She’s also the elected representative of the town. Natalie is a schoolteacher who is vocal about her opposition to the current government, risking her job, but defiant. One of them will not come out the winner.