Currently browsing posts by Jill Boniske.


This one has Oscar written all over it. It features a fabulous ensemble cast in a compelling docudrama based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation that still reverberates. Spotlight is the name of an investigative reporting unit at the Boston Globe that exposed the Boston Archdiocese pedophilia cover-up in 2001. The film begins as the team is sniffing around for their next story, which can frequently take them some time. But when the paper brings in a new editor-in-chief (Liev Schreiber), rather than letting them choose their own, he hands them an assignment that would become a bomb-shell in a city with deep Catholic roots. What begins as a cursory look at an old story of a single pedophile priest grows larger and reaches higher, and the team does what the best of journalism does, they follow their leads no matter what. And it is devastating.

Straight Outta Compton

I really liked this film, even though I’m not normally a fan of hip hop, because it has a great story and great characters and, I have to admit, some great music. It’s a bio-drama about a group of friends in one of Los Angeles’s rougher neighborhoods who got together in the mid-80s and used hip hop to describe their lives and spread their truth and were blown away by the incredible reception to their message. They became huge stars and changed the music industry. And all these years later, the racism and discrimination they were reacting to in their music feels just as relevant.

Love & Mercy

I will admit right up front that I was never a fan of The Beach Boys. So I put this film off and that was a mistake. While Brian Wilson may be the central character, Love & Mercy is much more than the story of a famous boy band. It’s a sweet redemptive love story wrapped in a harrowing tale of mental illness. It stars John Cusack and Paul Dano as Wilson at different key periods in his life. And both of them deserve high praise for their portrayals of the creative genius with enormous problems. Not being a fan of the music, I was surprised by how beautifully it was put together and ultimately how much I liked this film.

Woman In Gold

As the year comes to a close, I’m catching up on some of the films that slipped through the cracks. Woman in Gold tells the true story of Maria Altmann who escaped the Nazis in Vienna and settled in California and her attempts many decades later to reclaim a painting that belonged to her family. It was not just any painting but the extremely famous Gustav Klimt portrait of her Aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, which the Austrian government claimed to have a legal claim to. Maria, played by the always watchable Helen Mirren, is aided in her quest by a friend’s lawyer son, Randol Schoenberg (grandson of the famous Austrian composer) played by Ryan Reynolds. The film is part legal drama and part lost family mémoire with a bit of odd couple road flick thrown in. Sadly, it is a fascinating story that doesn’t ever quite click.

Bridge of Spies

Directed by Steven Spielberg. Starring Tom Hanks. (Re)written by the Coen Brothers. Start polishing the Oscars. Based on a true Cold War international incident, Bridge of Spies feels like an old-fashioned espionage flick, only the twist is that the central character is anything but a spy. He’s an insurance industry lawyer who’s roped into defending a Russian spy and then into negotiating a swap of said spy for an American pilot shot down while spying on the Soviets. It is a fascinating story, extremely well told, and the perfect film to take your parents to.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Looking for a strange but entertaining little flick? This is the ticket! It made the rounds at festivals last year to great acclaim, and it is currently streaming on all your favorite sites. And now the filmmakers are hoping for a bit of love during this year’s awards season. It is just odd enough to get some attention, too. There isn’t anything remotely like it. Based on an urban legend, it tells the story of a Japanese woman who believes the film Fargo is a documentary and sets out to find the briefcase full of money that Steve Buscemi’s character buried in the snow.

Beasts of No Nation

The saddest aspect of many of today’s conflicts is the presence of child soldiers, conscripted into becoming killers at a time they should be learning to read and write and playing games with their friends. Beasts of No Nation is beautifully adapted from Uzodinma Iweala’s debut novel, the story of a 9-year-old boy named Agu in an unnamed West African country that’s in the throes of a civil war. He begins as a normal kid just goofing around with his friends. But when the army comes to his village and kills his dad and his brother, he flees into the jungle only to run into a rebel army headed by the charismatic Commandant played by the amazing Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) who molds the petrified and confused boy into a murderous warrior, while seducing him with the idea that they are his new family taking care of each other. It is altogether tragically horrifying.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom is only available on Netflix right now, so if you don’t have a subscription, you’re missing a very powerful, well-made documentary. The bulk of the film was shot over 93 days in 2013 and 2014 in the central square of Kiev called the Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Thousands of students came to the square to protest Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s choice not to join the EU. But what began as a peaceful protest quickly became a violent revolution and ultimately led to the president sneaking away in the night. The film is very much like last year’s The Square, in that it puts you right in the center of the action with the people fighting and dying around you. Their courage to stand up for democracy is truly inspiring.


If you’ve ever wondered how violent and insidious the Mexican drug cartels and our persistent war against them are, this is the movie for you! From the first frame you’re plunged into a blood-soaked world where law enforcement is impotent, and successes come with collateral damage. Emily Blunt plays Kate Macer, an FBI agent who’s trying unsuccessfully to stem the tide of killings on the US side of the Arizona border. Following a bombing that kills several of her fellow agents, she is invited to join a multi-agency task force tracking down the perpetrator. It’s headed by Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) who keeps her (and the audience) in the dark about his strategies and motivations for much of the operation. Benicio Del Toro joins them as Alejandro, the titular sicario, Spanish for hitman, though he’s given “consultant” status. And before you know it, they’re all in Mexico where mutilated bodies hang from bridges as warnings from the cartels, blazing in with the help of the Mexican federal police to extract someone for Alejandro to torture some information out of back home. It is not a pretty picture.

Tower to the People-Tesla’s Dream at Wardenclyffe Continues

When people hear the name Tesla these days, most probably think of the car from Elon Musk. But Musk named that car after one of the great unsung inventors of the last century, Nikola Tesla. Tesla invented so many things we take for granted these days — alternating current, radio (before Marconi), even neon — but he died penniless and forgotten. This documentary attempts to bring his name and genius to a wider audience. I’ve known about him for years, as no doubt have most science geeks. And anyone who saw The Prestige might remember David Bowie’s turn as Tesla in that film. Mostly this earnest documentary concentrates on his attempts to build a tower in Long Island that he believed could transmit electrical power through the air around the world. Free power to the people!